Last year was a great year for content marketing, one that saw it established as a key discipline as brands looked to create a genuine rapport with their target audience. And there were 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 a number of key recurring themes and trends that everyone needs 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 get your strategies in order
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 the 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 people involved directly in marketing 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; while 90% of those involved in marketing 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.
2. Greater understanding of 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.
3. in terms of content, quality is most definitely king
One of the biggest challenges of all for everyone 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.
4. Multi-channel needs a strategy first approach
With so many different devices and channels available, making sure you are sending out consistent messaging across all your channels and effectively managing information and associated rich media assets, such as photos and videos, for all of your products is a huge challenge. Managing customer facing content has evolved into an extremely complex process, driven in no small part by the fact that consumer expectations have risen exponentially. We now all want to be able to see the same content and have the same level of experience and engagement whether we are viewing a website or webshop on a laptop, a tablet or a smart phone.
To be able to cope with this, retailers and brands need to have a fully integrated approach to their content marketing, which covers all the channels they operate in, and ensures their story is told not only in an interactive way, but also a consistent way. The most important to remember here is that only once an overall content strategy has been created – which will be very much determined by your business objectives – can you focus on individual platforms and look at distributing your content across all channels.
5. Big data will become a big issue
With the vast amounts of information created by and for all the different channels that brands and retailers operate in today, the concept of Big Data has been doing the rounds as an issue for some time now. As content marketing becomes much more prominent in the marketing mix so it is going to become equally important that these same companies have the tools and technologies in place to deal with the data they have coming in – including everything from visitor behaviour, posts on social media sites and digital pictures, to videos, purchase transaction records and location-based information. By integrating their data sources, brands and retailers will be able to hone and guide their marketing efforts.
6. Mobile is still the right way to go
With mobile devices set to continue their explosive growth into 2103 and way beyond, making sure that content displays correctly on mobile platforms will be a key focus for people involved in content marketing content moving forward. And with so many competing platforms out there, this is going to be a tough process. The consequence to companies and websites of not capitalising on this growth is potentially losing visibility in a massive market place.
Current trends are highlighting the fact that while content consumption via mobile continues to grow at the cost of other channels, the iPad continues to be the real game changer. According to US-based e-commerce solutions provider Monetate, in its Ecommerce Quarterly report for the third quarter of 2012, the iPad accounted for 88.94% of all website visits originating from tablets, followed by Android devices with 6.34% and the Kindle Fire with 4.71%. In the UK, Screen Pages research from July showed that 20.8% of visits to ecommerce site were coming from mobile devices, and of that 84.5% were from Apple devices. Most interestingly though, iPad shoppers buy more; average conversion rates on iPads are 22.5% higher than on other platforms.
7. Video will continue to be hot property
Research late last year by Visibility IQ revealed that 78% of web users in Britain watch online video every week. And if you needed further convincing of the continued validity of video content, according to data from ComScore, US Internet users watched 39 billion online content videos in September 2012. For anyone looking to create viral content, there is no better medium than video; even if you’re re-using old content or creating something low-budget, it’s still worth it. Shareable, eye-catching and effective, you don’t have to look far to find videos that have become incredibly successful.
8. Content curation
The type of content that you share can say as much about your brand as any direct sales message, and with a seemingly ever-increasing number of channels at our disposal, collecting and promoting relevant and on-brand third-party content is becoming a huge task. Today content curation is becoming a science in its own right, as well as becoming increasingly more relevant to the modern marketing strategy. Good content curation isn’t as simple as pushing a share button, it’s a combination of finding great content and following some simple best practices on how to successfully share that content.
9. Print isn’t dead
Despite what many digital agencies may tell you, print is far from out of the equation for most businesses. Brands are continuing to take the role of traditional publishers and monetizing their content across all their channels by delivering marketing ROI, but this is not taking place exclusively in the online domain. Certainly in the UK, all the big retailers are increasing their magazine print runs, and this is definitely the case in South Africa with rapid growth among certain demographics where readership of free magazines is incredibly high.
10. New roles are emerging
If your business doesn’t yet have a Content Strategist, Data Scientist, Social Business Manager or something of that ilk, the chances are they will be having one fairly soon. With content marketing becoming so much more prominent, marketing departments across the globe will be opening up new positions in 2013 as they look to fill more specialised roles centered around content creation, consumer relations and online marketing.
Julia Hutchison will be speaking at the Content 2013 conference.