It’s the third week of the New Year. When gyms start to empty and bakers and bar owners breathe a sigh of relief, as all those good intentions pledged on January 1st traditionally go out of the window. But don’t give up. If you haven’t resolved to change your content marketing ways for 2018, and your inbox is overflowing with unread listicles and trend reports, make this the one you read. We’ve rounded up the latest research to create the top 10 resolutions that could make this your most successful year ever – and there’s no better time to act on them than now.
Resolution 1: I must spend more
Back in 2014, social media guru Mark Schaefer identified the controversial ‘Content Shock’ – an economic response to the tsunami of content engulfing consumers – warning of the rapidly approaching point where supply will exceed demand. Yet two years later, Yahoo and Enders Analysis predicted that the UK’s content marketing spend will rise 179.2%, from £125 million in 2014 to £349 million in 2020. Then came the Content Marketing Institute’s (CMI) UK 2017: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends survey, in which 79% of UK content marketers said they expect their organisation to produce more original content in 2017 compared with 2016. The most recent Gartner survey into CMO Spend 2017-2018 reports that – following three consecutive years of growth – marketing budget growth has hit a plateau. But it also found that two-thirds (67%) of CMOs plan to increase their spending in digital activity, such as social, at the cost of traditional advertising. So be swayed by the naysayers at your cost. Yes, there are only so many hours in the day that content be consumed. But there’s no indication that consumers’ appetites are waning and there’s even greater urgency to create authentic, engaging content that stands out from the crowd. (Schaefer’s somewhat backtracking 2017 iteration ‘Content Shock isn’t the problem. It’s the solution’ makes interesting reading.)
Resolution 2: I must spend more on getting my content seen
'Create great content and your audiences will find it' may have been the case during the industry’s nascent years, but that’s not so true now. Organic reach on Facebook has been in decline since 2014, and after analysing more than 880 million Facebook posts published by brands and publishers over the past year, new research by BuzzSumo reveals the average number of engagements has fallen by more than 20% since January 2017. 'You can’t succeed at content marketing without marketing your content’ is the advice from Contently. And if you’re resisting the shift towards paid distribution as a means to skew the algorithms in your favour, it’s worth noting that when the CMI and MarketingProfs asked 2,562 recipients around the globe which paid methods of content promotion their organisations use in their content marketing efforts, 89% cited social promotion, with 66% rating it 4 or 5 on a 5-point effectiveness scale.
Resolution 3: I must focus on quality above quantity
The reassurance that great content will rise to the top may have gone, but that doesn’t mean throwing investment at shoddy content will make it perform any better. Every year, the web design and development team at Orbit Media asks 1,000+ bloggers how they approach the job of creating content, and the most recent responses show an increase in the time spent writing and length of posts, while the frequency of publishing has gone down. All that extra time translates into the trend for longer, more media-rich content. Results show the length of the average blog post is up 19% to about 1,050 words, while the percentage of posts that are 500 words or fewer is half what is was two years ago. The percentage of epic posts 2,000+ words long is doubling every year (reassuring news for this blog writer!). And posts are getting more visual – with video top of the list for achieving stronger results.
Resolution 4: I must build trust
Which in today’s climate, translates into building and nurturing a community around your brand (something Haymarket Network has always advocated, just see the phenomenal results achieved for the CIPD). Consumer trust in mainstream organisations, such as the media, is at an all-time low, with the 2017 Edelman Global Trust Barometer finding that two-thirds of the countries surveyed are now ‘distrusts’, which means they have under 50% trust in the institutions of business, government, media and NGOs to do what is right. In Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising Report 2015, for those in Europe, recommendations from people they know come in at the top level of trust (78%), followed by online consumer opinions (60%), compared to branded websites (54%) and editorial content such as newspaper articles (52%).
‘We’re moving away from trusting institutions, vanity metrics, and mega-influencer celebrities – and moving towards smaller and actual spheres of influence where customer advocates, genuine customer communities, and engaged employees matter more than ever,’ observes Hootsuite in its annual Social Media Trends 2018 report.
