In November, we launched a short online survey to find out more about the state of content marketing in the UK. More than 70 people responded – three-quarters of them marketers of whom nearly two-thirds work client-side – to give us an overview of how businesses in the UK approach content marketing and give us an insight into their plans for 2013. The results show UK businesses realise the importance of content marketing and plan to boost investment in the next year – as our new infographic shows.
The picture right now
Businesses are starting to understand the potential power of content marketing. With big brands like Coca-Cola publicly outlining their plans to invest significantly in content marketing, it’s no surprise that other organisations are following suit: 78 per cent of respondents to our survey said their companies invest in content marketing. This is lower than some of the statistics we’ve seen from the US, where around nine in ten firms are said to be investing in content marketing.
This could mean one of two things: UK firms are behind their American counterparts in terms of investing in content marketing, or British businesses are doing content marketing without realising it – perhaps not classing social media updates or email newsletters as “content marketing”.
Content Marketing in the UK: 2013 marks the year of intelligent content marketing (click to open a larger version)
Social sharing is becoming an increasingly important part of a content marketing strategy, so we asked respondents what type of content is the most shareable in their opinion. Industry news and blog content came out on top, with 51 per cent of the vote. This was followed by video with 27 per cent and infographics at 18 per cent. White papers were a distant fourth with four per cent of the vote.
The results are perhaps unsurprising, with white papers often used to convert buyers at very specific stages of the purchase cycle. This means they contain content that is much more targeted at an individual in a niche audience, making them less shareable.
According to Oliver Taylor from NewsReach, many businesses fail to provide the different types of content which will engage, inform and ensure revisits to your site. “That’s where the challenge is and where many fall; ensuring you have someone who can provide the different content types to match the stages of research your audience will be going through, with high quality and regular consistency.”
Of course, a great content strategy will be one that focuses on the content types that are likely to make the biggest impact on the target audience, while also incorporating a good mix of other content types.
Predictions for 2013
Content marketing budgets are set to increase. Of those respondents who were aware of their companies’ budgetary plans for 2013, 80 per cent said more will be spent on content creation and marketing. Just over 17 per cent said their budgets are likely to stay the same in 2013, while less than three per cent plan to make cuts to what they currently spend on content marketing.
More and more companies will switch their budgets to content marketing as dissatisfaction with interruption marketing grows, according to Sharon Tanton of Valuable Content. However, she warns this might lead to a “tidal wave of shoddy content”.
One anonymous respondent painted a grim picture for brand marketers who continue to rely on old-school interruption marketing, saying they are “captains of sinking ships”.
Quality over quantity
Quality content is of the utmost importance – now and in the future. “Quality and relevant content is fundamental to make brands stand out from others,” said Valeria Mendes, marketing coordinator at Vanet. “Therefore, I am positive that in 2013 organisations in the UK will keep incorporating content marketing as part of their strategy, in order to bring more credibility for the brand and to generate even more business.”
Concur content manager Gina Balarin said 2013 holds “more content, more value, but also more brands competing to be heard on the same topics”.
Helen Clark, marketing and creative assistant here at NewsReach, believes quality holds the key to standing out in this environment. She noted: “Thought-leadership and more creative approaches to content will come to the fore as brands realise they need to bring something new to the table if they are to grab – and keep – people’s attention above the noise. Those who just provide the bare minimum will start to suffer.”
Think video and visuals
One format that many of our respondents believe will be crucial in 2013 is visual content marketing. “The visual image continues its meteoric rise in popularity across digital platforms, so watch out for more videos and infographics that inform, educate and entertain,” predicts Jenny Barrett, head of marketing at Mortgages for Business. “If used and tracked wisely they have the potential to increase ROI and become a mainstay of the successful marketer’s toolkit.”
More video content marketing predictions:
“I think content marketing is absolutely essential in maintaining any form of community by providing relevant and interesting material – especially video.”
Ben Cogger – account director at UKMN & OnlyMarketingJobs.com
“2013 will be the year for companies to invest in video marketing, not just the biggest of brands.”
Martin Abrams – search engine marketing manager at Park Resorts
“Videos that people actually want to see and share will grow in prominence and value.” Dustin Watkins – co-founder and chief executive, strongfilms.org
“The consumer wants to be challenged and informed/entertained/stimulated by brand video communications.”
