Hub supreme: Why the content hub is a content marketing powerhouse

If you want a digital content home that prioritizes audience needs and matches your own goals, look no further than the mighty content hub.

BY Kim Caviness
EVP, Chief Content Officer, Imagination

Move over, blog.

It used to be every company had to have one. And, for the majority of brands, a blog is still a savvy way to publish your expertise and POV on timely topics.

But there’s a format better suited to showcase the full strategic range of B2B and association brands’ thought leadership chops.

Say hello to the mighty content hub.

If you’ve been tempted to write it off as content marketing’s latest shiny toy, think again. The content hub is here to stay.

Look around and you’ll find a growing number of content hubs on the websites of forward-thinking brands such as GE, Intel, Wells Fargo and CDW. The big daddy of them all, American Express’ Open Forum, is still one of the best-done and best-known. (It launched in 2007 and has been pioneering the format ever since.)

Content hubs and thought leadership are a match made in content marketing heaven. They showcase content value, track the audience and capture data—the trifecta of content marketing best practices. Win-win-win.

If you’re still not sure about this whole content hub business, here’s your primer.

What’s a content hub, anyway?

Done right, a content hub is more substantial than a blog and more focused than a website. The best B2B content hubs provide contextual depth and authoritative breadth on a select handful of strategic industry topics that matter to your industry or vertical audience—and your brand business goals, of course.

Think of the content hub as command central for your B2B brand’s publishing prowess. It invites your audience to come in, hang their hats and stay awhile. Go ahead, it says: Sink into the issues and formats that matter most to your career and industry.

Keep in mind that you’re not inviting your audience to hang their hats and stay awhile in your rented home, owned by someone else, like Facebook, for example. (Thanks, but no thanks, Mark Zuckerberg.) A content hub is an owned asset. All data, content distribution and audience insights belong to you, B2B brand, free and clear. Smart move.

Content hubs also may increase user engagement, time spent, number of content pieces consumed and trackable markers on the road to conversion. The upside is enticing: 96 percent of B2B buyers say they want content from industry thought leaders, according to a 2016 study by Demand Gen Report.

For these reasons, and many more, the content hub is the go-to format of strategic opportunity in thought leadership content marketing. In a way, it’s the new online magazine. While, yes, the magazine continues to thrive in print (despite predictions of its demise late last decade), its online equivalent is far closer to the content hub than the blog.

A search for an official definition of content hub brings up zilch, so here’s my very own, homegrown one, tailored to B2B: A content hub is a one-stop-shop digital experience built to house and leverage all the content—no matter the format, channel or platform—created by a brand to showcase expertise and inspire its audience to act on its business goals in measurable ways.

Designed to look like the most engaging media sites, content hubs usually live in a dedicated area of a brand’s website. In terms of design, you might see lots of content squares lined up in pretty rows. Each content box has an image and headline, sometimes a teaser, and always a call to action when the user hits the article page. Once consumed, each piece pays it forward, teasing another related content experience—article, infographic, video, listicle, podcast, social object … or whatever content marketing dreams up next.

“Content hubs and thought leadership are a match made in content marketing heaven. They showcase content value, track audience and capture data. Win-win-win.”

Kim Caviness
Chief Content Officer, Imagination

Why do we trust content hubs?

We’re attracted to content hubs because they satisfy a deeply human need to learn and thrive through information gathering and social connection. If we want to get all psycho-sociological about it, we could say the content hub is an online proxy for three distinct old-school, real-life spaces we’ve traditionally sought out for professional education and inspiration:

The Newsstand—Discovery. “Hey, look at all these great B2B magazines about my industry. Who knew? I’m going to stand here longer than expected and flip through them all, so I can stay ahead at work and impress my boss.”

The Conference—Connection. “I’m going to network with others like me and schmooze, learn and recharge, as I think about my future and what I want to accomplish next in my professional ambitions.”

The Library—Authority. “I can go deep in this trusted, evergreen archive of expertise and search for everything I need to know about my industry. Looking back thoughtfully helps me look forward—and succeed.”

What these three places have in common is they offer information and put users in charge of how to get it. Similarly, the B2B content hub’s value prop is control. For you and your audience.

Content hubs are built to empower a brand and its target users with front-end UX and back-end CMS wizardry. They’re usually better at this than the blog and the website. Here’s how they differ:

A blog prioritizes time. The most recently posted article or infographic is what users encounter first. They typically have to visit other sections of the site or dip into archives to find what else that brand stands for.

A website prioritizes navigation. Visitors must first decode navigation items to determine authority, plot their next move and understand where to find value. That’s fine, but it’s not putting the user at the center of a relevance-first content experience.

A content hub prioritizes relevance. Readers are welcomed by lots of smart, attractive thought leadership content and invited to select the topics that matter most to them by using filters and tags. Through skillful design, experience choices and strategic CTAs, brands can guide users toward content choices that deliver on their own business purposes.

Ultimately, audiences and brands have an equal say in organizing meaningful editorial experiences that benefit both sides.

This is part two in our ongoing series on content hubs:

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