Nick Gregg is CEO of StrategyEye (@StrategyEye) which delivers EditorEye as a hosted content discovery and publishing platform with a unique topic-based indexing approach. EditorEye is used by brands and publishers (including Starcom, Hearst, Haymarket, IPC and Press Association) for powering their content marketing and digital publication strategies
There is a fundamental shift occurring in brand promotion online. Brands and marketers’ budgets are moving toward two battlefronts:The first, real-time bidding platforms, see traditional advertisers attempting to maximise the use of the near-infinite pool of ad inventory online and beat rivals to the punch. It has already gained traction with display ads, credited as creating a more transparent and efficient digital ad market and formats such as mobile and video are tipped to follow.
The second is the increasing investment in paid-for content to market a business or brand. The increasing amount of time consumers spend on the internet means brands must come up with ever-more ingenious ways to chase them across digital channels and that can mean anything from email to Pinterest. Smart marketers are blurring the boundaries and using new media to communicate via content. Executed properly, this can be a more effective form of marketing than anything else in their advertising arsenal.
This is also all, however, coupled with two distinct developments for businesses as content marketing moves forward at a fast pace:
1. “Time to Content”
a. The days of long-form content creation alone are gone. For any brand to become a thought leader, responsiveness is key so producing high frequency curated content on breaking topics is essential – but alongside the more traditional thought pieces which are still crucial to underpinning
2. “CXO Writers”
a. The other change is that the guys with the quick-fire insight on breaking news or trends are often the most senior people in an organisation. However, time is in short supply and these executives can’t use Google alerts coupled with submissions and direct WordPress uploads to convey a viewpoint. They need a single tool they can use on the train on their iPad which allows them to spot highly relevant content as it breaks, add their 5-10 line insightful comment and then push one button to have it published directly into all their Web, WordPress, Social and other channels before their next meeting.
Overall, the content marketing sector is moving fast – and tools to deliver content fast are rapidly emerging, along with the major software companies from Oracle to Salesforce investing in marketing automation solutions to take advantage of the market growth. We expect a lot more moves and consolidation as 2013 develops.
1. RISE OF NEW CHANNELS
¤ It was previously much easier for brands to control and distribute their marketing, as traditionally there were relatively few formats, with a set strategy for each. Whether it was TV, print or direct marketing there were established approaches. The internet changed all that. Now, companies must be much smarter about which channels are most suitable for them, where their audience is and how best their content can be adapted for those outlets.
¤ And then the internet changed again and kept changing. Web 2.0 as an umbrella term was almost obsolete by the time the mainstream embraced it, but it did signal a sea change in the way people interact online. Now, companies need to consider fast-changing online usage habits. As the likes of Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr illustrate there is a consumer preference for highly visual, shareable content.
¤ There is a risk that brands will become bamboozled by the wealth of new channels available to them. As the Content Marketing Association points out, brands must maintain the basic rules of content marketing – formulating a strategy, building an editorial plan and having objectives – before working out which distribution channel is best for them. That might be Pinterest, but it also might be a magazine.
¤ Underlying all of this is the fact that consumers have always preferred articles to ads. As a survey from Roper Public Affairs claims, 80% of business decision makers prefer getting to know companies via articles rather than ads. And more and more consumers are becoming adept at ignoring traditional methods of marketing, partly due to technological disruption.
2. BRANDS BECOMING PUBLISHERS
¤ The Custom Content Council estimates that more than USD40bn was spent on content marketing across all media in the US last year. In this context more and more brands are becoming publishers. Within this, two overlapping strategies are emerging. Brands are not just publishing content, but creating it themselves. In one scenario this consists of pre-planned story arcs around specific or particular marketing promotions. In another scenario brands are actually reporting or breaking the ‘news’ and becoming trusted authorities for their audiences on relevant topics.
¤ There is a trend not just towards publishing, but creating stories, with more companies planning editorial-like content calendars. According to a study by Econsultancy and Outbrain, more than 90% of respondents from publishers and advertising agencies believe content marketing will become more important over the next 12 months. Around 34% of companies have dedicated budgets, while 46% have dedicated individuals for content marketing. In addition, some 55% of in-house and 58% of agency respondents are planning content marketing strategies in the future.
¤ With so many new channels available, content discovery is a continuing challenge. The Content Marketing Institute says one of the greatest challenges for companies is producing the kind of content that engages prospects and customers. Conceiving or discovering that content are two elements of the same issue.
¤ The Content Marketing Institute says approximately 55% of marketers plan to increase their content marketing spend over the next 12 months. Currently, 86% of business-to-consumer (B2C) marketers are using content marketing, compared to 91% of business-to-business (B2B) marketers.
3. MORE THAN SOCIAL MEDIA
¤ Used correctly, social media is clearly an effective content marketing tool. The majority of in-house marketers (83%) use social posts to make marketing updates, which is more than any other type of content, according to the Econsultancy/Outbrain study. Many marketers also believe in the efficacy of social media, with 46% stating that this is one of their three most effective types of content.
¤ But although social media is becoming increasingly popular with content marketers, for full effect it needs to be integrated and combined with other channels. A brand’s website and online mailing list remain vital tools. According to Econsultancy and Outbrain, 50% of marketers say email is the most popular way of pushing branded content to consumers, with social media next at 46% and 29% saying news articles are their favoured approach. The most effective way is to combine all three.
¤ Marketers are still in a ‘metrics mentality’ and it is difficult to determine what is the most-effective metric for social media. Despite the fact that social media is the second-most popular way for marketers to publish content, just 59% measure social shares as a mark of success. Instead, companies rely on more traditional metrics such as unique visitors and page views.
4. SHIFTING ROLE OF AGENCIES AND PUBLISHERS
¤ With traditional publishing in decline, media houses such as Condé Nast and Future have spotted an opportunity to make use of their brand contacts and evolve into agency-like entities. Publishers can step in and help brands plan and create content. This is leading to convergence between contract publishers and advertising agencies, with both offering similar content marketing support to brands.
¤ The market is currently divided between brands who are ‘going it alone’ and appointing in-house editors and writers and brands who are working with agencies with established skillsets in writing to order. In an underlying sense this is the way was before digital disruption and agencies are always likely to have a role going forward.
¤ The blurring of boundaries has led to the emergence of a new generation of publications, such as Quartz, which are willing to integrate brand content with their own. Alongside this, old-school publishers are altering their approach, with the Daily Telegraph introducing ‘Sponsored Content’ hubs.
¤ Traditional agencies meanwhile, are learning to be more innovative in their approach, and the definition of a content marketer is changing. The CMA says that its membership comprises not just agencies, but startups and media companies.
¤ There is also an ‘amplification’ trend. Social media is an amplifier and there are a variety of digital methods to promote brand content once it is out in the wild, with services such as Outbrain and HubSpot springing up to promote content into, say, newspaper websites. A study from Hubspot this year champions the growing importance of blogs, while a white paper from Contentplus says that blogs on company websites result in 55% more visitors and are 63% more likely to influence purchase decisions than magazines.
This post was originally published on the Internet World blog.