OK, in 100 words or less…imagine I'm talking really fast…
Yes, social media marketing has arrived. It is here, being deployed more effectively and thoughtfully. There have been some great, user-friendly tools (e.g., Snip.it and Percolate) for authors and editors to use to curate great content - this makes our job easier and hello BuzzFeed. The explosive growth of consumer demand for smartphones and tablets has not yet caught up with marketing dollars making this bet on the future. What will be the tipping point? Integration (particularly e-commerce) at every turn with every platform is dizzying….
This we have heard, read, and digested. All good to be mindful of, but the following are five content marketing trends that speak to the continual drive toward developing quality content on the independent web - our currency for successful content marketing.
You've heard that authors are becoming publishers and publishers are becoming brands. What does that really mean? Let's focus on trends that explore the gray matter between the two:
Authors are forming strategic partnerships with each other. Bloggers are partnering with one another creatively more and more. With my editorial background, I must say this really excites me. Bloggers tend to be lone rangers - building their voice, audience, and sites on their own. They join networks to help them grow their business, to take care of generating revenue, and to partner with brands in an authentic way. Sites like Go Mighty, IFB, or Chictopia are now seeing the power behind joining together around an idea, a common passion - creating yet another brand. Many voices are coming together to form one.
Brands are becoming thought leaders (really). Companies like American Express and GE have been at this content marketing game for quite some time now; five-plus years. They've been able to grow content development practices in-house and become thought leaders in topics that are of critical interest to their customers. They've managed to capture their customers' attention in an organic way, through patience and perseverance. Their organizations are becoming smarter about how to use content effectively to add value beyond the promises of their product or service. This represents progress and will continue to flourish.
Editorial briefs are just as important as creative briefs. Editorial briefs are gaining in use and popularity, both in content marketing and social media marketing. Sure, it's important for everyone to understand what the goals, tent poles, and KPIs there are, but it's equally important for everyone to be on the same page when it comes to the editorial strategy across platforms - the idea, voice, cadence, and themes - so that the authors have enough information to go back and create content that will resonate with their audience while serving the needs of the program/site/brand's goals.
No words necessary. Ideas are being visually expressed like never before. The wildly successful Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram are putting the power of a visual narrative in the hands of many. Those "authors" now are eye-forward stylists, artists, designers, photographers, and illustrators. Brands like Oreo have created a whole new visual quirkiness and humor through their Facebook wall photos. A DIY blogger, Handmade Charlotte, has a healthy blog audience but an obsessive following (900,000) on Pinterest with her DIY showcases.
Traditional analytics may be overhauled. Measuring the success of content marketing programs has come down to rounding up the typical stats: PVs, UVs, likes, impressions, shares, etc. Measuring the value of producing and sharing high-quality content for a brand has got to ladder back to tangible results for the brand: expressions (via what your audience is saying/evangelizing), increasing brand awareness, attracting a new audience, an acquisition tool, moving product, or breaking down sales resistance. There are big bucks to be made here and there will be new players on the scene to help us bridge the gap between all the good work we're doing together and the need to show demonstrable ROI.
Mary Gail is an experienced digital and print content strategist. At FM, Mary Gail runs a number of branded content development programs for AMEX, Chevy, Citi, Intel and L'Oreal to name a few. She is actively engaged in helping brands understand the value of quality content to meet key marketing objectives. Prior to FM, she was Executive Producer for Lucky and Luckymag.com managing the website, directing Lucky's social media strategy, and planning multi-platform tech and content partnerships. Mary Gail also held a corporate position at Condé Nast as Editorial Projects Director, jump-starting Cour online initiatives company-wide. Her early years in publishing were as the Managing Editor of several titles including GQ, Harper's Bazaar, Domino, Women's Sports and Fitness, and Details magazines. She graduated with a B.A. from Emory University and holds an M.B.A. from New York University.