It’s hard to believe, but it’s been eight years since the term ‘content marketing’ became a popular umbrella term for a brand’s commercial, but not-really-advertising, output.

Encompassing blog posts, videos, social media updates and several other types of media, content marketing has become a pillar of digital brand messaging alongside search, social, display and email.

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Yet despite its apparent success, many marketers still have questions about content marketing. How should it be planned? Should it be produced in-house? And how can content marketing’s impact be measured?

To answer these questions, Econsultancy recently held a roundtable discussion on content marketing at its annual Digital Cream event in Singapore. Hosted by Eu Gene Ang, Econsultancy’s Lead Trainer in Asia, three different tables, featuring dozens of brand marketers from Asia’s top-tier brands, discussed the current state of content marketing and the main points raised on the day are summarized below.

Planning

The first point made by delegates on the day was that to plan effective content marketing, marketers need to conduct user research. This can be done formally, through surveys for example, or user preference can be determined through analysing which past content is most popular.

To illustrate this point, one delegate said that while most people would expect their company, a child-care brand, to use content marketing to describe its approach to education, the most popular content, by far, was simple ‘parenting 101’ type tips.

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Another attendee said that, when planning, brands should define the type of content they are going to produce, or the brand’s ‘content space’. A content space could be things like instructional blog posts, helpful videos or inspiring articles, but participants agreed that personal stories and life-changing moments resonated well online.

Producing

One of the biggest content marketing issues delegates faced was being able to continuously produce high-quality content which was relevant to the brand. One suggestion to help marketers keep up with their production schedules was for content marketers to coordinate with other departments so that they became the mouthpiece of the organisation. One even said that they had integrated marketing and sales to ensure that the company’s content marketing was relevant to its customers.

Most attendees agreed that content marketing should be produced internally, not by an agency. One reason for this is that long-form content always outperforms short-form and so brands are better off writing meaningful (and long) brand stories instead of buying ‘snackable’ content externally.

As far as producing more content, some delegates felt that artificial intelligence (AI) is starting to produce good creative and copy and can help boost output. Others recommended that brands should aim for more user-generated content (UGC) and said that community building, while difficult, really works in the long run.

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Measuring

Finally, attendees attempted to tackle the perennial issue of how to measure the effectiveness of content marketing. Many bemoaned the lack of industry benchmarks and that no single metric had been established as the best way to measure engagement.

Others said that by joining up their customer relationship management (CRM) systems and web analytics, they were able to see whether their content marketing was engaging the brand’s most important customers. Increasingly frequent site visits, longer time-on-site and higher page depth were all signs that content marketing was making an impact.

All agreed, though, that the ultimate measure of success can only come from looking at top-line metrics. That is, has content marketing increase sales, or not?

While most felt it did, many left knowing what they had to start measuring for content marketing to keep its place in the digital marketing line-up over the coming year.

A word of thanks

Econsultancy would like to thank Eu Gene Ang, Lead Trainer, Econsultancy, for hosting the content marketing table at this year’s Digital Cream. We’d also like to thank the dozens of marketers who attended on the day and offered their insights and aired their grievances. We hope to see you at future Econsultancy events!