summer / 2018

The magazine of branded content
The State of
Digital Content
Juliet Stott
Altimeter’s Digital Marketing Analyst Omar Akhtar Explains All
Juliet Stott
Nov 1, 2018

Altimeter’s latest report on Content Marketing provides key insights into what strategies, channels and content formats perform best across industries and regions. It also identifies trends in innovation, current organization and governance practices, and key metrics for measuring success.

Here the report’s author Omar Akhtar shared some of his findings with Content Magazine.

Content: What type of content is performing well? What type of content is worth investing in?
Omar Akhtar: This varies a little by industry and region but product-focused content, content that’s specifically about how to use the product, how to solve your life’s daily problems, information that tells you how to repair, upgrade or pair your products with other products, tends to perform well, especially in areas outside of North America, especially in Europe and China.

In North America product focused content performed just as well as “thought leadership”, which is expert content that doesn’t necessarily talk about the product you’re selling or your brand, but it talks about or gives away useful proprietary information that could help the reader within the personal or professional lives.

What format is generating the most engagement?
The most striking finding was that it didn’t matter what the industry or the region was, short-form video, that’s video that’s shorter than two minutes, consistently was the top performing format.

It was closely followed by static images, with short-form blog posts and long-form research papers coming in lower on the rankings.

As video is a notoriously expensive, is it feasible for everybody to adopt video or integrate video into their content strategy?
What’s become apparent to us is that not all video has to be slick, or agency-produced. If you take a look at the kind of content that’s performing well on social media, it’s the story format, it’s extremely personal, it’s authentic, it’s grimy and it’s real-time, and people are responding to that on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook.

That doesn’t mean that every brand should abandon slickly produced videos in favor of handing out their cell phones to a few employees and having a go at it.

What I mean to say is even if the most basic production videos will do better than no video at all, especially when it comes to putting out complex content.

Which are the best channels to deliver content on?
In every case, with the exception of Facebook, your own channels, i.e. your website, your mobile app, are the best to deliver content on. This is because you can control the analytics, control uploading of content and set the controls and criteria for personalization.

It’s also because when people come to your own property they’re already engaged with the brand and the products, and they’re coming there for a reason, and so there’s less of a barrier to overcome when it comes to engagement.

Why is Facebook the most effective social channel?
Facebook ads are tremendously effective… Let me put it this way, when it comes to targeting, Facebook has one of the most powerful engines out there. Compared to Google it has a far more sophisticated algorithm for targeting people using personalized content.

You can target people based on their interests, key words, topics, things that they’re associated with, other ads that they’ve clicked on, demographic information… There are so many different variables you can use, which makes Facebook a really great tool for targeting.

Let’s not forget that Facebook, with the way that the UX was designed, is an ideal place for content to be consumed. In fact, the majority of what people do on Facebook is consume content that wasn’t produced on Facebook, which is very different from Instagram or Twitter or anything else.

Which digital tech tools are being used most often or are most useful to you?
The most common digital tool is CMS, which is not surprising because if you’re going to have a corporate website you should have a pretty robust CMS. It’s closely followed by content performance analytic software, i.e. web analytics or any other analytic software that you’re using to track.

We saw a lot of investment in web personalization this year and for next year. That’s been a big eye-opener, seeing that content marketers are getting a lot smarter about personalizing the web experience and not just personalizing the content that’s on outbound channels like ads and email.

That is huge because, ultimately, we want to be able to A) keep people on our own channels and B) personalize according to where they’re coming from and what they’re searching for.

Amazon has been a real leader in the field of web personalization; although they do more personalized product personalization rather than content personalization. Using the same level of product personalization and applying it to content is going to be the next level of content marketing.

What role is data playing in content creation? What type of data is being used?
The most common data that’s being used is web analytics information. Basically, this tells you what pages users are clicking on, the search terms they’re entering to get there, and where the drop-offs are occurring.

It’s very focused on content, so there is a very direct line between search terms, clicks, shares and dwell time to find out which content is performing, and which isn’t.

Moving on from that, we’ve got things like CRM, web surveys, and using all sorts of customer data that isn’t digitally sourced.

The truth is, you have to take in all of the different sources to be able to come up with a pretty holistic way to do content marketing, you can’t just only stay within source.

If you only use survey information or you only use web analytics information you’re going to be very limited in your outreach.

What are the best measurements of success?
Two years ago, when we asked marketers this, the top stat was reach, which was, broadly speaking how many people saw the content.

What’s changed this year is that engagement is the top metric that people use because they want to show that a piece of content is causing an interaction, it’s not just being viewed it’s actually making people do things that get them further down the funnel.

What are your top recommendations for content strategists in 2019?
Use holistic data to create your content. Use data from your call centres, data from your sales team, data from your brand team… Do the holistic gathering of data so that you can come up with the kind of content that your audience needs.

Then, make key decisions about the content that you’re not going to put out there. Content marketing has become so easy and the barriers to entry are so low anyone can put out a blog post, which leads to a lot of excessive, unfocused content being produced.

Companies are spending huge amounts of resources putting out all types of content, so they have to put out brand-focused content, product focused content, they have to have a community, they have to be on social media, they have to be entertaining, but they also have to put out research and white papers. So, there is this idea of feeding the content beast with putting out all of the content, all of the time, across all of the channels, and that’s not going to be sustainable and nor does that deliver any value to the business.