Content marketing has a long history—Michelin Guides, which started in 1900, represents one of the earliest forms of content marketing. But digital technologies significantly lower the barrier to entry due to the ease with which marketers can now create and distribute videos and articles, according to Rebecca Lieb, digital advertising and media analyst for Altimeter Group.
Lieb adds that the rise of social media is also driving growth in content marketing—branded visual or textual material designed to add entertaining, educational, or utilitarian benefit for customers—as brands constantly freshen their feeds to stay top-of-mind.
Consider Intel’s iQ, a digital magazine featuring original content from Intel and curated content from third-party sites like Wired. IQ, aimed at consumers and meant to generate brand awareness, is designed specifically for articles to be shared via social media. Consequently, iQ‘s Editor-in-Chief Bryan Rhoads measures likes, comments, retweets, and shares—though he’s hesitant to quantify success based on an exact threshold. “I’m obviously happy with a high number [of shares],” he says, “but it’s more the ratio of how many saw it versus how many shared it.”
Digital production and distribution also creates new headaches for marketers who need to syndicate and monitor content across multiple online channels. “Simple content creation alone obviously won’t cut it,” Rhoads says. “You’re only 25% done when you hit publish. Content activation, and working with influencers to activate that content so it travels, is the secret to success.” For instance, an article about the Mars rover (which uses Intel technologies) was tweeted to NASA, as well as current and former astronauts who follow @intel‘s Twitter account.
But while Intel has the resources to generate its own content and has a large network of influencers, small businesses like Swanson Health Products, a provider of vitamins, health foods, and dietary supplements, often don’t have such luxuries. Like Intel, Swanson Health produces its own content, but finding an audience is difficult, especially in an environment already glutted with content.
“I have a small budget in terms of social media and blogs, and we rely on organic search and organic traffic,” says Ben Hanson, the company’s Internet content specialist. The company gets significant visitors from its email newsletters, but uses content discovery platform Outbrain‘s traffic acquisition and content discovery tools to draw new audiences to its blog. Over four months, as of December 2012 when this interview was conducted, 39% of all Swanson Health’s Web traffic was directed from Outbrain’s solution.
Other businesses don’t have the capabilities to create unique content—an issue that affected the channel partners of Siemens Enterprise Communications. So, Siemens developed about 150 Web pages for its channel partners to host, as well as assets like product videos, webinars, and utilities like savings estimators. “In the old days our partners would put a link to the Siemens website on their Web page,” says Robin Pilcher, head of global channel marketing at Siemens Enterprise Communications. “This is not the best thing to do; they’re sending a potential prospect away from their website to ours. And that prospect may not go back to that partner when they find the information on the Siemens site.”
Now, using TIE Kinetix content syndication solutions, Siemens is able to quickly personalize content for channel partners to use, making their websites stickier for prospects.