3 Key Takeaways From the ‘Content Platform Showdown’

When TrackMaven billed one of its conference panels as the “Content Platform Showdown,” pitting representatives from content marketing platforms Contently, Newscred, and Percolate head-to-head, they were probably hoping everyone would channel their inner Crossfire.

Instead, what emerged was a unified vision for how brands can succeed at content marketing: pairing an ambitious strategy with powerful technology and top storytelling talent. If the content’s no good, no platform can save you.

Content counts

There are a few broad fixes that will improve most content strategies: hiring better talent, embracing the right kind of analytics, publishing consistently, and learning to think more like a publisher.

With the publishing world still searching for effective business models in the digital age, there’s an incredible amount of creative talent available for hire that can bring expertise and informational value to a brand’s content. Yet brands are still leaving much of the available talent untapped. “There’s this universe of expertise out there,” said Contently’s Sam Slaughter. “They have these amazing talents that brands need in order to do content marketing effectively.”

Maybe the reason for the oversight is that brands are still confused as to what audiences want—which is a trustworthy content source, according to Slaughter. And that trust is gained by publishing consistently over time.

“A lot of the problems people have is they’re thinking too much about marketing and not enough about content,” he said. “Brands are thinking about these things on a campaign basis and are not in it for the long haul.”

For Newscred’s Michael Brenner, marketers are missing the point of content and content marketing: creating first-rate work. “Content is not content marketing,” he said. “Content really is an asset. Content marketing is the distribution, the effective creation of those assets to product that outcome. That’s the thinking like a publisher.”

Agencies need to evolve

With content marketing changing advertising in a fundamental way, what does that mean for agencies, which are being asked to take on a new role? And how can they work with emerging content marketing companies like Contently, Percolate, and Newscred?

All the panelists agreed that content marketing software platforms should make agencies more effective at creating hiqh-quality content, because they streamline workflows and reduce the kind of red tape and box-checking that cripples good creative work.

Slaughter admitted, however, that streamlined workflows might be a disadvantage to agencies following an old-school business model, since they might not be inclined to work more efficiently, as doing so reduces billable hours.

But, as Slaughter noted, content is not a zero-sum game—it’s not as if there’s a finite number of pieces of content that can be published, and once they’re out, that’s the end of it. Instead, agencies that use tools like software management and craft higher-quality content with it will be able to spend that saved time on producing better and more content, with higher ROI all around.

But how much publishing is enough? “The best content marketers in the world are publishing at least once a day,” said Brenner.

Percolate’s Chris Bolman took a contrarian stance to Slaughter and Brenner, suggesting a measure of caution in the quantity of content published, even if it’s high quality. “You can publish all the time,” he said. “But Facebook is going to their biggest advertisers and saying, ‘You should publish less.’ I don’t think you want to constantly bombard people. There’s a lot of attention fatigue in the market.”

Content is eating social

A last key point the panelists made is that content and social can work together to create great results, but, in the marketing hierarchy, content comes first.

“Content is eating social,” said Slaughter, explaining that no one really wants to read quippy musings from a brand; instead, they want content that aligns with that brand’s expertise. “I think social is a channel to distribute content, but without the content to distribute, talking on social is less effective,” said Slaughter.

It was a variation on the same point Percolate’s Bolman made about getting content right before ramping up distribution too much. “If you’re not relevant and hitting people constantly, they will tune you out,” he said.

Can creating better content, improving distribution, finding better talent, and empowering agencies to succeed all come? Certainly, the pieces to the puzzle are in place.

Image by Associated Press

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