“It's hard to stay ahead of the curve. Every time I write a scene that I think is the sickest thing I have ever dreamed up, it is surpassed by something that happens in real life.” -- Carl Hiaasen
Hiaasen, a longtime journalist and novelist, knows a thing or two about telling stories. And he is right to point out that novelists, like content marketers, must stay current to be competitive.
In 2014, staying current means keeping up to date on how the content-marketing scene shifts on an almost month-to-month basis. Content marketers are constantly getting better at what they do and audiences are becoming more discerning. The result is a do-or-die marketing landscape where only the most current content marketers (i.e., the ones staying on top of trends) will survive.
According to Content Institute, content marketing may be in for some big changes in 2014. Here are five action-items from the mouths of CEOs, directors of content and marketing gurus, as told to Content Institute:
1. Be more strategic with short-form mobile content.
“Short-form, mobile-friendly micro content will be the new strategic darling.” -- Jay Baer, president at Convince & Convert
According to a Compendium infographic, “The State of Mobile Content Marketing,” mobile users are browsing blogs more and more, but have less patience compared to desktop users. Also, they aren’t “on-the-go” as much as we might think -- 77 percent of mobile searches happen at home or work, where there is also a desktop available. Yet mobile site bounce rates are 9.56 percent higher.
In other words, if your content strategy is desktop-centric, you may very soon go the way of the dinosaur. Content Institute explains how the adoption of a mobile-first content strategy may soon determine the success, or failure, of entire content-marketing strategies.
To-do: The success of a brand’s content marketing will increasingly depend on an effective and engaging short-form mobile strategy. A mobile audience won’t have the attention span (or the screen real estate) for anything else.
2. Focus on long form for thought leadership.
“Longer content will seek out the longer tail which will come at a longer price, but also with longer results.” -- Frank Strong, communications director at LexisNexis
Content is growing at such a rapid pace that the average content viewer is drowning in social-media updates, inspirational quotes and 400-word blog posts that rehash other blog posts.
Rachel Parker, founder and CEO of Resonance Connect, sums up the problem perfectly: “It’s not that audiences are becoming more demanding. It’s that they’re on to the practice of buying dreck from content farms.”
The solution? Offer big content instead. Content that can help you stake your claim as a thought leader is going to have to start looking very different from all the short-form fluff that brands have published with the help of content mills.
As Ardath Albee of Marketing Interactions puts it, “Content marketers will discover that it takes more than publishing content to move the needle.”
To-do: In-depth articles that are more than 2,000 words help separate you from the short-form pack. But long form isn’t only limited to longer articles. Videos, interactive infographics and mini websites are all fair game as well.
3. Ask yourself how rich media content can help engagement.
“We predict that brand marketers will use video and other multimedia formats to create deep and rich engagements with their customers.” -- Barry Harrigan, chairman at Pure Incubation
Harrigan goes on to say that social media and other short-form mobile content will be used to drive audiences towards richer media, such as video content. Yet another marketing thought leader who believes that short-form content will eventually support long-form content (at least for a desktop audience)!
Rich-media formats such as video and gamification are slowly but surely gaining steam. The success of distinguished, thought leadership-worthy content will increasingly depend on bigger-budget but more engaging forms of content.
To-do: Start injecting more audience engagement into your content strategy with rich-media offerings. We’ve already written on the inescapable stats behind video marketing, and how it tops written content in nearly all engagement categories.
4. Think more about content curation and not just content creation.
“Content as a means of brand personalization will be key. We will also see new tools (like Buffer app) to help automate and organize this mass content as well.” -- Mitch Joel, president at Twist Image
Any content marketer who has worked in a culture of continuous content creation will tell you that strategies based on SEO-gaming and content milling quickly lead to burnout. Not to mention these types of strategies aren’t optimized at all.
In fact, many content marketers are sitting on a treasure trove that they may not be aware of: old content. Curating, updating and repurposing old content so that it is easy for your audience to find is a great way to fill out the content calendar (many websites suck at this, which is why Buffer exists). Repurposing content is also a smart way to showcase the “big content” that best represents your brand.
To-do: One great way to repurpose big content is to break it down into bite-sized chunks.
Melissa Chang, president and CEO of PureB2B, suggests taking the research that goes into a 16-page white paper and using it to create “short-form videos, infographics, blog posts, LinkedIn updates, executive quotes, survey snippets and shorter form information bits.”
5. Start thinking like a journalist.
“Starting today, you will need to start thinking like a journalist and achieve the results of a marketer.” -- Hana Abaza, director of marketing at Uberflip
There’s a reason Contently staked its business model on journalists rather than content writers, and it’s likely the same reason Yahoo hired Katie Couric to be their very first global anchor. Brands are realizing that trained journalists possess certain skills that content writers may not. Namely, the ability to both find stories and tell them in an engaging way. As directors of content grow in demand, so too will a journalistic approach to content marketing.
To-do: Going forward, content marketers will have to be masters of strategy, execution, distribution and storytelling. Knowing what captures your audience’s imagination makes creating compelling brand narratives much more intuitive.