(The Content Standard, March, 2014.)
The content marketing industry changes as often as software changes, and the B2B technology marketplace is no different. Every year sees new developments in social networking, content sharing, and content types that offer totally new opportunities for brands. The brands that succeed in content marketing are the ones that are up to date on where people are, what they’re using, and how they’re expressing themselves.
A report from the Content Marketing Institute shows that 99 percent of software marketers are using content marketing compared to 91 percent of their B2B peers. These are big numbers for a growing industry. In this blog, we will explore the top three current tactics for B2B technology brands.
This is a familiar one. It can involve blogging on your own site, writing articles for industry magazines, or trying to create authoritative content in spaces that you own. This one is unlikely to change in the near future. It’s not simply writing for audience interaction or providing a personality for the brand. It’s trying to find new ways to disseminate information. Imagine a problem your audience has, and try to solve it instead of just including company updates or news.
Shel Holtz of Holtz Communication + Technology explains the importance of information in the B2B world: “In the B2B space, it’s important for marketers to understand that customers engage in a lot of research before selecting companies to contact as possible suppliers. This research is almost all online, and much of it is based on asking peers for input.
“Thus, having content that is designed to answer the questions these prospects may have (at each segment of the marketing funnel) is vital; you want them to find YOUR content when they go searching.”
It’s very easy for marketers to drift into clickbait territory in a mad grab for traffic and influence, but real people can see right through that tactic. In this market, you’re looking for substance, with entertainment coming second. Sam Ford of Ad Age explains it in simple terms: “Marketers have to think in larger terms, not just about what is legally required, but what best serves the audience that the company is seeking to reach and what is the ethical imperative for our industry.”
You’ll find websites all over the Internet that have cheap content—articles optimized for SEO that communicate no real message. Going forward, the smart brands are the ones that no longer write for search engines; they write for people, and writing for people takes a skilled content marketer.
Niche Social Media
As mentioned previously, making sure that your informative content is accessible when users are searching for you is the most important part of the B2B content marketing equation. When it comes to social media, the industry is full of people who just throw content up on networks to fill space, and that shows no signs of slowing down. Kelsey Cox from the Marketing Technology Blog writes, “Data shows that 73 percent of marketers are creating more content than they did last year and the most successful marketers are promoting their content on seven social media platforms, versus just four used by the less effective teams.”
Everyone knows that every brand is aiming for a social media presence, and the familiar recipe is “Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn.” While it’s important to have a presence on these channels, Quora is more likely to get you where you want to be. If you’re trying to solve problems and fill gaps, it only makes sense to go where people are asking the questions. This is a much more aggressive and informative approach than using the big three. If you’re smart, this is where you incorporate your infographics, videos, and podcasts.
“Random acts of publishing won’t get the level of engagement and intention needed to move the needle because you won’t be able to sustain engagement long enough to help buyers learn what they need to know to move to a conversation,” explained Ardath Albee, CEO of the firm Marketing Interactions, in a recent CMI article. Going forward, we’re going to see that the main types of content will still be there: writing, video, audio, and static images.
Aside from some new media types that might come down the pipeline, it’s going to be the strategy behind how these content types are used that matters. With apps such as Instagram and Vine, we’re seeing software that takes these content types in new directions.
Video is a hard sell for content marketers mainly because of the high investment of time and money that it takes to make a good one. When brands invest in something that goes on YouTube to drive sales and engagement, the meaning can get lost in the production. You can end up with a wasted investment. This causes many brands to make videos that are simply sales pitches. Benjy Boxer, writing for Forbes, explains, “Advertisers have switched between these ads and the more direct hard selling technique almost predictably every 10 years. The shift back to hard selling is typically the result of a disastrous campaign that takes the soft sell too far.”
These things happen with brands that primarily want to drive traffic and advertise, which can be a coin flip if you don’t know how to engage your audience. If your goal is to inform, engage, and present information in a new way—as we’ve established with the previous sections—you’ll have a much better return. Do you want your video to be an advertisement, or do you want it to be useful?
The things to keep your eye on in the next year are apps such as Vine and social media outlets such as Pinterest and Instagram. Even if these don’t appeal to your brand or message right now, be aware that integration of image and video is where practically every network seems to be going. If you’re planning to go the video route, consider what it would take to produce a number of smaller, cheaper videos rather than a few large productions. These small videos can still be useful for presentations or events, but we’re talking about the open marketplace of ideas, where the demands are different. YouTube still has value, but this is uncharted territory for businesses. This means the well hasn’t yet been poisoned.
Overall trends dictate that Facebook is still the leading social network among adults even though teens appear to be leaving to go to more acutely tuned multimedia messaging platforms. While some companies may want to keep the big three in play for their content marketing strategies, the most successful companies will be the ones who look at where the markets will be in the next two years and what new types of content they can produce for them