Zillow Group, ‘COPE’-ing + content marketing brilliance

“Great stories live forever.”

Zillow Group’s director of content marketing Stephanie Reid-Simmons described the core ethos of her firm's significant content marketing play this way. While self-evident, it’s also critical for successful content marketers to know in their DNA -- it’s an understanding that drives Zillow Group's powerful, successful content, especially since emotion is a fundamental tenant of its brand.

Zillow Group has captured some powerful stories, for both its consumer audience and its agent audience, the latter as the revenue engine that powers the big ship. See the firm's Zillow TV YouTube channel, which features high-production mini-documentaries of people and homes in themed shows such as “Sanctuary” and “Home Makers.”

Zillow Group launched “Zillow TV” in 2016 and has 26 videos on its playlist. As with all its content marketing, it does not pay to market the videos but uses them as anchor content for piecing out on other channels and for airing on its YouTube page and Apple TV channel. The channel features compelling stories about people and home to engage its target consumer audience of renters, buyers, sellers and dreamers.

As in apparently all areas, Zillow Group operates its content marketing strategy like a machine. There is perhaps no real estate firm with clearer, consistent messaging tied to a crystal clear strategy than the Seattle behemoth, which swallowed chief rival Trulia in 2015, and operates the most popular real estate site on the internet, by far, in Zillow. (See Reid-Simmons' simple, clear description of the firm's content marketing M.O. above as an example).

Zillow Porchlight, a site housing a blog of celebrity real estate news, tips & advice and home-related stories, anchors Zillow Group’s consumer content marketing play (its Premier Agent Resource Center anchors its real estate pro content marketing -- more on this in part two, coming next week).

When Reid-Simmons, a former editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, joined Zillow in November 2014, she came in with a vision. She rebranded the blog as a “digital magazine,” which organized its content into one cohesive vision. Its storytelling power has amplified ever since. The newsroom has approximately 15 staff of writers and producers.

If you have trouble measuring results from your content marketing efforts, you’re not alone. It’s a constant challenge, Reid-Simmons said.

Why does Zillow Group do content marketing? The same reason we all do. Its customers -- consumers looking to buy or sell (tangential customers) and real estate agents (chief customers) don’t always need Zillow for information or leads. Quality content related to its core offering -- everything home around buying or selling keeps its audience engaged and grow its brand.

How to COPE

COPEing is a core facet of Zillow Group’s content marketing strategy. COPE = “create once, publish everywhere.”

As we all know, quality content is expensive, time-consuming and difficult to produce. That’s why content marketers need to view each piece of content as an engine that will carry their story down a long track. That’s what COPEing is all about.

Zillow Group's most-viewed digital video on its Premier Agent YouTube channel has garnered over 64,000 views. It COPEd the video with a behind-the-scenes Facebook video that has received over 120,000 views.

Publish a video with a powerful story, do a blog post and Facebook post on how and why you made the video, create short snippets for Instagram and Snapchat and dribble out different story facets on different channels for months.

As with almost everything, COPEing starts with great content. To be successful, it must have a rich narrative and a plan.

Reid-Simmons stresses to be selective about the content you COPE. Like all good content marketers, you must consult your editorial calendar for good candidates, hold regular meetings between editors and channel owners (if you have that luxury of them not being one person!) and meet with amplification partners (more on this in Part 2 of Zillow Group’s content strategy).

Also, measure!

Some stories just don’t work on certain channels, but knock it out of the park and into the water on others. For example, the Zillow content series “Homes & Hacks” hit big on social, but was a dud on YouTube, like tens of views, as well as on the blog. So Zillow Group doubled down on COPEing the videos in that series on social media and left the blog and other channels behind.

“We aim to reuse and repurpose each piece of content in as many ways as possible, with an eye on customizing the message for the channel,” Zillow Group consumer content manager Jessica Rourk told me.

For example, Zillow leveraged its 20-question series -- i.e. 20 questions for sellers to ask a listing agent. The team made a graphic for each question in the post and sprinkled them into existing Porchlight blog posts. The firm then compiled all 20 graphics into a SlideShare (LinkedIn’s slide share platform) and included some of the messaging in email marketing with jump links to the Porchlight blog.

Stay tuned for part two next week, where I dive into ZillowGroup’s consumer- and agent-focused content marketing channels, and its compelling syndication strategy.