How Did 2013 Change Content Marketing?
The call for relevant and quality content reached a near fever pitch in the lead up to 2013. Were the proclaimers of content right? Yes. Throughout 2013, marketers sharpened their pencils to help produce content that would set them apart from competitors and show them as leaders in their chosen field.

Content marketing is not limited to text based articles, with visual content now being pumped out by companies at a rate of knots. This wasn’t necessarily a big shock to see content reign as king throughout the year. Research conducted by eConsultancy in October 2012 showed that 90 percent of in-house marketers believed that content marketing would grow in importance over 2013, while their agency counterparts presented a similar figure with 93 percent agreeing on its growth of importance.

With consumer interaction taking priority in marketer's minds, content has secured its position as the best method for the job. Yet with the huge amounts of content being produced by in-house marketers and agencies alike, even quality content can be lost in an unforgiving sea of articles, white papers and written resources.

How Can Marketers Combating the Content Deluge?

Content doesn’t have to be text based. Brands such as Red Bull and GoPro have shown us the value of video based content, with their extreme sports based videos regularly bringing in thousands of views and effectively communicating the brands' ideals to their audience.

Another brand changing the content arms race is the Chipotle restaurant chain, which launched a media campaign worthy of the big screen. Its beautifully crafted animated shorts serve to not only tug at the heart strings, but to communicate the brand's message in a way that makes it stand apart from competitors. Following "The Scarecrow" animations, Chipotle released a game app for tablet devices that sees the user continue on the Scarecrow’s journey.

Omnichannel Consumers

The proliferation of mobile devices over the last decade gives consumers multiple points of access to information -- and marketers more platforms and channels to reach customers. From traditional channels such as television and print media, marketers are now dealing with desktop browsers, mobile browsers, app users, e-book readers and tablet users.

What does this mean for content marketing? It’s no longer a case of creating quality content for a broad audience or even specific segments of your audience -- where they come from and how they are looking at your site is just as important. Marketers need to create content that not only suits the user, but suits the device. After all, no one is going to want to try and read a detailed white paper on a small screen mobile device, just as a high-definition video will probably be better suited to a desktop.

Forget Content Strategy, Think About the Whole Marketing Outlook

Think about what content marketing taught us in 2013. Marketers moved from a "pull" rather than "push" strategy of customer development, drawing in potential consumers with information and quality productions whether it be video, music or written thought. Rather than pushing in your face advertising at customers, companies are seeking to attract them with something that goes beyond their product.

Could this extend outside of simply content? Marketing will always be product driven, but quasi-media companies such as Red Bull have shown us a whole new path by marketing its brand message and name as opposed to its product. Ask a group aged between 16 - 21 about Red Bull and you’ll likely hear about extreme sports, insane videos and music events. As the Red Bull “Gives You Wings” television campaign starts to fade from memory it's being replaced by a brand new identity, focused on a lifestyle rather than a product.

We Have Content, Where Does it Go?

Traditionally, content and resources would be grouped onto a dedicated page, blog, tab or section that existed solely as a big shed to stuff all of your carefully crafted content into. Should this be the case? Brands and marketers have recognized the need for quality content, but how to best communicate this content to their audience is something that is still in contention.

Marketers need to move beyond "library" thinking and instead distribute their content to the most relevant sections of the online community ... but this should be thought about on a smaller scale as well. Why clump your content into one section of your website when it can be distributed with more relevancy and thought? Written an article about video SEO? Put it in the Video SEO tab rather than your resource library. Give your viewer easy access to the relevant resources without having to search for them.

Content may still be king, but relevance is its true power.

Content is Getting Comfy on Its Throne - What More Does It Offer?

So we’re all chucking out loads of content, our traffic is through the roof, our social shares have taken off and we have hundreds of comments on our blogs.

But why does it really matter?

Traffic for the sake of traffic is vanity. Marketers need to focus on developing a model that focuses on ROI from content marketing. We need to start converting all of that additional traffic into inquiries and leads. It’s nice to be giving something to your clients, but at the end of the day we are here to make money and we need to move beyond a torrent of free information to a model of useful resources that helps drive sales.

Content's continued evolution should see it takes its place alongside pure selling copy as a means to engage with potential customers both before and after initial contact. Having content on sight to direct your clients and potential leads to is all well and good but we need to take it a step further. I’m talking about a dedicated and regular feature in newsletters and use in online advertising as an alternative for pitching your product. Instead of a banner ad that calls your agency the most creative in the UK, why not offer them a headline instead? Offer them valuable and relevant content that will make them consider why they might need you. This same approach can be used in the creepiest of all online marketing tactics -- retargeting.

We’ve all been on the receiving end of that stubborn ad that just won’t leave you alone. The idea behind the principle is a good one, but can have its weaknesses. The use of content in retargeting could be used to maintain interest and gently direct the potential lead to the service they require. Content could be a more effective method for nurturing and encouraging the growth of interest, rather than constantly bombarding the customer with a product in which they may only have the slightest interest.

We've seen the continued evolution of content marketing, from its rise to prominence in 2011 to its growing role within the wider context of marketing. 2013 showed us that we still need more from content marketing before we allow it to completely revolutionize how we connect to consumers. We need more users, more conversion and a more sustainable and beneficial model from content marketing as 2013 draws to a close.

Title image courtesy of kai keisuke (Shutterstock)