One panelist at the Content Council's "Content Chaos: Navigating the Path to Engagement" conference in New York, summed up the importance of content marketing, particularly on video-rich social media channels: the only way to reach a Millennial audience, he said, is through social media creators with a following.
A kickoff panel on Monday featured these creators: mommy blogger Kimberly Coleman; Amber Lee of short-video production house Visual Country; Shanna Malcolm, actress and content creator (HeyYoshanna); and Karen Robinovitz, co-founder of digital Brand Architects. They all said brands have to trust the creators and their authentic connection with their fans. “Sometimes we know our audiences in ways that you can't appreciate upfront,” said Malcolm. “It's about relying on our creativity and our comfort with our audience.”
Lee, whose company puts a lot of focus on creating Vine and Instagram videos for brands, says companies come to her to tell a story -- one that can be told briefly. “It's a compact message. It's to the point, very clear and can resonate well with users, and people watch again and again, as it loops.” The creators and YouTube stars who want to partner with brands have to be willing to leave money on the table or risk sacrificing their authenticity. Shannon said she had turned down a spirits brand, and Coleman, a sugar cereal. “The audience knows that if you say you believe in something or recommend it, it's authentic.”
On the buy side, the council has just completed a study, the findings of which were presented at the conference. It polled 448 marketers (with the Advertising Age content strategy studio helping). Forty-eight percent were agencies, 35% marketers, and 17% were media. Thirty-three percent were marketing advertising directors and managers; 20% were content and creative directors and the companies ranged from global giants to small companies with revenue under $5 million.
The study found that 76% of companies plan to commit to a content strategy two years from now, and 40% said they have a commitment currently. That's up from 18% two years ago. Budgets were 12.6% of total two years ago, 23.3% now and 33.1% in two years. In two years, content marketing budgets will be $18.4 million on average from $12.1 million now.
Said Alexa Christon, head of media innovation at GE: “For most of us, budgets aren't getting bigger, but content has given us the ability to be scrappier.” She said the company started experimenting with social five years ago. “We started trying new platforms like Vine and Instagram and that gave us license to be scrappier. It was a value exchange. It allowed us to fight lean in content marketing.”
But marketers' confidence around measurement isn't quite where it should be. Fifty-eight percent of those polled felt it was a measurable media, but the methods varied, and were vague: 80.4% said they measure by Web traffic on a site; 74.6% engagement time on site; 63.8% said sales; 54.6% said awareness; 41.9% said they measure by acquisition numbers; and 35.4% said brand lift. Twenty-eight percent said loyalty was the key measure.
The biggest challenges they cited were engaging content (63% said this); lack of budget (53.3%); lack of time to focus on it (50%); proving ROI (49%); breaking through clutter (36.6%); not enough resources (35.5%); and lack of integration (30.6%).