Three strategic questions for content marketers

August 11th, 2016

Is content marketing becoming a victim of its own success? For as more and more brands realise that the medium is a highly effective way of targeting and engaging with their customers, so the amount of posts, videos and stories has grown exponentially. In the UK alone, Yahoo and Enders Analysis are predicting that the content marketing spend will rise 179.2 per cent to £349 million in 2020, from £125 million in 2014.

Factor in the way that many newspapers and magazine publishers are also now majoring on native advertising (this report predicts that as much as 74% of publisher revenue in the US will be native by 2021) and there is a huge amount of branded content that is being created.

For every British Airways, General Electric and GoPro, who produce stunning aspirational and engaging content, there are brands that drip undercooked, badly thought out editorial to a largely disinterested audience.

Which begs the question ‘are we approaching saturation point?’ There is any argument that for branded content we may not be too far off.

In fact, we are at the point in content marketing’s journey where brands are having to ask themselves very serious questions about their strategies. The online world is evolving at a lightning pace and brands need to be ready to face challenges and create solutions. Here are three issues that are concentrating the minds of many content marketers at the moment

1. What to do about declining organic reach – The days of brands creating content and then expecting social media platforms to distribute it for nothing are almost at an end now. The current trend of platforms using algorithms to dictate the content that its users see has inevitably hit brands hard.

As Bam’s Mike Burgess said in his presentation at the Digital Breakfast earlier in the summer Facebook is very much a media company.

“It is a pay to play platform – you need to pay for advertising to get organic traffic. You often get a spike of organic traffic post paid for advertising.”

The most recent Facebook update, which prioritised posts from friends and families, has made getting organic reach for brands even harder. There are stories of brands bucking the trend is this space, but Facebook does now appear to be largely expecting companies to invest in advertising before they can expect to see significant distribution of their content. Some companies have addressed this by focusing on video content.

It isn’t just Facebook either. According to some media commentators Twitter’s algorithm change from earlier this year is a precursor to the company pushing brands more aggressively on advertising.

2. How important is ephemeral content? – Many brands have embraced both Snapchat and the new Instagram Stories features. However, the impermanence of the content does present a problem for brands. Instagram Stories disappear after 24 hours, while Snapchat’s go the same way after the same period –  though there is an option to save them.

The question for brands is how much resource do you invest into a piece of content that has such a short life span, and only lives on the platform for which it was created?

Should you focus on content that will be evergreen, deliver ongoing engagement, as well as perhaps important SEO benefits? Or instead pump money into content that may chime with core audiences but has very limited life span?

It is a difficult issue that brands with more limited resources are struggling to come to terms with.

3. How to become content marketing ‘A listers’ – Ultimately brands that produce great content will, one way or another, get that content seen. There is clearly an A list in consumer content marketing emerging, especially in the US where brands like General Electric, Red Bull and GoPro and others have become almost as famous for the content they produce as their core products.

What sets those three brands apart is that they have a commitment to producing engaging high quality content on a daily basis. They invest large sums of money in both the creation of the content and its execution – for example General Electric’s Moon Boots was a content-driven stunt, but one that, according to the company, paid dividends in reach and engagement.

What sets them apart is their relentless pursuit of editorial excellence, and this cannot really be achieved by agencies and in-house staff without significant budgets, high levels of creativity and support from marketing, data scientists and others within the company.

Commissioned by The CMA

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