Resolution 5: I must choose my friends carefully
Well, more of a Resolution 4 and a half, as we’re talking about the choice of influencers and advocates to promote your brand. Research from a Kellogg School marketing professor Kent Grayson and his colleague Mathew Isaac revealed one of the least credible marketing tactics to be an ad that features a celebrity who endorses a product or claims to use it, or advertising that uses paid actors to play the role of consumers giving positive product reviews. But if the star of the ‘mega-sleb’ is waning, that of the ‘micro-influencer’ – defined as having between 1,000 to 10,000 followers – is definitely on the rise and will help guide you to genuine customer communities. As Edelman puts it: ‘Micro-influencers often have deeper engagement and therefore actual influence over their communities, who generally act with more passion as they feel a greater sense of relatability to the influencer.’
Resolution 6: I must go live
We blogged back in 2016 about the power of video, but now the increasing pressure is to go live. Facebook reports that people spend more than 3x more time watching a Facebook Live video on average compared to a video that’s pre-recorded because Facebook Live videos are more interesting in the moment than after the fact. The social media giant ranks live videos higher in the News Feed, as well as videos with higher watch and completion rates and videos that are clicked on or unmuted as signals of viewer interest. Research by Livestream revealed 81% of internet and mobile audiences watched more live video in 2016 than in 2015, confirming that live video is more appealing to brand audiences: 80% would rather watch live video from a brand than read a blog, and 82% prefer live video from a brand to social posts.
Resolution 7: I must go immersive
If the thought of live video is scary, let’s take one step further into the future. Because as less-expensive augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) headsets are introduced, total revenue for the AR and VR market is projected to increase from US$5.2 billion in 2016 to over US$162 billion in 2020, according to the International Data Corporation (IDC). No longer just the preserve of gamers, Forbes anticipates that more and more companies will connect with consumers through ‘immersive interfaces’ and after predicting that in 2017, 30% of consumer-facing G2000 companies would experiment with AR/VR as part of their marketing efforts, suggests that by 2020, more than 20% of commercial media on Facebook will be 360-degree VR, as social goes ‘immersive’.
8. I must be nicer
People prefer to say ‘yes’ to brands that make an emotional connection. One of the 6 principles of Persuasion identified by Dr Robert Cialdini in his classic book ‘Influence’ is ‘The Principle of Liking’. According to Cialdini we like ‘people who are similar to us, people who pay us compliments, and people who co-operate with us towards similar goals’. Harvard Business Review researched hundreds of brands in dozens of categories to show that it’s possible to measure and target the feelings that drive customers’ behaviour, identified as ‘emotional motivators’. So before you hit send on that hard-sell e-newsletter, consider content that will help them ‘stand out from the crowd’, ‘have confidence in the future’ or ‘enjoy a sense of wellbeing’ among others. According to HBR, the payoff could be huge.
9. I must make a plan
When Contently researched subscribers to its publication ‘The Content Strategist’ it found that while 98% of senior marketers believe ‘having and following’ a content strategy is ‘important for marketing success’ only 55% have a documented strategy. Since the advent of content marketing, nothing has changed in our industry’s overarching goal – to deliver the right message at the right time to the right audience via the most appropriate channel – but everything has changed in the ways that we can achieve that. In her much cited study, Dominican University of California psychology professor Dr Gail Matthews found that participants who wrote down their goals and sent weekly updates to a friend had a much higher success rate than those who kept their goals to themselves. So gather your A Team, identify your needs, create a strategy, make a plan of action – and write it down. (Don’t worry, we can help.)
10. I must ask the experts
If actioning all – or even just some – of the above seems daunting, maybe forcing your current content marketing strategy out of its comfort zone, ping us an email or pick up the phone and talk to us – with no obligation. Specialist written and produced content that cuts through the noise; new distribution channels; audience segmentation and targeting … that’s what we do best. We’re here to support and answer all your content marketing needs. And we’d love to be the ones telling your success stories this year.