It wasn’t so long ago that simply having a website was impressive enough, never mind one with actual content…
And only within the last half-dozen years or so has social media begun to permeate our lives.
If you’re in my demographic, I bet you remember a day long before Facebook, cell phones and even computers. Come on, raise your hand and admit it… you’ve got a few “I remember whens” in your pocket.
Yet here we are, in 2013 when words like “cloud computing” and “smartphone” have not only been added to our vernacular but to our dictionaries (wait, do people still use those?) and the concept of content marketing has moved long past buzzword into the realm of marketing necessity.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like the idea of content marketing hardly had a chance to spring up before it went mainstream and we started to see a glut of content in our inboxes, on our social networks and across the internet.
And whenever something goes mainstream there is always an inherent decline in its effectiveness.
What was novel and made a company stand apart not so long ago (blogging, wow!) is now expected and commonplace if a brand wants to be taken seriously.
So how are we – you and me, the average business folks – going to make content marketing work for us in the coming year?
How are we going to stand out, get noticed and grow our customer lists?
Well, it’s going to require work and dedication, but the good news is that it’s completely in our control – we’re not relying on advertisers or anyone else to grab eyeballs for us.
And if you know which direction the wind’s blowing, you can be smart about how you execute your strategy.
Here’s where content marketing is headed as we are looking ahead to a 2013 full of new opportunities.
1. Feeding The Mobile Monster
According to recent statistics, mobile usage in North America alone has increased almost 70% over the past two years. Asia and Europe are pushing nearly 200% increases.
If you’re impressed by those numbers, you should be!
And here’s another good one: about a third of cell phone owners use their devices for most of their online time.
I probably don’t have to cite studies that show people will eat, sleep and even use the bathroom with their cell phones. Hygiene aside, it’s pretty clear that mobile is dominating.
What This Means To You
Your content needs to be mobile friendly. From photos to blog posts to video, content must be optimized for speed and consumption on those tiny, tiny screens.
Goodbye gorgeous graphics and high-res photos.
Goodbye long paragraphs, long contact forms, aggravating pop-ups and sidebars crammed with ads and product offers.
When you think mobile, think streamlined and minimal. More importantly, test your website and check for anything that can sabotage your content marketing efforts.
Your most epic blog post will be utterly unread if you have an opt-in pop-up window that can’t be used or closed on a phone. Or if your photos take so long to download that your visitors stop waiting.
The success of your content marketing in 2013 and beyond is going to rely heavily on your ability to create a good mobile experience. It’s time to start considering things like responsive design. And it’s time to start obsessing about the speed of your site, which will not only help improve your mobile experience but also be a nice boost when it comes to search rankings.
2. Rethinking Owned Media
I’d like to slightly alter the definition of owned media to exclude social accounts.
The problem with putting your Facebook and Twitter content into the “owned” category is that it’s only sort of technically owned.
Yes, you do own the content that you create but since you don’t own the platform, what happens when Facebook changes the rules (as we know it’s famous for doing) or worse, when it declines and either goes out of business or loses enough steam that it’s not worth our efforts anymore?
What happens when Twitter or Pinterest or any of those accounts goes away?
If there’s one thing the internet has taught us it’s that things change with lightning speed.
And it’s something we need to be prepared for as we create our content and put together our content marketing strategy.
If you’re like me, you probably don’t have the clearly documented, labeled and backed-up library of content that you probably should.
What did you post on Facebook in June of 2010? I dare you to figure that one out without actually scanning back two years on your Timeline!
What This Means To You
It’s time to start obsessing about not only owning, but tracking and saving the content we create.
Content creation takes a whole lot of effort. All those videos, photos, social updates and blog posts command a lot of brainpower and either a lot of time, a lot of money or both.
Relying on third-party platforms to “save” our content is a recipe for disaster.
It may take a bit more up-front work to transcribe every social status update into a spreadsheet but then it really is ours, no matter what happens to the platform where we share it.
Even our photos and videos – especially our photos and videos – should be stored and backed up apart from the platform where they are shared. YouTube is not your personal data backup service. Better to keep these irreplaceable assets on your own server or in the cloud in an environment that you control.
And as a bonus for your efforts, a growing library of content will give you the ability to share, re-share and re-purpose content without recreating it every time.
3. The Choice Conundrum
The last time I was in an ice cream shop, I waited on line for twenty minutes before walking out and skipping dessert. The problem wasn’t the ice cream or the service.
The problem was the choices.
There were too darn many of them. Each customer who reached the counter had to choose among flavors, toppings, sizes, add-ons, mix-ins and a ridiculous array of cones and containers.
That might sound really great on paper but in reality it led to a whole lot of hemming and hawing and a whole lot less buying.
This has become a particular challenge of marketing online.
