Too often we don’t see change until it’s already happened. If you had polled a thousand marketers a few years ago and asked the following questions, you wouldn’t have gotten a lot of “Yes” responses:
Will Google ever shift to favor mobile rankings?
Will the Stories technology pioneered by Snapchat overtake the social media platform feed?
Is vertical video here to stay?
Looking back now, the fact that all of those things happened seems like the logical course of events. But very few people got out ahead of them and most of us are still playing catch up.
So, what other change is happening around us that we are too sure of ourselves to notice? Here’s one:
Anyone else notice how prominent the Thread has become on Twitter? (Also called a Tweetstorm, if you’re one of those people who fully embraces the technological degradation of our language.)
It’s everywhere. Like any tactic, some are using it to sketchy ends like spreading misinformation. But plenty of professors, political scientists, entrepreneurs, developers, and journalists, among others, are regularly using Threads to tweet out bite-sized but connected content that, when read one after another, reads a lot like…a blog post. This begs the question, is this the end of the blog post as we know it?
Because identifying change is only valuable if you can predict what the effects of that change will be, here is our theory: the increasing prevalence of Twitter Threads is going to cannibalize enough of the blogging world that blogging is going to become a less effective tactic for SEO.
Somewhere, Rand Fishkin’s mustache furrows in dismay
Here are some parameters for this future digital marketing hellscape:
First, the Tweet Thread won’t reduce the importance that Google and other search engines place on fresh, authoritative content on your website. People are going to just stop reading it.
We’ve seen this happen repeatedly as new platforms come online or develop new features. There’s nothing preventing you from looking up photos on Tumblr instead of Pinterest, from posting your own photos to Flickr instead of Instagram, from reading news on the Boston Globe’s website instead of on Facebook or listing your resume and publications on a website instead of LinkedIn. People just don’t do those things anymore, so if you want anyone to look at what you’re posting online, you’ll need to post it where the attention is.
We’re not going so far to say anything will change in the way Google ranks content on search results pages (we are, after all, writing a blog post about the death of blogging for SEO marketing value). But if most brands compare the delta of their blog traffic from now versus a few years ago to their social followings now versus a few years ago, we bet they’ll be able to validate our hunch on this one. Here’s a highly scientific model of those trends:
The user behavior of going to a blog to read information is going to be replaced with the impulse to go to Twitter for a thread.
What are the indicators that will tell us when this starts happening?
Twitter threads will be more easily titled and searched for on the Twitter app.
People will start sharing Twitter threads with you outside the app, via email or text or screenshot.
Twitter threads will start showing up in SERPs
Second, the US will not be the leader in this shift. It will come from the developing world.
According to Hootsuite, 80% of Twitter’s user are from outside of the United States. Twitter is embracing this international growth with Twitter Lite, which is data friendly and geared towards the 2 billion people around the world whose smartphones are their only connection to the internet. The low barrier of entry inherent in posting a Thread on Twitter, compared to blogging on a website, points to quick adoption in places less internet-literate than the United States.
No, you aren’t going to see Twitter Threads (Threading?) everywhere the same way blogging took off in its heyday.
The content landscape is different than it was when blogging had its heyday. Social platforms in general have matured from syndication outlets to become content hosting environments themselves. In fact, the idea that Twitter threads will eat away at blogging is just a continuation of this general trend. Therefore, it’s a struggle within an ever-shrinking corner of the internet.
Twitter is not seeing the same growth as the other platforms in its cohort. While more people use the platform daily than ever before, monthly user growth waxes and wanes and overall growth for 2019 is predicted to be only 1%. One way to look at this is: the people already using the app are using it more than ever before, but Twitter isn’t bringing in new users. Various competing channels (IG Stories and Live, YouTube channels, newsletters, etc.) are still taking more and more of the online content pie every year.
Brands will be bad at it, and it will drive most brands further away from peer status on social media.
Various factors such as platform changes, privacy concerns and the shift to messaging, and the rise of influencers and brand ambassadors that speak on behalf of brands, have driven brands further from the peer status they enjoyed with their consumers early on social media.
