The State Of Content Mid-2018: A Diamond With A Thousand Facets
The annual report released by the Content Marketing Institute has, for the last eight years, examined the implications of new developments in content marketing, and identified trends and how content can be used to provide better results and higher engagement levels for all business. As an important part of any business’ marketing plan, content fuels all forms of inbound lead generation from email and social to paid and organic search. As we reach the midpoint of 2018, having a clear and well-defined content strategy will help you not only to create better content, but to set goals, improve distribution, and better evaluate ROI.
Of those polled by the CMI, content marketing was unsurprisingly the number one marketing activity that businesses believe will have the largest commercial impact. Of those polled, 20% ranked content marketing above all others, with big data and AI close behind at 14% each. In addition, the majority of respondents – 52% – reported their content marketing to be “moderately successful,” with 20% saying “very successful” and only 3% “extremely successful.” There are many different measures of success in content marketing – for some, brand awareness is the goal, for others, engagement and interaction is the metric by which success is measured. This emphasizes the importance of setting a goal – content marketing can accomplish many things.
In addition, 54% of respondents said that their content marketing is more successful now than it was a year ago, with just 2% reporting it to be less successful. This tells us here at Iris Content that content marketing is still growing, and as content quality and efficiency increase, reader engagement is bound to go up.
Photograph by Rawpixel via Bigstock
What Kind of Content Works Best?
The most popular type of content today is social media posts, making up 91% of the content marketing metaverse. This is followed by case studies at 70% – these studies tell the story of a product, demonstrating achievements and successes, and are a great way to provide social proof of your product or service’s quality. Here at Iris Content, we’ve always got our eyes on what is working and what isn’t in terms of content marketing, and here’s what we have found:
Video and Live Streaming – In terms of great content marketing, video continues to be on the rise in terms of effectiveness. Watching videos is one of the most popular activities that people do online, especially on social media. Video remains an excellent option for content marketing on social, blogs, and websites in 2018. Moreover, creating excellent video even as a beginner is easier than ever thanks to tools like Biteable and Animoto.
Interactive Content – One of the most popular new trends in content marketing for improving engagement is interactive content like quizzes, polls, lists, interactive maps, and more. Tools like ContentTools can help you create content that does more than wait to be viewed.
Online Courses and Webinars – One of the best ways to stand out from the pack in 2018 is to visibly offer more value, and one of the best ways to do this is by offering online courses and webinars. Creating content like this may be a little more time consuming than other forms of content marketing, but it’s also more successful – and could even lead to a new way to monetize your expertise.
Influencer Marketing and Content Amplification – One of the most effective forms of content amplification in 2018 has been influencer marketing. Tools like Agorapulse can help you discover potential brand ambassadors who are already in your network, and Buzzsumo can help identify to top influencers in your particular niche.
General Trends for 2018 and Beyond
Content marketing continues to show great momentum. Every year, content marketing’s progression remains constant, as investment grows and effectiveness continues to increase. Many tech innovations are leading brands to rethink the way they construct a content marketing strategy in 2018, and the ever-increasing availability of different platforms can make any business owner feel a little overwhelmed when it comes to their content. What platforms are most effective? How can you communicate the right message for a platform, at a given stage of the ever-important sales funnel? What format of content will work best within the context of the platform, the audience, and the messaging?
If you’re reading this, you take your content marketing seriously, and that’s a good thing. Content and preferences are always evolving, and here are a few of the major trend we’re seeing in 2018.
Hyper-Personalization of Content – In basic content marketing, a brand may simply produce an article, a video, or a series of social media posts, but today merchants can produce thousands of pieces of content for a single campaign. Why such a massive increase? The answer is hyper-personalization. This is a process by which merchants personalize many of their content pieces to speak to specific segments of their customer base.
For example, YouTube allows advertisers to create personalized ads which appear before or during a video stream. This level of personalization enables brands to broadcast thousands of pieces of video in a single campaign. The video that a consumer actually sees is determined by many factors including location, browsing history, preferences, and even what apps they may have downloaded on their mobile device.
With all of these points of data, the ad delivery system can deliver content that is tailored for that specific consumer. For instance, a buyer who is interested in coupons and seeking sales could see a piece of content which contains a special offer, whereas a buyer who seems more interested in tech sees a piece of content that emphasizes that aspect of a product or service.
Making Content Accessible to Everyone – From the early days of the internet, accessibility tools have been in place to ensure that web content is accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. In the early days of web design, “alt” tags in images which are now predominantly used for SEO purposes were intended to be used by vision impaired viewers using screen-readers, and those using text-only browsers. Over the years, accessibility was eclipsed by optimization, and as content marketers, we are pleased to see that accessibility is making a comeback as a trend. Brands are starting to pay attention to disabled populations, and are integrating those populations into their marketing strategies. For those who wish to ensure that their content is as accessible as possible, it doesn’t require a complete website overhaul – something as simple as making sure that images are always accompanied by a written description for those who cannot see it is a great way to both increase your content, and make your content more accessible.
