Over twenty years ago, Microsoft’s Bill Gates said, “content is king.”
For content directors and marketers, social media strategists, SEO and SMO managers, and digital marketing executives, those three words are more true today than ever before. Reaching the right people at the right time in the right way, engaging lifelong customers, and building trust with an audience require dedication to creating quality content that gets read and shared. Despite how technologically advanced we are becoming as a society, content creation remains a top priority that we must strive to get right.
Since we could all use a little help in this regard, I decided to ask Cameron Conaway for his thoughts. Cameron is the director of content at Reflektion, a company that has developed a unified engagement platform to help some of the world’s best brands deliver relevant content across various touchpoints that result in increased growth and boosted revenue. Cameron is a top 50 content marketing influencer as well as a journalist and essayist. His work has appeared in Newsweek, Forbes, and Harvard Business Review. Among other things, he has led content marketing strategies for Cadillac and the United Nations Foundation.
Here is what he had to say about content marketing, social media, and future trends:
1. Social platforms are increasingly beginning to serve as major publishing outlets. How important do you think social platforms will become for users to obtain solid content and for businesses to increase ROI on content?
Social platforms are just now beginning to recognize and understand their responsibility as publishers. And plans are in place at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other outlets to improve in their capacity as publishers and curators.
Part of this evolution, I believe, is that users will increasingly rely on social platforms to be their news aggregators. It can be a fantastically addictive experience to curate what you read based on what people are talking about, and with a click social platforms can get you to your preferred source.
But, let’s be honest. They don’t want to do that. They want to keep you on their platform.
So, just as companies such as Amazon and Alibaba are buying out media companies, I can see the day when social media platforms grow into true publishers by doing the same.
This, of course, creates the perfect opportunity for users to gain access to solid content, and for businesses to increase their ROI by finding their niche in the crowd.
2. Advanced technology makes it easier to personalize content. How can precision analytics be used to track audience profiles, establish buyer personas, and generate suggestions or recommendations for customers?
This is a topic I’m incredibly excited about, especially because my colleagues at Reflektion are pioneers in deep learning algorithms and come from powerhouses such as Google, Oracle, and Netflix.
Personalized content can come in many forms. Our customers are in the retail space, which means they are obsessed with getting the right products in front of the right people at the right time. This real-time responsive merchandising is relatively easy to do in a brick-and-mortar store, and AI-powered customer engagement platforms can now recreate that experience in a digital environment.
We view every click, swipe, search and purchase as not only important data points but as critical micro-moments in the customer journey.
3. Content marketing is moving way past the average weekly blog post. What do you consider to be a great process for ensuring that ideas are improved and new forms are adapted over time?
On improvement: Education is at the heart of content marketing. Educating an audience about a topic, and doing so on a regular basis, demands creating a kind of echo chamber of learning so that you can become knowledgeable enough to educate.
Garbage content is often produced by content marketers that are trying to be educators on topics they know very little about. This lack of empathy and respect for your audience is why many people think content marketing is a joke.
Right now I’m reading everything in the retail space I possibly can so that I may be able to deliver something of value to a retail-focused audience. This empathic focus allows me to fuse the work of a content marketer with the radical industry focus of a beat journalist.
On new form adaptation: I’m a believer in the Zen concept of beginner’s mind. This is essentially about cultivating the capacity to see familiar things as if for the first time. You can apply this to sipping tea, or, for example, to re-evaluating your homepage or your existing content marketing strategy.
4. There seems to be a growing fatigue with brand advertising. What suggestions do you have for companies to focus on transparency with their content?
First, it all comes down to respecting your audience. If you don’t, you’ll contribute to the fatigue either by creating content that nobody wants or by creating content that, at some point, makes the reader feel like they were tricked.
Second, I think every ad dollar should be scrutinized. If you can generate awareness about your brand through content that is valuable for your audience, what would make you choose to create (as is often the case) an interruptive experience instead?
5. For the most part, content drives the buyer journey. Not much of a decision is made without some form of content being displayed first whether in the form of knowledge sharing, visual media, white papers, email marketing, and so forth. How can content specialists and managers continue to catch an audience’s attention while at the same time building trust with a brand?
This has long been the challenge of marketing. How to get attention and build trust at the same time?
It obviously depends on what kind of resources your brand has, but I’m a believer in trust first and attention later. If you’ve found your content/market fit, put the bulk of your focus on creating content that will be deemed valuable by an audience and by Google.
Modern marketing is about creating something so valuable that an audience willingly gives you their attention (and maybe even asks for yours), rather than you having to ask for theirs.
6. What do you think are the three trends that will dominate content marketing in the next year or two?
1. The impact of new technologies on content marketing.
2. The deepening relationship between journalism and content marketing.
3. The overall growth of the content marketing industry.