There are choices everywhere and the end result is decision paralysis.Instead of weighing the pros and cons and making an informed decision, people make no decision at all.
What This Means To You
People say they want choices but what they want is to be told what to do.
There’s a tendency for us to want to keep our options – and therefore our leads’ and customers’ options – open. So we invite them to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, pin this, share that, sign up here, buy this there.
How much of that do you think a single person actually processes?
I’ll tell you how much: about zero.
Here’s how many options we should give our leads, wherever they are: one.
To be successful at content marketing in an increasingly crowded, loud and distracting space, we need to start limiting options. Think of 2013 as the year of focus.
Next time you get someone to visit your website or blog, make it crystal clear – first to yourself and then to your lead – what the purpose of that content is. Choose a single action – whether that’s to grow your social following or your email list, or prompt a sale.
It’s no longer good enough to put content out there and let it speak for itself. There’s just too much content these days.
The real winners will be those who can focus their content toward a specific goal each and every time.
4. The Decline Of The Influencer And The Rise Of The Tribe
If you can get on the radar of an influencer who wants to promote your product or service to the world, then good for you!
But that’s a little like trying to win the lottery to pay your mortgage.
It takes time and whole lot of patience and effort to build the kind of relationship with someone that would pay off that big. And the last thing you want to do is to be creating content to impress those folks and forgetting your real audience.
The first bloggers had it made – they were doing something unheard of in a time when people were just learning how to do business online. They stood out, got noticed and were the people responsible for the growth of the content trends we’re seeing today. They became the influencers that most of us want to be.
But now that everyone’s doing it, it’s exponentially harder to stand out and be noticed.
The good news is that if ever a trend was moving in your favor, this one is it: tribes.
What This Means To You
You may not be an influencer, know and influencer or have the time or patience to get on the radar of an influencer but you don’t need to.
Just like you’re going to laser-focus your content marketing goals in 2013, you’re also going to laser-focus your niche – by growing your tribe and using the power of the people to grow and build your audience.
Your tribe is your community of fans, friends, peers and even customers whose business vision aligns with yours. They are the people in your social sphere who you build relationships with through the exchange of value and who you can rely on to promote your content as you promote theirs.
If your content marketing efforts are going to get off center, you need the momentum of your supporters. It’s no longer possible to do it alone.
But don’t let the nice, friendly idea of “group marketing” fool you – it’s hard work!
Everything you put out into the world for your audience has to be vetted and approved by your tribe first, and that can sometimes be tougher! I know I wouldn’t promote someone’s content if it wasn’t any good, because that would be a poor reflection on me.
But the beauty of the tribe is that you’ve got a content marketing machine behind you and they will keep you accountable to your audience by insisting on only the best.
5. Woe To The Attention Span
If you had told me a year ago that I would be writing one sentence paragraphs I would have given you a lecture in pacing, flow and style.
Now I write one sentence paragraphs, oh, about every other paragraph.
If attention spans get any shorter, I…
Wait, did you see that red…
I almost forgot to…
I think we were talking about hats or something, but anyway… attention span.
Your content marketing depends on catching it!
What This Means To You
First, it means that content is trending shorter, punchier and more direct. People don’t have the time or patience for fluff. If you want to get literary, write a novel.
On the web, your content needs to be focused (there’s that word again) and it needs to be eminently readable.
Formatting can make or break your text content. Liberal use of bold, headings, bullet points and short paragraphs and sentences will not only play to shorter attention spans but also do double duty as mobile-friendly. Intersperse text-heavy content with imagery to keep people interested.
As for video, I personally can’t make it through one that’s longer than two minutes, no matter how amazing.
When it’s appropriate, deliver your content in short, focused snippets. Three one-minute videos may be far more successful than one three-minute video.
The second impact this has on your content marketing is that content that “works” is becoming increasingly personal.
By “personal” I don’t mean you should be talking about your cat and your Friday night. I mean that you need to be speaking directly and meaningfully to your audience.
Great content is no longer just about writing an excellent blog post, putting together an entertaining video, publishing an educational eBook… Lots of people can put together great content. Successful businesses can do all that and do it in a way that’s compelling and for their audience.
Successful content marketers in 2013 need to master the art of storytelling and be able to tap into the likes, dislikes, fears and desires of their audience. Great content – valuable content – will only be so if it connects on a human level.
The Wrap-up: Getting From Here To There
2013 is already upon us and as we get into it’s second month, I’ll leave you with this thought: content marketing isn’t going away anytime soon. In fact, it’s becoming more and more important for everything from gaining exposure in search results to attracting leads and customers on the social channels where they live.
This is the age of the empowered consumer so it’s up to us as businesses to empower them with what they need.
Start with your goals for the new year and take these trends into account as you plan. Even if you only make one incremental improvement today, you’re ahead of where you were yesterday!