Is content marketing splitting its jeans?

A 2016 study says the popular strategy is stuffing content channels past effectiveness – despite a growing number of publishing options.

By Curtis Kitchen, NAA Director of Communications

Flip through your channel guide listings, dig through your smart device’s app center, or browse niche magazines and there seems to be no end to the “new.”

Rabbits have nothing on how fast content channels produce offspring these days, and it often leaves brands feeling frazzled or left behind as they scramble to meet their audiences at every available contact point. (Because, like, growing market shares and protecting social turf and stuff.)

And, it’s not that there are more places than ever to engage consumers and clients, but the next prevailing thought for many marketers is “More! Give them more!” So, they do, according to a study conducted by TrackMaven – a digital marketing solutions provider that analyzed 12 months of marketing activities for 22,957 brands. The study, “The Content Marketing Paradox Revisited,” stretched across all major industries and included 50 million pieces of content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and blogs. The entire output measured 75.7 billion interactions.
In 2015, the amount of content showed a steady climb through the year, reaching a peak of nearly 90 posts per brand per social network in October. Engagement, however, did almost a reverse mirror image drop at the exact same time, showing an engagement ratio (average interactions per post per 1,000 followers) dip to around 2.2 in October after peaking near 2.7 in May.

What does that mean? As marketers tried in vain to out-splash competitors for a slice of consumers’ attention, those consumers were off looking for calmer waters through those new apps and other content channels not yet over-muddied by thirsty brands.

In essence, marketers are being told to calm down and shove off unless they play by a couple of rules.

Social networks are helping lay out those rules, thankfully, through specific call-to-action buttons, or limited text in ads (Facebook is particularly strict), as most brands would never figure out for themselves that post quality over quantity has to matter; that user experience has to matter. Users want to be talked with, not shouted at, and only when they want to engage.

In any case, TrackMaven poses a few of its own takeaways, saying that quality matters (we all should agree on this) and that it might be time for brands to pay for the right to push their content on social networks. This second point bears watching as monetization, despite the rosiest of viewpoints, is and will always be the goal.

Yesterday’s free is today’s latest IPO is tomorrow’s having to answer to shareholders, and as social networks that find some footing decide to fight for their own lives, they will be forced to make self-preserving decisions. For marketers, it means even the most savvy of us will need to understand that what might work today for free won’t be nearly as effective once money starts to talk (oh, hey there, Instagram, you latest example, you!)

If you’re one of those who has prided his or herself on being able to establish your brand’s social footholds despite barely spending a few dollars here and there (those folks exist), it seems reasonable to think that as long as you continue to search for the next wave of social engagement channels, excel at playing by the latest set of consumer-based rules, and use talent to produce quality, engagement-inducing content, you’ll continue your successes.

The rest will just keep overstuffing their feeds until the jeans finally split.