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The popularity of DVR, ad blocking software, and “commercial-free” radio has one common thread running through it: avoidance of traditional mass advertising. The modern consumer wants to avoid advertising altogether, but because companies aren’t interested in ceasing to advertise, there has to be a middle ground. What the consumer rebels against is advertising that’s out of context and intrusive to his or her experience the solution to this quandary is to produce marketing content that is engaging and relevant to the user’s experience. In other words, users would rather be talked with than talked to. It is the job of content marketing to meet this need: to deliver a message that engages consumers and interests users without interrupting their experience.Broadly speaking, content marketing is the creation of unique content, which is then distributed through a variety of vastly different channels across all sorts of social media platforms and even in-person events, with the purpose of attracting consumers.

McDonalds Vine

McDonalds’ playful vines are a great example of creating engaging, effective content in unusual media.

Good advertising has always been content-driven; the challenge in 2014 is user participation. This requires a sort of dialogue between businesses and consumers where advertisers learn what people want and how they want it delivered. If done properly, content marketing will be entertaining or informative enough–in short, valuable enough–that the audiences who consume it will be driven to share it with their social networks, hopefully creating new customers. What is crucial for advertisers is the ability to get people engaged. Getting the public to not only pay attention to advertising, but to actively involve themselves in it is easier said than done. It requires that the content be good enough to attract interest and views, and that it be delivered through the proper channels to reach the right sets of eyes.

A Brand Narrative

What exists now is a crisis of choice for advertisers. The growth of technology in the modern era has opened lines of communication between businesses and consumers that didn’t exist in the past. Social networks, text messaging, emails, and mobile apps have supplemented more traditional radio, print, and television ads. Because people are sharing more and more of themselves with the online community, it has become a bit easier to segment larger demographic groups into smaller targets. The trick then becomes marketing to all the relevant smaller targets through their favorite means of media consumption.

Content marketing isn’t the only game in town for advertisers these days, but it’s certainly the tool du jour. In 2013 companies focused their attention on location, location, location–branded pages started cropping up not just on Facebook but on LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Google +, Instagram, and even Vine, Twitter, and Snapchat. Now that those pages are in place, what will content marketing look like in 2014?

Taco Bell Snapchat Invite

Talk about engagement! Taco Bell’s Twitter feed is abuzz with customers thrilled to have gotten snapped back by the company.

Going Mobile

So what does the future hold for Content Marketing? Many companies are tapping into the fast growing market of short-form, mobile-friendly images and video clips for their content marketing strategies in the new year. I’ve blogged about the importance of a solid social media strategy before, (check out my post about how Twitter can keep your business nimble), but consumers are spending more and more of their time on the internet on their mobile devices. Mobile-based services like Vine, Instagram, and SnapChat offer a platform for businesses to tell compelling stories in very short periods of time. If done properly, companies can continue to grab a larger share of an increasingly shrinking consumer attention span. These audiences are excitable and inclined to share something great, but they’re also fickle; what’s funny today may be old news by tomorrow, and businesses will have to be more active than ever to keep engaging their audiences.

Staying Current

Going forward, more brands will find synergistic partnerships with ad publishers and other companies to create quality sponsored content. This will be done through a number of platforms but mobile and short form (as mentioned above) will be the spearhead. Distribution of ads will continue to play a larger and larger role as companies realize it’s not only about quality content, but how you deliver it. In a similar vein, companies will make it a priority to tap into real-time consumer conversations as they are happening around the web. This is a significant shift from years past when brands published ads only around their own schedule.

Part of staying up-to-date on real-time conversations is covering all the bases. If your company tweets about, say, the best time to plant bulbs for the coming spring, the tweet should link to a longer discussion on the company’s site. You should also post a little blurb about the longer post, and another link to it, on Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s important that your social media campaigns link back to your business’s website–without this step the benefit of all that social media exposure fails to boost site traffic and the ROI falls flat. If you’re having trouble squeezing everything you want to say into the 140 character limit, we’re happy to help.

New Hires

Underpinning this trend will be the increase in company staff paid to create, monitor, and aggregate content. There are many reports of large companies bringing on Chief Content Officers and hiring teams to support them. The power of content marketing, as well as the rate of change in the industry, will bring content marketing to the forefront of many company strategies in the coming year.

Social Media Hire

Either this is an eager new hire dressing the part of Social Media Manager, or it was Halloween.

Though it’s difficult to deny the ubiquity of content marketing, it goes without saying that it still has some kinks to work out. Especially since Google officially revoked keyword data from their Analytics, many companies are scrambling to find metrics to measure ad effectiveness beyond simply counting the number of eyes that see it. To date there have been many new companies and services created to try and unlock the potential of this nascent market, or at least try to make more sense of it. 2014 will see companies continue to build metrics and try to understand their ROI.

The marketing world is witnessing a bit of a paradigm shift in how businesses interact with consumers. Rather than companies being the exclusive drivers of their messaging and branding, customers are playing an increasingly larger role. Content marketing engages the customer on their terms in an attempt to generate actual interest and brand loyalty rather than simply trying to push products through traditional advertising. 2014 may herald the coming of the era of the consumer, one in which companies invest significant capital in developing excellent content to actively engage their audience. If you don’t think you’re up to the challenge, don’t worry: we’ve got your back.

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