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The future of content marketing is personal, social, agile and so much more

By Nick Price

Content marketing can be effective, but it’s a heck of lot more complicated than it used to be. Barb Mosher Zinck parses some recent data, advising us on how to approach content in multi-platform, data-driven world.

Everyone wishes they had a crystal ball that really works; the ones I have are only good for playing jacks. That being said, many are looking toward the future and wondering what will content marketing look like?

eConsultancy and Oracle partnered up to take a look at just this and the resulting report, which features insights from a number of senior executives involved with content marketing, provides some interesting ideas.

Content marketing is at a tipping point as it begins to touch every point across communications. It’s no longer a blog post, or a video the social media manager is desperately praying will go viral. It’s the video that went viral because social shared it on Twitter, which was then picked up in the press and the signal was boosted through paid search because marketing is about to release an ad that takes the catchphrase that customers voted for through the email campaign that grew from signups generated by an event tie-in… that was promoted in the video.

The report states that content marketing is heading for transformation, stating “the future of content marketing is the future of communications.”

What does that mean exactly?

Content marketing is data-driven – it’s “data-led and data generating”. You need to pay attention to what customers are doing and find ways to personalize the experience. And the future is not personalization based on audience or target group – it’s one-to-one personalization. Don’t stop at the first level, figure out how to get to that next level, and let the customer help you figure that out.

Personalization is critical for account-based marketing, but it’s also important to other marketing activities like advertising, email, customer support and retention. Your customers expect you to know them, and if they willingly provide you with more information about them and their needs, they expect you to use that information to make their experience more relevant.

In the report, social plays a critical role in the future of content marketing. It’s certainly used by many organizations for distribution of information, and is a leading tool for top of the funnel marketing campaigns, but that’s only the beginning.

The report suggests that content marketing can leverage messaging apps, and live chat, enabling your content to be everywhere your customers are. We see this in a B2C context for promotions and notifications, but what if you took it further and used messaging as a communication channel for your brand?

One example given was for a makeup company that sent makeup tips via messaging. The report also talked about the concept of using bots to deliver content and interact with customers. Bots are an option to creating a native mobile app. Instead of building an app and hoping that customers will download and use it, a bot can be added as a contact to an existing app the customer uses regularly.

A couple of key points made on using social tools in these ways. First, always ensure you provide useful or valuable information. Doug Kessler from Velocity Partners, is quoted in the report saying “it’s okay to interrupt if you have relevance and offer immediate value.”

In addition to providing immediate value, don’t abuse the trust a customer gives you by adding you as a contact. Don’t spam them with messages, be smart about what you are sending and when you are sending it.

Then there’re the vloggers (the ever popular everyday video bloggers) who have the ability to provide brands access to huge audiences. The key is to connect with the vloggers who reach the audiences you want to connect with and to be open about the relationship and what the brand brings to the table.

The website isn’t going anywhere

The brand website has gone through some serious evolution since the first brochureware static html sites were built. It’s now a key element of the digital experience providing (hopefully) a wealth of information not just about products and services but about the market that drives what they offer.

The report notes that the website is also very important regarding SEO. Search will always be a way to find information, but it’s becoming more important to get your brand to the top of the list. And that means quality and quantity content. Of course, don’t forgo quality for quantity – it’s the right mix that’s critical to find. As we see, however, search is only one way, so don’t focus all your effort there, or you’ll lose out.

Another reason the website continues to be the brand’s hub. All your social activity, all your SEO activity drives the customer to it. Many experts in the report talk about having a presence in many places but ensuring that your website is the final point where your content lives. You own that, you have control of that channel, you have control of the data.

Content marketing is everywhere and anywhere

Content is a part of everything an organization does to connect and engage with customers. It’s part of sales, customer service, marketing, public relations, employee communications and so much more.

The process of content strategy, content development, and even content distribution doesn’t start and end with the marketing department. It’s cross organizational, and it is, as the report notes, everyone’s job. That is what makes content marketing so easy – and so hard – to do, and is part of the reason why many organizations still struggle to see success in their content marketing efforts.

Something else that’s important to point out. Part of what makes content marketing hard is the review and approval process typically involved. Think about the cycles your spend creating a piece of content. Now think about the cycles spent in review, edit, review and approval mode.

Content is shared everywhere these days. It’s on your social networks, your messaging apps, your chat lines, your website, search engines. You have to find a place where you are comfortable letting go of the time-consuming process of content review and approval.

Maybe you need to plan, hold court for the bigger ticket content assets, but make space for your employees in all departments, to understand your stories and share them in the ways that make the most sense for their context. It can be scary to give that kind of freedom, but it’s also empowering.

“Mike Tyson said ‘all the planning goes out of the window once the first punch is thrown’. Organizations need to be able to say, culturally we have some idea of how this is going to go but once we turn the sucker on, we’re just going to have to roll with the punches,” states Jay Baer (from the eConsultancy report).

Lots of organizations are still trying to figure out how to make content marketing work for them. It requires changes at the organizational level in terms of who is involved, how the strategy is defined and implemented and how quickly it can be adapted to constantly changing customer expectations.

It seems odd to be thinking about the future of content marketing when so many can’t get it right in the present. But maybe if we take some time to think about where it’s headed we can look pragmatically at what we are doing now and start to take the necessary steps to improve and move forward the right way.

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Nick Price

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