Content marketing is not a new concept. Back in 1895, John Deere was producing a lifestyle magazine for farmers as one of the earliest adopters of content marketing, and in 1904, Jell-O published a recipe book to showcase their products in useful and creative ways to inform customers who didn’t know how to use the product.
When we look at Jell-O, the brand was producing useful content to a target audience at the right time. While it was not called content marketing at the start of the twentieth century, the strategy is no different from how brands approach digital and social media today.
The way content marketing presents itself has evolved considerably over time, but the main components are, and always will be the same. It requires an understanding of your target audience, clear objectives, and promotion strategy.
What is content marketing, and why is it important?
Content marketing is the continuous process of planning, creating, distributing, sharing, and publishing content. The goal is to connect your brand with an audience, getting them to interact with, engage, and advocate your business.
To understand why content marketing is so crucial, circle back to just ten years ago. In 2010, smartphones were yet to proliferate the market, online influencers didn’t exist, nobody knew what an Alexa was, and blogging was a fun side hobby.
In 2020, there are around 4 billion social media users, and 5.19 billion people using mobile phones (with 81% being smartphones). As well as that, 37% of Americans use mobile platforms to go online, with usage continuing to rise throughout 2020. Consumers now expect to see a variation in content as well, which goes far beyond traditional article writing.
Content marketing is more than writing articles or blogging. People consume content on social media, websites, and apps. Audiences want brands to deliver specific content that is relevant to their niche, and if they don’t, there are plenty of other places for them to go. For example, since 2018, younger people are moving away from Facebook to other platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat, which present content in a way that engages them. That doesn’t mean brands should stop pushing content through Facebook, but more thought needs to go into the audience and how to interact with them.
The way that Covid-19 impacts consumer behavior can be represented almost entirely by looking at the performance of TikTok. TikTok is a social media app the allows user to create, promote, and react to short-form music and video content. In March 2020, at the start of the pandemic, the app was downloaded 2 million times, an 18% increase week-on-week, and a 27% increase followed in the first 23 days o March.
The success of TikTok comes from compelling content that engages a community. Users can create 15-second videos that others can react and relate to, which have become more creative over time. During the Covid-19 pandemic it gives a connection at a time where we need to comply with safety and social distancing measures.
Brands need to stay on trend with the content channels that their audience engages with. Chipotle is one of the first to leverage TikTok as part of its content marketing strategy. The #GuacDance challenge campaign on TikTik was the highest performing via the channel in the US, resulting in 250,000 video submissions in only six days.
Chipotle took content to TikTok after scanning online channels to see what people were talking about and where they were conversing. The brand deliberately employs a diverse team, spanning all age demographics to ensure they keep up with content marketing trends.
Tressie Lieberman, vice president of digital and off-premises for the brand, says the presence of content on TikTok gives Chipotle a real personality, telling real stories rather than pushing products at the audience. It is this level of engagement that fuels modern-day content marketing. For example, if we look at cosmetic brand Sephora on Facebook, they spend time asking and answering questions through content, achieving excellent engagement.
While we could write an entire piece on the benefit of short-form video and audio content, as that market becomes saturated, long-form blogs still have a place. Brands need to remember that search engine optimization (SEO) isn’t going anywhere, so creating high-quality, informative written content holds much value.
According to HubSpot, businesses that produce high-quality blog posts are 13x more likely to experience an increased return on investment, with 67% more leads. If we go back to 2010 again, writing content to rank highly in search engines would mean stuffing it with keywords, hiding phrases in the background, and tags.
The notion of keyword stuffing is frowned upon by search engine algorithms, which are now sophisticated enough to recognize useful content, over that which is repetitive or promotional. It started in 2011 when Google released a Panda update to label these Black Hat SEO tricks. Search engines also reward websites optimized for local users, mobile devices, and security as they aim to provide searchers with trusted resources.
Quality optimized, useful, and safe written content is king, over repetitive keyword-oriented websites and blogs.
The age of personalization and user-generated content
In 2020, we are in a time of content that is tailored and user-generated. Millennials say that user-generated content influences their buying decisions, with 84% giving positive responses in a survey. Personalization allows for every piece of content that a brand releases to be unique. For example, GoPro runs a photo of the day challenge, generated by users, using the content to inform other customers about the advantages of using their products.
The image below shows the popularity of the user-generated content, with over 120,000 likes.
Content is evolving from something that brands push to customers into a tool whereby brands influence customers to create content for them. It will be fascinating how content marketing continues to progress in the forthcoming decade, with more opportunities in the marketplace than ever before. Digital channels are growing exponentially, and some that are going to be popular in 2030 probably don’t even exist yet.
Brands that want to succeed with content marketing need to embrace a multi-channel approach, keep up with trends, and remain responsive.