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The past, present, and future of content marketing- in 500 words

Bold topic, no? You can stop reading now if you are expecting a crystal ball and guarantees about how content marketing will change in the next few years. Instead, I will offer some insights based on what we’ve seen in the past and the trends emerging now.

The Past
The past was perfect. It always is. (Just ask my father-in-law, who thinks it should still be 1958.) And since the past is perfect, the present can never measure up. So it’s understandable that there’s a chorus of naysayers who think content marketing’s golden age is behind us. After all, there is data pointing to a decrease of as much as 60% in engagement for content marketing. That’s not good by any measure, but who ever said our ultimate goal was really engagement?

Yes, in the good old days you had previously unheard of brands like BlendTec or (more recently) Dollar Shave Club going viral.

But “going viral” – which is another way of saying “killing it on the reach metrics” – isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.

For example, I’ve watched each of those videos more than a few times, helping increase their millions-plus views metrics. I’ve written about them and recommended other people watch them, adding further to their gaudy reach numbers. Setting aside the professional research aspect of my interest, this is purely entertainment for me. I’ve never bought a product from either of the companies, nor have I recommended the product to anyone even as I’ve recommended the videos.

To be clear, in both cases, the content is strong and the marketing is strong. Going viral is beside the point and, I’d argue, has had much less of an impact on their bottom lines than is popularly believed. (Though the impact is still pretty astounding, I’m sure.)

The Present
So if going viral isn’t really a great marketing strategy, perhaps the golden days weren’t so golden. It’s still undeniable, though that back in the days of yore it was easier to own a topic or conversation: there simply wasn’t as much competition for attention.

And that seems to lead people to believe that the decrease in content marketing engagement is a result of the increased competition.

Not really.

It was never easy to go viral, even in a less competitive market. Great content marketing was great, then and now, because the content was great. The problem with content marketing today isn’t that there’s too much content; it’s that there’s too much crappy content.

The Future
By now you’ve figured out where I’m going with this. More content isn’t the answer. Better content is. Actually, I take that back. Better is not enough. Your content has to be great. That’s the only way to encourage engagement and extend reach.

If you’re creating more content and seeing less return on your increased investment, you probably have someone with P&L responsibility looking over your shoulder and asking questions. Meaning, you’d better fix the problem.

You can start by getting back to basics. Audit your content. Evaluate it against your metrics. If your metrics don’t tell you anything useful, rethink your metrics.

Talk to your prospects. Find out what interests them, find out what scares them. Then develop content for them that addresses their needs throughout the buying process.

Forget about producing 150 pieces of content because you need 5 pieces of content for each of 5 audience segments at 6 different points in the buying cycle.

Think big. Because the secret of great content marketing is that great content almost always lends itself to adaptation in other forms. So while one great idea probably won’t get you those 150 pieces of content, it can get you enough great content to fill, say, 30 of those 150 slots you’re worried about.

Big thinking like that is hard work, but it’s the hard work that will raise your content marketing – all of your marketing – above the competition. Rising above the competition will do more than get you noticed. It will get you results.

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Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on Biznology.com, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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  1. Avatar John Bottom

    Nice post Andrew. I too come from the past – and I don’t mean that disparagingly, but to say that I’ve been thinking along the same lines recently. I agree also that better content is preferable to more. But I think there is another problem at the root of all this, which is the fact that many people share and promote other people’s content indiscriminately. They do this more than they used to, because they believe that high activity (not quality) levels will help them achieve a profile. Hence the unthinking sharing to make them look busy. Hence, the dominance of crappy, but heavily pushed, content. The cream doesn’t rise to the top any more – which is why this excellent post will almost certainly be out-tweeted by a factor of hundreds by the latest “5 tips for better content marketing”. Sigh.

    1. Avatar Andrew Schulkind

      , indeed! I’ve seen more and more instances of content being reposted/retweeted/etc. without having been read. Too bad, because the noise really isn’t getting marketers anywhere.

      Keep fighting the good fight, though. And thanks for your kind words!

      Cheers,

      Andy

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