The past 12 months has seen content marketing become a big hitter in the marketing discipline stakes and there are plenty of lessons marketers need to learn for the year ahead to make the most of the growing medium. 2012 has been a great year for content marketing, one that has seen it established as a key discipline as brands look to create a genuine rapport with their target audience. And there are big names leading the charge; the likes of Coca-Cola and Red Bull both embed content strategy as an integral part of their overall marketing strategy.
Of course, with this new-found celebrity status comes a greater spotlight, and there are three key recurring themes that marketers and brand owners need to get to grips with, if they are to really push forward with their content marketing strategies for 2013:
1. content marketing is no longer a fad, so brands need to get their strategies in place.
2. Marketers need an in-depth understanding of the strong link between content and digital.
3. In terms of content, quality is most definitely king.
In many ways, content marketing has been around from the very beginning of the internet – and even before that, probably as far back as the printing of the first magazines and newspapers. People have always been engaged with content, it’s just now we have a name for it. Content marketing is getting a bigger slice of the marketing pie, and has seen a 13% increase in spending over the past two years, according to Custom Content Council’s report, “The Spending Study: A Look at How Corporate America Invests in Branded Content for 2012”. On top of this, 79% of marketers are now reporting that their companies are moving into content marketing either at a moderate or aggressive pace, while 52% of companies are reporting that they have outsourced some portion of at least one type of content creation in 2012.
However, Econsultancy’s “Content Marketing Survey Report” highlights a worrying trend, that while 90% of marketers believe content marketing will become more important over the next 12 months, just 38% of companies have a content marketing strategy in place – or to put that another way 62% of companies are just doing content on an ad hoc basis.
The Custom Content Council also found that three-quarters of brands build content for print and repurpose that content for social media and the brand’s website. This underscores the integrated nature of content marketing today, where content ideation requires a multi-channel approach, but it also highlights the fact the brand marketers are missing the opportunity to create more personalised and extended content experiences online that can enhance engagement even further.
And this brings us to the link between content and digital. Content strategies need to underpin digital strategies. Take Facebook for example, anyone can get Likes on a Facebook page, but what sets brands apart is what they do with those Likes once they get them. That’s all about understanding your target audience and then delivering the content they want to engage them and keep them coming back for more on a strategic and not a one-off, campaign-driven basis.
It’s easy to get carried away with the numbers, but a Facebook like isn’t content. It is a small part of an overall content strategy that needs to look at how content is distributed to consumers across a variety of relevant touch points. On top of this, content is now inextricably linked to SEO. This has been driven by Google, which has implemented algorithmic changes, such as Panda and Penguin, aimed at improving relevancy and rewarding quality and unique content.
But, possibly one of the biggest challenges of all for marketers is understanding that content is not just “stuff”, and if you want to really engage your target audience, your focus has to be on quality. Anyone can produce “stuff”, but there is a world of difference between well thought-out, strategically developed content that absolutely tells stories about brands, as opposed to material – written, video or audio – that is produced without a thought for quality, understanding or strategy. And this, of course, is one key reason why brands should seek out companies experienced in creating properly thought-out content to underpin their marketing activities.
It’s not just a case of returning to older notions of telling stories and sharing ideas, as any good content creation company will have this at the core of what it does. It’s also about looking at content as having much greater value than being simply “stuff”, and to move away from a positioning that is dominated by the catchy one-line, to one that centres on education, knowledge sharing and engagement.
Without doubt 2013 will see a further dissipation of the media landscape and a continued growth in the amount of content produced by brands. We just need to ensure that what is produced is done with one eye firmly on strategy or else we are in danger of flooding the internet with the content equivalent of foam padding and merely succeeding in switching our customers off.
Julia Hutchison is head of Content Marketing at Group FMG and former Chief Operating Officer for the Content Marketing Association