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The term “content marketing” might not conjure visions of a particularly innovative or exciting new industry, but hiding behind those bland words is a tectonic shift in how brands and businesses are reaching their audience. Simply put, content marketing refers to sharable online content—videos, social media, e-books, or articles that often contain little or no mention of the brand behind them. Despite (or, perhaps, because of) the soft sell, content marketing has become incredibly effective at reaching audiences who are all-too-often inundated with traditional ads. 

According to the Content Marketing Institute, it generates 3x more leads than old-school paid search advertising. And effective content marketers can help drive revenue that’s 6x higher (10.2% v. 1.6%) than content marketers who don’t follow best practices, according to Aberdeen, an intent-based marketing company. 

As technological advances open up more channels through which to reach audiences, and consumers become more aware of what kind of content they like, it’s important to make sure that you’re up on the trends, experimenting on the right kinds of content, and checking the right metrics—ones that actually impact your bottom line. Here’s what matters now: 

Authenticity and Transparency

A/B testing is out. “Authenticity” and “transparency” are in. Consumers of content are calling your bluff, and they want to see what you have to say for yourselves. This is all to say: the more “real” and “specific” your content, the more people—although, perhaps a smaller group of people—will love your message. According to research from marketing content platform Stackla, 86% of consumers reported that a brand’s perceived authenticity drives their purchase decisions. 

As audiences wise up to brands hiring micro-influencers to peddle their wares, companies will need to genuinely engage with their audiences, through community channels such as Reddit, amplifying user-generated content on social media, and building relationships with their biggest fans. 

Boutique Brand Collaboration

Co-branded partnerships are nothing new. Bonne Belle teamed up with Dr. Pepper to make a soda-flavored Lip Smackers way back in 1975. These days, co-marketing and co-branding ventures can reach new heights of ambition — sometimes literally: Take GoPro and Red Bull’s partnership to capture footage of extreme sports, or Sanrio, the official home of Hello Kitty and Friends, and Eva Air’s collaborative jet planes

But co-branding in no-longer the domain of international corporate giants — the sheer scale of these high-impact brand collaborations shouldn’t scare you away from pursuing smaller, less expensive promotions. Everything from a pop-up shop in a local retailers space to branded gift guides can help expose your brand to new audiences.

Before you partner with a brand, consider these factors:

  • Make sure your target audience is interested in them
  • They will benefit from an alliance with your company
  • They can help you build your reputation
  • You more or less share the same values

Voice Search Optimization

More than 100 million Alexas have been sold since 2014; Google Homes are reaching tens of millions, too. The evidence is mounting that by 2020 more than half of our online searches will be via voice. 

Here’s how to make sure your website is optimized for voice search:

  • Get your site as a whole (not just your content) prepped for voice search—often this involves simplifying your site architecture to allow for easier navigation  
  • Optimize your website for local SEO 
  • Anticipate specific questions asked in a conversational way that might lead to your content 
  • Include phrases and long-tail keywords (those 3 to 4 word phrases that are specific to your message). As Maria Sotrab of GEOTAB points out, “While text search mostly includes one to three words, voice search is longer and more conversational. Forward-thinking communicators can optimize their content by identifying the long-tail search queries that will drive voice traffic to their sites.”

AR

AR (augmented reality) advertising is the next frontier. According to emarketer, global AR ad revenue hit $428 million in 2018, and will jump to over $2 billion in 2022. So, why are AR filters and apps causing such a stir? They’re interactive, and they encourage a different, more symbiotic kind of relationship with the content consumer. A filter is not just another ad or message a visitor swipes away from; when they use it, it’s almost as if they’re collaborating with the brand itself. It can be a bit of a heavy lift, though: there are a lot of different ways to experiment with AR, some more cost effective than others.

Original Research / Surveys

Data sells, and having your own data to draw from is priceless. Surveys are great way to generate content of interest to your audience and your industry. All of that accumulated data not only answers your initial question or tests your hypothesis, it can also help you make all kinds of content—infographics, ebooks, etc.—down the line. By showing off the result of their own research, companies can begin to acquire that all-important veneer of “thought leadership” and demonstrate that their insights are changing the market landscape. 

Email 

A personalized email newsletter (with a robust subscription list) is a great way to lead people to your content, but more than that, it’s an opportunity to experiment. According to Adobe’s Digital Index, repeat visitors only make up 8% of all customers, and yet they make up 40% of revenue. This puts email subscribers among the valuable few. There are a lot of ways to spice up your newsletter but among them: 

  • Go niche. When you know your audience’s specific tastes and interests, it’s going to be a lot easier to convince them to open your email (see Authenticity and Transparency above).
  • Dynamic content: Personalize your newsletter based on who’s getting it. (you could even start tracking the behavior of your subscribers to better appeal to them in the future.)
  • Add a VIP segment: Gift your most loyal customers, readers, or social media fans with brand swag, special offers, or sneak peaks.