Content marketing is a fast changing and evolving space. It can be a challenge to keep up with what the latest techniques are and to assess if we need to be taking action with any of these trends. Here I have listed a round-up of the latest ideas along with my point of view as to whether these things are really strategic or just tactics.
Product Content – Support & Training Materials
Content marketers for software services and apps are realising the value of product content — documentation, user assistance, support, and training materials. Statistical research has shown that 96% of us research companies and their products online before we buy. Showcasing quality documentation (tip of the day, task-oriented video, simulations, and support materials) helps build confidence, especially when a customer is already dissatisfied with the vendor/product they have today.
Comment: In companies where they recognise that content needs to cover the entire customer journey not just the buying engagement, the first thing they realise is that their marketing, training, support, and documentation is created differently by different people in different departments using different approaches, standards, and tools. In organisations where customer experience matters, these silos are being broken down and content creation, management, and delivery processes are being unified. The content strategy then becomes a strategic planning mechanism that the entire organisation is involved in.
Brand Journalism – Cross Channel
The type of content being produced today is showing a more journalistic approach in its development. Along with that marketers are becoming bloggers, visual designers, videographers, podcasters, and SlideShare creators. I am not seeing the same amount of time and money spent on direct promotional marketing materials as in previous years.
Comment: Whilst there appears to be a more journalistic approach to individual articles, it is not apparent that there has been an editorial approach to the content strategy which would be the next logical step. However, the quality of content is improving at an individual item level and this is all good for content marketing as a whole. Given that better quality content will improve your search rankings, this is definitely a trend to be following.
Ego traps galore! Seriously, it seems that content marketers have become hip to the game of incorporating the names of influential people and companies into their content, thereby ensuring endorsement, if not distribution, when the asset is launched. While “ego traps,” a clever term coined by Peter Kim back in 2008, have been around for several years, the amount of content being published by brands coupled with the amount of “noise” in social media has made it necessary for content marketers to guarantee an audience before they hit “publish.”
Comment: This is just a tactic and it is your choice whether or not this is appropriate for your brand.
Going back in time…
As marketers gain experience covering the basics, they have become more sophisticated about content creation. Concurrently, technology supporting these efforts has facilitated and streamlined the processes, especially in terms of content curation and related analytics. Ironically, more marketers are returning to the basics, namely a blog as the heart of content marketing strategy and a contextual call-to-action to drive measurable content marketing metrics.
Comment: As content marketing matures I expect to see more pressure on measurable results. It is therefore not surprising that some older techniques are seeing a resurgence as the ability to measure these techniques are better than on newer techniques or channels. However, a mature content strategy would be considering commercial goals and measurement from the outset and therefore the delivery mechanisms and tactics used with individual pieces of content are only contributing factors to what we need to measure. Content should be engaging an audience in order to influence them towards a business goal. Many brands fail to define this in their content strategy i.e. they are good at creating content to engage an audience but then not following through with this engagement to deliver any tangible result.
Short and Sweet
Content is changing to accommodate our perceived attention span and willingness to engage. Take videos and podcasts, for example, instead of 30- to 60-minute training videos, brands are creating “snack” size bits of content that fit the attention span of their audience; 10-minute e-learning programs or 90-second demos; quick hits that better fit the needs and demands of their audience; shorter white papers and case studies that are easier to scan. We did not use tools like Vine, Path, and Pinterest a few years ago, and you can see how quickly they have become popular.
The change comes from people buying differently and knowing exactly what kind of information they want. There is no need to delve deeply into content to figure out if it is what you are looking for. Buyers are smarter — to the point where it is now “seller beware.” We’re not creating the buying process — we are facilitating it.
Comment: Whilst I agree that shorter bite-sized chunks are required this should not be at the expense of having the detailed content for those that want to go deeper. Failure to do so means that at some point everyone will be disappointed. In other words, if you only ever produce short form content, then when your audience inevitably wants to go deeper there is nothing available.
The BBC site is one to look at for this – each article is written in a journalistic style (of course), that means that you can stop reading at any point when you have what you need from the article. This could be that you stop at the headline as it is not of interest to you or you can delve all the way down if it is. Per our comment above on brand journalism, as well as good content creators you need to have good editors who can edit your content appropriately for the channel, audience and the purpose of the content.
The level at which high quality content is being executed today is unparalleled in the fact that technology is being used in the delivery of a great user experience. Infographics are being taken to the next level by making the visual content interactive by scrolling different web elements into the view of the user as they pass certain points of time or a position in the infographic.
Cinemagraphs, or cinematic GIFs, have started to find their way into online marketing campaigns by presenting what appears to be a static image; however, it really provides a very subtle animation in the photograph that quite often warrants a second look just to make sure your eyes caught what changed in the still image. The use of modern technology pushes the boundaries of what is possible in today’s digital marketing environment by creating one-of-a-kind experiences that are truly memorable in the mind of the user, and attracting thought leadership no amount of advertising dollars could ever compare to.
Comment: This is an “attention grabbing” trend. The difficulty with this is that soon everyone will be doing the same and it is no longer cool and it is no longer different. The quality of the content after this point is what will determine commercial success of the content. I suggest use with caution, do not spend too much on it and A/B test it to see if it tracks and helps push your customers to the main content that you want them to consume.