Content marketing is an industry that demands you pay close attention to emerging trends if you’re a marketer. When mobile devices started becoming more popular, content creators had to adapt to ensure their content was easily viewable on mobile devices. Now that video content is more accessible and more in-demand, written content specialists have had to adapt to create more visual assets for their brands.
I think we’re on the cusp of a new revolution in content marketing, and one that has the power to shift the balance in the industry. Consumers may soon judge your brand based heavily on the authenticity of your content.
Authenticity and the Origins of Content Marketing
Content marketing has a long history, even though we think of it as a recent idea. The explosion we know as the modern era of content marketing is attributable to two main factors, which are important to our understanding of content marketing’s future.
First, the availability of the internet made it possible for brands to create and distribute content, for free, to millions of people worldwide. This made content marketing extremely cost-effective.
Second, the abundance of traditional advertising, which often seeks to pitch a product and/or directly persuade consumers to buy it, left customers feeling burned out. They began to distrust advertising, and seeing most traditional ads as an indistinguishable blur of white noise.
Content marketing stepped in as a lucrative alternative; it gave consumers real value, instead of trying to convince them to buy something, and seemed to be a more authentic message — if for no other reason than it didn’t seem to have an ulterior motive.
The New Threats
With roots in authenticity, it’s hard to imagine that content marketing would come under fire for being unauthentic, but that’s the reality we face.
Content marketing is currently staring down three main threats to its perceived authenticity:
· Native advertising. I’ve written before about how native advertising might not be a sustainable strategy, but here’s the high-level version: native ads exist to trick users into believing that paid (sponsored) content is legitimate, publisher-backed content on a publisher’s site. All it takes is a handful of disappointing clicks to lose a customer’s trust — both in the brand that’s paying for the ad and the brand that’s hosting it. In fact, this distrust might spread to other content publishers.
· Market saturation. Market saturation is another problem. Content marketing has become ridiculously popular, to the point where almost every major brand is pushing their own strategy. This overabundance of content is starting to have the same effect that it had when traditional ads became overabundant.
· Content marketing knowledge. Consumers are also becoming more aware that content marketing exists, and are becoming warier about the articles they click on. Because the average amount of distrust and/or suspicion for any given article has risen in an era where the term “fake news” has been re-branded to apply to anything that the user of the phrase disagrees with, brands need to be careful to ensure their messages are authentic (or at least, perceived as authentic).
How Marketers Can Respond
So what can you do to improve your own content marketing campaign?
1. Rely on personal brands. Personal brands are powerful tools for landing guest author profiles on external publishers and supporting your main brand’s content, mainly because people trust other people more than they trust brands. Content written from an individual’s perspective and shared on an individual’s social media account will be seen as more authentic than one that came from a brand.
2. Use personal anecdotes and humor. Incorporating more personal anecdotes, such as stories about your experience with the subject, is one way to make your content seem more authentic (and more relatable at the same time). You can also inject more jokes, and a lighter, tongue-in-cheek voice for the same purpose.
3. Avoid excessive self-promotion. It’s tempting to prime your content with mentions of your brand name, and pitches for your products and services, but any obvious attempt you make to promote yourself is going to weaken the perceived authenticity of the content. When people see that you have an ulterior motive in writing your article, they might treat it with a little more skepticism, or might discount it entirely.
4. Keep your content original. This should go without saying, but try to create the most original content you can, with original titles, original research and information, and a unique, signature voice. If any elements of your content look like they were borrowed or replicated from someone else, people’s trust in your brand and content will decline.
5. Avoid gimmicks. If your content looks “fishy,” or like it has some other ulterior motive, people aren’t going to read it. For example, if your title looks like it’s an amalgamation of different keywords you want to target, rather than a natural and relevant summary of the content within, your readers aren’t going to be interested in it. For the same reason, you’ll want to avoid the gimmicks associated with clickbait; people (for the most part) understand the sensationalism attached to these types of titles, and may be less trusting of your words because of it.
These trends won’t forcibly change the content marketing industry overnight, but they’re already beginning to settle in — and the proactive brands working to fix their authenticity problem are soon going to benefit from their efforts.
Run an audit of your campaign, and step up the authenticity factor as soon as you can; there’s no downside to being more authentic.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!