According to the Content Marketing Institute, 88% of UK businesses are planning to produce more content in 2016. With the barriers to entry removed and the emergence of new digital channels for brands to explore in the hope of attracting new customers, content seems to be the tactic of choice to “test out” such channels.
There is an apparent disconnect between brands and what they stand for and the tactics used as part of their digital strategy so I caught up with Mark Masters, owner of a content marketing consultancy called The ID Group and author of the book, The Content Revolution to discuss what the future hold for content marketing as well as what this means for mobile first audiences and the challenges for brands.
Tell us a little about Mark
I am the owner of a content marketing consultancy called The ID Group, wrote a book called The Content Revolution, a weekly podcast called Marketing Homebrew and encourage businesses to take back what is theirs by owning the spaces that they have complete control.
Everything is centred around becoming a useful resource for others.
How long have you been working in digital marketing and what services do you offer the digital marketing sector?
I am from a traditional agency background (I started in the industry in 1998). Sometimes I wish we could all go back to a time when it was far easier. You created a website/print/DM/ad, you invoiced it and you moved onto the next project.
Just because a company has a website today simply means that they have a ticket to enter the race. That is how I work with businesses to encourage them to think as media companies. By this I mean that businesses now have the ability to deliver a consistent message to a targeted audience through a preferred channel, in order to inform, enlighten and entertain.
My business helps companies by: producing content strategies; helping companies create content; provide education and events for others to acknowledge that they are not alone in figuring everything out.
Brands both big and small all seem to be jumping onto the content marketing bandwagon – are we at a point of saturation when it comes to churning out content?
People create because they can. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s annual benchmarks, budgets and trends report 88% of UK businesses stated that they would produce more content in 2016. This is where the problem is.
Just because you can create more doesn’t mean that people will turn up. It is acknowledged that it is becoming harder to be seen and reach out. Even Apple have now turned up and opened their News Publisher service to everyone. So not only are the likes of Medium, LinkedIn, Facebook saying ‘come here my darling’ we are being engulfed with the lure to be in different spaces of the web and sacrifice ownership.
This is why it makes it makes sense to really understand how you can capture the attention of someone else by having a purpose behind what you believe in. When you stamp this with conviction and be consistent with what you believe in and use the channels available (written, audio, video), is how you become relevant to someone else.
Businesses have to stop thinking they have to become everyone’s friend and fish in the same ocean. What is wrong with creating your own pool and the more plentiful fish are there.
How does a brand focus its content marketing efforts and measure the effectiveness of time and effort?
Focus has to be driven by understanding what you stand for first and how you can make someone else’s life better/easier/more fulfilling.
The issue we have is that we all have day jobs, so where is the time and effort going to go into creating content? This is a role that none of us had before and doesn’t really sit on an A4 job spec description that was created ten or so years ago.
Many have the problem of day job first and then find time to create. Why don’t we flip that mindset by allocating time during the week to create and have this as part of the day job too. Whether you outsource or delegate, if people allocated 10% of their working week towards curating a message with the intention to build a dialogue, it can move mountains.
One of the key issues I see in the digital marketing sector are brands jumping in at the “tactics” level rather than defining a business strategy when it comes to their approach on the digital tactics to invest in – do you see this as an issue?
The reason we get excited about tactics is that it is tangible. It sounds great having a YouTube channel, but the whole reason a strategy works is that it provides a framework to have a continuum and to be consistent.
There is nothing worse than seeing a company put time, effort and budget into something that loses momentum and just sits there gathering dust. We all see it, the company that invested time in this thing called a ‘blog’, only to see that the last post was eight months ago. What impression does that set to a prospect that is looking around to identify how you are different from everyone else (and that you have the passion and energy for it).
A strategy needs to answer the question, ‘We Are..’ It may not seem the sexiest part, but it is that reference to always to come back to make sure that you are on the right path and to help remain consistently relevant to someone else.
The growth in mobile means adjusting your content marketing efforts to appeal to an ever growing mobile audience – what insights can marketers take from desktop to optimise their content strategy to appeal to their mobile audience?
I think that continuum and consistency is key to everything. I don’t necessarily think that it is a case of adjusting content marketing efforts, it is more about making sure that whenever and wherever someone consumes, it is right for them.
This is why the likes of Medium and LinkedIn are so attractive. The layout on mobile is beautiful, it is simple to navigate, easy to include images that scale perfectly for mobile. This is why company websites have to make sure they are responsive to whoever is looking.
Nothing worse than inconsistency in fonts, breaks in the copy as people haven’t paid enough time and attention to ensure a 360 user generated experience.
One of the challenges is the need for brands to engage with their audience through market research – do you have any recommendations on how brands can involve listening to their audience to help define the type of content to create?
There are two tools that I stick by:
1) Google Analytics – from looking at Behaviour Overview you can see what articles strike a chord with others. I have found that since January 2012 (when I started blogging) that the most popular articles are those where there is an emotional connection and real honesty. This could be holding my hands up and sharing what has gone wrong and is far more popular than lists and ‘how to be a better marketer’ type posts. This idea of authenticity and finding a voice is key today, it’s the only differentiator we have left.
2) Email – I send an email called ‘You Are The Media’ every Thursday morning at 9am, without fail to my audience. This is where I collate feedback and hear from others. This is not on someone else’s platform but in the space that is mine (email).
I am a huge believer that we need to put more effort in qualitative measurement than chasing numbers to look more popular than someone else on Twitter.
What are your thoughts on the future of brands to build their content through 3rd party channels or start to create their own branded channels as the destination hub?
Third party spaces are fine, but I truly believe that we need to create centres of gravity where everything is drawn to ie. your website or blog.
I created an article called ‘Should You Be Rabidly Be Reposting Blog Content’ that looked at the whole reason why we publish in different places is to extend reach.
I am saying that we are not here to appeal to the masses, we are here to connect with those who believe in our viewpoint. You need to find which side of the road you need to get to and stay there. If you stand in the middle at some point you are going to get hit head on.
We must also realise that social channels are here to make money, just as much as we are.
People make the mistake that Twitter is basically a mechanism for free advertising or happily pay for Facebook but have absolutely no strategy to draw an audience away from Facebook and come back to your website (there’s a tip there, when paying to be on someone else’s space a call to action should always be to come back to yours for something better).
When people surrender ownership to someone else that is a pretty lonely place to be. Coming back to the second question, if you can build an audience around what you believe in and the issues you can solve, you start to add value beyond what you do as a business and the opportunity to position yourself as a key source for others.
That is a far stronger place to be than thinking you have to join the herd. It takes time, discipline and effort, but it can become a strong place to be while the rest turn in White Walkers (a little Game Of Throne reference to end on).