Are We Seeing the Demise of Content Marketing?

September 1, 2016

9:50 am

Here is the question. If you aren’t a content marketer, how many blog posts are you reading on a daily basis? You must answer this for yourself, of course, but if you are like the general populace, you are reading less than you were a couple of years ago.

In fact, a team at Buzzsumo analyzed one million random blog posts in 2015 and discovered the following:

  • Half of the posts had eight or fewer shares; and
  • Three-quarters of the posts had 39 shares or less.

Not a great outcome for content marketers who are trying to spread their brands and generate leads. And even the top names in blogging are seriously underperforming in readership.

average-shares-sme-et-al

Why this is happening is obviously the result of two phenomena:

  1. There is just too much content out there and people are saturated
  2. The digital consumer will not take the time to read lots of content. Consider millennials (the largest digital purchasing group). When they are considering a purchase, they ask for recommendations from their tribes on social media. It’s fast and trustworthy – not like some content from a stranger, who is actually just trying to “cover” for a bad or mediocre product or service.

So, is this the end of content marketing? No, but it does mean that there will be some substantial, and welcome, changes.

Quality Not Quantity

Ever since content marketing was shiny and new, the experts have all advised frequent posting – as often as possible according to a calendared schedule. Content writers have had to scramble to find topics, to create catchy headlines, and to find something unique to say, or at least say what others said in a more engaging way. Now that the saturation point has been reached, things will be changing in two important ways:

Content writers will have to prioritize and be very selective. A jaded audience will only engage with content that is truly amazing and enjoyable to read or view. So, instead of throwing all kinds of content out there and then determining what will “stick” with high impact (a waste of time and money), the emphasis will be on marketing – deciding in advance what types of content and what delivery methods will have the greatest impact and then focusing on that.

Shorter

Topic experts produce a huge amount of content. Blog posts are 2,000 or more words of ungated content – long pieces with sub-headings and bullet points of course, but still long pieces. And when newbies have asked advice about how to create a blog, one of the things they have been told is that long posts get far more play and shares than short ones. This is no longer the case.

Part of the reason, of course, is social media. This is where consumers are, so this is where businesses and their content marketers must go too. Twitter, Instagram, and now Snapchat are forcing marketers to re-think what they put out there. Nathan Chan, creator of Foundr Magazine, went from 0 to 300,000 followers on Instagram in just 10 months.

His formula? He posts a lot, but he posts great photos with an inspirational quote – people want to see those. And then he engages them further by offering a free copy if they share, or holds a contest for free subscriptions requiring entrants to take three steps that will spread his brand. He doesn’t need a blog – he gets his word out via Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Brand, Not Content, Marketing

One of the goals of content marketing has always been lead generation. That’s why there is gated content and constant invitations to join email lists. But it can never replace product quality. If a product is not valuable, word will get out (via social media), and all of the content in the world will not change that. Marketing efforts will thus be more about brand value and quality than lead generation. Successful companies are already doing this and promoting brand value in new and creative ways (video, augmented and virtual reality, etc.).Content marketers won’t be communications majors fresh out of college. They will be teams of creative marketers who have fun crafting smaller amounts of unique, amazing content.

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Dianna is a former ESL teacher and World Teach volunteer, currently living in France. She's slightly addicted to apps and viral media trends and helps different companies with product localization and content strategies. You can tweet her at @dilabrien

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