As technology changes, content marketing is evolving accordingly. In fact, the evolution will never be done. Let’s explore what that means for your business.
The Importance of Storytelling: Then and Now
It’s human nature to have the desire to connect—with people, with places, with events—with anything, really. I’ll venture a guess that you’ve never gone into any type of interaction thinking, “Gee, I can’t wait for people to talk AT me and feel no connection whatsoever to this message. Where do I sign up?”
Consumers want to connect and engage with brands in meaningful ways. Sometimes “meaningful ways” means that they want information, they want resources, they want guidance, they want a sense of community or they seek entertainment—and a host of other things. Storytelling, and connecting with customers through content, is an essential part of creating great customer experiences for today’s B2B brands. Marketing has always been about storytelling, and the only difference between telling that story today and telling it a decade ago is how and where it occurs.
Content marketing’s evolution has been impacted by the shift to digital mediums, and brands have had to move away from sole reliance on traditional mediums like TV, radio, print, and direct mail. I recently covered this topic in-depth. Read: Nobody Wants Your Ads. Here’s What Marketing Tools You Need to Use Instead. That doesn’t mean these mediums are no longer valuable, it’s just that brands can’t rely solely on them to reach today’s connected consumer. As a result, B2B brands have embraced content marketing as a way to find and attract prospective customers, close sales, and also retain and serve customers. Content is a critical element of many marketing tactics: email marketing relies on content, marketing automation relies on content, social media marketing relies on content, the ability to engage in social selling relies in part on effective content, you get my drift. Today, content marketing is, for many brands, an integral part of the sales and marketing experience.
What’s Next in the Content Marketing Evolution?
We’ve established that storytelling and adding value are content constants. The tools that enable them, though, are expanding. As technology changes, here’s how you can expect content marketing to evolve to keep up:
- Brands will develop scalable content machines to create original content for consumers and scour the web for relevant, curate-worthy pieces. (Note: Curation, by the way, is a key part of the success of both social and content strategies. Read: How Content Curation Fuels Your Social Media Efforts.)
- Ads and sales-heavy content still exist, but smart brands today are taking a more customer-focused approach, striving to create value for their audience first and letting the rest fall into place. This builds a base of brand advocates, also known as marketing’s holy grail. This consumer-first trend will continue to grow even more effective as technology allows organizations to target (and retarget) content to specific audiences on specific mediums based on their changing customer journeys.
- Text-only content is no longer enough, and video and visually rich content are now, or should be, an important component of any robust content marketing strategy. In fact, current statistics show color visuals increase the willingness of a consumer to read content by 80 percent, and 51.9 percent of marketers from around the globe reported video was the content category producing the highest ROI. This trend will no doubt continue as social media platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram thrive. (Want to know how to leverage Instagram further? Read: How to Use Instagram In Your Email Marketing Campaigns.)
- While social media is thriving (see above), content marketing’s evolution will see brands branching out from social to diversify their approach. Forbes reports that Facebook’s algorithm, in particular, is being updated to promote content posted through its paid ad platform while also cracking down on posts not relevant to its users. This could go one of two ways: Brands can anticipate paying more to optimize their content on social outlets like Facebook, or put more of a focus on (and a budget toward maximizing) organic channels.
- If they aren’t already, marketing analytics tools will soon become the standard and not a luxury for brands. Almost 90 percent of marketers planned to use predictive analytics tools this year, but the possibilities don’t stop there. Tools like BuzzSumo and others, for example, can help brands examine what types of content work best by topic and even offer guidance when it comes to influencers.
So that’s what’s coming. How does your organization approach content marketing? Are you at the beginning stages of adopting content as part of your marketing strategies? Midway through with ways to go, or are you nailing content on all fronts? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this front, as well as what you think is coming down the pike.