Over the past week I've been asking a bunch of content marketing folk about the trends in their industry for 2013, the best examples, and looking ahead to next year.
Here, I've asked about the most effective formats for content. In 2012, it could be argued that infographics were king, but I think the sheer volume produced has diluted this particular tactic.
Other formats are working well though: video, immersive storytelling, slideshare, scrolling sites, and good old blog posts.
Here are some of the most interesting digital marketing statistics we saw last week.
Statistics include Christmas shopping, eBay's referral traffic, mobile marketing, content marketing and how millennials use social.
For more digital marketing stats, check out our Internet Statistics Compendium.
While Hummingbird has been much discussed, not many people understand it yet, or appreciate its benefits because it isn't an obvious feature of Google search. If you want to try it, go to Google on your smartphone and click on the microphone to activate a voice search.
For a bit of fun, say 'Tottenham Hotspur'. Google will search for the greatest team in the world (guest opinion - Ed), and then read out an up to date fact, perhaps the latest result and information about the next match.
Next, click the microphone again and ask a related question, such as 'how old are they?' Google will then show you the Wikipedia information about the club. Ask another question, such as 'where do they play?' and Google will show you information about White Hart Lane.
So, that is Hummingbird in a nutshell - a clever way of linking queries so that, instead of starting each search from scratch, Google can show you more pertinent information related to your previous search.
There has, somewhat predictably, been a backlash against the hype that has surrounded content marketing.
However, though the backlash is understandable, this does not mean that content marketing has ceased to be useful, far from it.
Doug Kessler explores the issue in this excellent post, and debunks several of the arguments against.
Here, I've put the question to several agency and client side marketers, as well as the Econsultancy research team.
While there has been a slight backlash around content marketing, I think mainly due to the hype, brands in general have upped their game this year, and there are some great examples around.
i've asked agency and client side marketers, as well as the Econsultancy editorial team for their favourite examples of content campaigns and strategy from the past 12 months.
I worked on a conference talk called Ban the Blog with a colleague about a year ago. It was a purposefully provocative title and an extreme view, but one I believe many businesses and website owners need to heed (yes, I get the irony of writing this on a blog platform, but hopefully you'll see past that minor contradiction).
Blogs can often become a content dumping ground and despite the rising influence of structured content strategies into the broad digital direction, let's start a blog' is still a statement that is regularly touted in planning sessions.
But creating a blog and chronologically presenting what you produce isn’t necessarily the answer to your content needs.
Putting your content in date order may make sense in some instances (and with some CMS platforms it’s your only option), but just because it's your latest, it isn't necessarily your greatest or the most relevant for your audience.
As we draw closer to the end of 2013, not a day goes by without someone committing a feverish 'future of content marketing' post into the marketing blogosphere.
According to these digital soothsayers, next year we are destined (doomed?) to see more native advertising, more video content, more renewed commitment to ‘story first’ strategies, and so forth.
These are all strategies and techniques you could have read about in 2012, 2011 and 2010. The truth is content marketing has been around for over a hundred years, but there are many who would be happy for it to remain in its predictable, boring and samey infancy.
To be quite blunt, content marketing in 2014 needs to grow up.
Here’s how I’d like see content marketing mature over the next year...
We have switched from a world of mass media to one where the masses are the media.
Millions of ad spend once focused on a limited number of channels at a fixed time now explodes into millions of channels; anytime, anywhere and each with an ever-diminished moving audience.
In October 2012 Econsultancy ran a survey which found that 90% of brands felt that content marketing would become more important over the following 12 months.
One year on it is hard to argue against the fact that content marketing is now among the most important trends in digital.
However when we published the Content Marketing Survey Report with Outbrain, just 38% of respondents had a defined strategy in place.
That is likely to have changed by now, however just to add more weight to the argument in favour of this discipline I have rounded up six case studies from various brands that have seen real results from content marketing.
Content marketing has only a loose definition; some think of it as informational content added to a website to improve search ranking, others see it as a way to drive traffic to a website from social.
Going a little further, many brands select a content niche that often has little direct relation to their products. Creating content like this often isn’t enough; at this stage, content marketing moves into sponsorship, patronage, charity, brand association and media ownership on a scale most brands only dream of.
So who is taking content to the next level, and what scale are we talking about?