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The Evolution of Content Marketing: Then, Now and Ahead

The Evolution of Content Marketing Then, Now and Ahead

Over the decades, content marketing has gone through quite an evolution. It has taken many forms through various mediums, but its main components – clear objectives, a great understanding of your target audience, and a strong promotional strategy, are and will always remain unchanged.

Content creation is an exciting, and sometimes overwhelming endeavor. It’s a continuous process of creating, publishing, sharing, distributing, and planning, with the ultimate goal of building a connection between your brand and your audience.

With the large variety of available formats, techniques, and channels to spread your efforts though, it’s easy to become frustrated on how to best execute your carefully curated content marketing strategies. But what’s important is to remember that there are some fundamentals that have stood the test of time, on which you can always rely.

In order to understand how the evolution of content marketing came to be, it might help if we go over its history. So, in this article, we will walk through its history and assess what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Walking Down a 100+ Year Old Memory Lane

While many are talking about it like it’s the new cool kid on the block, content marketing has actually been around for quite some time. So, to better understand why content marketing is so important, let’s circle back to where it all began.

The first evidence of it can be found over two centuries ago all the way back to 1732 when Benjamin Franklin first published his yearly Poor Richard’s Almanack to promote his printing business. Throughout the years it developed and improved to become what it is today. To better understand how this long-term evolution of content marketing came to be, let’s take a quick look back in time.

The History of Content Marketing

The milestones of content marketing throughout history go on and on. So much is happening right now and so much will happen in the future. However, there are some fundamentals that will stay more or less the same. So, let’s take a look at those basics.

The Old, but Golden Content Marketing Fundamentals

While content marketing today benefits from decades of trial and error, at its core, it has three main components – the audience, the goals of the message, and the ways to promote it. Many successful brands like Coca-Cola, Michelin, and Lego, have stood the test of time by sticking to these basics.

At the same time, these brands have also found some unique formulas, thanks to which they’re able to remove the guesswork and understand exactly how to grab and retain their audience’s attention. Since these techniques focus on conveying the right message to the right crowd, they are still applicable today.

Here are two examples of these marketing fundamentals.

AIDA

AIDA graphic

AIDA or Attention, Interest, Desire, Action is a great, steady, and foolproof content-creating formula. It encapsulates the essence of the most important requirements of any content marketing campaign. You need to grab the attention of the viewer, pull them in, get a sense of what they like and desire, and influence them to make the next move.

The reason why AIDA still works today is because it’s straightforward. It helps you seduce your audience while taking them on a journey that shows all the ways your message is relevant to them. What is more, it draws your target user in and motivates them to take action.

Here’s a great example of AIDA:

PAS

Another golden content marketing formula is PAS – Problem, Agitate, Solution. This formula can be applied to pretty much any content format – ads, emails, blog posts, videos, etc, and it has the following mechanism:

  • Presenting the Problem – Naming the problem, without getting into the specific pain points, just putting it out there.
  • Agitating the Problem – Stirring up the problem, and giving it some urgency.
  • Providing a Solution – Offering your unique solution.

PAS works so well, precisely because it creates urgency. This urgency then motivates individuals to act. So if you would like to incorporate it into your content strategy first, present your audience with what’s at stake, and second show what you can do to help them.

Here is an example of PAS in action.

Basecamp screenshot

Source: Basecamp

 

Тhe Digital Game Changers

With a sound content marketing strategy, any business can frame its brand identity, capture its prospects’ interest, and retain the engaged audience. What is more, it can help establish authority, project legitimacy, and instill trust.

As we’ve seen already, content marketing is anything but static. Its landscape is constantly changing – starting from a fascinating past and heading to an even more exciting future. Let’s take a look at a few of the digital game-changers shaping content marketing today.

Search Engines

Since the internet took over, search engines have taken up a leading role in shaping users’ learning habits. These tools have allowed individuals to look for and access information in the most convenient ways, creating a portable and infinite library right at the tip of their fingers.

Here’s a question: What do most users do when they need more information about a subject? That’s right – they Google it!

According to a RetailDive survey, as many as 87% of shoppers research a product online before making a purchase decision. What this means is they are looking for content that can raise their awareness, help them consider their options, and come to a decision.

Search engines, like Google, have noticed this aspect of user behavior, and are making continuous efforts to provide prospects with informative, meaningful, and positive online experiences.

Because of this, it’s extremely important that businesses concentrate on producing high-quality content. It will help them both with moving prospects down the funnel and securing their position as a credible, trustworthy, and authoritative brand.

Social Media

The evolution of content marketing is not only limited to search engines. One of the most disruptive trends – the meteoric rise of social media, has also had its profound impact on the industry. And while these platforms have become a centerpiece to everyday life, they have also brought about some new marketing challenges.

