From paying for content to employee advocacy – content marketing trends

Have people switched off from paying for content?

Our lovely friend Alex Tachalova ran an analysis of which digital marketing services clients Money representing paying for contentwere most likely to pay for, based on their search behaviour. On initial inspection, it looks like bad news for us content marketing agencies as only 4% of our prospects are using search terms that relate to paying for content (such as “fees”, “costs”, “prices”, “consultant”, “service”, “company” and “agency”), compared with a whopping 18% of prospects for SEO services and 10% of PPC prospects.

Alex concludes that “although content marketing generates quite high search volumes, users aren’t likely to pay for it”. While everyone in the content marketing industry will be familiar with the challenge to demonstrate the value of content (because it’s less tangible than the easy-to-quantify SEO and PPC), it’s not necessarily the case that users won’t eventually agree to pay for content. In fact, 66% of UK marketers expect to increase their budgets for content in 2016. In our experience, users investigating content marketing services tend to have very long research cycles because they need to build a business case to secure their budgets – and to do this they need a lot of information before they can start the search for an agency.

This means we content marketing agencies have got to practise what we preach if we want people to keep paying for content, and make sure we provide plenty of super-helpful info at every stage of the research cycle. If we do this successfully, our prospects move out of the 96% of people looking for guidance, and into the 4% ready to spend their budgets, they know where to turn!

Your most potent content advocates are sat all around you

One of the key tenets of digital marketing is the need to build trust with your audience. Brands are trying to achieve this (with varying degrees of success) by providing original, unique content that provides a clear service to the end user. So far, so unsurprising.

But, a recent report has thrown another ball into the content marketing court, and it’s called employee advocacy. Whether you’ve intended to or not, if you’re at a company of any real size, then you’re already engaging in employee advocacy. Employees might be the boss’s mindless drones for eight hours per day, but as soon as they’re out of the office, they’re on social media and writing blogs about subjects we have knowledge of – and that often includes work.

People are inherently trusted over companies. So, one well-placed employee rant might end up carrying the same weight as a couple of white papers. But, this isn’t about negativity, this is about promotion. The Kredible study found that an employee advocacy programme that engages over 1,000 employees could generate up to $1,900,000 (£1,319,260) in additional advertising revenue, and that digital marketing and social media channels belonging to a company have only 10% of the contacts that their employees have when combined. It also found that content shared by people had 8x more engagement than content shared by companies, that brand messages are shared 24x more frequently when distributed by employees and that 77% of people are more likely to buy from a company when it’s been recommended by a friend. So, while you’ve slaved away all week on some shiny new blogs, it turns out the distribution network that you’ve been trying to construct has been sat right beside you all along.

If you’re at a kind and caring company, then you will get some good but ultimately unconnected comments in the right places. But, the smart digital marketer has tools to optimise this process and maximise the value of their employee advocate content. The higher-ups might choose to incentivize a select group of ‘independent’ employee advocates, or you might even be able to find people that can be trusted within your own team. And, to make sure they’re toeing the line in a genuinely believable way, you can give them access to titbits of well-constructed and easily shareable content to leave on Twitter with a note proclaiming: “Look at the awesome thing we did at work today!”.