Never slow to adopt the new shiny, the marketing industry has grabbed digital content by the horns and it made it its own. It has also given it a name too – content marketing – which helps with the hype.
Anyone or any business that has something to sell has forever used content to help sell it – whether that’s a script for telesales conversations, direct marketing copy or homepage content.
However, with technology enabling us to create and share content like never before the digital marketing industry has rightly cottoned on to the opportunity of creating compelling content to engage customers and potential customers.
Altimeter, a research consultancy, has just published a report on content marketing (see slide deck above). It interviewed 70 organisations to establish how they are using content in their marketing strategies. The top priority for external social strategies for the year ahead is content marketing (57%), followed by developing ongoing engagement with customers (50%), listen/learn from customers (41%), customer support through social channels, influencer/ambassador programme (27%) and website integration (25%).
So what’s the aim of creating this content? Is it fundamentally doing the same job as it always has done or is there more to it?
My time spent working across an editorial team and a marketing team provided me with some useful insights into how the two disciplines approach content. The marketing approach was very focused on lead generation and nurturing users who had – in some way – ‘engaged’ with the content. Once a user had clicked on a link to download a whitepaper, for example, their details were fed into the CRM and lead nurturing system. From that point on they were ‘nurtured’ in a variety of ways.
What stood out in this process was the campaign approach to creating and sharing content. Each campaign had clear customer acquisition goals. This approach is for all intents and purposes a 21st century version of age-old sales and marketing techniques – create interest and demand for your product and services by developing useful and relevant content.
Another approach to content marketing is born out of the need to be found in search. Google wants to reward original and good – as voted by readers - content. You only have to look at recent algorithm updates to see this. So, create original, good quality content on a regular basis and watch the traffic increase.
Well, that’s exactly what UK SEO agency Essential Marketer has been doing. The agency has doubled traffic to its site by simply running daily articles and sharing it across all social channels.
Econsultancy’s series of reviews of how brands are using content across social channels also provides some useful insights. Not surprisingly, a common finding is that brands are using social channels to share campaign content and provide customer service. Here are some of the brands they have looked at:
- How Sony uses Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+
- How Microsoft uses Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+
- How ASOS uses Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+
- How Tesco uses Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+
- How Walmart uses Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Google+
- How Nike uses Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+
Despite the hype and relative newness of content marketing the way content is used remains pretty much the same. Now that may all be well and good, but is it enough? This point was well made by Justin Pearse, head of innovation at marketing services agency Bite, in a recent Guardian article. Pearse argues that there is a danger companies will start to produce poor quality content to continue to feed growing consumer demand.
We’re facing a content deluge online in 2013. The interruptive advertising model of old is fast dying out as digital media gives always-on consumers the ability to take control of their relationships with brands. Content is being seen, often correctly, as one way to help build these relationships.
The very real danger is that this leads to an outpouring of poor quality, unfocused content produced purely to satisfy the algorithmic demands of SEO or social media.
Which brings me back to my time sitting across an editorial team and a marketing team. Whilst the marketing team focused on building campaigns to drive the business, who was producing the relevant, timely, quality content? Who was providing the insight to help create the most engaging content? The editorial team.
And why was the editorial team so important in the content marketing equation? Because their sole focus was on creating and developing the most useful, interesting, entertaining and relevant content for their readers day in, day out. It was the editorial team that researched the readers, developed relationships with the readers and had the reader at the centre of all they did.
This approach is hard to sustain if your focus is on campaigns. Will there ever be enough campaigns to support with content? Or will the need to provide ongoing relevant and timely content (campaign or no campaign) just lead to a deterioration in quality, as Pearse suggests?
This is the challenge facing organisations looking to create compelling content: how to build sustainable content strategies. To do so, organisations will require a mix of marketing and editorial expertise and processes and an infrastructure to support content production.
And once you have this you can then look at how you can use social tools to leverage the content held within your organisation – to turn your organisation inside out so that it lets the customers in and lets some of the organisational expertise out. But that’s the subject for another post . . .
Image Courtesy of Meridith Atwater for opensource.com on flickr