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Content Shocked: What We Learned From The 2016 European Content Marketing Report

By Simon CreedComments

Content Shocked: What We Learned From The 2016 European Content Marketing Report

Job hunting is tough.

When I moved to Manchester it took two months of dead-end phone calls, five… ten... fifteen disheartening rejections - and a couple of fluffed interviews before I finally found what I was looking for.

Competition is fierce. Sought after roles receive hundreds, even thousands of applications. No one person has the time, nor the patience, to sift through every last one.

Who’s to say anyone was actually bothering to even look at mine?

That double-paged document I slaved over. The one that I’d edited a hundred times over. The one that bares every, tangible achievement from my life so far.

Lost in a mess of other CVs, from other candidates, desperately vying to impress, engage and persuade the anonymous reader.

This unnerving thought falls into obscurity - however - when we mull over the challenge content marketers are facing right at this very moment. A battle that threatens to undermine our efforts and deprive us of the recognition we crave.

That challenge is Content Shock.

What is Content Shock?

We are the digital generation.

From forums, to film, to Facebook, we’re an unruly gaggle of gluttonous content consumers. Sharing and ingesting more than anyone before us.

But, whether we like it or not, humans have a finite capacity for content.  

"This upward trend of content consumption is not sustainable because every human has a physiological, inviolable limit to the amount of content they can consume." - Mark Schaefer

We find ourselves in a time where the volume of content being produced outweighs that which can be consumed.

In fact, we’re being consumed by content.

So how can marketers eclipse the effect of Content Shock, cut through the noise and get eyeballs on page?

Step up HubSpot and Smart Insights. Two of content marketing’s biggest players recently took up the gauntlet to produce a go-to resource that confronts Content Shock, by assessing the actions and opinions of 700 marketers across Europe.

The outcome? The 2016 European Content Marketing Report (ECMR).

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Let’s put everything into perspective

According to Smart Insights, every 60 seconds sees 3.3 million posts published on Facebook, 3.1 million Google searches and 400 hours of video uploaded to Youtube.

Add email, blogs, instant messaging and every other online platform to the boiling pot, and that’s a lot of content.

Scratch that.

That’s a relentlessly churning shitstorm of content.

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From a question that included SEO, Marketing Automation, Mobile and Social Media Marketing amongst its potential options - 21% of ECMR survey participants voted content marketing as the online marketing technique that would make the largest commercial impact or uplift in leads and sales in 2016.

Make no mistake, marketers aren’t letting up.

Quality or quantity?

HubSpot’s 2015 report found that 71% of marketers planned to create more content than the year previous. But this doesn’t necessarily mean their output maintained its perceived value.

This is a trend that has sustained momentum in 2016, dipping only slightly to 67% - but it isn’t necessarily the answer to Content Shock. While ‘producing more’ seems to be the natural reaction to this explosion in online content, many are questioning whether this is the right way to go about things.   

"We don't need more content - we need more relevant content." Jason Miller, LinkedIn

The clear as day message coming from the ECMR is that - although volume isn’t irrelevant - to counter Content Shock, marketers must invest in creating a higher standard of content.

Some content marketers are lost in space

HubSpot and Smart Insights report that 72% rated their content marketing as limited, basic or inconsistent. Despite being the top ranked marketing practice, many businesses are still struggling to master content marketing.

This represents a real opportunity to get ahead of the game. If marketers can establish a strategy that embodies consistency and high level content, their content marketing will stand to surpass almost three-quarters of their peers.

We already know some of the basic fundamentals of inbound marketing and, more specifically, content marketing. But while the majority are now using core content marketing techniques such as buyer personas, influencer outreach and editorial calendars - many are only doing so at a medium or, even, basic level.

‘46% of content marketers do not have a defined strategy.’

