Content strategy, marketing automation, inbound channels – these topics aren’t new anymore. In fact, more and more companies are getting their hands dirty in content production, as they understand the power of developing a new, future-proof and strong sales engine.
Having had the chance to work in different sectors on the development of content strategies myself, I’d like to take a moment to discuss the evolution of content strategy with some examples, but also actionable advice for you to act upon today.
1. New platforms, new formats, new technologies
Most marketers have heard about these novelties already. To name a few; the rise of the platform TikTok, the increasing importance of the story format, the development of audio podcasts as well as the still very strong video format.
Another interesting and promising novelty that is having an increasing impact on content but isn’t often mentioned is Artificial Intelligence.
AI phone home
Artificial Intelligence is a topic that might seem unclear, complicated and out of reach for many of us. Yet it is an incredible asset which is now increasingly accessible. As it turns out, AI isn’t intelligent, but the way it can deduct patterns from huge sets of data makes it incredibly powerful.
Newsworthy is a great illustration of how AI can help with content production. Recently, they gathered COVID-19 related data from official European datasets. To enrich this data, they supplemented it with general information about all regions in Europe. Based on the location of the reader, their AI then generates a clear, SEO-ready article containing only the relevant information for this specific reader.
If you want to try out a user-friendly tool for yourself, start with the writing corrector Grammarly or go wild with the complete content intelligence MarketMuse.
2. Connect to your audience
Content marketing isn’t always straightforward, especially for marketing teams that are used to more traditional outbound advertising.
Yet we can see that more and more companies now understand that “putting the consumer at the center” isn’t just about nice words, but about building a strong, ROI-positive strategy that can beat the competition.
So how do you really put the consumer at the center?
One way to way to develop content that is more bonded to your audience is user-generated content or UGC. The general idea is simply to distribute some content that has been produced by your audience on your own channels, but UGC can come in various forms.
As an example, Marmiton, the famous recipes website, regularly shares pictures of its audience’s recipes on its Instagram account. This is something that I expect to see even more as it’s easy to set up (e.g., ask your audience to use a special hashtag), doesn’t cost much time, energy, or money and has a strong impact on the relationship between brands and audiences.
Thinking outside the box
Buzzwords, I know. But bear with me and let me tell you the story of Buffer.
Buffer was launched in 2010 in the UK as a social media scheduling tool. It could only schedule tweets and then decided to create a blog in order to attract users. So, Buffer started writing about topics like increasing Twitter follower counts, optimizing tweets, why using Twitter is good for companies, etc.
The problem is that they wanted a large audience, and this type of content stays niche content. If you’re in the peers market or in the metallurgy market, there is only so much you can write about and they’re only so many people who want to dig down into these topics.“
We wanted to really, really have a large audience that could […] tell someone, ‘Hey, I read this great post on the Buffer blog.’ And this guy says, ‘Actually, that’s cool, and also Buffer looks cool — I might use that.”
That’s why Buffer shifted its mindset about content. Instead of focusing on the product or the industry, it started focusing on the user’s content – the content of social media managers, solopreneurs, etc. Examples being “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need to Work Productively?” or “What Multitasking Does to Our Brains”.
So are doing more and more marketing teams, reaching a much larger audience. In the case of Buffer, share rates quadrupled to 1000+ shares per article, helping the company grow to over 1 million users and $4 million in annual revenue in 2014.
The point here is to come back to your persona and to understand the context. This is how a peer brand might give advice on activities for kids having to stay at home.
3. Content and brand activism
Talking about the context of customers, the last few months have been pushing lots of brands out of their comfort zone.
Starting with the coronavirus crisis, which has had not only a serious economic impact but also a serious impact on the brand image of some companies. Many content teams have had to ask themselves how to appear as caring and close to their customers rather than appearing as opportunists, whilst at the same time driving sales.
Later, the death of Mr. George Floyd triggered worldwide support for the Black Lives Matter movement and fights against both racism and police violence. Again, questions arose in many offices. Some brands took action, some brands were criticized after doing so.
When questioning “how to react in this kind of situation”, the answer should come from the company itself, as it’s more than just a content marketing question mark. It’s a question of values and how you live them. Bringing them alive in a thoughtful content plan will bring more value and credibility than a nice PowerPoint presentation.
To build your own content marketing strategy, use this template: