The Four Pillars of Recombinant Content

rainbow-test-tubesNow more than ever, content must be recombinant. This means a critical component of content strategy is the ability to rapidly dissemble, reassemble, reuse, repurpose, and remodel discrete elements of digital content.

Consumers live in a multiscreen world that’s becoming more complex and multifaceted daily. Laptops. PCs. Tablets. Smart phones. Phablets. Smart watches. Google Goggles and other forms of wearables. Digital signage and digital television.

Like hummingbirds, they flit from message to message, channel to channel, screen to screen. Sixty-seven percent touch two devices daily, while 30 percent touch four devices. Regardless of how many screens, touch points and channels, 60 percent of consumers expect a consistent experience when interacting with brands.

Got that? The bottom line isn’t channel, device, or media strategy. It’s experience.

This grazing, snacking, multimedia, and multiscreen behavior is in hypergrowth mode — digital screens are now in taxis, stadiums, and retail outlets. As digital becomes less coupled with the concept of “online,” consistency of experience, of voice, tone, look, and feel are essential.

Otherwise, how are customers to recognize a brand as they (and it) travel across all these devices and media?

Advances in advertising push the envelope further still. Facebook’s revamp of Atlas, announced last week, means advertisers can achieve hitherto impossible targeting and frequency capping, regardless of the device or channels in which an ad appears. Whether an in-app in-game message on a phone, or a display ad on the web, the messages — and the creative — can be kept in sync, appropriate for the device, channel, media, as well as the consumer receiving the message.

The technological ability to connect messaging across devices and channels is a clarion call for recombinant content. Marketers require both the tools and the strategies to create content that works in multiple media and channels, that can be displayed across the ecosystem.

There are four fundamental pillars of recombinant content in this brave and fast moving new world:

Content strategy

Content strategies must be devised with a view toward the reuse, repurposing and redeployment of content. Every message must be viewed as a bundle of component parts that can be broken down and rebuilt in myriad ways. Think Lego set. Can you change the headline? The copy? Turn it into a video, a podcast, an infographic, a display ad, or a PowerPoint? You’re on the right track.

Content agility

This is part of strategy, but agility needs its own call-out. Content must be modular enough to be quickly broken down and reassembled to respond to a real-time (or near real-time) marketplace. Creation, too, is often rapid and reactive. This requires training and empowerment of stakeholders, as well as cross-functional and departmental coordination.

Content tools

All these content assets and content demands cannot be wrangled by hand. Recombinant content requires publishing tools, a digital asset management system, and a myriad of other content marketing software. Content marketing, you’ll remember, is nothing new. It’s technology that makes it accessible.

Connected technology

Content tools must work in a connected fashion to create and deploy assets across channels and media. This doesn’t just apply to owned and earned marketing channels, but also to paid media (advertising). We’re not quite there yet, but when the content technology stack starts talking to the ad stack (this will happen in about two years), it will be the real dawn of the era of recombinant content.

This post originally published on iMedia

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Orchestrating Content Marketing On A Global Scale

Content Marketing: How do we do it globally?

Enterprises are only just beginning to integrate content marketing into their mix — and they are quickly realizing that content must permeate the organization. This applies globally just as much as it does regionally.

The need for content is universal, yet each region, country and locality in which a brand operates has diverse and specific needs unique to language and culture. Fundamentally, these needs can be divided into three buckets: Teams, Tools and Channels.

Creating a global content strategy is exponentially challenging, but absolutely essential, as so many of my clients are realizing.

Without orchestration, time and money are wasted, employees become frustrated, efforts are duplicative, and customer experience suffers, as do consistencies in brand and messaging.

Teams

Creating content marketing teams and governance is essential. Last week, I discussed the topic with a team of real experts: Michael Brenner, formerly of SAP, now with Newscred; 3Ms content lead Carlos Abler and Kyle Lacey, ExactTarget’s Director, Global Content Marketing & Research.

We unanimously agreed that content marketing requires centralized leadership, but also local authorities. Michael aptly likened this to the editorial model of a news organization’s Brazil desk, London desk, etc.

Tools

The content marketing software landscape is rapidly evolving and shifting. Selecting tools comes with additional concerns when they must serve global teams.

Do they support multiple languages? Diverse alphabets? Can they handle country specific barriers, such as firewalls or local privacy regulations? Will licenses differ on a country-by-country basis?

Research on the content tool landscape I recently conducted found 40 percent of marketers cite a lack of inter-departmental coordination as leading to investment in disparate, incompatible toolsets. And that’s just on a domestic level.