Screen_Shot_2016-05-18_at_14.55.56.pngOne of the biggest findings to come out of the ECMR was that 80% of leading companies that described themselves as ‘Advanced’ or ‘Optimized’ in content marketing had a strategy. Compared to 27% of those who’d rated themselves as ‘Basic’ or ‘Limited’.

It’s no coincidence that there’s an irrefutable link between strategy and success.

Content marketing isn’t an ‘overnight sensation’ pursuit. It requires a relevant game plan and a unified team that’s willing to live and die by it.

Blueprints, creation and distribution

"If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." - Benjamin Franklin (supposedly)

Defining clear principles and outlining exacting standards for your content marketing will bring stability to the creation process, elevate the potency of promotion and allow for informed optimisation.

When asked where they were planning to focus their 2016 budget, 56% of marketers said they would be injecting funds into content creation.

Whether this ends in a greater standard of content remains to be seen.

On the other side of things, over half of survey participants claimed to be increasing their spend on strategy and editorial - and a massive 67% are upping expenditure on content promotion.

These promising statistics show a greater awareness among marketers that, in order to quash the impact of Content Shock, an advanced content marketing blueprint must go beyond the initial creation process.  

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Prim and proper promotion

Content will under perform without sufficient promotion. The onus is on marketers to muster a more sophisticated approach to outreach if they are to distinguish themselves from competitors.

Google search came in as the top method of organic distribution with 51% of participants rating it as an effective approach. It’s no shock that SEO remains a popular, and integral, part of organic and paid content marketing. But the new kid on the block is growing up fast...

Social Media has become one of the main driving forces in content promotion.

With 48% investing their time and money in organic distribution on Facebook, 39% Twitter and 34% LinkedIn - it’s evident that marketers are experimenting with these new online environments.

Facebook and LinkedIn rate highly for paid promotion. These platforms offer up a more targeted approach to distribution, compared to a somewhat ‘spray and pray’ method on Twitter.

What’s surprising is that although LinkedIn is very much on the content marketing radar, the world’s largest professional social network still isn’t getting the attention it deserves.

According to Oktopost 80.33% of all B2B leads generated through Social Media come directly from LinkedIn!

Other commonly untapped forms of promotion include organic social engagement, influencer and email outreach, guest blogging, repurposed content - the list goes on...

Maybe it’s time to rethink your promotion strategy?

Trial and error lives on...

Content popularity will vary depending on industry and audience. But a big pro to come out of promotion is that marketers can witness, first-hand, which types of content are performing best.

Testing and optimisation is do-or-die.

In this case, one size definitely does not fit all. Marketers must be willing adapt their content over time if they are to avoid Content Shock and move towards content that matters.

HubSpot and Smart Insight’s survey does, however, highlight which content formats are currently proving most fruitful.

Screen_Shot_2016-05-19_at_09.49.58.pngIt’s widely accepted that the consistent drum beat of a company blog lies at the heart of any content marketing strategy. While newsletters, infographics and long form content such as whitepapers also remain solid fixtures.   

But even effective formats can be revamped and reinvigorated.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way to measure every single piece of content you produce. It could be shares, backlinks, click throughs, comments, downloads - you name it.

Marketers must use this data to gauge the needs of their audience!

Content Shock or shocking content?

Survey participants were asked which metrics they are currently using to measure their content marketing effectiveness...

  • 76% measure website traffic
  • 66% measure social sharing of content
  • 62% measure leads
  • 54% measure SEO traffic
  • 50% measure sales
  • 43% measure return on investment
  • 36% measure links from other sites

But it is what content marketers do with the resulting data that will ultimately shape their long term success.

Discussion surrounding the impact of Content Shock rages on.

As brands and agencies jostle for position in an increasingly crowded digital space, we find ourselves in a defining time for content marketing.

Never has it been so essential to commit to a strategy, measure success and drill down an ethos of quality over quantity.

Consumers will only engage with the content that they care about. The content that brings something new to the table. That makes them laugh, or cry, or think about something in a completely different way.

So make yours count.
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