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It’s a digital world, and we’re surrounded by content 24/7, 365. And, for the most part, this content helps us get shit done. We pause our doom scrolling to read an inspirational self-help post, hardly noticing that it’s promoted content. We watch video tutorials to get the most out of the newest impulse buy. Or we’re compelled to read through the weekly newsletters that accompany our pre-packaged meal kits. These are all examples of content marketing at its finest—it’s seamless, useful, and enjoyable. 

Trust us, it doesn’t come easy. 

We’ll say it again for the folks in the back: effective content marketing is hard. So hard that while 94% of B2B businesses use some form of content marketing, only 9% rated their efforts as “very effective,” according to Neil Patel. Luckily, there are a few golden rules to help you get your content marketing strategy on track this year. 

Content marketing basics

Despite being a hot talking point of the digital marketing world, content marketing is nothing new. In fact, many trace it back as far as the Dutch Golden Age and Jan van der Heyden

But what is it exactly? According to Marketo: 

“Content marketing is the process of creating valuable, relevant content to attract, acquire, and engage your audience.”

Put more simply, it’s content (video, print, blogging, voice, newsletters, and more) that educates or entertains instead of explicitly selling. It’s your chance to put yourself into your audience’s shoes and ask yourself, What do they need? How can I help?

Neil Patel elaborates in his step-by-step breakdown of content marketing:

“…content marketing is a long-term strategy that focuses on building a strong relationship with your target audience by giving them high-quality content that is very relevant to them on a consistent basis.

For example (and we’re trying not to get too meta on you), content marketing could be a helpful guide that introduces your audience to content marketing basics. We know your mind is blown. 

For food brands, it could be a weekly recipe to help buyers use your product. For clothing brands, curated styling tips and tricks. If you have a complicated software program, tutorial videos are an excellent way to provide value to your audience through (you guessed it) strategic content marketing. 

Benefits of good content

We can look at the benefits of good content marketing in a few different ways. First, it’s cost-effective. Just take this stat from Neil Patel’s recent post. “Compared to outbound tactics, content marketing costs 62% less but generates 3x as many leads.”

Less easily quantifiable is the impact your content has on building strong brand-audience relationships. As the CMO Show plainly states, “the road to successful content marketing is paved with consumer trust.” By showing that you understand their needs, you’re positioning your brand as people-centric, which is undoubtedly a key to a successful business in today’s saturated markets. 

Digital marketing trends: the future of content marketing

While there’s obviously strategy involved in doing content marketing right (after all, your customers’ needs will be different from John Doe’s down the street), there are a few universal trends to help you leverage content in your digital marketing strategy. 

Rule #1: Embrace voice and video

It used to be that you needed content that could catch someone’s eye. But in 2021, you might be better off catching their ear. According to a recent report by Hubspot, voice search and video are leading the charge into 2021. In fact, 4x more people would rather watch a video than read an article.

According to Curata, the three most effective types of videos are customer testimonials, tutorials, and demonstrations. Notice that they all benefit the customer in some way? That’s your golden ticket to successful content marketing. 

While you’re at it, you might as well go live

You used to need a polished script, professional crew, and post-production editing to create a compelling video. But these days, the pendulum is swinging. 

Facebook reports users watch live videos 3x longer than pre-produced videos, and LinkedIn reports live videos earn 24x as many comments.

So, grab your phone, fire up the camera, and get to work. Hosting live Q&As, record an on-the-fly product demonstration, or give your audience a behind-the-scenes look at your daily operations. However you decide to use it, live video is a digital marketing trend you don’t want to sit out. 

Rule #2: Make it informative

Have you ever fallen for a click-baity title, scanned through the text, then sat back in your chair muttering, What the hell did I just read? If so, you’re not alone. 

The pay-per-click world has given rise to a whole ecosystem of blogs, articles, and news outlets whose primary goal is to keep you clicking. And clicking. And clicking some more. It’s the equivalent of offering somebody one M&M when they just told you they’re starving. 

Quality content isn’t just branded fluff with a catchy title. It needs to be substantial. 

Neil Patel claims that 70% of consumers prefer to learn about a product from an article rather than an ad. And small-to-medium businesses that blog generate 126% more lead growth than their non-blogging counterparts.

We think that Craig Davis, the former Chief Creative Officer at marketing communications firm J. Walter Thompson, said it best: “We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in.”

That means creating content that your audience actually cares about. It means creating content that doesn’t suck.

Rule #3: Social media is pay to play 

In 2020, big brands across the country pulled their Facebook ad spend in the wake of political unrest. And, according to the New York Times, “More than 1,000 advertisers publicly joined, out of a total pool of more than 9 million, while others quietly scaled back their spending.” 

Despite the boycott, Facebook ad revenue stood at close to 86 billion U.S. dollars in 2020, a new record for the company. Considering this, it’s hard to deny that advertising is the lifeblood of social media platforms. 

The unfortunate truth: organic reach has dropped across all the major platforms. According to Hootsuite, “the average reach of an organic Facebook post hovers around 5.20%. That means roughly one in every 19 fans sees the page’s non-promoted content.” But paid social ads guarantee you a place in user’s feeds. 

If you want to increase brand awareness, paid social media should absolutely be part of your strategy

Rule #4: Throw out the vanity metrics

So, you’ve taken the time to write an informative article (or, better yet, shoot an informative video), share it on social media, and boost it with a modest budget. Now it’s time to sit back and watch the little red hearts roll in, right? 

Clicks, likes, and favorites used to be the number one measure of engagement. But in 2021, great digital marketers are looking beyond these so-called “vanity metrics” and pushing for more meaningful engagement. 

Patel notes, “Today, it’s more about comments, shares across multiple channels, discussion, and action – or engagement with your stuff – and conversions.” In other words, it’s about trying to measure the actual interest in your stuff. 

Here at Savy, we consider shares and forwards the golden metric of engagement. How do you know you’ve created something worthwhile? When someone finds enough value in your content that they give it their attention and take time to share it with family and friends. But not all brands are created equal, and you’ll need to determine which engagement metrics mean the most to you and your audience. 

Conclusion

It’s hard to say much with certainty after the year we just had. But we do know one thing for sure. Content marketing is only going to become more important to digital marketing strategies across industries.

Now, we’re curious. What are your biggest challenges, concerns, questions, and quandaries when it comes to content marketing? What’s keeping you from diving in, holding you back, or slowing you down? 

Who knows, maybe our next blog will be an informative and entertaining thought piece with answers to all of your most pressing questions…