Content Marketing Trends

March 9, 2016 Mark Schaefer

content marketing

A few months ago, marketing consultant and speaker Mark Schaefer joined us for a webinar on the future of marketing. We've compiled the highlights of his presentation in this post, which includes some mind-expanding nuggets from Mark's new book The Content Code. Enjoy!

How Content Marketing is Changing

We are now in what I call the Third Digital Epoch. The First Digital Epoch was just the internet. And the priority for our businesses back in those days was just to have a presence. Once we had a presence, we had to be found.

And so businesses turned their resources and their money toward search led by Alta Vista, at the time, and later, Google. In the process, we created a multibillion-dollar industry around search.

See our post "How To Create Successful Content: Go Bigger, Bolder, Braver" to learn how you can leverage content marketing trends and get better results.

The Third Epoch is where we are today, fueled by social media, mobile, and content. The emphasis for businesses is really on helpfulness, on utility, on helping people at their point of need. But here's the problem: as we get to the end of each of these epochs, it gets really hard to be in marketing.

For example, if you were the first one to have a website during the First Epoch, oh happy day. You had an advantage… until your competitors figured it out. The same with SEO. If you owned those keywords, fantastic… until your competitors caught up. Then it got more difficult and more expensive to be in marketing.

And that's where we are today. If you were the first to figure out social media, mobile, and content marketing, you had an advantage.

But now, we're entering this mature phase, the phase I call "Content Shock"—there's so much content, it's more difficult to compete than it was just a few years ago. The economics of content have changed.

This statistic got my attention: the amount of information on the web is expected to rise by 500 percent by 2020.

Let's try, for a moment, to get our heads around that. If you can imagine how big the web is today, in the next few years, we're going to have five times that much content.

Well, that seems okay, but how much content can we really consume?

Content consumption has gone up steadily over the last few years. In fact, in the last three years, the amount of content we can consume each year has gone up about two hours a day because of mobile. Today, we're consuming about 10 hours of content a day.

We're seeing, however, that people are starting to feel stressed by this. They're actually getting analysis paralysis.

I would suggest to you that this is the number-one marketing trend we're all facing right now.

For example, a few years ago, if you did a really good job on Facebook and created great content, you could expect 25 percent to 30 percent of your fans to see your content. Today, it's around two percent. Why? Facebook explains there's just too much stuff.

How Content Promotion is Getting More Expensive

Total organic reach in 2015 actually went up. Why? People are spending money on advertising to boost their content.

Once it gets that boost, if it gets shared beyond the boost, we see greater organic reach—it's organic reach boosted by advertising. And this is making it more expensive to compete.

So this idea of, "how do we cut through?" Of course, great content is imperative. However, I would suggest that creating great content is just the starting line today. But it's not the finish line.

This idea is affecting our budget, our strategies, our workflows, and the content types we produce.

Focusing on Content Transmission

We need to be thinking about our marketing in a new way. I've been studying this—obsessing about this—for the last two years, and I want to submit that it comes down to the idea of transmission.

The economic value of your content is zero, unless it's seen and shared. Yes, we're creating this great content. Now, how do we get it to move?

This is the economic driver of social media and content marketing. This is not just strategically important. This is economically important.

Research performed by The New York Times—perhaps the most comprehensive content marketing research I've ever seen—found that 85 percent of the people who share their content learn more about the company.

What I learned through my research is that sharing content is a big deal. It's a very intimate experience. It's an expression of who people are. So they really spend time understanding your content before they share it.

Here's another big one: 70 percent of adults say that content they see shared on the web impacts their purchasing decisions.

I think this is the tip of the iceberg. We are now entering an era where the millennials are taking their place as the primary consumers in our economy.

And this is a generation who doesn't trust anybody, except themselves. They'll trust content shared on the web by a stranger, a review, a comment, or a tweet by a stranger before they'll trust you and your brand messaging.

Why People Share Content

There's a difference between a share and a like. When you like something, it's very passive. You kind of wave at the content.

But when you share it, you're standing up in a virtual way and saying, "I believe in this, and you should, too. This inspired me. I learned something from this. It entertained me. And I want you to see it, too."

There are a lot of reasons that people share content, but there are three big ones:

  1. It's an extension of their self identity. They want to look cool. People want to look relevant or funny or entertaining. And so they share content for that reason.

  2. It's an act of generosity and kindness. There aren't that many ways today we can feel like maybe we're helping the world in some small way. Sharing content is a way to do that.

  3. It has nothing to do with the content and everything to do with the person, the company, or the brand that created it. People share content because they love that company. They believe in that brand or organization. So this branding, this idea of creating this emotional connection between our audience, our content, and ourselves is more important than ever.

Who Shares Your Content

What we learned is that most people don't share content. Twitter tells us that people share only one out of every 318 tweets. Facebook reports that, of the people who are following your brand on Facebook, one-half of one percent share your content.

These people—this tiny percentage of people who actually share your content—are the bedrock of your business. These are the people who are really driving the economic value for your content and your marketing programs. This is your alpha audience. It could be two percent or less.

So here's your marketing plan. Find out who these people are who are sharing your content the most. Who is this two percent? Love them, nurture them. Then, turn that two percent into three percent, and your competition won't know what hit them.

To order your own copy of Mark's new book The Content Code, go to his site.

To hear the rest of Mark's presentation, and those of Ann Handley, Jay Baer, and Joe Staples, check out the full webinar on demand.

About the Author

Mark Schaefer

Mark is a globally-recognized blogger, speaker, educator, business consultant, and author who blogs at {grow} — one of the top marketing blogs of the world. Mark has worked in global sales, PR, and marketing positions for nearly 30 years and now provides consulting services as Executive Director of U.S.-based Schaefer Marketing Solutions. He specializes in social media training and clients include both start-ups and global brands such as IBM, AT&T, Johnson & Johnson, adidas, and the UK government.

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