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The Future of Content Marketing: 4 Tips to Help You Prepare

My daughter showed me a video about skin cancer on YouTube called “Dear 16-year-old me”.  It’s a great example of content that humanizes a difficult subject and effectively engages a target audience. At the very least, my 17-year old was watching it, sharing it, and talking about it along with a million or so other people.

When I asked my daughter how she thought people would respond if the company just posted an article about melanoma on its website, I thought she’d say something like, “Nobody would read it”. Instead, her answer surprised me. She said, “Nobody goes to websites.”

People are using the web very differently than they were just a few years ago

Increasingly, people are getting their information outside of company websites. As we’re busy preparing to create great content for our websites, the world is moving at an alarming rate away from using the web in the “traditional” way. The model we’re used to thinking about has web users searching for information that’s relevant to them, and Google acting as a filter to display only the most useful content. But web use is moving away from “search and find” toward an “ask and receive” model. And, increasingly, people are asking other people, not companies, for information.

Here are some quick facts, from ‘Socialnomics’ updated “Social Media Revolution 2010” video (oh, and incidentally, I can’t count the number of times that I’ve watched their videos, but I visited their site for the first time today):

  • Over 50 percent of the world’s population is under 30 years old.
  • Facebook tops Google for weekly traffic in the U.S.
  • YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.
  • iPhone applications hit 1 billion within 9 months.
  • Generations Y and Z consider email passé, and some universities have stopped distributing email accounts; instead, they’re distributing eReaders, iPads, and tablets to students.
  • 25 percent of search results for the world’s top 20 largest brands are linked to user-generated content.
  • 78 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations; only 14 percent trust advertisements.

There are more crazy statistics just like these coming out all the time (just think of iPad sales!), but you get the picture.

So, are websites dying?

Not in the foreseeable future. Corporate websites will remain important for a number of reasons:

  • It’s the best place to house your content. Only having your content on websites that you don’t own is like building a house on rented property.
  • While websites are becoming less impactful in the early stages of the buying cycle, they are an increasingly important tool for retaining and servicing existing customers.
  • It’s the one place where you can provide a complete view of who you are, what you do, and what you stand for, which is critical.

What does this mean for content marketers?

If you’re marketing to a younger generation (or intend to market to them when they grow up a bit), you need to design your content experiences accordingly. Think of your website as a home, and your content as the family that lives there. Send your content into the world to socialize, meet people, have conversations, and express opinions, but always make sure it invites new and old friends back home where you can really get to know them and help them. Don’t expect your content to make many friends if you only let it out to announce an open house or a big party you’re throwing in the hopes of becoming popular.

4 content marketing tips to prepare you for 2015. Or… maybe 2012

Have a strong social media strategy to support your content
Address the needs of prospective and repeat customers through:

  • Encouraging user reviews and other user-generated content on and off your website.
  • Directly addressing concerns about your products, services, or company on and off your website.
  • Actively engaging in mutually relevant conversations on your website and wherever your customers hang out online. Encourage feedback and acknowledge their participation whenever possible.

Plan your content marketing initiative over multiple online delivery channels
Web, social media, mobile, tablets, and e-readers. Identify which channels your audience uses for specific types of information, and give them what they need, where they need it, in a way that suits their chosen device. Remember that people prefer content on their mobiles and tablets that is not only useful, but usable and interactive as well. For instance, you could re-imagine your marketing content as an app or provide a flow of content through different channels. A content flow provides the specific content that your customers need at a specific time, formatted for the device that is most useful to them. For instance, I will go to the  Epicurious website to find a recipe and then send a shopping list for that recipe to my mobile to view  when I’m at the grocery store.

Provide content on your website that is truly useful to existing customers
Don’t stop marketing just because you made the sale. Prospective customers will come to your website to see how well you’ll take care of them after they buy. For example, did you address customer complaints quickly and resolve problems to their satisfaction? Then shout it out so your site visitors see how responsive you are. Do you have great support policies or material? Do you offer discounts or deals for returning customers? Make sure this information is apparent to your prospective customers. If you look like a “love ‘em and leave ‘em” company they may end up choosing a company that demonstrates more commitment.

Adopt an agile approach to your content marketing
The online landscape is changing at an incredible pace and you need to be prepared to change with it. A well-thought-out content initiative that takes a year and a half to execute is not really well thought out. Evaluate your content marketing strategy frequently and stay alert for new opportunities.

In what other ways is the online world changing? And how can we adapt our content marketing to keep up with the changes? Or, better still, to capitalize on them?