I was an early content marketing practitioner and champion of the form. The idea was content would offer a richer advertising experience than the ads of old. I pursued the idea with gusto and I am glad I did. Not everything turned out as planned, but I learned a lot.
I may as well come out and say what I’ve been thinking for some time: content marketing is more about promise than performance. There is still a solid reason to produce top-notch content as part of your marketing mix—high-value content helps your website rank high and it helps create awareness for your brand. But it doesn’t convert.
Content fails to convert because most brand-made or brand-sponsored content is simply ignored. It’s invisible. Did you know that just 5% of branded content garners 90% of total consumer engagements? In other words, 19 out of 20 content pieces get little to no engagement.
“The current wisdom that brands need to be content machines is simply not supported by the data,” says Jennifer Zeszut, CEO of Beckon. “Brands might be shocked to hear that while branded content creation is up 300 percent year over year, consumer engagement with that content is totally flat. They’re investing a lot in content creation, and it’s not driving more consumer engagement.”
Beckon analyzed over $16 billion in omnichannel marketing spend and performance data to better understand what works, what doesn’t, and where to invest in content.
The Relationship Between Engagement and Conversion
There is no closing without meaningful engagement first. Which begs the question, what type of content do people prefer to spend time with? The answer isn’t video or a blog post. We need to understand what triggers people to pay attention and to act, in every medium.
I’ve produced thousands of blog posts, a.k.a. thought pieces, and just as many social media updates for my own brands and for clients, so I have a lot of my own first-hand experience to offer. What works is attaching an offer to a piece of content and then promoting the content consistently. Posts that are not boosted or targeted are going to float downstream unless your content happens to be the exception, not the rule.
One of the colossal mistakes that I made in my content development journey is driving engagement but failing to connect it to an offer. My last 14 years of effort on Adpulp.com is the prime example of this. I successfully built the brand and got thousands of readers to gather ’round. What I failed to do is provide the audience members a series of offers that would help to support my side project. Lesson learned.
This Is Advertising—You Pay to Play
Content specialist, Mark Schaefer, wrote about this problem in 2014.
This intersection of finite content consumption and rising content availability will create a tremor I call The Content Shock…
The idea that ‘great content rises to the top’ is over. We are in an era where advertising, promotion, and distribution strategies may eclipse the importance of the content itself.
“We are in an era where advertising, promotion, and distribution strategies may eclipse the importance of the content itself.” That’s a sentence worth repeating and committing to memory. In other words, the best-made content in the world isn’t going to move anyone if they never see it.
For years, I’ve advocated that a brand’s content help support its advertising and vice versa. Now, it’s past time to update that to a brand’s content is its advertising.