There are few things in life better than having that “Ah, Ha!” moment. You know, when things start to really click and a path for the future becomes a bit more clearly defined. Myself, and I’m sure other marketers in attendance at the AMA’s “Past, Present, and Future of Content Marketing: Impacting Behavioral Change” event had a few of these moments, as we listened in on a thought-filled panel discussion among esteemed industry experts.
The event, held here in Boston, featured Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs; Jessica Gioglio, Public Relations and Social Media Manager at Dunkin Donuts; Tim Washer, Senior Marketing Manager of Social Media at Cisco; Margot Bloomstein, Brand and Content Strategy Consultant at Appropriate, Inc.; and moderator Graham Nelson, Senior Vice President, AMP Agency. Each panelist took their best shot at answering questions thrown at them by Graham, inducing some laughs along the way.
While a long comprehensive list of key takeaways could be gleaned from the panelists’ responses, I wanted to take some time to focus on a few that really stood out to me as I sat in on a look at the past, present, and future of content marketing.
1. Your Content Shouldn’t Feel like Marketing
What the Experts Say: While this is certainly something easier said than done, Ann Handley and Jessica Gioglio pointed to the importance of actively engaging people with your brand, creating experiences, and helping people find information and answers that they’re actively seeking out.
What We Think: As this strategy takes hold, a community will likely be naturally formed and the home of your content space will be a place where people come for answers or to satisfy needs. Let other marketing techniques take care of putting products and services in front of customers, create a community feel with your content by driving engagement among your audience members.
2. Don’t be Afraid to Mix in Some Laughs
What the Experts Say: Prior to his work with Cisco, Tim Washer was involved in writing and performing stand-up comedy. He alluded to the importance (and challenge) of grabbing the audience’s attention within 20 seconds (in his case, with laughter), a window that closes quickly. Tim believes if more content marketers took this approach, focusing on grabbing the reader’s attention in the first paragraph, results could be significantly improved.
What We Think: Journalists aim to hit this mark with their leads, providing the most important information up front in an attempt to capture the audience. This should be applied across blogs, videos, social media posts, etc. Tell the readers why they can’t miss the content that you’re producing and entice them to stay on the page.
3. The Present Shift from Text to Visual
What the Experts Say: To date, content has been largely centered around words (blog posts, articles, etc.), but panelists across the board seem to believe a shift towards visual is taking place right before our eyes. This shift will likely be in the form of videos, images, infographics, and more, as social media sites such as Vine, Pinterest, and Instagram are making it easier and more popular than ever to share visually. This Chipotle campaign was noted as a visual success story by many of the panelists.
What We Think: We’ve been told 90% of information that goes to the brain is visual, so why not capitalize with all the existing and emerging visual social sharing sites as mentioned above? Virality seems to be undergoing a fundamental shift, as videos, images, and inforgraphics continue to pick up momentum. Well-executed visual strategies could attract new members of a community or further engage existing members through social sharing across visual networks.
4. Agencies Need to Invest in Talent
What the Experts Say: For agencies to truly become a helping hand for marketers, they need to invest in talent. This doesn’t mean in terms of dollars necessarily, as Washer explained great resources can be gleaned from entry-level candidates or even college students from well-respected university or college programs. Another panelist suggested the use of MOFILMS.com, a company that arranges and oversees film contests, which can provide organizations great content for a low cost.
What We Think: The experts’ analysis of investing in talent got me thinking outside the box. Looking for content through contests, or user generated content could be very beneficial, elevating community involvement while creating great content at a low costs.
5. Where Content is Headed
What the Experts Say: As we mentioned above, the experts believe content is shifting towards a future filled with visual content. They also believe “platform-agnostic structured content” could be a content innovation of the future, enabling the extraction of snippets of long form content, breaking apart large groupings into infographics, individual posts, single images, and more. And of course, what’s a discussion about the future without mentioning mobile? The panelists all agreed mobile apps will play a role in content’s changing role in the near future.
What We Think: Well-executed content strategies create a story with their posts, the ability to break down existing posts or “recycling” relevant content should definitely be a thought for the future. As more social networks become available, such as Vine, it may become easier than ever before to repurpose content in a fun, new, engaging way.
I hope you found these takeaways as useful as I did as we continue to evaluate content strategy of the present and future in an effort to improve brand image and pass along the brand message. Whether you were in attendance or not, feel free to share with us some of your thoughts on where content has been, where it is now, and where it’s heading in the future!
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