Many organizations seem to be missing opportunities for successful content marketing.
A recent report by Beckon revealed that the average amount of image and video content that brand managers created and posted tripled over the past year.
However, the report also showed that 90 percent of consumer engagement was engendered by only 5 percent of branded content.
“In other words, 19 out of 20 content pieces get little to no engagement,” the report states.
Advertising Age was the first to share the report’s findings, and wrote:
Beckon clients from which the data is drawn include Coca-Cola Co., Gap, Microsoft, HP, Stubhub, Reebok, Convserse and NBC Universo. Beckon builds data collection and analytics systems for marketers, and the report aggregates data from across the firm’s client base.
The sheer volume of content from some brands is staggering, with Beckon logging 29,000 individual pieces of content churned out by one brand, 50,000 by another. Beckon CEO Jennifer Zeszut said in an interview that she’s encountered some brands whose primary key performance indicator (KPI) on content is simply to generate more of it — and the numbers indicate they’ve succeeded, at least at that.
Defining success as content marketing grows
Beckon’s results can be troubling for brand managers who have been increasing the time and money spent on content marketing—especially given that the strategy is still a growing trend.
The Content Marketing Institute published a report on Wednesday that revealed not only an increase in the amount of content marketing, but also an increase in its success—at least, for B2B marketers:
Sixty-two percent of B2B marketers in North America say that compared to one year ago, their organization’s overall approach to content marketing has been much more or somewhat more successful.
The report continues:
To what factors do marketers attribute this increased success? The top two factors are: doing a better job with content creation (85%) and developing or adjusting their content marketing strategy (72%).
More specifically, the Institute identified successful B2B marketers as those who document their strategies, who have a clear understanding of what constitutes “success” in content marketing and who create differentiated content.
Beckon’s study hypothesizes that the two largest problems behind low engagement are “differences in the quality of the content” and “differences in the amount of media behind the pieces, which would help them reach the widest audience.”
Some brands have central controls, brand guidelines and creative review of all the branded content they create to ensure high quality. But not all brands do. We’ve seen cases where local teams publish content fairly autonomously, with little brand review. This may be leading to lower-quality content pieces, which could be driving the low engagement metrics for most content.
Keep in mind that lack of engagement is the best-case scenario here. The worst-case scenario is that low-quality content is actually hurting the perception of the brand and, ultimately, sales.
Ensuring that you’re producing content that your customers and fans want to read and share is one part of the solution, but even outstanding pieces of content will get lost in the online noise if brand managers don’t spend appropriate time, energy and money to promote and share it.
Beckon reports that “content creation abilities may be outpacing our media budgets to support that content.”
To overcome both issues, Beckon suggests the following:
• Establish brand guidelines and a review process for content creation to ensure high quality.
• Make sure brand teams and social media content centers don’t have “number of pieces published” as their main KPI. Instead, KPIs should be more focused on outcome—consumer engagement, site traffic, reach and/or attributable sales revenue.
• Don’t confuse “total brand mentions”—a metric that comprises brand mentions that consumers may have initiated plus mentions that your team published—with “total consumer-initiated brand mentions.” They’re not the same. A super-prolific social media or communications team will skew the results. Closely watch the ratio of brand-initiated mentions to consumer-initiated mentions, and make sure consumer-initiated mentions are rising as well.
• Factor content creation expenses, agency fees and studio costs into your channel ROI models. Social media might not be paid media, but there are still costs associated with it.
Proving ROI is paramount
PR and marketing pros—who probably are already accustomed to justifying their budgets—are going to have to fight harder to show that content marketing efforts are boosting the bottom lines for their clients and organizations.
Beckon reports that “non-working media” spending—the cost of in-house staff, agency fees, market research, production and other items to create and share content—has increased 50 percent year over year:
A massive 40% of advertising budgets are spent on non-working media, according to a Percolate survey. 1 That’s 40% of the $1.8 trillion slated to be spent on advertising globally by 2017, per McKinsey. And non-working media spend is set to rise even further—in the same Percolate survey, 52% of marketers expected non-working media to “increase significantly” again in 2016.
Content marketers will also have to contend with a growing struggle to garner budget dollars and respect.
Advertising Age reported:
While the “nonworking” term has been controversial in the industry — given the semantic implication that spending on agencies or production or market research don’t work — Beckon’s finding that a huge increase in content produced no additional consumer response may suggest the term isn’t so far off base.
PR and marketing pros struggling to prove the worth of content marketing efforts would do well to take a step back and reassess, setting clear goals and expectations.
Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, states:
Is content marketing a silver bullet to solve your marketing woes? Absolutely not. As I’ve discussed, it takes a differentiated story, delivered consistently over time. If you expect results overnight, you’ll be disappointed.
Our research this year now supports this no-silver-bullet thinking — 91% of top performers indicate that their organizations are realistic about what content marketing can achieve, compared to 68% of the overall sample and 41% of bottom performers.