The State of Content Marketing in Q3 and Q4 2018
As long as marketing has existed, content has been a part of it. That has led some of those involved in marketing to question whether content marketing is really “new,” or if it’s just a new word to describe something we’ve always done. It certainly does have a “buzz-word” quality, but the reality is that today, standing out online is about consistently having more better-quality content than the others, and that is something new – gone are the days when a website could be essentially static and unchanging and keep a good search ranking. Marketing is always changing, and with it, so is the need for content. With that in mind, here are a few of our insights into some of the other ways content marketing is changing in the industry today.
Content Marketing Jobs Are Changing, Too. Content marketing jobs have changed a great deal over the years, and those jobs are continuing to evolve as companies develop more robust strategies for content delivery. Simply hiring a great writer who can write a cheap blog on a regular basis isn’t the effective content marketing strategy that it was not long ago, because it doesn’t tie that content into your other marketing activities, and it doesn’t address formats of content outside the context of the blog itself.
Evolving and changing formats mean that content marketers today are much more than just blog writers. Video, infographics, and other forms of visual content are very much on the rise. Audio, such as webinars and podcasts, also has quite a bit of momentum as a way to deliver content. Today, a truly great content marketing team has great writers, and people with production skills, too. In addition, skills in optimization and distribution are a necessary part of any content marketing plan. Strategists who tie all these content teams together with the other parts of your marketing can help make sure your content is consistent among all platforms. Finally, analysts who can keep tabs on analytics and examine the effectiveness of your content are an important part of making sure your teams are doing the best possible work.
Contextual Content Brings Content Off the Screen. There’s a phrase that gets tossed around a lot that mystifies many people – the phrase is “Internet of Things.” In order to understand how content marketing is changing, you’ll need to understand how the Internet of Things, or IoT, is lifting your content off the screen and puts it into context with the very real world around your readers.
The Internet of Things describes the actual devices that utilize the network that connects us all. These include home computers, tablets, and smartphones, but also smart televisions, vehicles, home appliances, and anything else embedded with software that connects it to the internet. All these devices, the physical objects themselves like the screen you’re reading this on, are a part of the Internet of Things.
Why’s that important? Many content writers develop content that is intended to coexist only with other content on the internet. However, this approach fails to account for the fact that the IoT, like the device you’re looking at right now, doesn’t exist only in relation to other things on the internet – it exists in relation to everything else around you, physically, right now. Thinking about the IoT brings content beyond screens.
For an example of this, in recent years we saw a movement toward more mobile content. As more and more things become digital, and consumers carry with them more and more devices that connect with the network, the ways in which those consumers seek out and access content is different compared to the home PC web-surfer of years past. As internet access becomes more ubiquitous, new kinds of content must emerge from those new kinds of interactions. This thinking about contextual content is about placing the right message, to the right person, at the right time, in the right place, and under the right conditions. Your content should be contextual, taking into considering where and when a consumer may seek it out – if you’re not thinking of ways to make your content more contextual, the time to start doing so is right now.
Transparency is as Important as Content. Advertising is everywhere. Thanks to practices like native advertising, brand-sponsored content on social media, and the like, consumers are bombarded with branded content. Unsurprisingly (and in many cases, justifiably), those consumers are getting very skeptical of branded content. As a result, companies need to follow suit by making sure you’re emphasizing honesty and transparency. Disclose, disclose, disclose – if you have social media influencers or sponsored content, make sure you’re being totally transparent about those relationships.
Content – The Building Block of Marketing
Think about marketing – is it even possible without content? Social media certainly doesn’t work without content. Paid advertising doesn’t exist without it. Even in the days where the extent of a marketing plan was a Yellow Pages ad and a radio spot – without content, those don’t even exist. Without content, there simply is no marketing.
This seems really obvious, but there’s a philosophical point to be made here. Once you start to view content as the basic building block of all your other marketing efforts, you will be able to more effectively map content to the buyer, at every stage of the funnel.
Content is like the atomic structure of all marketing, and what’s more, it’s making previously disparate realms of marketing converge into a single entity. The lines that once separated paid, owned, and earned media are beginning to fade. Let’s talk about what those things mean.
Owned media refers to the marketing channels you have direct control over – your website, your blog, your email. Content marketing in its purest form exists as owned media. However, think about new developments in social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter. Are these owned media? You do have control over them, but there is also a paid component with Twitter ads, boosted posts on Facebook, and so on. In addition, the social nature and algorithms of these platforms introduce an “earned” component to who sees your media. More and more, content delivery systems online are breaking down the boundaries between owned, earned, and paid media, and all three are converging.
In the last half of 2018, we recognize that content can no longer live in a vacuum. Content doesn’t only exist on the internet, because all content is contextual within the Internet of Things. Content doesn’t live solely in silos like owned content on your blog and paid media in your ads – your content marketing platform needs to encapsulate owned, earned, and paid media as if they were different facets of the same jewel.
Chief Content Officer
Annie has over 20 years of experience as an editor and content creator and manager. With work in television and written media, she has dedicated her past 10 years to learning the ropes of online content creation, from writing to editing, from SEO to content management.
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