By Fiona Hunt
A long, long time ago, long before the term ‘content marketing’ was coined, there was marketing, and marketing equalled content. In those old days, everything was content — every image, piece of copy, social media post, video clip, the lot — one big pile of stuff that was created, amplified, and sometimes even measured. Marketing managers, coordinators, social media teams, and every available intern was charged with creating content ad infinitum, with the hope of attracting whatever dirty clicks or roving eyeballs a brand could get.
While marketers have toiled to feed this hungry content monster, content itself has been having its own quiet revolution. Slowly but surely, the short and sharp tactics of viral videos and click-bait advertising have given way to rich, enduring, editorial led information. Companies have come to realise that the quality of the content is actually far more important than we may previously have considered.
Gone are the days when brands would construct the perfect ‘accidental’ viral video, with marketers desperate to hear from brands who cracked the viral video nut. These days, the viral video is a fun high if you can get it, but it’s not the panacea of brand salience, and it’s certainly not going to give you the long-term, deep engagement of sustainable content that builds quality customers for your business. Brands are now looking beyond the Facebook likes, the Twitter followers, and website hits for signs of deeper engagement with their audience.
The reason for this shift is an evolution in the media-consumption habits of consumers who are increasingly demanding more authentic communications and conversations from brands, due to growing cynicism about thinly veiled media tactics and, importantly, a recognisable power shift back to the consumer with an expectation of exchange in every brand interaction. Quite rightly, customers are now saying to brands, ‘If I give you my attention, what are you giving me?’
Savvy businesses who understand the opportunity within this shift are focusing on the procurement of editorial excellence that offers real value to their customers through sharing the knowledge and thought leadership that consumers desire. Brands are now ditching the image heavy, copy-light, big-brand activations and focusing on creating information, insights, and knowledge in areas of their expertise — their ‘content’.
Savvier still are those businesses that know that good content is only one part of the equation, and this is where the true genius of marketer-meets editor, or ‘content marketing’, lies.
Consider that targeting is the air that every marketer breathes. They know that editorial content, no matter how impressive, without care of placement is like leaving a beautifully written article on the Higgs boson particle on a table in the food court at Westfield and hoping a nuclear physicist picks it up.
Spending the time and money on understanding who your audience is, and where they spend their time, is critical to content marketing success.
Similarly, posting a well-targeted piece on a beautifully designed website without amplifying it is like setting up a lemonade stand outside your house, even with the cute kid, and hoping for sales. The amplification secret is ‘content in context’: creating, seeding, and amplifying your content in the context of where your audience is playing, reading, or watching.
The new world of content marketing has a well-constructed methodology, starting with a targeted audience, a well considered set of objectives and the creation of quality content by true experts, followed by a constant feedback loop of distribution, measurement, optimisation, and refinement. But there is still plenty of work to do in this new world order. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s report ‘Content Marketing in Australia 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets & Trends’, 69 percent of Australian marketers are challenged with producing engaging content, which makes it their top challenge by far, with 84 per cent saying their top priority over the next year will be creating more engaging content. The challenges of this revolution are in harnessing the expertise as well as the sheer resource hours required to create the kind of high-frequency, quality content that a well-engaged audience demands.
So how does your business win in this revolution? As a business leader, it is important first to acknowledge that content marketing is here to stay, at least while consumers continue to demand authentic and engaging information from businesses. Understand, too, that an engaged consumer base takes time to build sustainably.
Similarly, it is critical to get your strategy right upfront — find your point of difference in the market; find what is unique to your business. What information and thought leadership can you own outside of your current competitor set? Then build, buy, or outsource your expertise; however you do so, harness what your business does well and invest in telling your story in a way that adds legitimate value to your customers.The Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) has told us year after year that content marketing spend is increasing across the board, with 81 per cent of businesses producing more content than they did one year ago. In this era of information overload, only the most carefully planned, created, and organised content will survive.