Content marketing trends of 2015

The Content Marketing Institute sends out a survey each year to North American businesses. They recently released a report on the Content marketing trends of 2015. This year they found some interesting patterns with businesses that have a documented content strategy. In this post we’ll take a look at some of the highlights of this report and share our thoughts.

“@Wpcurve weighs in on the content marketing trends for 2015” goo.gl/26M3pX – CLICK TO TWEET

Why have a strategy?

The report shows businesses that have a documented strategy are more successful with their marketing than those who do not.

How closely does your content marketing strategy guide your organization’s content marketing efforts?

The report found that the most effective businesses has a strategy that closely guides their marketing. Following a strategy is a matter of creating a plan that is clear and easy to understand. It needs to address high-level themes and also give specific metrics to track.

Our strategy guides every aspect of our content. Our style guidelines, guest posting process, and promotion procedure all align with the strategy. Any time we have a difficult decision we can look back to these values and vision to make sure the choice we make conforms to it.

Does your organization have a dedicated content marketing group?

The report found that the most effective businesses had a dedicated group for content marketing. Without anyone ultimately responsible for the content, it does not get done. Content creation can get lost with other busy tasks if there is no accountability.

What are your organizational goals for content marketing?

Since content marketing is a relatively broad style of marketing, broad sets of goals are needed to direct it. A goal like brand awareness is difficult to measure but is critical to the success of a modern startup.

Of the goals listed here we recommend pursuing brand awareness and engagement. Brand awareness and engagement are signs that your content is high quality well aligned with your audience, if you have an engaged following leads and sales follow (assuming your funnel and your business is sound).

Goals like lead generation and brand awareness seem very similar, but are actually very different approaches to content marketing.

For example: imagine you were considering adding a new pop-up or opt in box to your blog. If your goal was brand awareness, you may dismiss this idea in favor of a better reading experience. If you have lead generation as a goal, you would probably add the pop-up.

Decisions like this can add up over time and have a dramatic impact on how your content evolves. We favor brand recognition over lead generation because we believe that trust and authority are difficult to build and easy to lose. Though it may mean a few less leads, the ones we get are higher quality.

Related: Content marketing: setting a purpose and measuring success

Which metrics does your organization use to track success?

Overall website traffic is an easy metric to track, but it can be the least valuable, especially without a strategy that identifies and targets high-value traffic channels. We mainly track engagement and social shares on our content marketing. We look at how many comments and the quality of the comments to determine if a post was successful.

Related: The practical guide to actionable analytics

How successful is your organization at tracking the ROI on your content marketing program?

Businesses that had documented strategies were more successful at tracking ROI. Though it is not an exact science, the goals and metrics outlined in your strategy can help determine the ROI on your content marketing.

Tracking ROI is a big hangup for many content marketers, the long term and gradual nature of the strategy requires patience. Even once you start getting traction on your content, it is difficult to attribute new customers to a single blog post or infographic.

Which content marketing tactics does your organization use?

The report mentions that blogs have gone up this year as a tactic for content marketers. The increased popularity is likely a result of Google search updates. Google is now favoring content and engagement in their rankings. This means that there is more competition and noise out there and a higher demand for quality content. It’s worthwhile to find out what you can do better than your competition and leverage that to your advantage.

It’s important to identify and capitalize on one channel that works well for you. Focusing on a single channel in the early stages of your business will yield better results than trying to dominate three or four.

What tactics are effective?

One of the most interesting parts of the report is the dramatic change in rankings when we look at what content most businesses are using compared to what content tactics are effective. Webinars and in person events are at the top the effective list, but are relatively underused by businesses. Why? These types of content require a much greater investment of time and resources, but they also are very powerful ways to qualify and disqualify leads.

How many different audiences does your organization target with separate content marketing strategies?

The report noted that there was a correlation between the size of the company and the number of audiences targeted. If you are a small startup, don’t worry if you only have one or two audiences defined in your strategy. Nail one audience or channel before you expand to another.

Diversifying your audiences helps broaden the reach of your content. Sometimes a post could be a hit with one group and go unnoticed by another. Having multiple audiences also gives you more information on who is converting. You may be getting a lot of traffic but no conversions from one audience, but a small stream of traffic that converts well from another.

 How effective are the social media platforms that you use?

Social media channels are very attractive and it’s thrilling to see content go viral. But social traffic is typically less valuable than email lists or organic search. The best outlets for B2B businesses seem to be Twitter and Linkedin. Though many businesses try and leverage Facebook, it does not seem to be effective place to find B2B audiences.

Our experience with social media is different. Linkedin is 7th on our list and Facebook is 1st. Though we may be defining the world “effective” differently than CMI in this case. We determined our rankings by where our content is getting shared and how much traffic it is referring.

The report noted a 7% increase in businesses reporting Twitter as effective. Twitter will likely rise in importance with its new partnership with Google.

How often does your organization publish content that supports its content marketing program?

The report noted that the most effective businesses were publishing content multiple times per week. Publishing more content can give you a big advantage if you can keep up your quality with the quantity.

If you are unable to produce content on a daily basis and maintain the quality necessary for engagement, it’s better to produce one great post a week, than four or five mediocre posts.

Challenges and Initiatives for 2015

Producing engaging content will be a continuous problem for content marketing. The ever changing landscape of technology and search will keep marketers evolving. New channels will continuously appear and others will become obsolete. Marketers who understand their audience can leverage this fact to find new opportunities.

A good example is how Frank Body entered a competitive market like skincare. After some research, they found nobody was advertising coffee scrubs on Instagram. They centered their marketing around a hashtag #thefrankeffect and encouraged user-generated posts. With some aggressive marketing they had 600,000 followers in just 2 years.

frank_effect

Though it would be difficult to duplicate this exact strategy on social media. But it shows how there are always new opportunities for marketers who understand their audience.

Related: Frank Body – 0 to 350,000 Instagram followers in 12 months

Conclusion

Evidence suggests that to be successful in content marketing, you need a documented content strategy. It’s worthwhile to make your strategy as detailed as possible with specifics on your audience, goals, metrics and style. Hopefully these examples will help you create or improve your own.

Here is the CMI report:

You can download the PDF version here.

Participate in our research

We are also conducting research on content marketing with startups. We think startups are leading the pack in content marketing best practices and want to hear specifically from them. If you are interested, fill out the survey below or you can find out more here.

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About

Kyle is the founder of Conversion Cake . He is the author of "The College Entrepreneur" A book for students who want to break into entrepreneurship. Follow him @kylethegray

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