Channels

What content should be created? Where should it be published, and in what form, and for which audience? Publishing on Facebook isn’t the same as engaging with audiences on VK.com, Line,  Mixi or Weibo.

Then there are regional holidays, local sporting events and festivals, superstitions, news events – ignore these differences and you’re an outsider, not a credible source of information or a potential partner.

Local input, local knowledge and an injection of local culture are all essential. It’s not nearly enough to translate content into a local language, or to push content created at headquarters out into regional divisions.

In fact, often the content surfaced in far-flung markets can bubble up into fodder for HQ, or for other markets.

Content is a team sport, and running content on a global scale is a bit like running the Olympic games.

Each regional must have teams, those teams must have captains, and they must be equipped with training, an understanding of the universal rules of the game and be equipped with the necessary equipment to play the game.

Yet at the same time, each team flies its own flag, and continues to wear its own colors.

This post originally published on MarketingLand

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Beware Parochial Content Marketing

Content marketing is hot — finally! It’s the term du jour in digital marketing and advertising, getting its figurative place at the table and its own literal track at every marketing conference of note. Content is even getting its own dedicated conferences now — several of them.

With great power comes great responsibility, as well as a not-insignificant number of “me too” arrivals at the party.

Enter the age of parochial content marketing.

What’s parochial content marketing? It’s a trend we’ve seen in the past when new marketing channels suddenly erupt into prominence, most recently social media.

Five years ago, every email marketing solution was suddenly a social media company. Every search engine marketing vendor was suddenly a social media solution. If digital video was the offering, it was a digital video for social media providers. I think you get the drift.

Now all those email companies, search vendors, video providers, and so on down the line are — you guessed it — content marketing solutions. Even one of the largest social media platforms has begun a major marketing initiative for its content marketing product.

There’s a good side to this. It means content marketing is maturing, mainstreaming, and that its importance is finally recognized. But there’s a not-so-great darker side too.

The dark side is a parochial approach to content marketing, the view that “content marketing” means screwing search, or email, or video, or blogging into a container labeled “content marketing” and ticking that box off the list of “must-do marketing tactics.”

Yes, vendors struggle to remain relevant — often a tough job in a landscape in which tactics such as email and search and site design couldn’t be more relevant, but have also been relegated to wallpaper status by virtue of the fact that they have aged out at a ripe old decade of service mark. A couple of years ago, I interviewed more than 50 Fortune 500 marketers on the content marketing channels they were using. One cited search. Zero cited email. (Ha! As if!)

Email is a container for content. Search has nothing to find if there isn’t any content. Ads are filled with content — it’s just called “creative” in that channel. There simply is no marketing without content.

Smart marketers know that, and they know that the best content begins with a strategy. Not with a channel.

This post originally published on iMedia Connection.

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No, Social Advertising Isn’t “Over”

Murky research collided with lazy journalism last week to create a torrent of #socialmedia + #advertising = #fail link bait. Headlines in publications generally deemed respectable, and journalistically responsible, heralded the end of social media marketing.

“Social Media Fail to Live Up to Early Marketing Hype” trumpeted The Wall Street Journal. “This Is the New Stat Facebook Should Be Worrying About,” tsk-tsked Time. “Tweets, Likes, and Shares Don’t Make Us Buy Stuff, Americans Say,” echoed Bloomberg Businessweek. “Advertising On Facebook And Twitter Barely Even Works” came from Business Insider, and most pithily, Valleywag added, “Social Media Ads Don’t Do Shit.”

The root of this social-media-don’t-work brouhaha was a Gallup report entitled “The State of the American Consumer.” It professed that 62 percent of U.S. consumers do not believe the major social networking platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, affect their purchase decisions. Additionally, Gallup claims 48 percent of Millennial shoppers are uninfluenced by social media when it comes to buying stuff.

So much for the $5.1 billion advertisers spent on social advertising last year (not to mention billions more on social media marketing programs).

The lone voice of sanity in the media was a well-reported piece in Adweek, pointing out that not only is Gallup using data from late 2012 to make this dubious point, but worse, the data are self reported. No brand or agency would ever in a million years rely on self-reported data to assess or measure ad effectiveness. Self-reported data are near-worthless.

Google the term, in fact, and you’ll come up with results such as: “Self-reported studies have validity problems” and “notoriously unreliable.”

Moreover, as Adweek pointed out in a long voice-of-reason article on the topic (disclosure: I’m quoted), Gallup’s data were collected close to two years ago — a near eternity in internet time, and to top that, some respondents were polled by snail mail, a strange channel indeed to select for research on digital influence.

