4 Min Read
Last year, Worldwide Google searches for the term ‘content marketing’ hit their highest point since…well ever. There was twice as much online interest in the topic than there was just 5 years ago, and its popularity has been on the rise for the last decade or so.
But it’s been around since way before ‘Millennials’ were a target audience, or before Social Media came along; in fact, before the internet was born (or before you and I were for that matter). However, I’m not here to give you a history lesson, to define what content is, or even what makes it good or bad; I’m just here to provide the World with (you guessed it) another piece of content. And here lies a problem.
What the World doesn’t need is more ‘content’. There’s enough out there already to keep you busy for the rest of your life. There was actually enough published today alone to keep you busy for two lifetimes. And there was enough new video content uploaded to YouTube in the last minute to keep you busy for a month. OK, you get the point. But here we are, with a yet another new piece of content…about content. But against the heavy odds stacked against it, here you are, reading it.
A series of decisions has led you to this platform and to this article, and you have chosen this content as worthy of your attention in this moment, instead of the endless other stuff out there vying for your time and limited bandwidth. Because it is (hopefully) relevant to you. As it was written with you in mind, or at least an audience who looks a bit like you. But what about the audience you yourself might want to reach? For argument's sake, let’s call them ‘consumers’. They would probably have little time (or interest) in it. And I can live with that.
Due to the dramatic growth in digital media, consumers have more competing for their attention than ever before. And unfortunately (for those in the business of marketing), more to ignore. While this landscape has been created by technology, it has been compounded by Brands and businesses jumping on the content bandwagon. Why? Because it has been sold as the magical solution to the growing attention problem. With fewer opportunities available for Brands to capture consumer attention en masse, the cost of those media spaces that do remain to do so, have risen way above inflation. And therefore, so has the belief in the digital dream and the ‘cost-effective’ social-first, or always-on approach.
For a short while, it really seemed like Social Media could be the answer. A way that brands could reach consumers where they were starting to spend an exorbitant amount of their time. And for those who acted quickly, a way to build and engage an audience, organically, by creating lots of low-cost content, instead of spending a fortune on a TV ad. Who could forget simple tactics such as ‘like this page’ or low-quality video highlights from your latest experiential activity? A simpler time. Building houses on land we didn’t own, before Lord Zuckerberg and his friends came out from the shadows and demanded the rent that was due.
Whether this was a planned strategy or a necessary evil, the (almost instant) decline in organic reach across Facebook and other social platforms, quickly pulled the rug out from under the content castles this so-called ‘King’ had helped construct.
Today, we live in a different world. The ‘paid, owned, earned’ model may still appear in some marketing plans, but does it still exist in reality? Nothing comes for free, especially audiences. Any content that you put out there is competing against a seemingly endless tide of competition; from your competitors, from publishers, from Influencers, from your friends and family etc. Which is why a staggering amount goes unnoticed.
The biggest problem in content marketing today is content wastage. Too much content, too few eyeballs. Take a look around on Social Media and it’s not hard to see even the world’s biggest brands failing to capture enough attention to shift the needle. It often feels like we're throwing a cup of tea thrown into the ocean, when what we really want is an oil spill (metaphorically speaking of course).
For content to have any real impact on your business (whether immediate or more longtail effects e.g. brand awareness or preference), your communications need to ‘cut through the clutter’, to a significant number of people.
Unfortunately, despite what you may have been told, this isn’t just about creating great content, it's about making sure people see it too. And that means promotion - and a lot of it - both free and paid.
Take a look at your own content, is it returning the investment you have made in it (no matter how small that might be)? Take a step back, address your production and distribution ratios. Could less be more (publish less, push more)? Give your message a fighting chance. After all, what use is a King (or Queen) without a voice?
Written by Michael Consagra, Content Strategy Director, MediaCom Beyond Advertising.
We released our massive guide to content marketing in 2019 and it's available to download, for free, by clicking the link below.