No doubt about it: 2011 was a big year for content marketing. A recent survey conducted by my company, HiveFire, found that 82% of B2B marketers today use content marketing. And twice the number of marketers implement content marketing vs. the number of those who use print, television, and radio advertising.
Those numbers speak for themselves. Marketers have taken note, and are recognizing content marketing as a valuable component of their overall strategy.
With so much attention focused on the progress that content marketers have made over the past year, it's impossible not to ask what 2012 might bring. Because the content marketing space is moving so fast, here is a quick look at what's in and what's out in 2012.
What's Out: Passing Off Marketing Materials as Content
Companies that were new to content marketing last year have learned that to attract customer interest, they have to be prepared to offer relevant and engaging content, not just marketing materials. Gone will be the days of marketers singularly promoting their brands without also keeping an eye on industry news and trends.
What's In: Incorporating Your Brand's Message Into a Larger Story
More and more, marketers will incorporate their brands' messages into a larger, overall story. Content produced by companies will begin to take on a more journalistic feel, and those marketers that are really getting it right won't shy away from curating content from their competitors as well.
What's Out: Traditional Content Channels
In 2011, we saw the decline of existing content channels (e.g., RSS feeds) and the shift to new content vehicles (e.g., Twitter). Increasingly, readers who seek content are moving away from sites, such as traditional news websites, in favor of more real-time social media channels.
What's In: The Next Big Thing
My prediction for 2012 is that we will continue to see emerging content channels steal the spotlight from more-established news media. A new online channel (think the Google+ of 2012), a new physical channel (2012's answer to the tablet), and a new medium for content (the next infographic) are all on the calendar for the next 12 months.
What's Out: Stealing Content From Other Sources Without Proper Attribution
Companies that repurpose third-party content as their own without properly citing the source aren't reaping the full benefits of content marketing. Linking to the original source may drive traffic away from you momentarily, but doing so makes you more credible for identifying relevant content in other well-known publications.
What's In: Curating Content From Multiple Sources, Including Your Competitors
If your company's goal is to establish thought leadership in your industry by providing your customers with the most compelling and relevant content available, it will be impossible to do so without occasionally curating your competitors' content.
Search Engine Optimization
What's Out: Driving SEO by Content Alone
If 2011 taught marketers anything, it is that SEO is not driven solely by including highly searched terms in the content that they create and curate. Marketers that try to optimize SEO by writing their content based on search queries alone will see a decline in viewership. Practices like that frequently police themselves, and customers will search elsewhere to find meaningful content that is not obviously marketing focused.
What's In: Viewing Your Social Media Presence as an Extension of Your Overall SEO Strategy
SEO will continue to be a major goal for marketers in 2012, but marketers will start taking into consideration how their presence on social media channels can affect SEO. Search engines are starting to rely on social signals more when they generate results. So a company that is not generating content on a variety of platforms will be missing out.
* * *
If some people have referred to 2011 as the "year of content marketing," then 2012 will be the "year of specialization within content marketing." As content marketing continues to prove itself as a successful marketing strategy, the methods of implementing it will become more focused. Though content curation—the process of finding, organizing, and sharing online content—is one approach, it is not the only one, and new practices will continue to emerge.
Given the growth of content marketing in 2011, it might be hard to accurately predict where it will be a year from now. However, one thing is clear: Content marketing is not going away any time soon.
(Image courtesy of Bigstock: New Year Business Fortune)