But one of the biggest factors ushering most brands back up to interrupter status online is the growing level of difficulty in sharing the same types of content as their consumers. It’s harder and harder for a brand to blend in on your feeds as aesthetics have shifted away from the light-hearted community feeling and curated authenticity of early- and mid-stage social media towards the detached, meme-driven irony of Gen-Y content. Twitter threads are just another arrow in the content quiver that brands will have a hard time emulating.
You’ll have to pay for it.
As Facebook leads the privacy and group-focused Social 2.0, expect to see your favorite tweeters go private and use Patreon or other means to get a subscription fee out of you.
That’s enough crystal ball gazing for now. Check back in 2 years and see if we were right.
MASTER YOUR CRAFT
Web content marketing has been the rock star of the greater marketing universe (it’s a real place!) for a few years now, and it’s popularity is showing no signs of slowing down. Of course, said “popularity” is based on need, which is great news for content writers. Earning your wages as a word pro isn’t as easy as it might seem, though.
With such a high demand for production, there’s a danger that the work itself can suffer. Plus, competing with the gaziillions of content pieces already in cyberspace is no small task. With all this knowledge setting the stage, here are some content writing tips to help you better hone your craft.
1. BRING A STRONG DELIVERY
Headlines are the hook, so you have to make them sharp. In a world where writers are shouting (with words) to be read, your headline needs to scream “read me, I’m interesting!” A boring headline is like an undercooked pizza; someone is going to take a bite or two and then stop eating. Headlines should be clear and concise, but never dry. Draw your readers in and keep them engaged.
2. GET TO THE POINT
Don’t waste your reader’s time with long, unorganized, sentences created for your own edification, and don’t wait until the end of a piece to make your point. People are interested in reading content for one reason: to learn something. They don’t want to jump through hoops to do it. In this fast-paced world, people want everything delivered quickly and efficiently.
3. QUALITY BEATS QUANTITY
Heavy output isn’t a bad thing if the material is compelling, but don’t overdo it. It’s great to produce a lot of work, but it’s better to write a reasonable amount of high quality pieces than a slew of mediocre ones. Don’t let the demand for web content stress you out or hyper-extend those writing muscles. Focus on always producing your best work so when you do publish, readers will be hooked.
4. YOU HAVE A VOICE, SO WRITE WITH IT
Don’t be afraid to add some spunk to your writing for content marketing! Readers respond well to humor and wit because it’s entertaining.Inc Magazine encourages writers to “inject” their own unique personalities into their content. Stale, boring web content is a buzzkill for people craving a good read.
Adding life to your writing will keep readers entertained, interested, and wanting more. Transform your passions, hobbies or areas of expertise into analogies and stories to be worked into your content. Don’t get overly personal, but give enough to allow the reader to feel like they can connect with you.
5. KNOW YOUR SEO
SEO content writing can be tricky. Readers will know from a mile away if you’re keyword stuffing to tap into extreme search engine optimization (Google will spot it, too). A lot of web content writers produce an article with their mind focused on getting in as many keywords as possible, but again, go with quality first. Good writing beats excessive keyword writing every time.
When it comes to content marketing, try this simple approach: Write the article first, focusing on what you want to say, and how you want to say it. When you’re done, go back and find places to subtly work in keywords without overdoing it. Your readers will appreciate it, and so will Google.
WHAT MARKETING AUTOMATION IS NOT
Tell us if you’ve heard this one before: An organization needs to do inbound marketing, so they choose a marketing automation platform (MAP) and install it. Ready to go, right? Wrong. Marketing automation services are important for executing your inbound marketing strategy, but it isn’t, in itself, inbound marketing — it’s just the start.
Let’s go back in time to traditional marketing. It was effective and, truth be told, still is in the right scenario. It was also disruptive. And that’s part of the beauty of an automation platform; it does all the dirty work and does it efficiently. Organizations can use an automation platform to continue these disruptive techniques. Just purchase a list of emails specific to your product offering, load the list into your MAP, draft an email about your product, and click send. Voila! All of these contacts (who may or may not be familiar with your brand) have now just received your promotional email. Imagine you were the recipient. What is your first move? I’m guessing it’s to hit delete or mark the email as SPAM. Bye, bye lead.
