There’s no question content marketing is evolving rapidly. In 2009, content marketing meant blogging and writing SEO articles for your website. Fast forward five years, and content marketing is simultaneously both more omnipresent and more challenging to concretely define.  If a brand’s presences across social, mobile and web are defined by the reach and discoverability of their digital assets (apps, photos, videos, etc.), isn’t all marketing technically “content marketing?”

Yes and no. While marketing technology innovators like Moz and Hubspot have certainly broadened the definition of content marketing, heading into 2014 I feel content needs five core attributes to distinguish itself as modern marketing content and rise above the deluge of digital content being proliferated.

Digital Content Creation Volume Chart


1. Content must be visual. Integration with images and/or video is becoming the de facto standard for content across all formats. That’s not to say the written word is irrelevant (Medium is proving that’s far from the case), but photos make up 93% of the most engaging posts on facebook and there’s a reason from that – we’re inherently visual consumers and content consumers respond to compelling images (particularly in cases where screens are small and/or attention spans are short). Overall, between WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram, well north of a billion photos are shared each day, much of it via mobile channels.

Mobile Photo Sharing on Snapchat Instagram and Facebook


2. Content must be mobile-first (or at least mobile-forward) and device agnostic. Every social network is now positioning itself as “mobile-first,” from Facebook and YouTube to Snapchat and WhatsApp. In fact, Cisco predicts global mobile data traffic will increase 13-fold by 2017, with more than 10 billion mobile-connected devices by then.

iOS and Android Mobile Growth Rate Chart


3. Content needs to be “H.U.G.E.” (helpful, unique, genuine and emotionally engaging). If content doesn’t achieve these objectives it will be passed over for content that does. Achieving huge also requires a deeper understanding of your audience’s needs, wants and context. As a result, content marketing is entering a new era of segmentation and personalization.

4. Content needs to be in-the-moment. Almost all aspects of marketing and advertising are becoming more and more real-time. Content that isn’t real-time needs to be evergreen and have a long-term, useful shelf-life for its audience.

Hubspot Context Landing Page

5. Content will be seeded and promoted. There’s so much content out there (of varying quality) and content discovery and distribution are so competitive that amplification, organic discovery, social conversation and native advertising will continue to converge. eMarketer found that 73% of US publishers now support native advertising on their sites (as of June 2013, sure that percentage is even higher now).

Social Versus Native Advertising Marketing Size

To recap, forward-thinking content marketing needs to be (1) visual; (2) mobile-friendly and device agnostic; (3) helpful, unique, genuine and engaging (“H.U.G.E.”); (4) in-the-moment (real-time and appreciate of consumer context); (5) discoverable, typically via amplification efforts through native and novel paid approaches.

It’s clear top content marketing organizations are going to be lazer-focused on creating real-time, mobile-friendly, omni-channel and consistently on-brand content that builds communities at social scale, and that’s exactly how I’m approaching marketing heading into 2014 as well.

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2 thoughts on “Defining Content Marketing in 2014

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