Every marketer knows that content marketing takes a lot of time, not least because it needs to be part of a committed ongoing effort. If your marketing team fails to stick to the strict schedule demanded by this sort of marketing strategy, your brand will suffer significantly. On the other hand, marketers love content marketing for the great audience engagement it brings, its potential to increase brand authority and the various SEO benefits. Nonetheless, success comes with formulating a strategy that takes into account which content formats are most suitable for your brand.
Before you can determine which content marketing formats are likely to work best for your brand, you'll need to define your goals and what you consider effective. Firstly, you need to ask yourself what you want your content to be effective at, whether it's customer acquisition and retention, social media shares, SEO, increasing brand authority, lead generation or something else entirely. For most marketers, the following metrics are the most important, according to a 2015 study by the Content Marketing Institute: website traffic, sales, conversion rates, SEO ranking and time spent on website. Many businesses also track other metrics, such as subscriber growth, brand awareness, sales lead quality and quantity and inbound links. In the case of B2B industries, sales lead quality proved one of the most popular metrics to track.
Just like any other area of digital marketing, content marketing comes with its own set of goals, and there are plenty to choose from. Most brands claim that the most important measure of content marketing success is the number of leads and sales generated. However, other extremely common goals of content marketing include to engage and influence customers and boost brand awareness. Different formats are effective in different ways. For example, written content can help a great deal to boost your visibility in the search engines, but visual content is not as easy to index.
An Overview of Content Formats
Content comes in many different forms, some of which are more popular in certain industries than they are for others. With regards to some of the lesser known formats, it can be difficult to judge their effectiveness, since there simply isn't enough statistical information to get an accurate idea. However, the popularity of a particular content format can at least give a vague indication of its effectiveness. According to the Content Marketing Institute, the following formats proved most popular for B2C businesses:
- 93% used social media
- 80% used email newsletters
- 78% used articles on their websites
- 75% used images and photos
- 74% used videos
- 67% used blogs
For B2B industries, things look a little different:
- 92% used social media
- 83% used email newsletters
- 81% used articles on their websites
- 80% used blogs
- 77% used case studies
- 76% used videos
The above represent just a small number of the content formats available. However, that does not necessarily mean that the others, such as eBooks, podcasts, infographics and mobile apps aren't worth bothering with. After all, different content formats suit different industries. For example, a brand that relies a great deal on visual appeal, such as a fashion retailer, will likely be far more reliant on images and photos, while a B2B industry will find more professional formats, such as case studies and eBooks to be more suitable.
Ease of Developing Content Marketing Formats
While the effectiveness of a content marketing strategy is obviously a very important consideration, you also need to consider the cost and ease of development in the first place in order to maximize your ROI. Not all content formats are made equal, and some are notoriously complicated and expensive to deploy, yet the effort might be worth it in certain industries. Among the cheapest and easiest content formats to develop are social media updates and blog posts. Additionally, many marketers consider images to be easy and affordable, although a lot would consider video production to be difficult. Other often challenging formats to produce include long content formats such as webinars and whitepapers as well as mobile apps and content.
Preparing for the Future of Content Marketing
Succeeding in content marketing relies on living at the very cutting edge of the industry whereby you're constantly faced with the various trends in the marketplace and the fast-changing consumer habits that come with them. Every day, hundreds of millions of people turn to the Web to find answers to their questions or something to entertain them, and in order to appeal to your target audience, you need to take advantage of the latest technologies to provide the best experience. As such, there are certain content formats that everyone should be adopting in the near future:
- Streaming video continues to be extremely important, not least because YouTube is now the second-most visited website in the world.
- Mobile content is increasingly important, as is optimizing all existing content for the small screen, given the rapid rise of mobile Internet usage.
- Long-form blog content provides a more in-depth look into a subject, making it increasingly important for providing something new and genuinely useful.
- Interactive content is also on the rise, and many industries that rely heavily on visual appeal will likely be taking to virtual reality in the coming years.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, 66% of B2C and 69% of B2B marketers claimed email newsletters to be the most effective formats of all. B2C marketers were also largely satisfied with the results of their visual content, blogs and videos. The same applies to B2B marketers, although 58% of respondents also claimed that B2B-specific formats such as case studies and white papers were effective.
Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to defining the general effectiveness of any given format. Ultimately, your own data is best, since content effectiveness is heavily reliant on your specific industry, budget and target audience. To ensure success, you'll ideally need to start out with the more easily developed formats while regularly auditing your efforts to find out what works for you.