Content marketing is certainly not a new concept and is a mainstay for marketers across the world. But it has gained considerable traction over the last five years and this can be argued to be down to the growth of social media, the opportunities it has opened up and the possibility of content going viral on these platforms. Social media has made it easier to amplify content in a more digitally savvy world. However, content marketing is not soley dependent on social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter. It can work through your own company blog and even through e-mail marketing.

Content marketing who?
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach which focuses on the creation and distribution of media and content. To put it simply, marketers, businesses and individuals are creating content to share online through various channels. Many brands have created new roles such as ‘content managers’ or ‘digital content executives’ who are employed full time to simply generate content. In order to be effective, this content needs to be relevant, credible and valuable in order to attract and retain an audience.

What makes successful content marketing?
Well, for starters, you want to create content that people actually want to read rather than creating content that you think will drive revenue and sales; that can be perceived as ‘salesy’ so don’t be overly promotional. Individuals are increasingly shutting off to traditional forms of marketing as they can now skip TV adverts with the use of Sky+ and have arguably become immune to online banners. Creating and sharing valuable media content is more likely to maintain customer relationships rather than consistently bombarding them with blatant adverts.

Content doesn’t have to be just written. To keep your audience interested, mix up your content a little bit with audio, visual, infographics, podcasts, downloadable guides; basically anything that isn’t your typical press release. As long as your content is either: entertaining, interesting or useful then it has value. But it doesn’t just have to be one of these things; it can be a content goldmine and have all three of these qualities. Content also needs to be targeted at one specific part of the sales lifecycle as it keeps engagement and conversation flowing around a product or service. A one size fits all approach does not work as each part of your content has to target and attract a clearly defined audience in order to drive profits and customer action. So be mindful that every content strategy will be different.

For most brands driving customer action is a key goal of content marketing. One way to do this is by using interactive activities to fully engage your potential audience. Surveys are a perfect example of this. Once your customers have done what you ask, provide them with value for what they have taken part in. For example, if you are creating a survey, give your audience aggregated results. But interactivity is key.

What’s been hot this year?
Over the last six months long form content has proved its popularity so far. This can be anything longer than 750 words worth of written content or anything longer than 30 seconds in terms of video content. Although there is no specific definition of what long really means, long form content has been proved to have a positive effect on SEO and can lead to increased conversation around a particular topic or issue. Used under the right circumstances, long form content can be a really effective content marketing technique that can have a positive response from target audiences. Detailed case studies, for example, have the ability to ‘tell stories’ to an audience and by doing this, provides customers with more in-depth information.

Content marketing automation is also becoming one of the biggest trends for digital marketing in 2015. Put simply, marketing automation takes tasks that you would usually do manually and it automates them. This could be anything from e-mail marketing to performance measurement. This process has the ability to expand the value and impact of your content, improve lead to sale conversion rates, drive repeat purchasing and also enhance overall customer experience. Like any other campaign, this approach would require a content strategy which would involve determining your target audience and company goals early on. But overall, content automation has the possibility to increase your ROI for your campaigns and can help your campaigns reach their full potential.