Content experts weigh in on what’s ahead. Consider this fair warning.
• Content Marketing 2015: Where are we headed?
• Tech 2015: What technologies will change the field?
• Company 2015: Which companies ‘get it’?
• Personal 2015: How will we change as marketers?
Stan WoodsManaging DirectorVelocity Partners
In the last 12 months—particularly in the United Kingdom—there’s been a greater focus on analytics. The content marketing ninja of 2012 and beyond is someone who knows what great is, but also understands through analytics how to measure it and optimize it. Currently about 80 percent of our clients are using tools like Marketo and Eloqua, whereas in 2008 only 10 percent were. In 2008, the career path of a senior marketer was getting further and further away from execution. Today, it’s swung back the other way. The most successful senior marketers are rolling their sleeves back, diving in and experimenting. They are like experimental scientists.
What’s next? Filtering the noise. Remember: noise is relative. Noise is just a lack of relevance. How do we connect consumers to relevant content and answer their questions? Right now the push is all about creating content, but is all that content being created really addressing your customers? Are your customers discovering what they need, when they need it?
I look to Google for the future of content technologies. Google signaled a transformation from search to discovery with Google+. Social over the next few years is going to be about the transition from searching to discovery—specifically, discovery through friends.
Now that we are “always on” and “always connected,” we’re moving from the idea of a pond (do it once and pray that Google picks it up and indexes it) to a stream (always on, always moving). Consumers are stepping into the stream at different points in the day. How does it change the way marketers think about content?
AJ Bombers (a restaurant chain based in Wisconsin) is a great example of a small company that uses content marketing with incredible sophistication. Its problem: “How do we get customers in the door in a Sunday afternoon?” Answer: Use a “swarm badge” on FourSquare. AJ Bombers doesn’t have time to create beautiful blog posts, so its digital center is FourSquare. Many marketers think of a content marketing strategy as blogging or video, but it can be as simple as Twitter and FourSquare.
Many brands have spent the last two to three years acquiring an audience. The problem now is: What do you give these people? Brands struggle to create content at a social scale.
We are perplexed that the form factors for publishing haven’t changed, even though we’ve become such a mobile world. We do see small changes, such as the new Twitter IOS5 integration, Twitter is trying to wrap as much meta data in to the iPhone and iPad operating systems as possible, allowing you to publish more easily. It gives you the ability to grab, react and curate a piece of media from where ever you are on the iPhone. We think all mobile publishing should be this simple.
Rebecca LiebDigital Marketing & Media AnalystThe Altimeter Group
I recently interviewed 57 content marketing experts and practitioners from major US brands, most from the Fortune 500, and asked what they plan to do in the future related to content. Every single company we spoke to plans to increase its investment in content, going deeper to explore new channels, recommit themselves to existing channels and understand how content marketing can support its other marketing activities.
We are seeing tons of interest in video. Video is the number one activity marketers plan to expand in the future, which we see as a commitment to visual storytelling. The number two area of interest is mobile. That makes sense given the incredible explosion in the tablet market. By tablet, I’m talking about iPads and e-readers.
Mobile is changing the field already. Mobile is more and more within the reach of marketers, technologically speaking, and more and more within the reach of consumers. When the iPad launched, it was a $700 device. The Kindle Fire brought the price down to $200. And recently Barnes & Nobles announced that subscribers to the New York Times and People will receive a free Nook. Mobile is fast-becoming a critical channel.
David Meerman ScottMarketing Strategist and Best-selling Author Latest title: Newsjacking
It’s what I’ve been talking about for the last year: Real time. It’s about instant. I see so few content marketers who truly understand the power of an instant blog post, an out-of-the-gate video, a fast update to a website. In my experience, most content marketers still have a campaign approach to content marketing. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not either or. But there’s a big opportunity to take advantage of what’s going on right now, this instant. Being able to create a piece of content (a blog post, for example) that drafts off the news that’s breaking at that moment—it’s a tremendous opportunity and few companies do it.
The biggest hurdle marketers face is this: You need to recognize no one cares about you, your company or your product. We marketers tend to come at things from an egotistical perspective, but customers don’t really care. They care about themselves and solving their own problems.
Kirsten KnippMarketing Director Hubspot
I foresee a continued focus on quality. Over the last five years, marketers have figured out that content is the core engine that drives search on the web. But as more companies become publishers, there’s a real need to ratchet back the volume and increase quality. At Hubspot we are encouraging our customers to do this. In other words, “I’m attracting eyeballs to my site, but are they the right ones?”
Marketers need to become more analytical. More and more marketers need to go back to Excel 101 and Testing 101. They need to refine their ability to look at data, extract what matters and “pivot table” it. They need to be able to say, “When I talk about topic ABC on my blog, it generates three times the traffic and two times the leads.” This is not a natural step for marketers—especially those who have been marketers for a long while.
April DunfordAuthor of RocketWatcher.comVP Marketing, Huawei Enterprise
So much content today is tailored to the US market, even though a lot of revenue growth is coming from other regions, such as Asia, Africa and the Middle East. I believe we will start to see content that is customized to the needs of those markets. Again, it comes down to delivering value. Those customers have different problems and the purchase cycles are different, therefore the content we need to deliver to them will be different.
China is a great example. For many technology companies it represents a massive and fast-growing market. Content marketers face a challenge in that purchase cycles are different in China, the sales ecosystem is different and the tools that people use online are very different. There is a misconception that there is little social media use in China. In fact, they are heavy social media users—but the tools are different. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube for example are inaccessible in China but Weibu, RenRen and Youku offer many of the same features and are hugely popular in China. There is a huge opportunity for content marketers who have a deep understanding of the Chinese market to take advantage of Chinese social media to reach customers.
Obviously there is an ever-increasing focus on measurement and monitoring, to ensure that we are tying results back to our business objectives (and more specifically, revenue). I hope that this will help us get away from producing crappy “click-bait” that might drive short-term traffic and eyeballs but doesn’t result in any revenue.
Mark ChatowVP of MarketingServio
What we are seeing now is content post-Google Panda. Panda put into black and white that content has to change. It’s not about throwing anything you can on your site. You need to create content that’s engaging and unique, and ultimately shareable and linkable.
In the future, I see the intersection of two big ideas: The massive demand for content, that by its scale just can’t be created and managed in-house. At the same time, there’s the massive change in how Google search is ranking you based on what it considers relevant. The challenge is not only create to create an SEO plan, but execute it at a large scale.
The big change ahead will be the new technologies that allow marketers to achieve seamless integration of existing content systems and labor. That means researchers, writers, editors, subject matter experts, legal—all the in-house and out-sourced inputs needed for content—interact seamlessly and finished content flows back into your content management system.
Ardath AlbeeCEOMarketing Interactions, Inc.
Today marketers look at their activities in a compartmentalized fashion. Lead nurturing is over here. Blogging there. E-book over there. All these things are considered in pieces. Marketers need figure out how to integrate everything into a cohesive whole rather than focusing on “this marketing campaign” or “that webinar.”
We also have to become more accountable about how we measure things. Which leads to one of the biggest challenges in marketing: How to measure performance from a comprehensive perspective? How do you get beyond “last touch” attribution? Marketers need to be able to say, “this entire program is effective,” rather than “this particular piece of content drove this number of click throughs.” It’s about managing the entire buyer experience, not just adding up the activity.
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