For years, content marketing has been the go-to marketing strategy for new startups. And for good reason. Content marketing is relatively cheap, especially when compared to traditional advertising strategies like print, radio, and TV ads. It’s accessible, since almost anyone can get started in the strategy with minimal experience. And best of all, it’s a prime strategy for long-term growth, capable of seeing compounding returns over the course of years.
But there’s a problem. Content marketing hasn’t changed much in the past 10 years or so. People are practicing the same tactics and following the same fundamentals they’ve practiced and followed for years. They’re still getting decent results, but how long could this continue to last?
The startup content marketing world is overdue for disruption – a massive changeup to rebuild content marketing from its very foundations. But why is this disruption so overdue and what could an overhaul look like?
Why Content Marketing Is in Need of an Overhaul
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest reasons why content marketing is in need of a major, ground-up overhaul:
- Saturation and competition. The first problem is saturation, and by extension, competition. One of the greatest advantages of content marketing has also become one of its greatest weaknesses: accessibility. Anyone with a few hours to spare can learn the fundamentals of writing great content, and you don’t need any fancy equipment or tools to publish it. With even the smallest budget and a limited amount of time, you can make your content available online. Over time, this has led to billions, if not trillions of articles posted on more than 600 million blogs and 1.7 billion websites. If you want a chance at standing out, you’ll need to choose a very specific niche to get started – and even then, you’ll likely be competing with hundreds to thousands of brands that have years-long head starts on you. This makes it both difficult to enter as a new content marketer and difficult to navigate as a consumer.
- Consumer familiarity. Speaking of consumers, consumer familiarity has also become a problem. One reason why content marketing became so popular for startups is because it served as an alternative to traditional advertising. Over the course of many years, consumers became fatigued by traditional ads; they don’t like being manipulated, and they don’t take traditional ad messaging as sincere. By contrast, content provides consumers with information, entertainment, and often a seemingly sincere desire to help. But because content marketing has been wielded by so many persuaders and manipulators, even online content is beginning to be treated with the same kind of skepticism as traditional ads.
- Automation and predictability. Content marketers have long been enthusiastic about the prospects of marketing automation – the ability to create and execute marketing strategies with minimal manual effort. And certainly, automation has a lot of benefits. However, the introduction of automation tends to make content much more predictable and much less engaging for consumers, especially if most companies are using the same tools in the same way. Additionally, because automation multiplies the amount of content being circulated for marketing purposes, it tends to complicate and intensify the other factors on this list.
- Minimal innovation. Let’s face it. Over the years, there has been minimal innovation in the field of content marketing. People are using video content more than they used to, and some of the tactics in fields like search engine optimization (SEO) have changed, but most of the fundamentals are the same. If we’re going to continue providing consumers with the best materials and leverage the best marketing approaches available, we need to be able to adapt.
Content marketing is primed for a major change. But what could that change look like? How could content marketing for startups evolve in the near future?
Mediums and Channels
One of the most promising areas of development is in an expansion of the mediums and channels available to content creators. Today, if you want to create content, you could write an article, develop a test or quiz, take photos, illustrate new designs, shoot video, or host a podcast – or try to blend a few of these mediums together.
But what about the future? Could we see a rise in the popularity of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)? Will new devices make it possible to interact with content in new ways, such as projecting it onto a wall? Will there be a future technology that can beam some forms of content directly into people’s heads? Some of these possibilities may seem overly futuristic, but they could be exactly the wave of disruption content marketing needs.
The format of content could also be a source of innovation. Today, most content falls into one of two overarching forms: short-form content, designed to be read or digested in a matter of minutes, and long-form content, exploring a subject or topic thoroughly over the course of hours.
But what about a different form of content altogether? Could we see a rise in popularity of ultra-short content, meant to provide users with immediate insights? Or what about an undercurrent of content, providing people with a steady stream of information throughout the day?
Content is already starting to evolve to become more interactive, so it makes sense that interactive content could become the next evolutionary form of content marketing overall. Interactive content has much greater potential for development; since it relies on an interaction with consumers, it can branch off in many different directions. It’s therefore more unique and harder to replicate, leading to more original and noteworthy content.
This content is also more appealing to individual readers and consumers, defeating the consumer familiarity problem. The only real issue is that interactive content currently exists in a limited number of forms (such as tests and quizzes) and creating it is often more difficult and time-consuming than creating its ordinary counterparts.
Content marketing currently has tremendous synergy with other marketing strategies; for example, it’s often a staple component of any search engine optimization (SEO) or social media marketing strategy. But we can innovate in the content marketing world by hybridizing it with other forms of marketing and advertising.
For example, we could blend content marketing and guerrilla marketing together for a much more aggressive, unexpected form of content presentation and consumption.
Pressure Factors to Consider
The future of content marketing depends on the amount of pressure it faces to evolve. If left uncontested and unchallenged, content marketing will never change.
Instead, we’ll only see a change based on the confluence of pressure from these areas:
- Channel pressure. If channels like Google make it harder for brands to benefit from content marketing, marketers will be forced to reinvent content marketing, innovate, or relinquish their content-derived traffic.
- Consumer pressure. As long as consumers are happy with your content, it will continue generating a return. If they become dissatisfied or demand something better, content transformation is practically a certainty.
- Competitive pressure. Perhaps most importantly, if your competitors transform their content strategies for the better, you must follow if you want to keep up – or innovate in your own way to gain an advantage.
It’s hard to say exactly how or when content marketing will undergo its next phase of evolution. And according to some experts, this may be the final form of content marketing; though it may change gradually to keep up with new trends and new technologies, it may never be radically different than it is today.
If you want to get the most value from your marketing strategy, your best bet is to diversify. Continue investing in your current line of content marketing tactics while also investing in novel experimental content marketing approaches – and don’t forget to invest in other marketing and advertising strategies as well.