In the past few years, content marketing has become a must have for companies. According to a study by Smart Insights, content marketing is the top trending digital marketing topic in 2015. Here are a few words about why and how companies should turn to content marketing in 2016.
Consumers are fed up with ads – and they will have their way.
Ad-blocking features have been all over the news in the past few months:
- September : with the release of iOS 9, ad-blocking apps are finally allowed on Apple devices. The very next day, guess what kind of apps skyrocketed in the download charts? ad-blocking apps, even paid apps.
- Beginning of November: Mozilla releases a new ad-blocking feature for its latest version of Firefox. “We don’t think you’ll mind”, said Mozilla’s VP Nick Nguyen in the presentation video. Oh, really? Consumer won’t, for sure. And marketers will just have to be more inventive.
- And what to think of the full-page ad-blocking company Shine published in the Financial Time two weeks ago, targeting the IAB (Interactive Advertising Bureau, the advertising business main organization) ?
The fact is, doing marketing with ads is becoming increasingly difficult. And not only because of ad blocking apps; but mostly because of the slow shift in consumer stance towards ads (ad blocking apps are nothing more than a symptom). Technology is evolving, but there is something more. The relationship between brands and consumers themselves is changing. Brands have to bring more to the table. Ad-targeting technology might do the trick – partially – but will not really address the issue. Consumers are looking for content and value.
What kind of content? – Quality Video and Mobile will be your mantra
We are transitioning from the quantity era – when your metrics were numbers of blog posts, and cheap freelancers were paid by the word – to the quality era. Nothing surprising when you consider my previous point: value for the consumer is the keyword here. And Google is increasingly favoring content creators who understand this. Gone are the days when unsubtle keyword-cramming paid off.
The « how » is the tricky question. It has been found that most companies encounter troubles in their content marketing efforts. A recent report unveiled that only 30 % of B2B marketers think their organizations are effective at content marketing (CMI’s 2016 B2B Content Marketing, Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends report), and 50 % of them find the hardest challenge is to produce quality content. Indeed, how to produce quality content on a consistent schedule, when it has often never been an area of focus in the company? Some claim the solution might be in de-siloing content marketing from marketing departments, and this strategy just might work in some cases – call upon your internal experts throughout the company to share their expertise.
“We are transitioning from the quantity era to the quality era.”
The nature of content is also changing. Visual content in general is on the rise – think of the hype around infographics for instance –, and short-form video in particular: mobile video accounted for 55 % of global mobile data usage in 2014 (Cisco ‘15 Mobile Forecast) and that number is not going downward. There are several reasons: evolution of technology (consumers may download videos or pictures faster); saturation of written content; and increasingly shorter consumer’s attention-span (particularly on mobile). Instant access to content is a must (see successes of Snapchat, Vine, Instagram).
Of course, most predictably, mobile will continue to grow and will have to be a key part of your content strategy – that is, if you do not switch to a “mobile first” strategy. With 3,65 billion unique mobile users in the world, it’s impossible to ignore the trend anymore, and responsive design will be an absolute standard.
As a last note, do not forget the power of real-person events. Have your CEO or a company leader speak at an industry conference. You can then orchestrate a whole marketing strategy around the event – not to mention the PR benefit (external blog posts or news articles…). The study by Smart Insights showed that although it is far from the most frequent type of content marketing used, these events are rated as the most effective.
Get it out there – Content distribution is becoming a priority in itself.
Producing valuable content is one thing. Having it read, seen, or watched is another. And that challenge is becoming a major concern among marketers. So what are the trends in content distribution, other than good old SEO?
Social media of course. Using it to advertise new blog posts isn’t anything new, but social media are evolving to accommodate publishers and integrate content even more smoothly. Linkedin paved the way some time ago, and now Twitter might be following the trend (private messages longer than 140 characters were allowed in July, and in September Re/Code wrote that Twitter was building a tool that would allow publishers to tweet long-form content.), as well as Facebook (see Facebook Instant Articles, or video auto-playing in the NewsFeed for instance). Social media will offer a whole new range of publishing options, which might be very interesting to leverage.
Syndication is another. Publish your content under multiple forms (blog post, video, slideshare, infography) and get it out of your own website or social community. Reach out to your audience. Depending on your content marketing strategy, there also might be a ROI in publishing your content in paid platforms. Think for instance of a quality article written by a company leader, featured in a targeted selection of publications to reach the target audience.
So, just a few last words to wrap it up…
Content marketing is no longer just about a few posts now and then on the corporate website – an efficient content marketing strategy will demand significant investments in content production (to adapt to the importance of quality and new content forms) and distribution. However, it might really be your key to navigating to these difficult times for online advertising.
And of course, do not forget… ROI monitoring – as important as ever, and a challenge in itself since 51 % of marketers think the biggest problem in content marketing is measuring its effectiveness (CMI’s report)