Creating great content in the multichannel environment is an essential weapon in a travel brand's armour today, but how do you do it right? With the proliferation of social platforms and new devices, getting your brand seen and heard is an ongoing challenge. As a result, content stands centre of the marketing stage today and it has to be relevant and useful to your customer, not to mention well as well written, engaging and, when we are talking images or video, beautiful to boot. Ahead of Social Media & Mobile Strategies for Travel 2014 (March 17-18) in San Francisco we hear tips and trends on how to shape up your content strategy and think ahead. 1. Be genuine and understand what your guests want to see and don't put out content you are not proud of "You may well create the greatest pieces of original content based on what's 'hot' on the internet, but if it doesn't resonate with your target customer, then it's a waste of time," says Fiona Goldstein, Director of Social Media + Brand Content at Commune Hotels + Resorts. Brands need to understand who their audience is, what they are interested in and what motivates them. As Robert Patterson, Vice President of Content & Social Strategy at MMGY Global points out, like all marketing efforts including content marketing, this begins with research. "Only after a proper discovery phase can you begin to build a strategic content plan to leverage strategic brand storytelling across channels," he says. What Goldstein has learnt is that the guests of Commune Hotels + Resorts love to see beautiful, behind-the-scenes images of the hotels and the cities where they are located. So that is a primary focus. "While we'd love to create a large scale rich-media campaign, we know what our guests like to see and we make sure that every piece of content we create ladders back to their wishes," she stresses. Of course, every organisation is different but the bottom line is to be genuine and know what your customer wants. However, it is also important not to try to be something you're not. "Your customers, fans, and followers will notice and it's not a good look," says Goldstein. 2. Never dismiss social media Social media is incredibly important, stresses Goldstein, who believes social channels are the best distribution method for original content; these are already people who have opted in to hear your message. "So use it wisely," says Goldstein, who will be sharing insights into how to do this in San Francisco! Patterson agrees that social media is critical to successful content marketing efforts, because of the frequency of messaging, flexibility and opportunity to drive traffic it provides. Plus if you are telling a compelling story, it will be shared and that sharing will predominantly take place on social. "I have said for years that social is the thread of integration across channels in the travel planning process," he says. "And if social is the thread, then content is the glue that integrates and carries a brand's message across channels." 3. Tell the same story across every channel While social is an important channel, Patterson is quick to point out that content marketing efforts should not rely on it solely nor on any other channel for that matter. "Successful content marketing transcends channels or platforms," he says, adding that brands should not focus primarily on the brand. "Your focus has to be about the audience and their interests first and foremost. If you cannot build something or align your brand with content that has value to your audience, your message will not make an impact. According to Patterson, all marketing efforts should be unified to tell the same story across platforms and channels. That said, you may need to prioritise and/or condense content based on screen size, but the messaging and story you are trying to tell should not change because it is being consumed on a mobile device. Mobile content marketing needs to be concise and you need to send an effective message quickly. On this point, Goldstein has this to say: "There's no point making a two-minute video for mobile, no one will watch it." 4. Tell stories with video and think mobile As user consumption of video (especially on mobile) continues to climb, the use of video is becoming essential to content marketing. "All of the recent content marketing campaigns produced by MMGY have placed an important emphasis on video production capabilities," says Patterson. So if you have the budget or creative vision to create video, then go it! But Goldstein warns that that video is tricky because it needs to work well to truly be effective. "Make sure you have a solid strategy in place before embarking on video, she says," adding that if you do it correctly, "you're golden". 5. Go further than ever before In light of the recent Facebook algorithm changes, there's more pressure than ever on marketers to create great content and not just link back to a website. "I think this will have a positive impact on marketing as people will be forced to be smarter and more creative with the messages and content that's being put out into different distribution streams," says Goldstein. "I expect to see more mobile content, and increasingly higher numbers of short rich media (video) as well." 6. Think of the big picture The key to success in content marketing campaigns is clearly defining the story you want to tell and being creative and entertaining in how you tell your story. "Sometimes your brand isn't even part of the story, but aligned with the consumer interest being consumed, as is the case with sponsored content placements," explains Patterson. So determining the right mix of owned, earned and curated strategies is also very important to think through. In fact, aside from mobile and video, Patterson argues that the major trend in content marketing this year will be in paid media and the growth of native advertising and sponsored content, and digital advertisers moving beyond the banner. Related Link: EyeForTravel's Social Media & Mobile Strategies for Travel 2014 (March 17-18)