When Bill Gates coined the phrase “Content is King” in 1996, it was a prophecy. Now it’s a platitude.
As web functionality and consumption evolved, and our online appetites grew, content became the de-facto foundation for nearly every digital communication strategy; so much so that there’s now a whole anti-content school of thought, which says the internet has become so saturated with content that publishing blogs is like shouting into a hurricane. There’s too much white noise on the web. “Content is King”, so the theory goes, has lost all meaning.
But has it?
As people all over the world adhere to self-isolation and social distancing, brands are being forced to pivot their marketing strategy. Businesses that relied on physical marketing touchpoints now have no choice but to go digital. Companies with robust content strategies are looking for new ways to target consumers who are suddenly time-rich but cash-poor. Since the dawn of the internet, there’s never been such a large aggregate of people looking for content at the same time (Vodafone has already recorded an incredible 50 per cent jump in internet usage in some European countries).
The pivot towards content has happened across various industries, and often in creative and innovative ways. Victoria’s National Gallery has started running free virtual exhibition tours. Zoo’s Victoria installed live camera feeds in many of their enclosures, so house-bound animal fans could engage with the brand online. Disney has fast-tracked new release movies to its streaming platform, Disney+, including blockbusters like Frozen II and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
The important thing to acknowledge here is that, broadly speaking, content still works. According to SEMrush, companies that use content marketing generate 97 per cent more backlinks and score 434 per cent more search engine results pages than those that don’t. And those leads convert, too. The same study found that content generates five times as many sales leads, and cost businesses 62 per cent less than traditional, ad-driven marketing.
It’s too early to gauge the long-term effect of the coronavirus pandemic on content marketing, but as engagement and traffic increase, you’d expect to see those conversion numbers do the same.
Having said that, experts have warned the industry to be cautious. Not only do brands need to be careful with their content right now (tone-deaf or opportunistic marketing during a crisis is never a good look), but the economic fallout means some companies will need to re-think their online business model.
Quincy Newell, Founder of TewntyOne14 Media, recently told Forbes, “Though it’s expected that we will see a sharp growth in the amount of content being consumed during this period, it is also important to consider that families are being forced to take a hard look at how to limit or reduce spending. I’m sure that may include the thinning out of subscriptions for households that are looking for ways to cut costs.”
So how can brands navigate the next six months, make money, and produce engaging content? Start by going back to the fundamentals. The CMO Council recommends partnering with credible or trusted sources, embracing multi-channel distribution, targeting qualified audiences and producing relevant, consumer-driven insights. In short, the exact same principles that inform any effective content marketing strategy. The landscape might have changed, but the essence of content remains the same: give your audience what they want.
This can range from the obvious (functional content about what your business is doing to keep employees and the public safe) to the creative (live webinars, downloadable eBooks, podcasts, blogs or virtual tours). Any content you make has to be based on your unique expertise, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Take building and hardware company, Bunnings Warehouse. Their website gets over 15 million visitors every month, and they keep those visitors engaged and inspired with a suite of targeted, relevant content. Content which can be used to grow social channels, increase EDM engagement, build SEO relevancy and cross-promote the web store. Bunning’s content library has taken years to build, and it probably required a decent amount of investment, but with most of Australia now stuck at home, they’re now reaping the rewards.
Even Bill Gates probably didn’t envision the sheer velocity of online content available in 2020. But his statement is just as true now as it was in 1996. Every company is now a content company – and content is still king.