Back in 2004, Merriam-Webster named “blog” the word of the year and marketers across the globe were scurrying to create blogs, e-books and soon podcasts, webinars and video all with the goal of capturing an online audience and driving them to websites or brick-and-mortar stores. If you think over more than a decade, we’d have perfected content marketing, you’d be wrong.
In a time like this, when the traditional sales funnel has likely slowed, investing in content that provides value to your customers and clients beyond the product they buy from you can help to keep them warm until things pick up again.
Here are five things you should know about content marketing today:
1. Surprising news about attention spans
A recent study by Prezi reveals six in 10 respondents believe their abilities to retain focus has actually improved and they can now better give content undivided attention—with millennials more likely than Gen Xers and boomers saying the right content can hold their attention for a long time. Of course, it has to be the right content. Respondents report being more selective about what they give their attention to. 9 in 10 respondents say a strong narrative (85 percent) or telling the story behind what’s being presented is critical in maintaining engagement (81 percent). Right now, with people home, everyone is spending even more time online. Taking advantage of this moment can help increase your business’ perception for when your customers are ready to return to business as usual.
2. Getting personal
It’s all about the customer experience today and what customers want - actually, what they demand - is personalization. Trying to reach a mass audience does nothing for consumers looking for specific information important to their lives. Using big data, studying consumer trends and keeping detailed customer records can help you focus on what your customers want from your business. Research shows businesses still need work in this area: Only 66 percent of content marketing programs prioritize their audience’s informational needs over their organization’s sales/promotional message, while 88 percent of top performers do.
3. Start a conversation
Experts at the Content Marketing Institute recommend moving away from “brand speak” and delivering information in the language your customers understand—in words they would use. Afterall, talking to customers in a natural, more conversational way not only shows you “get” them, it also helps you build engagement and, consequently, trust.
4. User-created content
User-generated content is exactly what it sounds like: content (text, videos, images, etc.) created by your audience, rather than by your business. You can then share user-generated content across your marketing platforms such as your social media pages and website. Why do you want to do this? The biggest reason is credibility. Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to perceive user-generated content as authentic compared to content created by brands. The other reason is people influence other people’s purchasing decisions. Amassing user-generated content involves starting conversations on social media and asking followers for opinions, stories, videos and images. Be sure to ask permission and credit the creator.
5. Immersive content
Immersive content is a fairly new tactic for marketers and gaining momentum. This includes formats like augmented reality and virtual reality. For augmented reality think live streaming on Instagram, which involves a real-world environment enhanced by computer-generated graphics or objects. Virtual reality involves complete immersion in a computer world, like Facebook Horizon. Both might be too far forward to initiate immediately, but as the technology gets more user-friendly it could be a great tool to create just the kind of engagement your marketing can benefit from.
Once you have an idea about what content you want to produce, you need to deploy it strategically. And remember: the content marketing game is consistently evolving. Don’t be shy to try something new.
The Content Marketing Institute recommends you create an editorial calendar, but, “Instead of thinking of your calendar as a schedule of content, consider it the implementation plan for your documented content marketing strategy. Plan content in quarterly sprints so you can adapt topics to real-time changes in the industry and content based on real-time performance.”