Is the above example marketing automation? Yes. You automated the delivery process of your list purchase emails. Is it inbound marketing? No. Why?
Inbound marketing focuses on creating quality and targeted content to attract people to your company. By creating content that aligns with your customers’ interests, you attract inbound traffic to your website that you can then convert and close.
Today’s customer wants to be informed, educated, and entertained. They don’t want to be sold to. Inbound marketing allows you to provide your potential customers with educational information important to them via a multitude of channels. The end-goal is having your brand at the top of your customer’s mind when they finally make the decision to buy.
Marketing automation is a necessary part of your overall inbound strategy. Because inbound focuses heavily on content creation, you will need a lot of content. You’ll have to provide your inbound customers with blogs, social posts, white papers, webinars, eBooks, videos, etc. Your time should be focused on creating this content. Marketing automation allows you to streamline the delivery of this content to your prospective customers.
HERE’S ANOTHER SCENARIO FOR YOU
You’re an organization selling workout attire. Your end-goal is selling your product. Instead of spraying the market with promotional ads, you decide to start a weekly workout post. Each week, you post the workout to your blog and share as sponsored posts on social media. You’ve also partnered with some influential online personalities to do these workouts on their YouTube channel. A potential buyer sees this and starts following your posts. Now you’ve decided to host a webinar with let’s say, Michael Jordan. The potential buyer who follows your workout post now signs up for this webinar because honestly, who wouldn’t take advice from the greatest basketball player of all time and one of the world’s most successful marketers? You now have their contact information and can begin tracking their activity on your website via your MAP. Based on a set of lead-scoring rules you’ve created, your MAP sees this prospect spends a lot of time on your site—so much so that they might be ready to buy.
Maybe they’ve had multiple visits to a page for pieces of Jordan’s signature apparel line you sell. Your marketing automation fires off an email with a few more specifics around the shirt. Your prospective buyer reads this because, as we already know, they are interested in the product. A week later, our prospective buyer decides they need to purchase a new workout shirt. They find that email you sent them (which they just so happened to keep at the top of their inbox), return to your site, and purchase an athletic shirt.
Not once in the above scenario did you outright sell to your customer. You never had to because you’ve supplied them with enough information and enjoyable content that you remained top-of-mind when it came time to buy. This is inbound marketing.
Your marketing automation took care of tracking the prospects activity on your site, delivering the the social posts to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and delivering the promotional email when your prospect reached a high enough lead score to prompt doing so. All this allowed you to focus on spending your time creating the content for social, working with your brand influencers, creating the workout, and strategizing the educational email your customer received. This is marketing automation.
Inbound marketing is where the industry has headed. We can’t sell directly to our customers anymore—it just won’t work. We need to provide them with enough targeted content to carry them through the buying journey. Spend your time creating this content and let your MAP do the work of delivering it.
THERE’S A LOT OF CONTENT OUT THERE. A LOT.
The information overload experienced by consumers has become nauseating as new mediums have swelled in popularity, mobile has become an extension of our hands and content continues to multiply at an exponential rate. This has created obvious obstacles for businesses trying to sure-up a content strategy that resonates with their target audience and converts potential customers.
Content strategy needs to be applied to every piece of collateral leaving your marketing department. Whether that be website content, out-of-home advertising, media buys or social media posts, everything should be aligned with your overall content strategy.
So this beckons the question, how do you stand out? How you do you find a way to craft content that captivates, informs, and encourages action?
Create buyer personas– Seriously, do it. You’re not allowed to finish this blog until you do. We can’t enforce that, but it seemed like a good way to make you realize how important they are.
Identify user journeys – Personas help you develop meaningful content using the right medium. User journeys ensure you’re serving this content with context at the right time.
