Content isn’t going anywhere, but the content marketing trend may be disappearing much quicker than we think. This trend movement more to do with marketers failing to deliver results with general content than the role branded content has on the Internet.
The B2B marketing crowd is moving beyond the content marketing trend and adapting account based marketing. Advertising crowds are adapting real time and programmatic marketing. Both the account-based and programmatic trends use content, but with much more precise data-oriented methods.
And traditional social media and PR types, while using content more for thought leadership and media relations, are seeing greater gains in the influencer marketing realm. This is probably an obvious development as PR has always been better about creating third-party or earned media coverage rather than creating content.
Marketers and PR types have been abusive, chumming the Internet with articles, memes and other content forms to draw inbound traffic. As a result, content has been thrown against all the public walls across the Internet. People turn away from boring content. They don’t trust it, and see through its veneer of “usefulness.”
This happened because most communicators lack the ability and/or the discipline to incorporate data intelligence — e.g. information about what their audiences care about — and create well crafted customized content. The result is a perception that the content marketing trend is waning.
To be clear, content marketing didn’t fail. The marketing and PR industry did. So we’re starting to move on to a new series of trends and buzzwords. And I fully expect the industry to beat those horses into the ground, too.
Content itself will remain and continue its growth online, but instead of being the hot “strategic” touchpoint of digital marketing, it becomes more of a role player. Perhaps that’s better anyway. Like public social media, you can have too much of a good thing.
You could literally say content is everything. But in the end, it is the customer relationships that matter. Content is a means to communicate, and is subservient to that ultimate barometer: Does it help or harm relationships?
Last week marked my nine year blogiversary. Actually, it’s nine years of blogging, but this blog came afterwards. I sold my first one, the Buzz Bin.
So one might ask why am I still blogging and what have I learned? Here are nine mini-insights and rants about blogging and content as a whole to celebrate.
1) Blogging Is Not Everything
When I was caught up in the social media wave, blogging and the online presence it created was everything. It was an incredibly freeing tool that sent me on a wild writer’s journey, one I had always dreamed about. Over the last few years, I’ve come to see that blogging as little more than a tool. Blogs, photos and social media in general are very useful, but they ALL have their place.
When I see content marketers and other communicators prioritize their blogs as most important, I shrug. Maybe it’s everything for them. Maybe their blog communities are the alpha and omega of their business. And that’s OK. Many good things have happened from such gatherings, and I can testify to that based on my own experiences.
My blog certainly works to inform members of my community, but meeting, talking with, and seeing people in real life and via other venues is much more important. I’ve come to realize the relationships are most important, not the medium.
2) Strong Relationships Don’t Scale
Strong relationships don’t scale in a comment box. When I overinvested in digital media and underinvested in personal contacts, I put myself in a vulnerable position. Clients, co-workers and friends — the ones that impact your life in a positive fashion — matter more than any social score or reply. I’d rather talk with them directly. This is what enables me to retain great relationships — strong ties.
I don’t get as many comments as I used to (who does?). When I do it’s usually with people who I have spent some time with, and that’s important to me.
3) If There Wasn’t Public Commenting, We’d Have Less Haters, BUT…
Haters are going to hate. Sometimes people just disagree and that’s OK, too. But there are others who feel they need to be contrarian or think they’re “smart.” They leave their litany of negativity. What would these people do without commenting? Is graffiti still an option?
BUT, you still need comments because it is social media. If a site is publishing without comments, then they are articles, not blogs. Blogging was at the heart of social media before social networks. In my mind, a blog is a two-way street. A publication — whether it’s a traditional masthead or an individual’s enterprise — can reside on a WordPress and not be a blog. Commenting is what makes social media.
Speaking of blogs as content marketing, the latter has been the marketing rage for a few years. Today, many would acknowledge the proliferation of content has just created the new spam. Five entertaining tips (and yes, this list of nine rants pokes fun at the Buzzfeedization of everything) done well are awesome, but the imitators have bludgeoned the customer with me, too efforts. See, here’s the problem: Content is just part of the user experience (UX).
When you sacrifice UX for the sake of personal attention and triggering Google bots, you create a long-term negative-sum game. It’s back to over-marketing. Following someone or a brand via social networks and RSS is a very casual form of permission. We need to consider how frequent average content impacts the customer’s experience interacting with us. Is this really worth talking to folks about?
Mark my words, content is a part of the UX. A great UX is what matters most to a brand, from first touch to every single interaction after a sale. Marketers will be forced to address the UX problem they are creating with content glut.
6) The Blog as a Public Journal (Yeah, Old School)
When I started, blogging was about journaling new technology discoveries, lessons learned, and sharing insights. For a while, a bunch of early adapters chatted together and broke in this fantastic new set of media. Then personal branding, corporate social media, and content marketing changed things. Blogging became a rat race, a demonstrative example of marketing smarts.