Looking beyond the dubious self-reported data, the digital equivalent of saying, “Sure, I saw a commercial on TV but didn’t buy the product so advertising doesn’t work,” some of the questions Gallup posed are strong indicators that social channels are indeed powerful platforms for persuasion and influence. The questions below indicate, aside from the obvious social connections, consumers spend time on social sites to share knowledge, research companies (and by extension, products), find and/or create reviews and product info, etc.

Even Gallup admits as much:

“However, companies can use social media to engage and boost their customer base. Consumers appreciate the highly personal and conversational nature of social media sites, and they prefer interacting in an open dialogue as opposed to receiving a hard sell. And companies’ use of social media to provide timely responses to questions and complaints accelerates brand loyalty and, eventually, sales. When it comes to social media efforts, businesses stand to benefit when they utilize a more service-focused approach rather than one dedicated to simply pushing their products.”

Yet this statement from Gallup seems not to be tied to any specific data from the survey.

Murky research conclusions and methodologies aside, Gallup’s deeply flawed research, and the editorial properties that piled on with link bait headlines, really did do a disservice.

We know that social platforms influence consumer buying decisions. The problem is, headlines in The Wall Street Journal, even erroneous ones, influence CEO decisions, too.

This post originally published on iMedia.

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The Content Marketing Software Landscape: Marketer Needs & Vendor Solutions

Our new research report, The Content Marketing Software Landscape: Marketer Needs & Vendor Solutions, published today to help marketers navigate the tangled and complex content marketing software landscape.

It used to be so easy. You wrote content and posted it to your web site or blog.   Perhaps you did a little keyword research, or looked at web analytics for inspiration or refinement.

The content marketing vendor landscape may not be quite as vast as your programing choices, but it’s pretty darn big with well over 100 vendors offering a variety of solutions, and it’s growing exponentially as investment and M&A activity reach a crescendo in the sector. This leaves content marketers at a loss.

Content marketing has grown exponentially in complexity, and that’s before the fact that it’s beginning to also converge with paid and earned media. We’re far beyond the sign up for a WordPress account and hire a blogger phase of content marketing. In fact, Altimeter Group has identified three overarching scenarios and eight broad content marketing use cases.

To add to this complexity, each individual use case comes with a host of more granular sub-categories that must each be addressed with technology.

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Yet selecting content marketing tools doesn’t end with content marketing needs.  Integration and interoperability are major factors that cannot be omitted from any technology consideration.

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Marketers’ questions are manifold:

  •  What content marketing tools and technologies are right for my enterprise?
  • What vendors should we consider?
  • Will our choice scale with future needs?
  • Are integration concerns being addressed?
  • What tools can help us achieve strategic goals, such as measurement and targeting?
  • How can technology help integrated owned media with paid and earned initiatives?

These are the concerns our research hopes to address.  Our new research report, The Content Marketing Software Landscape: Marketer Needs & Vendor Solutions, isn’t a scorecard  of vendor capabilities. Rather, it provides a framework, as well as a pragmatic checklist, to help marketers determine their actual needs, then to pinpoint those vendors offering the solutions that match their requirements. It won’t tell you which vendor to pick (obviously, that would be presumptuous without a much deeper, more personalized dive). But it will help narrow and define a highly mutable and complex marketplace.

As with all Altimeter Group research, The Content Marketing Software Landscape: Marketer Needs & Vendor Solutions is available at no charge under our Open Research model. Please use it, share it, and let us know what you think of it.

Crossed-posted with the Altimeter Group blog.

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Content Marketing Haters Gonna Hate (And Why They’re Wrong)

When something gets big enough to attract a great deal of media coverage and conversation, it’s inevitable that not all the attention will be positive. Take Justin Bieber. Or Miley Cyrus. Both have detractors as vocal and as passionate as their fans.

content_shutterstockContent marketing is certainly no teen idol, but as interest in the topic continues to hockey stick up the charts, the naysayers are coming out in force.

Now, I can be as contrarian as the next guy, but I have yet to see a cogent, well-reasoned argument against content marketing. Instead, detracting arguments seem to be ill-conceived, knee-jerk negativity based on conjecture or downright ignorance.

Let’s take a look at the content marketing haters’ prevailing arguments — and debunk them.

It’s A Meaningless Buzzword

This argument is grounded in the belief that content marketing is basically just marketing. By that measure, so are advertising, promotion, branding, user experience and dozens of other disciplines that fall within the broader category of “marketing.”

Marketing contains many discrete areas of specialization. It’s helpful to have terminology and definitions to describe these separate disciplines.

