Content Marketing: a guide to Hero, Hub, Help content

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If anyone knows content marketing, it’s YouTube. The video sharing platform is the second-most visited site in the world with 2 billion users worldwide, with users viewing over 1 billion hours of video a day. So when a company like YouTube promotes a content strategy, people tend to pay attention. 

The content strategy I’m talking about is called the “Hero, Hub, Help” model. It was first proposed in 2015 in an article posted on Think With Google. Although this model is primarily targeted toward video content creators and brands, many of the lessons learned from the Hero, Hub, Help model can be applied to other forms of marketing content (e.g. blogs, white papers, etc). 

Content marketing: Hero content

Google describes hero content as “big, tent-pole events that are designed to provide a massive step-change to your audience growth.” This is content that has a broad appeal and is targeted towards as wide an audience as possible so that they can get to know your brand. Hero content’s primary virtue is that its interesting and shareable. 

Video examples of hero content include a viral video or a collaboration project with an influencer. But hero content can just as easily apply to projects like whitepapers, ebooks, and guides. Webinars and explainer videos can also fill the role. Hero content can cover a broad range of topics that don’t necessarily have to be directly related to customer concerns. 

One great example of hero content is a documentary called “The Defenders” (not the Netflix show). It was produced by cyber security company Cybereason, and focuses on the lives of cyber security professionals–their primary audience. 

But this documentary doesn’t talk about potential vulnerabilities. It doesn’t list reasons why companies should hire Cybereason. Instead, it celebrates cyber security professionals and their contributions to keeping our modern world safe. 

This content won’t sell contracts (not directly), but it sure as heck will draw attention. 

Content marketing: Hub content

Hub content refers to regularly scheduled content. It’s the primary reason visit your site (or your YouTube channel) and encourages people to return to consume more. YouTube channels like CinemaWins and Binging with Babish are known for specific types of content, even though they occasionally release types of videos, too.

Consistency is the key to successful hub content. The content has to be released according to a regular schedule, with the same level of quality, and around the same general topics. The audience will be narrower than your hero content, but the focus will be on your ideal customers. 

In the B2B world, the Content Marketing Institute are able to support multiple types of hub content like a blog, a newsletter, and a podcast at the same time, which allows them to connect with different audiences. 

Few companies have marketing teams large enough to juggle all of those hub content campaigns at once (and do it well), but most can comfortably execute at lease one.

Content marketing: Help content

Also known as “hygiene content,” help content directly answers questions that your viewers might be asking. It’s you trying to educate consumers and building your authority and thought leadership. 

In a YouTube environment, help content could take the form of “how to” videos. A lot of home improvement, arts and crafts, and skill-based hobbies do a good job of creating and publicizing help content. On the other hand, your content might not be a how-to at all. Instead, it could answer common questions that a person has about your particular field. 

Help content also benefits brands by boosting SEO. Customers will be typing in questions and queries into search fields, and the more content you have that can answer that question, or the better your content is at answering, the higher you will rank in the SERPs. 

Zapier does an excellent job of providing help content, largely because it knows its audience very well. It’s customers are a mix of developers who have technical knowledge, and casual users who want to easily replicate complex technological functions. As such, the Zapier blog threads the needle by providing both basic how-to articles and detailed technical discussions. 

How much of each type of content do I need?

Most depictions of the Hero, Hub, Help model describe it as a pyramid. 

Hero content, being the one that requires the most investment and has the broadest appeal, sits at the top since it’s produced the least but has a big impact. 

Hub content is the content that is produced on a regular schedule. It requires significant resources to make, but not excessively so (it can’t, otherwise it would be too expensive to produce consistently). 

Help content would be the easiest to produce and thus the most numerous. They should be short, quick bites and are sometimes referred to as “snackable” content. 

There is no fixed ratio for how much hero content you need versus help and hub content. It’s possible to only produce one major piece of hero content in a year, while investing most of your effort in producing hub and help content. On the other hand, some B2B companies produce hero content like whitepapers on a regular basis, and support it with large amounts of blog content. But a company that prioritizes hero content and ignores hub and help content will quickly find itself disconnected from its best customers. 

Wrapping up

The Hero, Hub, Help content model is a fantastic content strategy, but it isn’t perfect. 

Social media has trouble finding a place here, as does sales enablement content (case studies require lots of effort but have very narrow appeal, for example). This is because YouTube first conceived it as a video-focused content strategy, and we’re just adapting it for use in other situations.

Having said all that, the Hero, Hub, Help model is still an effective way to approach your own content. It prioritizes communicating with customers in a way that builds authority, gathers interest, and increases visibility while still allowing for creativity and personality. It takes into account the effort required to create content at different levels, and their potential impact on your own audiences. 

Best of all, it’s a model that nearly any business can adopt, no matter how large or small their marketing team is. YouTube is a channel of both independent and professional creators, and if this model can work for a teenager filming from his bedroom, it can work for a solo marketer with a limited budget. 

So what are you waiting for? Get producing!

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