The growth of social media has led to the popularization of a different kind of content consumption. Search engines allow users to discover content more pointedly – they have a query so they go online to find its answer. However, when on social media, users consume content more passively – the content they see on their Instagram or Facebook feed finds its way to them, and not the other way around.

To successfully capture the value of these platforms businesses have to create more attention-grabbing, shareable content that can be easily spread through different channels. This has brought to life new forms of developing and distributing content across various platforms and channels, bringing some challenges and many opportunities to content marketers.

What Kind of Content Do You Want to See From a Brand or Business You Support

Video is very engaging and much easier to follow compared to blog posts, newsletters, and ebooks. Thanks to the combination of movement and audio, it enables you to convey information much more clearly and efficiently. The human brain loves visual content because it’s so straightforward. In fact, the average user is able to retain as much as 95% of a message if they watch it, compared to 10% of the message if they read it.

Video offers a great medium for brands to tell their stories and promote their products, and with so many video platforms out their message can benefit from a wider reach. According to Wyzowl, YouTube has remained to be the most widely used video content platform in 2020 for 87% of content marketers, with social media videos and webinars following closely.

What’s Next?

Since content marketing isn’t static, and it will likely never be, its future is filled with plenty of opportunities for growth.

The Reign of Video Still Going Strong

Over the past decade, video has emerged as a popular and quite important medium for content marketing, making it a trend that has just taken off and is likely not to stop anytime soon. According to Wyzowls’s State of Video Marketing Report, as of 2021, 86% of businesses state that they use video as a marketing tool, marking a 25% growth from 2016.

Does Your Business Use Video as a Marketing Tool

Additionally, 93% of marketers consider it to be a key part of their marketing strategy and 94% of them believe that video has increased the understanding of their product or service. And with about 69% of non-marketers saying that they will use video as a marketing tool, there’s no wonder why it has become a staple piece in the content marketing strategy of many businesses.

Is Video an Important Part of Your Marketing Strategy

That said since the expansion and exploration of video are growing, marketers have to concentrate their efforts on standing out. This can include effective use of the various video platforms. While YouTube still remains the most popular one, used by 87% of video marketers in 2020, webinars and platforms such as TikToks are catching up quickly.

Regardless of how video marketing is incorporated into business or personal branding activities, the video will be a centerpiece on the evolution of content marketing in the future.

Mobile Taking the Content World by Storm

The usage of mobile devices is increasing at an incredibly fast pace, with Statista predicting that in 2022 mobile data traffic is likely to be seven times greater than compared to 2017, hence content marketers should really make sure to keep pace with it.

Ensuring that your website is optimized for mobile devices is also an integral part of any successful SEO strategy. According to Oberlo, 63% of Google’s US organic traffic in 2019 happened on mobile devices. When using smartphones for search, people usually have specific queries in mind, which are often location-based and with less complexity involved. For this, it’s important that your content is optimized so it can provide the right information and support a good omnichannel user experience.

Customers and prospects should be able to derive the same value from your mobile resources as they do from your desktop ones. Your website elements should be optimized for mobile screens, with easy navigation and a seamless flow. Blog content should be effortless to read. Video content should load quickly and be adapted to screens of all sizes.

With the influence of mobile growing, more opportunities for new and emerging media are now available. Novel technology such as augmented or virtual reality is slowly, but surely becoming popular, opening new horizons for more exciting user interactions.

Successful Content Will Lead with Purpose, Authenticity, and a Customer-first Approach

Since search is king, when optimizing your content for SEO, you should ensure that it’s meaningful, purposeful, and able to suit users’ needs. Google’s ranking algorithm prioritizes the content that would be the most meaningful to those searching, ranking it higher in SERPs. By Google’s standards, the top-ranking search result for a given keyword is the one that can answer the search query best.

This algorithm is already changing and will likely continue to change in the pursuit of providing the best match for their users’ search needs. Yet, the one thing that will not change is the necessity to create high-quality content that consumers can resonate with.

Additionally, community engagement, outreach, and research will be key players in the context of content marketing. This would mean that, as content marketing evolves, it will shift to become more targeted, customer-centric, and purposeful, thus leaning more towards audience enrichment rather than product promotion.

Conclusion

Since content marketing is constantly evolving, the most important thing to remember is to not let yourself get too comfortable. New challenges and trends are always on the rise, so make sure you stay alert.

Although every new opportunity brings more approaches to test and explore, there are a few old, but golden content marketing fundamentals you shouldn’t neglect. While modern technology helps accelerate content production efforts, generating quality content that can successfully address customers’ pain points over time will never go out of style.

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