Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Sobering View on Content Marketing Effectiveness

The number of digital marketing channels has grown at an exponential rate, and digital platforms have made it easy for marketers to broadly distribute content. In response, many marketers have adopted a "more is better" approach, publishing more content across more channels in the hope of generating more impact. The more is better strategy is not working. The volume of content produced by companies has increased dramatically, but most content is failing to make an impact.

That is one of the central themes of a new research report (The Content Marketing Paradox:  Is More Content Really Better?) published by TrackMaven. While I don't agree with all of the conclusions in the report, this research raises several significant issues, and it should be a wake-up call for content marketers.

TrackMaven is a provider of content analytics software. Throughout 2013 and 2014, TrackMaven used its software to analyze the content published by 8,800 brands. The analysis encompassed 13.8 million pieces of content that were published across seven marketing channels and produced 7.2 billion interactions. More specifically, the research focused on blog content and on content published on six social media networks - Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn.

The core findings of the TrackMaven research paint a sobering picture of the effectiveness of content marketing.

  • During 2013 and 2014, the volume of content per brand increased by 78%.
  • Over the same time frame, the engagement produced by that content (measured by the number of interactions per post per 1,000 followers) decreased by 60%.
The authors of the report conclude that most marketers are failing to effectively engage customers with their content. The write:  "Stated differently, marketers are getting better at distributing content, but are not getting better at creating content worth distributing."
This research raises important issues for content marketers, but it doesn't prove that content marketing overall is losing its effectiveness. Here are two reasons why.
First, the TrackMaven research focuses only on a subset of content marketing - blog content and content published on six social networks. Therefore, the research doesn't address the effectiveness of several other content marketing tactics and formats, such as the use of videos, white papers, and e-books. These types of content play a leading role in the content marketing efforts of most B2B companies, and the TrackMaven research doesn't measure their effectiveness.
More importantly, the researchers decided to measure content engagement (and, by implication, content effectiveness) by measuring the "interactions" the content produced. For social media content, TrackMaven defined interactions as the aggregate of likes, shares, and comments on social networks. For blog content, the researchers defined interactions as the aggregate of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ interactions for a blog post. In essence, TrackMaven equated content engagement with comments and with content sharing on social networks.
In my view, this measure of content engagement is too narrow. As a content marketer, your first objective is to entice your target audience to consume your content. If your content is widely shared across social networks, that's likely to boost the consumption of your content. However, the absence of likes, shares, and comments doesn't necessarily mean that your content isn't being consumed or that it isn't having an impact on your target audience. The TrackMaven data doesn't show content consumption that's not accompanied by some kind of "active" content interaction.

The distinction between content consumption and content interactions via social media is particularly important in B2B marketing where the target audience frequently includes business executives and managers whose use of social media is mostly passive.
Despite these reservations, I would argue that the TrackMaven research provides a critical lesson for content marketers:  Average content is no longer sufficient to drive effective marketing.

1 comment:

  1. Today, content is important and it must be entertaining, interesting or useful.