Audience Engagement Digital Publishing
5 mins read

The rise of content, a path to sustainable growth

In 2017, Forbes told us that content will always be king and three years later, its reign has only gotten stronger. Now more than ever, brands are concentrating on content marketing, investors are piling cash into CMS companies, and consumers are looking for authenticity from the organizations they spend with.

Understanding your audience and communicating with them through valuable content is the way to survive and thrive as a brand in 2020 and beyond.

The rise of content is upon us. 

So where do I start? Why do I care?

When we refer to content we’re talking about blog posts, news articles, whitepapers, ebooks, videos, podcasts, and any other form of communication that you post to your website and distribute around the web. Executed properly, owned content should represent the center of your marketing efforts, not just another channel to drive leads. It’s how forward-thinking companies are providing real value to their customers and building loyalty and brand authority.

The days of quick growth hacks are over. Content is the long game, a path to sustainable growth. While ads only last as long as you pay for them and the social life cycle may only last for seconds, the value of content is forever.

Advertising fatigue is real

Audiences have become hyper-aware of when they’re being sold to, so delivering truly helpful content creates a more genuine, positive experience with your brand. In an environment when they are constantly bombarded by prompts to buy, being relevant and helpful really stands out. But how do you know if what you’re putting in front of your audience is actually valuable? Your strategy should be rooted in a data-driven understanding of your audience. You need a clear picture of what engages them, how content drives the outcomes you want, and then iterate accordingly. Creating content that your consumers love takes insight and effort, but ultimately it’s the most effective way to build relationships digitally.

When it comes to paying to promote anything online, we believe advertising strategy should be dictated by deep audience insights. Who is your target audience? Where do they live online? What topics and mediums draw their attention and drive them to engage with you? Content-based analytics help to answer all of these questions so you can put dollars behind the content that will truly drive impact.

Social media platforms are unpredictable

Relying on Facebook for exposure has always been risky business, given its history of drastic algorithm changes, and the #StopHateForProfit boycott has made things even more unpredictable. This past July, more than 1,000 major advertising companies boycotted Facebook by reducing their spending by millions of dollars to stand up against the platform’s management of hate-speech and misinformation. This type of volatility leaves brands investing heavily in Facebook ads high and dry, looking for a more sustainable and reliable way to market.

Instead of relying solely on social media platforms to promote your brand, focus on creating quality content that provides your customers with real value so that when they look for authority, entertainment, or education, they come directly to you. It allows you to control every aspect of how you connect with your audience, own your messaging, and let distribution be a secondary thought. 

But don’t abandon social altogether. Use content analytics to understand what topics and content types perform best on different social platforms and what is better suited for other channels, like your newsletter.

If you monitor your content’s performance over time, you’ll also find that good content becomes evergreen and provides value even after you pull back on your investments. Look at marketing technologies such as HubspotBufferIntercomZapier, and Gusto, all of whom reap benefits from content they wrote 5-10 years ago. 

Huge investments are being made in CMS platforms

A year ago, Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian let us know where he stands on the importance of content, and leaders in martech showed that they’re clearly on the same page. Since then, we’ve seen huge investments and valuations in CMS companies, like Vista investing $1B in Acquia, Insight Venture Partners acquiring Episerver for $1.16B, Episerver acquiring Optimizely, Automattic raising $300M and being valued at $3B, Sitecore being valued at $1B, Salesforce developing its own CMS, and Washington Post selling Arc, their CMS, to other publishers but also to corporate clients like BP. Power players in the industry have been touting content for years, and we’re seeing more and more companies follow suit and put their money where their mouth is.

Privacy-first is non-negotiable 

Privacy concerns and restrictions are another factor that make forming one-on-one, genuine relationships with consumers through content even more critical going forward. With the phasing out of 3rd party cookies as well as restrictions like GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act, owning first party data is a necessity. The days of renting 3rd party data to target consumers are soon to be over, and the way to adapt is by creating valuable content that attracts audiences organically and using modern content analytics to collect and analyze the data.

We experience more content and less time on page in our current climate

With more people driven to the internet through the circumstances of the pandemic, so many experiences are shifting from in-person to digital-first and digital-only. Though lockdown will eventually be a thing of the past, this shift and how we respond to it will have a lasting effect on how we connect with our customers. 

Since the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, total internet usage is up somewhere between 50 and 70%So many more people are online looking for entertainment and education, and your business has a huge opportunity to grab their attention and invest in a relationship that lasts long after the crisis. Successful brands are already doing this by forming authentic connections with people through valuable content, and consumers will be expecting this type of connection from here on out.

Once you decide that content matters for your brand, then the question is: how do you do it correctly?

Understand what resonates with your audience based on historical data and internet-wide trends, inform your content creation and distribution based on what you learn about demand, directly measure the engagement/impact, and iterate the process while constantly adapting to data-driven insights.

It’s time to make smarter content.

by Andrew Butler

Re-published with kind permission of Parse.ly, the insights company that empowers media owners to understand and improve digital audience engagement through data

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