It’s A Stupid Name

This argument is purely subjective. Sure, there are people out there who hate the term content marketing. They’ll insist on “branded content,” “storytelling,” “brand publishing” and a host of other related terms.  There are arguments against other marketing terms as well, such as “native advertising.”

Let’s just all agree to move beyond the semantics, shall we? You can argue a point like this until the cows come home. Ultimately, it doesn’t help move anything forward, or provide much clarity. Love it or hate it, “content marketing” is the industry standard term now, so learn to live with it.

shutterstock_84816412-measuring-tapeYou Can’t Measure It

Oh yes, you can. Establish the appropriate mechanisms and strategies in advance of implementing content marketing initiatives, and you can measure up and down the funnel: intent to purchase, brand favorability, awareness, amplification and so much more.

Even that shining, most exalted ROI metric can be extracted from content marketing efforts.

Doing so, however, requires discipline, strategy, tools, and an understanding of what to measure, and what KPIs matter to the brand.

Rarely are these metrics the same as the ones used by publishers, yet publisher metrics are all too frequently (and mindlessly) applied to content initiatives. That’s not content marketing’s fault. That’s a lack of planning — and maturity — on the part of marketers.

It’s Social Media

Without content, there is no social media — but content marketing is not social media’s equivalent. Content is owned media: it’s media created by a brand for marketing purposes, and distributed or published on media the brand owns or controls.

Social media can be that, but it also heavily relies upon earned media (e.g., from fans or followers), sometimes even paid promotion and distribution. Paid, owned and earned media are converging and commingling in all sorts of new ways, but pure content marketing is no more social media than it is advertising.

It’s SEO

SEO can certainly be a primary or secondary goal of content marketing — and indeed, without content there can be no SEO — but my research indicates that SEO is diminishing in importance as a stated content marketing objective.

It’s Storytelling

Like social media and search, content marketing can certainly be about storytelling, or forming a narrative to relate a compelling message about a brand. But content marketing goes beyond storytelling into utility, thought leadership, education and other initiatives that are useful, compelling and effective, but hardly narrative.

Please read the rest of this post on MarketingLand, where it originally published.

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Social Media’s Fade-Out (and Why That’s a Good Thing)

Wave goodbye to all those social media gurus. They’re about to head off into the sunset. And that’s a good thing.

By all indications, this is the year that social media will fade into the background. All those social media gurus and social media ninjas and social media experts’ volume level will no longer be perma-set at 11. It’s not that social media is going away. It’s just that it’s fading into the background. Which is a really good thing.

Social media is the new wallpaper, a highly predicable moment many of us have been waiting for. It’s an important and very distinct historical pattern.

Whenever a significant new digital channel develops, it inevitably begins its lifespan as a Bright Shiny Object. The turn of this century was all email, all the time.  Email marketing was the new new thing that dominated the digital marketing conversation for close to 10 years.

Then, oooh! Search! Paid search! SEO! Search engine conferences were the industry’s largest events. The one I was formerly involved with, the biggest one there was, recently rebranded twice: first as a “search and social media” conference, then as a “digital marketing” event.

See where this is going? Email and search now both enjoy wallpaper status. They’ve faded into the background. This is absolutely not meant to diminish the importance or significance of either as a marketing channel. Search and email still are significant, impactful and effective. “Wallpapering” is a sign of maturity and of essential integration into the larger marketing organization. Really, it’s what all those experts and gurus and pundits are fighting for.

Social media is now following search and email into the background. It’s finally mainstream, not a novelty (like having a website once was – remember?). Social media has been departmentalized, strategized, budgetized – all of which are very good things.

We’re seeing the industry shifts that corroborate this. It’s not just conferences that are rebranding and shifting their go to market strategies. Social media software vendors, SEOs, and email providers are all scrambling to reposition as content marketing purveyors. Their offerings are essentially the same as they were before, but this new positioning is more topical, and more broadly relevant.

Content marketing is the new term on everyone’s lips. As an analyst, I’m seeing (and hearing) that it’s top-of-mind with clients, technology vendors, at conferences and seminars, trade publications – everywhere, in fact, digital marketing is discussed.  There’s a sudden plethora of “content marketing experts” blathering on about the topic who you never heard of two weeks ago (a source of great amusement to those of us who have been undertaking serious work in the sector for years). “Content is king” is new all over again, even if that trope was tired as far back as when I still worked in television.

Sound familiar? It should. Content is where email was. It’s where search was, and one day, it will be where social media is headed: fully integrated into marketing, not a nice-to-have but a must-have.

Wallpaper. Really, it’s kind of the goal, isn’t it?

This post originally published on iMedia.

Image: “Sunset at sea” by Jan-Pieter Nap

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