Then you have a kid. You run a business. You measure what’s generating leads. And maybe you prioritize.
When you hang up the frequency bite, you realize it’s going to be hard to be heard. You’re not playing the game anymore. Complicate that matter with a restlessness about blogging social media how-tos and trend pieces, and you have a problem. Content marketing is going to be difficult.
So, during the past year, I blog only once a week, and I write whatever I want. Topics can vary, including new media, fiction, photography, and work. When I have a social good topic, I blog about over at the Huffington Post. Most topics are opinion-based, just like they used to be. It’s old school blogging.
You know what? I have enjoyed blogging this past year more than I have since the 2000s. That’s pretty cool.
7) Influencers Aren’t Cool
When I started blogging, bloggers were considered wild and rebellious by corporate America. By the end of the 2000s they were considered cool. Somewhere around this time, corporate America started to see the value of bloggers, at least as potential word of mouth endorsers. Bloggers became “influencers” in the corporate vernacular.
Today, word of mouth influencers are still important, but in the larger sense most people just see uber-bloggers/influencers as big over-privileged pains in the ass. Go figure.
8) I May Go Back to High School
I really hated high school. The exclusionary cliques, the stratification of the popular kids based on vapid criteria, and the shaming of the uncool was all too much. High school was an awful experience, and when graduation came I could not leave for college soon enough.
It’s been 25 years now. People have changed quite a bit, at least based on what I see via Facebook. I find myself very interested in attending this year’s reunion. I am sure there will be some of the old shenanigans, but I also think some people will be quite interesting.
Maybe I’ll feel the same way about social media conferences in the future.
9) Perseverance and Longevity
My new book will be released later this summer. It will be called Perseverance after listening to the editorial feedback I received from the publisher. Perseverance is an interesting word when it comes to blogging.
There were months on end, long periods of time when I wanted to quit. But I didn’t. As a result I achieved longevity. I had periods of notoriety, but overall I meandered. The body of work moved between professional to personal interest, and back and forth again. More than anything, the blogs reflected my own personal journey and perhaps they suffered for that. That’s OK, I’m still standing.
As time has passed, many, many peers have stopped. Some have had periods of fitful stopping and starting. No matter what, whether they like this blog or not, people know this blog will keep publishing in the foreseeable future. I’ve made it this long. I can’t imagine not making the decade point.
It’s funny how we as community feel compelled to recreate the same trend over and over again as a new revolution. Consider how the same audience centric principles become repackaged over and over again during the past eight years.
We have moved from Web 2.0 to social media to social business to content marketing to the trend of the immediate future, context marketing (user experience).
In all of these cases, while the technology evolves, the general revolution is the same: Customers have control of their media and experience. Brands need to listen and serve them conversations, er content, er, customized web pages, er, awesome experiences that are relevant to them.
With each year, evolving technology creates evolutions. Customers gain more content and media options and are even less likely to invest time in brands, and data has allowed marketers to become more targeted and personal in their communications.
Each technological innovation gives marketers a chance to develop relationships. But most marketers look at ways to interfere with the customer experience by inserting messages via content, social network updates, “native” advertising, highly segmented email lists, etc. And so most brands lose that magical opportunity to strengthen their brand with emerging media, and instead drive customers further into the niche.
While we get more and more specific with our brand messaging, people do not need to listen to us. And they frequently don’t/
I feel like the marketing sector has to reposition these evolutions as the new marketing revolution because we are so bad about becoming customer-centric. In essence, brands are extremely self centric. That makes sense because they are made up of people. So when a new trend happens, marketers pretend to learn it, then abuse the media technology to spam people with messages. The trend loses its sheen because it’s not working, creating the need for a new trend/revolution.
The customer revolution is caused by people in control of their own media choices, and choosing unique niche experiences via the Internet. People have more media power than brands now.
Brands have more technological power, but because of their own inherent human nature, they are unable to capitalize on the new trend.
Relationships are hard. Especially when the power dynamic changes.
More and more voices state that content marketing overhype has jumped the shark. They’re right. As a primary strategy content marketing is overhyped. Instead, brands should focus on customer experience marketing.
Before we go too far, let me say I love content, all forms of it, too, not just online, but events, print, and music, just to name a few. Brand developed content (cough, advertising) offers a great tactical toolset, one of my favorites.
That doesn’t necessarily mean content marketing should serve as every company’s primary outreach strategy.
Why not just make Facebook your primary strategy? Should we have that conversation again?
A better strategic approach focuses on marketing tools as extensions of the brand experience.
The coupling of the words “content” and “marketing” creates a debate centering on the differences between publishing and selling.
By its very nature, marketing is a function of sales.
As such marketing communications activities, regardless of form — search, email, publicity (on behalf of a company), content creation, social, events, etc. — all represent activities to engage people in a sales process OR support brand reputation, which in turn, increases the likelihood of further sales, recruitment or investment later in time.