Content Marketing

Content marketing for a post-social era

Okay, “post-social” may be a little apocalyptic, but it’s getting ever-harder to get cut-through on social channels. What does this mean for content marketing and the content you create?

Cut-through in a crowded, cynical marketplace

In this fake-news, foreign interference, data-for-sale world, our audience is cynical of everything they read online.

At the same time, they are overwhelmed with content.

Social sharing of content is down, as a result. In fact, according to the BuzzSumo Content Trends Report 2018 (the 2019 report should be due shortly), social sharing is down 50% since 2015. The median number of shares per post is down to just 4 shares. Sharing is heavily skewed to the top end. The top 1% saw 2,409 shares, the top 10% averaged 62 shares. The remaining 90% saw less than 62 shares, on average.

According to Frank V. Cespedes and Russ Heddleston in an article for Harvard Business Review,

blog output by brands has increased over 800% in the past five years but organic social share of blogs has decreased by 89% and about 5% of content gets 90% of engagement.

Content marketing – evolve to meet the market

How should your content marketing strategy evolve in response to more challenging social channels? Here are three ideas.

Make it quick

According to Cespedes and Heddleston, you have less than three minutes to make an impression. That means emphasising key takeaways, compelling data-points and persuasive graphics to catch the reader’s attention.

But that doesn’t mean shallow…

Invest in quality and relevance

You won’t be forgiven for wasting your readers’ time, so invest (time and money) in creating content that is of value to them – you have to earn the right to be read. As the BuzzSumo report says, you should be “creating less, [but] higher quality content”.

Cespedes and Heddleston found that case studies performed particularly well:

In our data, case studies have an 83% completion rate — orders of magnitude higher than other sales and marketing content provided during the buying journey.

Buyers, especially B2B buyers, want to know what others are doing with your product, not what they might do to improve productivity or other outcomes. 

Interestingly, Cespedes and Heddleston also found that readers will return to quality content in their own time:

If initially engaged, a prospect reading a piece on Wednesday often returns for a longer visit on the weekend. 

From our own experience, the most successful content is deeply researched and longer form, though with a succinct and engaging lead post. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean academic, “thought-leadership” content. If your audience is a small business owner, perhaps what they want is comprehensive, accessible and actionable introduction to a topic.

Have a promotion strategy

The days of organic social growth are gone. That means you need a promotion strategy and some budget if you want to promote your content on social channels.

That doesn’t mean it’s all about money. Your sales team and customers can be valuable sources of re-posts, enabling you to reach a relevant and engaged audience.

For one global client we produced 32% of their internationally published case studies but produced 78% of total social shares, simply through engaging customers and sales staff in sharing the published stories to their own social networks.

Read the research

Both of the reports cited are based on large data samples: 100 million posts in the BuzzSumo case and 34 million customer-content interactions in Cespedes and Heddleston’s research.

It’s worth reading both to understand what changes might be relevant to your situation.

The BuzzSumo report (Content Trends 2018) is here.

The HBR article by Frank Cespedes and Russ Heddleston (4 Ways to Improve your Content Marketing) is here.

Photo by Daniele Riggi on Unsplash

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