Content marketing has revolutionized the way businesses attract and engage their audiences by influencing consumer behavior. The practice has grown exponentially over the past few years, fueled by the expanding footprint of the Internet and the increase in consumers’ propensities to seek answers online. But now, in its prime, content marketing is at risk — and content itself may be to blame.
Some claim the issue is rooted in content marketing’s hasty rise to prominence and the skills gap it has left floundering in its wake. There are simply not enough experienced content marketers to produce the volume of high-quality content that’s in demand. As this demand for content continues to grow more rapidly than the number of effective content marketers, the web will be slowly bogged down by tons of stuff unworthy of human attention. At the outset, the low-quality content will look just like the high-quality stuff, but it will drag down the collective value of all content together. The result? Diminishing returns across inbound channels — less traffic, fewer page views, fewer opens, fewer submissions, fewer leads, less revenue — and ultimately, the demise of content marketing.
Velocity Partners, a London-based B2B content marketing agency, offers a potential solution to this quandary. “Crap. The Content Marketing Deluge,” the agency’s recent Slideshare presentation with more than 400,000 views, explains how great content brands must approach this impending content crap-storm. Truly great content brands, it claims, will be immune to this fate of diminishing returns. Brands that are famous for producing intelligent, useful and entertaining content that’s always worth consuming will never struggle to get their stuff read.
While this presentation touches on some key concerns about the future of content marketing, it leaves some of the most important questions unanswered. According to the Content Marketing Institute’s 2014 B2B Content Marketing Report, only 36 percent of B2B content marketers say they are effective at content marketing. Already, 72 percent of large companies outsource their content creation, but their largest concern is still producing the kind of content that engages. This begs the question: Are content marketing agencies producing crappy and un-engaging content, or is something missing here?
Ryan Skinner of Forrester Research recognizes that there’s a serious but neglected problem at the heart of content marketing: visibility. Agencies, bloggers and search experts counsel marketers to publish truly great content, but they’re missing the point. Even the greatest content is not guaranteed to get discovered organically. For companies without established audiences, content will likely never reach its intended viewers without a targeted promotion and distribution strategy.
Joe Chernov, VP of Content at Hubspot and outgoing Content Marketer of the Year, told Skinner, “Marketers always ask me how to make more or better content, and it’s almost always the wrong question. The right question is: ‘How do I get my content in front of the right people?’”
The problem with content marketing today is not the threat of low-quality content; it’s the fact that so much web content is just floating around, seemingly without purpose, because it has not reached its intended audience through a targeted distribution strategy. Chernov predicts, “As brands begin to create a surfeit of content, the meritocracy will shift from the ‘best’ content to the smartest distribution.”
In other words, great content is not enough. The brands that will be saved from the Content Marketing Deluge in 2014 will be the ones who will think about more than just the quality of their content; they will implement tactical promotion and distribution strategies. Going forward, earned and paid media will be the focus of the truly great content brands.
What are you doing to do to ensure that your content is being seen by the right eyes? If you’re ready to get your feet wet with content promotion and distribution, a great place to start is the Inbound Marketer’s Guide to Earned Media.