Content marketing as a buzzword seems to have peaked. It's not that content is less popular, but rather that we all now know content is here to stay.

In a way, we've moved from 'doing content marketing' to 'marketing in a content-driven world'.

So now that every company produces content of some sort for their marketing, it's time to move the discussion along.

Previously, people talked about why brands should use content, but now we should look closer at how they can use it more effectively.

That is, what can brands do to move their content to the next level?

To find out, Econsultancy recently held roundtable discussions at our fifth annual Digital Cream Sydney.  There, client-side marketer from across the industry discussed trends, best practices, and the issues they are currently facing.

Here are the highlights from the discussion at the Content & Social Media Marketing table.

1. Push senior management to invest more in content

As with most initiatives, senior-level buy-in is necessary in order to make changes that matter and last, according to participants.

Fortunately, attendees agreed, management now understand the benefits of content marketing.

Return on investment (ROI) is still hard to prove, said a few delegates, but one participant said that they were able to attribute 14% of conversions to content. 

Everyone should aim to deliver similarly precise figures to management, the tables agreed.

2. Bring content teams in-house

Participants said that the trend in content marketing is to bring content resources in-house. There are two reasons for this.

First off, the cost of using an agency to produce content continuously is difficult to justify on an ongoing basis.  

Many use agencies for one-off, high-value content, but everyone agreed that in-house makes much more sense for day-to-day brand messaging.

Also, many attendees felt that the quality of content degrades when it is outsourced.  

Agencies are under both time and cost pressures, and so may reduce quality or reuse existing content in order to hit regular deadlines.

3. Distribute templates to leverage in-house expertise

Simply hiring content producers and giving them a content calendar was a recipe for disaster, according to delegates.  

There is simply too much work to do when one team is responsible for research, writing, and delivery.

Instead, they argued, brands should leverage the whole organisation to produce content.

This does not mean handing assignments off to departments outside of marketing as these are rarely completed.

Rather, marketers should create 'fill-in-the-blanks' templates for internal thought leaders and use content creators to turn the template into content.

This way, those who are the best-informed are producing the meat of the content and the skilled writers are turning insights into polished marketing materials.

4. Use new technology to enhance content

Marketers no longer just rely on their own skills to create content, either.

Participants noted that many teams are using new technologies and services to help produce new content.

One delegate said that 90 Seconds has helped them a great deal with video content.

90 Seconds is a cloud-based service which helps marketers collaborate with freelance video producers worldwide. The 'Uber' for video production, so to speak.

Other participants said that they are using AdWords to help produce content in an interesting way.  

Instead of just using it to get clicks to content, marketers are using AdWords campaigns specifically to test the attraction of certain keywords. Those words that receive a high click-through rate are then used in content headlines.

Attendees also said that keyword ranking tools, such as BrightEdge, and buzz analysis services, such as Buzz Sumo and SocialBakers, were also helpful when trying to generate content ideas.

5. Use new technology to improve your distribution

Content marketers should also start thinking beyond just producting content, according to attendees.  

Content creators should also investigate new technologies which improve distribution.

Many participants said that they use content delivery networks, such as Outbrain or Taboola, because they offer great targeting capabilities.  

There was some concern, however, about being associated with 'clickbait' via these services.

Others are using the same tools used by advertisers to promote content. AdRoll was mentioned for its capability to deliver localised content and Facebook's Atlas was praised for its 'people-based marketing'.  

Both allow marketers to hit a wide audience while preventing individuals from being oversaturated with the brand's messaging.

Analytics was also mentioned as an important technology by some attendees.  

One said that upgrading to Google Analytics Premium was a 'game changer' whereas another said that Google's new Data Studio has helped them understand better which channels were working well for them.

6. Deploy adaptive design and AMP

According to one participant, many companies have recently decided to distribute content on mobile using responsive design.  

Doing so, however, hurts the reading experience as responsive attempts to cram all of the desktop experience onto the mobile screen.

Instead, content creators should encourage their web team to use adaptive design.  

Adaptive design uses different templates for different devices so the same content appears native on each platform.

Marketers should, one delegate pointed out, ensure that web pages adhere to Google's Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) standard as those that do not seem to be penalised by Google's search engine now.

7. Testing is the best evidence for ROI

One participant gave details of how they test the value of content marketing.

They split up their audience into three groups: 

  • One group received no Facebook advertising.
  • The second saw traditional product-focused advertising.
  • The third group saw more in-depth content marketing.

Though the results are not yet in, it was clear to the attendees that split-group testing is an effective way for marketers to prove the value of content-based marketing over sales-focused advertising.

8. Do less content, and make 'moments that matter'

Finally, marketers agreed that content producers should focus on quality over quantity in order to make more of an impact with consumers.

To many these days, the brand is not as nearly as important as creating connections with the consumer. 

One participant described their company's goal as 'making moments that matter'.

As an example, they said that a brand which wanted to be associated with sports should not just churn out sports content which is found in abundance elsewhere.

Instead, the brand should identify unique moments in sports - such as when something funny happens - and become the place people go every time it occurs.

This way the marketers avoid duplicating efforts by other publications and brands and set up their own 'digital watering hole' which attracts their audience to their content organically.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank all of the marketers who participated on the day and especially our Content & Social Media Marketing table moderator, Caroline Halliday, Director of Consumer Marketing at YourTutor.

We hope to see you all at future Sydney Econsultancy events!

For more on this topic, see:

Jeff Rajeck

Published 12 October, 2016 by Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck is the APAC Research Analyst for Econsultancy . You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.  

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Comments (3)

Peter Gearin

Peter Gearin, Director at Top to Tale Media

Hi Jeff ... you make some good points. I agree that employing agencies to produce content can be expensive - and I certainly wouldn't recommend using an agency that doesn't specialise in content. But bringing that capability in house is only likely to work if you have staff who are able, capable and willing to do it. And it even less likely to work unless someone is given the power to make hard decisions, as an editor does in a newsroom. Sometimes the best approach is find people with publishing experience (often ex-journalists) who can help in-house teams create, organise and publish content that is crafted for a desired audience. Do anything less and your content may not get the results the company wants.

over 1 year ago

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Stuart Charlton, Commercial Director at Progressive Content

Talk to an agency that know what they are doing. They really should be content experts and have some heritage in this space. There are a lot of people selling 'snake oil' right now and masquerading as content marketeers. Dig a little and ask the right questions of anyone who says they have content marketing expertise. Trust me many will not.

over 1 year ago

Jeff Rajeck

Jeff Rajeck, Research Analyst at EconsultancySmall Business

Great point, Stuart. Anyone can say they are 'content marketers', but you have to see their work to see whether they truly understand the businesses they are writing about - or if they just reuse content from other places.

And I agree about forming an in-house team as well, Peter. Keeping up with content marketing is a lot harder than it looks from the outset. So many companies start off well and taper off after just a few months. So proceed with caution indeed!

over 1 year ago

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