The Content Marketing Institute uses page 3 of its B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends report to produce a large pie chart showing that 93% of B2B marketers use content marketing. It would, wouldn’t it? The body led by content marketing evangelist Joe Pulizzi is obviously keen to show content marketing is king.
I’m not disputing the CMI’s statistic, but more significant are reports that marketing budgets are increasing in 2014 and those extra funds will be used to focus on conversion rates, brand awareness and behaviour-based data.
What does this mean for content marketing? For a start, it takes us back to the future and means before you start thinking about producing your ever-so-useful blogs, videos and infographics marketers would be well advised to apply some traditional rules of marketing and communications. First, identify your audience; next, decide what you want to say and only once you’ve done that is it time to work out the best way to get the message across.
Use your social networks
Now for the future bit. That best vehicle with which to deliver content is social media. As far back as 2011 it was reported that social media had overtaken porn as the most popular online activity, but these days the use of social media is no longer an end in itself. In other words, there’s no point getting 1 million Facebook friends or oodles of Twitter followers if you then fail to engage with them.
When it comes to social media, the emphasis is now on content. It is not contact that matters but what that contact delivers for the business.
This, of course, is bad news for the teenagers who a few years ago were employed by companies to build a Facebook page and post sales messages accompanied by amusing pictures on it, but I’m sure they can use their techie know-how to develop responsive websites that are optimised for use on the mobile devices they cannot tear themselves away from.
The rise of the mobile web has taken social media to the next level. And this is where content marketing can start conversations and promote engagement in an always-on society. But before you take to Twitter to promote your content, think about who you want to have a conversation with.
Identifying your audience
In the real world, I find it difficult to have a conversation with more than two or three people (especially if those people are using their iPhone to communicate with online communities at the same time). In the virtual universe, a business cannot hold a two-way dialogue with tens of thousands of followers or friends. To increase the engagement your content should be aiming to deliver break the numbers down into more manageable and cohesive smaller groups, where there is a common interest and with whom they have something meaningful to say. In other words, it is targeted marketing to common interest groups — something that existed long before the internet.
Once you’ve identified your audience, use social media to start a conversation about your content. Tweets, pins and posts about your content will not lead to a sale. Rather, social media will bring you leads that were attracted by the conversations about your content. The key is nurturing that customer through the social network part of the sales cycle, as well as seeing social networking as part of an integrated marketing funnel.