Happy Birthday, Content Marketing. You’re Too Old for a Cake Now.

For marketers (i.e. anyone with a vested interest in getting something out there — you don’t need a title after your name) 2015 is probably the most exciting, if not most challenging, year to date. Marketing is changing its mother tongue to digital, and you’re either with it, or you’re losing out.

Gone are the ‘easy’ days when an online presence, in and of itself, guaranteed those archaic site counters to spin ever upwards as visitors streamed to a site.

I can’t tell you how many websites are currently in existence because it increases by the second. (If you’re over trainspotting, let website spotting become your next hobby: Watch them grow.) Your website — please tell me you have one — is but a single drop in a very crowded sea, filled with 947,100,500 websites at this very moment in time.

In recent years, content marketing started making waves as the new go-to marketing strategy. “Content is king” continues to be trumpeted on every street corner. And it’s been great — at long last we as consumers were being respected enough, recognised as smart and sophisticated enough, to make lending our time to site visits worth our while.

However, as with all revolutions, the high needs to make way for an evolutionary comedown. Content marketing is still all that…but it’s changing face. Those in marketing industries and marketing professions realise that there’s far more to getting a return on investment than simply slapping a few paragraphs onto a blog.

Now that we’re getting into the groove of approaching marketing as a long-term relationship with people from whom we want brand recognition, trust, and loyalty — a.k.a we want to be The One and not simply a fling — we’re having to face facts:

1. Creating content isn’t enough

Without effective distribution channels, strategically executed, your great content is great invisible content. There are many a way in which to do this, and to become effective at distributing content will require you to learn to speak its language, or outsource to someone that does. If you’re going to invest in property, invest in the building as a whole…not just its foundation. Likewise, content without distribution is a null concept.

2. Social media goes premium

Social media platforms are the single biggest distribution channels that businesses make use of to generate traffic to their content.

Been noticing what’s happening with social media lately?

From Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn, ads and promoted posts are slowly — or rapidly, in the case of Facebook — taking over organic content. This holds significant implications for the small and medium-sized enterprise, and I predict that in future we’ll see the rise of alternative social media sites such as Ello, who has pledged to stay ad-free for life, which businesses will utilise to stay in touch with their audience.

For the moment, we go where our target markets are, and this means adapting to trends and jumping on their bandwagons, such as Facebook’s new Instant Articles roll-out. Something that is to hold a significant implication for content creation and distribution.

3. Content marketing really is the new SEO

While PPC companies are still falling over their feet to get you to pay for Adwords, search engines are prioritising high-quality, long-form content with popular social media stats. While PPC still forms an important part of the digital marketing strategy of keyword-specific businesses, web users click on organic search results more often than not. For the most part, it’s your rankings in organic search results that pave the way. Is your content up to the task?

4. Content doesn’t come cheap

Big business spenders are tactical. Just because there’s money in the bank doesn’t mean they throw it around left, right, and centre. Instead, they put their money where their targets are…and right now, their targets are consuming content.

It’s a sad fact that, if you haven’t started your digital marketing journey yet (and having a website is step #1 of about 769), you’ll be reaching into your pockets for more than just small change. Sad because this deters many businesses from entering the arena in a way that will deliver results. Instead, they make it off as something that “doesn’t really work” and so continue on an impending path to business doom.

Your digital marketing budget absolutely has to form a significant percentage of not only your marketing budget but your business budget as a whole.

In case you haven’t noticed, the world has moved online. For all its faults and flaws, the internet has made us a slave species in its name. I don’t know about you, but business aside, I’d be pretty darn lost without the net in my personal life. And so echoes the sentiment of your target market.

So to be a voice, make a dent, put yourself on the map in the Big Noisy Digisphere, you have got to be willing to swipe your card to get things done.

5. Email marketing is getting ready to reincarnate

If you’re anything like me (which, for the sake of your sanity, I hope you’re not), it’s not a strange sight to have multiple email accounts (I use about 10 on a weekly basis), and receive up to 200 emails per day.

Of course, I can’t really tell you what most of those mails are about, because they’re the result of having once subscribed to a website’s mailing list, either because I actually wanted to hear from them (rare), or because it formed part of their lead generation campaign and I wanted to get my hands on whatever product or offer was on the cards. And for a few days, weeks, or even months if they had what it takes, I’d string along — read their emails, click on their links, until I’d inevitably realise that it held absolutely no benefit for me to be on their list ad infinitum. Then, if I’m having an especially Hitler-esque inbox-zero day, I’ll unsubscribe. Alternately, I’ll click delete on all those unopened mails without even blinking.

Email marketing, an important component of content marketing, is no longer all that…instead, it’s jumping overboard due to too much (spammy) emails that deliver no immediate value and is usually no more than aggressive selling or a rehashing of content found on other distribution channels.

With no clear-cut answer as yet to what it’s shape-shifting into, marketers are stabbing in the dark, trying to piece together why this once Golden Ticket went down the squirrel-sorting drain along with all the other bad nuts.

Ultimately, content marketing — hailed the best thing since buttered scones — needs to be strategised for and adapted, as our audiences reach all-new levels of saturation. Much like any other business tactic, there’s an ebb and flow of easy come, easy go, and 2015 hails the mark when marketers need more than just a 300-word article to reach and captivate their target markets.

Feature image by Jorge Ibanez on Unsplash