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Online marketing In 2014: How its shaping up

In 2013, a number of web publications made certain predictions with regard to what online marketing would be like in 2014. Some predicted a more diverse and image-oriented thrust in a field that was poised to become bigger than ever. Others proposed that the way forward would be to treat each social media as entities distinct from each other, and to go beyond merely providing standard customer services.

As we enter the third quarter of 2014, it is worthwhile to take stock of the changing sphere of social marketing and what, if any, significant developments have occurred. How is the social marketing field looking like in 2014?

How accurate were the predications made last year? Here we take a look at how social marketing is shaping up towards the latter part of 2014, and what developments may be expected in the coming months.

The rise of the Content Marketing behemoth
Already a powerful force to contend with in 2013, content marketing was expected to grow even bigger in 2014, as predicted by analysts at Forbes magazine, among others. In years past, businesses have been slow to hop on the content marketing bandwagon, with most opting to retain the lion's share of their marketing budgets with traditional marketing vehicles such as TV and magazine advertising. Although a number of companies did direct some funds toward inbound marketing strategies, content marketing was so often relegated to the back burner.

Things have taken a turn in 2014 however, with more and more companies utilizing content marketing strategies to achieve goals such as attracting customers and clients, building their brands, establishing market authority, and gaining the trust of their customers. With the use of devices such as blogs, newsletters, social media channels, and video, companies have begun to focus their marketing efforts on content marketing channels that were previously ignored or underutilized.

Is content marketing delivering results?
The question that this now brings up is “just how effective is content marketing for the companies that utilize it?” Is content marketing all that it is cracked up to be? At this point, what the industry is seeing is a sort of mixed-bag of results, with few tangible benefits in an overall market performance that could be described as somewhat lackluster.

In a study conducted by Forrester Research, it was found that 85% of the surveyed businesses have not realized any perceptible “business value” from their content marketing efforts. In fact, only 14% of the respondents attributed the effectiveness of their efforts to content marketing strategies.

Content marketing issues faced by businesses
One of the most significant issues that businesses have had to face is the difficulty in determining the ROI of their content marketing efforts. For online marketing proponents eager to make content marketing a major thrust of their company’s marketing efforts, the challenges associated with measuring ROI have been a significant stumbling block.

What is clearly needed is a way to associate content marketing more closely with the overall goals of the business. This will make it much easier to gauge the merits of content marketing, and to prove its effectiveness with regard to achieving the goals of the company.

There have also been issues associated with a lack of education regarding the goals, benefits, and methodologies of content marketing. According to Online Marketing Institute founder Aaron Kahlow, there is a distinct “digital skills gap”, with a deficiency in the number of trained personnel to do the work of content marketing. Kahlow did say that there is an “imperative for education” that is apparent from entry level personnel to CMOs.

What it all means
For all its shortcomings, content marketing still offers plenty of potential value to the business owner. It may take a while before the field matures sufficiently and becomes the driving force of most company’s marketing efforts. But if the issues surrounding the measurement of ROI and the improvement of education can be addressed, content marketing may yet live up to its potential in the near future.

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