In many cases, people cannot even agree what they mean by ‘content marketing’. There is a lot of excitement about it but little clarity as to what it means as a discipline and how it is likely to impact marketing planning, budgeting, resourcing and organisational structures and processes.
So what do you need to know about content marketing in 2014? Here are ten trends that I expect to be important for brands in the year ahead.
1. Authority. Content marketing cannot work if it is broad and shallow. Brands will need to be very clear about where they can be authoritative and focus on that. This relates strongly to search engine optimisation (SEO) too, where attributes like AuthorRank – where your reputation as a content creator can affect the ranking of search results – are becoming more important.
2. Influence. This goes hand in hand with authority. Influencers will be increasingly important in 2014, with their niche but highly valuable personal networks. This is PR’s domain.
3. Opinions. Google is getting very good at providing users with an interface that means they do not need to click away from Google. This is particularly true for anything factual. Content will need to be increasingly unique, or have an opinion, for customers to have a reason to visit you.
4. Diligence. In the sense of a customer’s due diligence in any buying decision. We know that customers are using multiple channels to research and purchase goods and services. This year will see further investment in content that supports different types of customer at different stages of the buying process.
5. Agility. Most content marketing efforts have been focused on good planning and production of content. This provides the necessary backbone for content marketing but in 2014 we will see brands aim to be more fluid, more reactive and more agile around its use, particularly in social media.
6. Curation. Content curation and aggregation will grow in 2014. In part, this is because customers increasingly value editorial filtering but also because it is too expensive to rely solely on the creation of new content in keeping up a high enough volume and flow of content.
7. Responsive. There will be an ongoing push to make all digital assets, including all forms of content, responsive, so they deliver the optimal experience on the device being used. This is being driven largely by mobile devices. There is little point investing in content if, say, 40 per cent of those who come across it cannot properly experience it.
8. Video. More than 40 per cent of YouTube views are on mobile devices. So for a start, video will become more responsive over 2014 as described in the previous point. But we will see continued investment in video generally as a content format. 2014 will also see more long-form video content.
9. Distribution. We have perhaps focused too much on the ‘content’ and too little on the ‘marketing’ in content marketing. In 2014 there will be more focus on content’s distribution, including, for example, internationalisation, translation of content, geographic scheduling, such as Tweets choreographed by time zone.
10. Disillusion. It seems inevitable that following the excitement, and spend, of 2013 around content marketing, we will see somewhat of a backlash. Marketers may fall into the ‘trough of disillusionment’ in 2014 as they agonise over measurement and return on investment.