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What Does Content Marketing Look Like in 2014?

Demand Success 2014’s Content Marketing Panel features Richard Binhammer, Principal at Binhammer Social Business & Communications Consulting, Nichole Kelly, CEO of Social Media Explore and SME Digital, and Christopher Penn, Vice President of Marketing Technology at SHIFT Communications.

Content Marketing 2014

The three bring their wealth of knowledge and experience to the upcoming marketing and PR conference as well as to the Vocus Blog.

We asked them three questions to help prepare us for the information we’ll glean at Demand Success:

1. Content shock: myth or reality?

Christopher Penn: Reality, at least as Mark Schaefer and I have discussed it. There are unquestionably diminishing returns on content for everyone except the stellar content producers, made more hazardous by changing algorithms on the part of major search providers like Facebook and Google.

Any sensible business will weigh the costs and benefits to determine what the opportunity cost of content production is, then ultimately make a strategic investment in content or not.

Nichole Kelly: Mythality? It’s possible that the availability of content will require content to get better and better in order to capture the audience. But the true reality is the availability of a lot of crap content built in the name of content marketing. I think stellar content is still scarce. As long as it is, marketers can still win, provided they produce something compelling.

You could also argue that if content shock were true we would have seen the same thing happen with reality TV. We’ve seen series after series of “reality” TV shows hit the market since The Real World in the 90’s and you would assume that it would get old for TV viewers who have a finite amount of time for TV consumption. If that were true, you would start to see a decline in shows getting funded.

With the likes of Jersey Shore, The Bachelor, Survivor and others still capturing large audiences, I would have to say it’s quite possible that there is no shock on the horizon.

Richard Binhammer: Content shock is reality in terms of there being an avalanche of information on the Web: “From the dawn of civilization until 2003, humankind generated five exabytes of data. Now we produce five exabytes every two days … and the pace is accelerating.” Also, “every day humanity creates 70x the amount of info in the Library of Congress.”

The real question has less to do with the volume of information and more to do with the value of information.  In this respect, content shock can be a myth if you think about content in terms of differentiation, value, and connection.

Data Creation - Chris Penn

A visualization of content created per minute. (Via Mashable)

Content, connection and community go hand in hand.  Content efforts that do not include connectivity and community as equal parts in their development and ongoing direction will be subject to content shock.  The emergence of content filters (Think of the Facebook News Feed and the way it is controlled or applications like GetPrismatic, Trove, Flipboard and Pulse.) have an increasingly important role to play.  They are important factors in how your content connects with the communities you want to reach.

2. Most people talk about content as an inbound marketing tool.  What else should/can it be used for?

Christopher Penn: Content is like a hammer. It’s a good fit for some situations, a bad fit for others. You can use content for inbound marketing. You can use it to delight existing customers. Great content can help the sales folks close deals – it gives them an excuse to call on a regular basis.

I think the smartest use of content is actually for existing customers. You’re producing content for the people who have already made a commitment to you. It’s a side benefit that prospective customers will most of the time benefit as well as your SEO and inbound marketing.

Nichole Kelly: It can be used as a prospect tool, a customer service tool, a customer engagement tool, an employee engagement tool and an employee training tool.

Marcus Sheridan has the best approach I’ve seen. It removes all of the flair and gets down to the nuts and bolts. Just answer people’s questions and do it better than anyone else. Take the tough questions that no one else in your industry will answer. If you document the answers, you now have content that can be used in a variety of situations.

Richard Binhammer: I don’t like the phrase “inbound marketing” – it sounds like a train or plane. It’s clinical and sterile.  On the issue of content and what else it can be used for:

a) Content generation and curation as leadership:  How many times have you heard a business say that “they want to be ‘the trusted resource’ on all things XYZ” relating to their industry? Depending on circumstances, you might call it brand positioning or industry thought leadership, but, either way, content plays a key role in this respect as do connectivity and community.

b) Content as value-added service for loyalty and retention: a solid content program that supports a product or service after purchase can add ongoing value, stay connected with customers, build loyalty and retain those customers.  This begs the question about the integration of “content programs” utilizing existing CRM data, email marketing, etc. being really effective and delivering significant value.

c) Content as customer support: The generation of specific content for customer questions/customer support needs or the organization of content in community forums can make “self-serve” customer support more effective (i.e., the answers are found more easily on the web when customers search for them) and efficient.

3. Everything online is going visual now. What skills and assets should marketers be investing in right now?

Christopher Penn: Learning how to produce visual content – which means much more than carrying around a smartphone. Invest in your education. Learn visual design. Learn architecture. Learn the basics of painting, photography, sculpture, etc. so that your visual tools are rich with examples. Invest in a membership to a local art museum and go there often. Invest in your right brain. You’re going to need it.

Visual Learning - Content Marketing

Graphic via KeepingCurrentMatters.

Nichole Kelly: The ability to tell a story visually is very important. But I look at it as a way to extend content we’re already creating. We can take a blog post and turn it into an infographic or take an ebook and turn it into a Slideshare.

I think marketers need to look at how they can make their marketing dollars go further with the resources they are investing in marketing channels. This includes taking another look at how remaking can be leveraged for our social media audiences, how content can be layered to create derivative pieces, and how we can convert our social followings into something we own: email subscribers.

Richard Binhammer: Visual skills and assets should be considered from several perspectives:

a) Access to a broad range of visual tools including photography, video, as well as animation, graphs and charts, infographics, comics, etc. The visual marketer and communicator must have a solid understanding of which visual tool will work best when and where.

b) A good sense of what can drive traffic to a website, garner attention for a post, and, are “shareable.”  To be leader of the pack, the visual communicator/marketer has to deliver innovative visuals that grab attention and set new standards for effective visual engagement.

c) The ability to integrate visual components with text to tell compelling stories.  It also includes the ability to tell a story through stand-alone visuals where the visual is “the” content.

d) Perception about where and how the visual communications take place online.  This involves a perspective about the use of visuals on-domain and knowledge of social networks including the visually focused ones such as Vimeo, Pinterest, Flickr, YouTube, Vine, Instagram, etc.  The visual expert will have a strategic perspective about the choices and possibilities as well as target audiences in order to deliver the most effective program for business.   That also means understanding measurements and analytics related to visual communications on the web and the ability to define the impact and success (or not) of the visual efforts.

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About Erin Feldman

Erin Feldman is the director of editorial services at Tenacity5 Media. When she isn’t researching, writing, and editing blog posts and white papers, she writes poetry and essays, draws her favorite Write Right character, and plans what art form to study next. She’s based in Austin, Texas and can be found on Twitter @erinmfeldman.

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