Mark Jones – director of mediamark broadcast
“I think companies are finally coming to terms with what content marketing is. From this, I predict a huge rise in those interested in content marketing with the biggest areas for growth being video and whitepapers.”
Daniel List – Senior Developer
“More and more video on smaller and smaller screens.”
Rob Allen - TechTrekUK
NewsReach head of content Chris Trimble said: “2013 will be the year of mobile! Just kidding. How many years have people been predicting that for now? Four?! There’ll be at least a couple more yet, I think.
“2013 will not be about content platforms but about content diversity on the platforms we currently have. There’s been a clear trend this year of companies moving away from just having blogs or just having videos to using a wide variety of different content in their marketing strategies. Google likes it. Consumers like it. It’ll become the norm over the next 12 months as positive results make your directors like it.”
William Steward, managing director of Iconsive, predicts a comeback for email marketing, suggesting such permission-based marketing will become an important part of content strategies. “Marketers will rediscover the power of an excellent list and realise that it can still often surpass the engagement many companies can achieve with customers via social networks.”
One anonymous respondent predicted that Twitter content will play a more important role in 2013, but that this will bring not only more opportunities and results but also challenges, such as greater libel risks for those organisations lacking media law knowledge.
Meanwhile, Facebook is set to lead the social advertising charge, according to our head of social Amanda Kouwenhoven. “Networks will work harder to provide users with a better mobile experience and they’ll also aim to enhance current mobile advertising options for businesses. I expect to see businesses focusing more on social advertising, particularly on Facebook, with network privacy settings and greater ‘acceptance’ of social media in the business world forcing companies to ‘fight’ to be seen.”
What will Google do?
It’s not all about Twitter and Facebook. Electric Banana CEO Andy Parker predicted: “Google Plus might just come out of the social media shadows in the UK during 2013!”
Matt Aster, manager at Precision Dialogue, thinks Google has some surprises up its sleeve for the next 12 months: “2013 is going to be interesting; there’s a potential for large increases in algorithm changes dealing with content management (beyond what we’ve already seen).”
Our respondents seem to agree that thought leadership will be a very important part of content marketing strategy in future. Elizabeth Malone-Johnstone, digital marketing manager at TRACKER, said: “2013 will see content marketing become an integral part of the marketing mix, much like social media used to be an add-on and is now largely accepted as integral to any digital marketing plan worth its salt. Consumers expect the best and if you aren’t writing about developments in your industry with authority, you won’t be taken seriously.”
More thoughts on the importance of thought leadership in content marketing
“Rise of the ‘Industry thought leader’, increase in white paper production, a reliance on professional writers for providing seamless content for sharing.”
Gillian Bruce – SEO account manager, Extreme Creations
“There are only so many cutting-edge industry reports that can be produced but that won’t stop all kinds of people giving it a go to try to please the Google algorithm. I predict a glut of so-called “white papers” on everything under the sun, composed by PR execs with six months’ experience, clogging up the internet during 2013 – and the challenge for the content marketers will be to convince users that the content they are marketing isn’t part of this spring tide of “me-too” dross.”
Stuart Anderson – head of marketing and communications, Clarion
Several studies have suggested businesses’ biggest content marketing challenge is being able to produce enough content of the right quality to really engage their audiences. This leads some to throw in the towel completely – five per cent of our survey respondents said their companies do not publish any content at all.
However, of those that do, nearly four in ten use an external provider to help ensure they produce enough content to meet their marketing needs. The majority of these firms also have an in-house team whose efforts are supported by a content marketing agency or other external provider. Some 55 per cent of businesses use only an in-house team for their content marketing.
Laura Hannan, head of business development here at NewsReach, says the last year has seen thought leadership content, such as white papers, infographics and research pieces, in high demand from clients. “2013 looks like it will be as fast-moving as ever; content marketing as a concept is maturing. I’m looking forward to seeing how our clients’ content strategies evolve throughout the year,” she said.
Want to find out how NewsReach works with some leading UK brands to drive their business forward with content marketing? Get in touch to be sent case studies demonstrating how we achieve results.