Perform a content audit – This shouldn’t just involve the content that you use for content marketing (although this is one piece of it). Look at each page of your website and take note of what’s there. This might include value props, body copy, imagery, or video. Don’t forget about your print or out-of-home collateral, that’s also relevant content. Revisit any previous campaigns, digital or traditional, and take note of all of the assets created. Emails, downloadable assets, microsites and banner ads are all fair game.
Find content gaps – Now that you’ve identified the type of content that’s relevant to each persona and performed a content audit, you can find new opportunities to inform potential customers that might have initially slipped through the cracks. It’s also useful to reflect on your content audit to find specific mediums that are underutilized. You might find that your product pages are lacking some vital information for site visitors. Perhaps you’ll realize that your summer campaign targeting missed the mark a bit. Either way, comparing what you have to what you need will help formulate a future roadmap.
Brainstorm new content ideas – You’ve filled in the gaps, so now you need fresh ideas. Hit the whiteboard and start rattling off some preliminary thoughts. Just be sure to clarify why exactly you’re brainstorming. Are you creating webpage content? Blog ideas? Print material? A seasonal campaign? Cross referencing content audits with user journeys usually reveals shortcomings at important touch points, so start there.
To create content that resonates it must be purposeful. Arbitrarily curating content and seeing what sticks is an inefficient and ineffective way to communicate with current and prospective customers. A strategic approach to content paired with exemplary creative is a formidable combination.
And while it would seem obvious to pair these two apex jungle cats all the time, most businesses only succeed at one or the other. Knowing your customer and how to reach them are paramount. Creative ideas and professional execution are essential. These two together will help attract new customers, support them on the path to purchase, and lead to more sales.
NUMBERS DON’T LIE
We marketing types love creating compelling content that is easy on the eyes. Let’s face it, though; if this content doesn’t generate any returns, your CEO won’t care how beautiful it is. Marketing needs to adapt as companies become more data-driven and results-oriented, and part of the answer may be marketing automation.
The modern-day marketer is expected to be both creative and data-driven. Truth is, every decision we make is scrutinized for how it affects business, so it’s important to create compelling content that drives leads and conversions. But — there’s always a “but” — we need to back up our efforts with numbers that prove ROI.
The awesome blog post you just wrote? How many times was it viewed? That eBook you created? How many new leads did that generate for sales? For good content marketing, everything we create needs to engage visitors and encourage them to stay on the site. Once on the site, let’s convert that customer to a lead and identify their business needs to generate a sale. Then, after all is said and done, we must be able to prove our marketing efforts translated to sales.
Marketing automation is a great tool to verify whether a strategy is successful. It allows you to not only automate many of your marketing functions, it enables you to report accurately on your efforts via whichever marketing automation platform (MAP) you’re using.
According to arecent study, automation gives marketers the ability to increase operational efficiency and grow revenue faster. Automation takes the targeted content we have produced and puts it in front of our prospective customers in an engaging and authentic way. It allows us to provide value to our leads, improve conversion rates, drive repeat buyers, and enhance the overall customer experience. All of which can be easily measured using our chosen marketing automation software.
IDC predicts the overall market for automated marketing will grow from $3.2 billion in 2010 to $4.8 billion in 2015, opening up vast opportunities for content marketers to attach metrics to their work. There are three core benefits* marketers can expect by instituting marketing automation in their organization.
More revenue is sourced from marketing. Companies using automation report 45% of their sales pipeline is sourced from marketing, as opposed to 31% for companies that do not have an automation engine.
Sales is able to focus more on what they do best—selling. Automation enables sales to spend 62% of their time selling. In those organizations not using automation, sales is able to spend only 51% of their time selling.
Increased revenue attainment. Automation increases marketing’s efficiency, allowing more time to focus on creating great content. 84% of companies with an automation engine consistently hit their revenue goals, while only 67% of companies without automation do.
What does all of this mean for your compelling content? Marketing automation adds value to our marketing content and proves its value. Automation tracks a customer’s journey from their first interaction with a brand to their last.
And, what does it mean for you and your marketing department? The ability to work faster, save money and increase ROI.
*Statistics for these three core benefits pulled from Marketo’s 2012 report, “Marketo Benchmark on Revenue.”