Ask a Content Strategist

Ask a Content Strategist: Will Written Content Be Obsolete By Next Year?

At the state of content marketing webinar I co-hosted last month, attendees submitted 50 questions, which means we either did something terribly right or terribly wrong. It started far too early (9 am) for me, so it’s possible I hallucinated the whole thing.

I’ve been told that at the end of the Q&A, I promised I’d answer some of the outstanding questions in my first Ask a Content Strategist column for 2019. So I’m going to do just that.

Before I get to the questions, though, I have to make a programming note. I’m leaving on my 2-month Contently sabbatical in January. So if you want any content strategy advice before March, you’ll have to track me down in South America. Just look for the boat with a giant New York Knicks flag blasting Robyn.

What are the most effective way you’ve seen companies getting departments on board with this concept of a centralized content strategy? So many different departments are stuck in their old ways and want to continue on.

-June, Illinois

Complacency is the enemy of good content. So many marketing departments are happy churning out the same four crappy white papers year after year, even if they perform about as well as Donald Trump at a spelling bee.

I’d recommend reaching out to the individual lines of business first and ask them to collaborate. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to get an executive on board to drive the effort from up high. Here’s how to make that happen:

1. Conduct a content audit to reveal wasted content.

If the other LOBs inside your company are operating without a content strategy, chances are their content isn’t performing. A study by Beckon found that the top 5 percent of branded content garners 95 percent of all engagement. SiriusDecisions estimates that 65 percent of B2B content receives no engagement at all. Conduct a content audit to pinpoint content that’s been published but not seen.

The message: No Content Strategy = Wasted Resources.

2. Show the exec what a good content strategy looks like—even if you have to talk up your competitors.

In an ideal situation, you can come at this from a position of strength. You’ve implemented a successful content strategy within your individual LOB, and you want to spread that model to the rest of the team. If so, create a compelling case study about your own work. Show how your content strategy transformed your marketing, improved efficiency, and delivered superior results.

If not, come handy with case studies from competitors. The fear of falling behind is a fantastic motivator. Here’s a handy flipbook of over 30 case studies to get you started.

3. Present a clear game plan for implementing a centralized content strategy.

Our content maturity model and content strategy playbooks can help.

What are your thoughts about user-generated content? For example, emojis and the use of emojis for targeted marketing. How can I, as a marketer, identify such hidden layers of content marketing?

—Jagjit, Location Unknown

It’s impossible to have a user-generated emoji. Emoji creation is controlled by a powerful consortium of tech bros. (I wrote about it for the Observer. It’s wild.)

The best user-generated content comes from campaigns where you give people a good reason to share something with you. For instance, four years ago, we created a public freelance rates database where freelancers could anonymously submit what they’d been paid by various companies. The idea was to create transparency across the industry and help freelance creatives negotiate.

Recently, we combined that user-generated data with internal data to create a badass freelance rates calculator so you can easily see what to charge for future projects. People contributed to this database because we gave them value back. That’s the only situation in which UGC works.

What would you say are the absolute essential components of a content marketing strategy going into 2019?

—Amanda, Phoenix

Our editor-in-chief, Jordan Teicher, did an excellent job mapping this out in detail a few weeks ago in his first content marketing playbook. I highly recommend you check it out.

The seven key components are:

1. Set goals and KPIs and measurement framework

2. Understand your audience and the challenges they face

3. Perform an SEO analysis and craft an SEO strategy

4. Conduct a gap analysis

5. Map content to the buyer’s journey

6. Develop a distribution strategy

7. Create a content calendar

Oh, and buy whoever controls your budget a really expensive bottle of their favorite liquor.

Neil Patel recently said content marketing will be over next year (at least written text). What are your opinions about that?

—Alexandre

Disclaimer: I can’t find any evidence online of Neil Patel saying this. Given that he emails me 20 different 5,000-word articles every week, I doubt he believes such a thing.

For years, people have predicted that text content was about to die. A few years ago, publishers were so tricked by Facebook’s BS video metrics and promises that they fired half their writing staff in the great “pivot to video” tragedy of 2016. Now they’re firing all of their video people and hiring writers back. Because much like boot cut jeans, text will never die.

It’s not terribly exciting or tweet-worthy, but content isn’t going to change dramatically in just one year. The content that performs well in 2019 will look a lot like the content that performed well in 2018.

Content will remain an important part of every touchpoint with your customers and prospects. The format will change depending on the channel and purpose. Sometimes it’ll be an article with an interactive graphic on your blog. Sometimes it’ll be a Facebook video with overlay text. Sometimes it’ll be an email newsletter with text and images. Sometimes it’ll be a pitch deck that tells the story of your company. The important thing is that it’s content your audience will enjoy and find helpful.

Sure, we’ll probably start using Facebook a little less because we’re seven days away from learning that they’ve been selling our data to Amazon because of some crazy bet Mark Zuckerberg lost at Burning Man. And older people might start using Instagram more, mostly to horrify their kids. But as Mark Ritson wrote in this incredible Marketing Week piece, the marketing landscape isn’t going to just up and change all of a sudden.

So don’t go chasing some new fad. There are no secret shortcuts to good marketing. Just try to help people. Listen to their problems. Find out what they’re searching and asking. Pay attention to where they spend time online. And then reach them there with helpful material that’s actually fun to watch, read, and listen to.

There are no magical marketing tricks. But if you spend every day genuinely trying to help your audience, you can never really fail.

Joe Lazauskas is Contently’s head of content strategy and co-author of The Storytelling Edge. Ask him your most pressing content strategy questions here or email him at lazer@contently.com.

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