UniLad and NASA compete for out-of-this-world content marketing

UniLad’s foray into extraterrestrial live viewing throws up a number of questions on the path to content marketing success

Regardless of who is responsible for the video feed, following the human race’s voyage into space, live, seems a good way of pulling in the punters. But NASA’s own real-time feed of the International Space Station struggles to achieve a fraction of the 17 million views racked up by UniLad on the ‘live’ spacewalk posted by the website via Facebook recently.

Two aspects of this success are particularly astonishing.

First, that UniLad, rather than NASA, has become the average Facebook users’ go-to venue for galactic gossip. And secondly, that the feed attained such massive traffic despite showing footage of a spacewalk from three years ago.

How did a purveyor of clickbait aimed predominantly at teenage boys manage to outdo the world’s foremost space agency in the field of space-related content?

The answer has some intriguing implications for content marketing.

Enter the audience’s orbit

Perhaps the most important aspect of UniLad’s success was accessibility. Dipping into a ‘live’ feed via a website you’re already looking at is much more tempting than navigating away to the more authentic, but less immediately available, footage provided by NASA.

Companies ranging from BuzzFeed to Dunkin’ Donuts have already made use of the 1.7 billion-strong market open to them via Facebook Live. Despite often having effective content platforms of their own, businesses are increasingly realising that using Facebook to market their content is an efficient way to reach huge audiences in a short time.

Furthermore, because Facebook is such a massive community, people feel compelled to watch what their family and friends are watching. Conformity can be a powerful tool in content marketing, with UniLad’s newfound success a prime example.

Through tailoring someone else’s content for a particular platform, UniLad saw their traffic skyrocket. Note that UniLad is targeting a demographic (young men) while NASA is targeting an interest (space-related goings on). Thus, in any duel for viewers on the battleground of Facebook, UniLad’s experience in enticing Facebook users will always trump NASA’s appeals to the human desire for scientific enlightenment.

Houston, we have a problem

The astute content marketer, however, will no doubt be scratching their head at this juncture.

UniLad’s success may be stellar from a marketing perspective, but they’ve arguably jettisoned their content offering in the process. The website’s homepage is a peculiar mélange of borrowed content, rehashed and embellished for its younger demographic consumers.

Taking an entirely different perspective, look at the fortunes of Private Eye and The Economist, two stalwarts of the print media world. Both have witnessed high and rising circulation figures in recent years – in the case of Private Eye, this is despite a limited digital offering. This consistent success has been underpinned by high-quality content that is tailored and accessible to their devotees.

UniLad and NASA, by contrast, are on opposite sides of the spectrum. The former has very little content of its own to speak of but displays mastery over its platform, while the latter produces content which is literally out of this world but at the expense of identifying and making the most of a target audience.

A smooth landing

The lesson for content marketers, and the reason UniLad managed to trump NASA in this particular contest for cosmic popularity, is simple. However good your content is, if it isn’t accessible to the people who want to see it, plaudits will not be forthcoming.

NASA are peerless content producers and UniLad are carving out a reputation as marketing aficionados. But the two needn’t be mutually exclusive. Tailored to consumer needs and presented effectively, your content can be as awe-inspiring as NASA’s with the astronomical reach of UniLad’s.

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