In the last five or ten years, the marketing industry has seen an influx of agencies specializing in search and social, much like we're now seeing with the emergence of specialist content marketing companies. These agencies build their content marketing expertise from the ground up and lead the pack when it comes to content innovation and thought leadership for brands. They bring together technical, editorial, and storytelling capabilities. They help their clients create content efficiently and at scale, with the help of in-house talent as well as external bloggers and influencers. They've learned how content travels and how to get it amplified and discovered by the target audience of the brand.
So why is content marketing so challenging for traditional marketers? In most cases, creative shops develop an advertising strategy that has a "big idea," or underlining message that the brand focuses on for the year, and a few campaigns that are planned and pre-scheduled. Alternatively, a successful content marketing strategy requires a shift in focus from several creative campaign "sprints" per year to an editorial-style content "marathon."
In other words, organizations need to adapt from building one big idea to weaving together a collection of small ideas for a robust, always-on creation and curation content strategy that is distributed across social and native advertising channels. Another challenge that digital agencies face is finding the right people. Great content comes from editorially minded experts, which many agencies don't currently have on staff.
And what about media-focused agencies? Most media shops are structured around three main digital skill sets: search, display, and social. The challenge in adapting to support content marketing and amplification here is threefold:
In most cases, the amplification of content via social channels (e.g., Facebook's Sponsored Stories, Promoted Tweets) should be a tactic within a comprehensive content marketing strategy, instead of the strategy itself. Other methods of amplification might include syndication deals, native content placements with publishers like Buzzfeed and Forbes, leveraging the power of content discovery platforms, or working with influencers and bloggers. All options should be weighed and considered through the lenses of efficiencies, scale, effectiveness, and cost.
Developing these skills won't be easy. It will probably require a combination of education for the existing staff and infusing a new kind of DNA into the company. The goal is to have creative content marketing folks with a knack for storytelling and narrative integrity, and media buyers with an in-depth understanding of audience development and media consumption.
Brands are realizing that content marketing is probably the biggest opportunity that the world of online advertising has to offer. They understand that audiences have shifted to new media, and they require a specific kind of expertise to develop the type of content appropriate for that shift. Are you ready to help them in their journey?
Gilad de Vries is senior vice president of strategy at Outbrain.
On Twitter? Follow iMedia Connection at @iMediaTweet.
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Well said. I've worked with quite a few agencies that are moving toward content marketing capabilities--but it's the editorial types who seem to do well. It's a great haven for former journalists, and those of us who love digital. Check out my regular Tweets on content marketing and related topics @erover.
I think a lot of brands forget that content marketing has to factor in every buyer and influencer your brand comes in contact with during the buying cycle and appeals to them at every stage. That is not a short-term, Big Idea kind of campaign. One touch point isn't usually enough to convince someone to convert and we have to remember that.
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