Branded content has become the lubricant holding together the ecosystem of paid, owned and earned digital media. Content marketing has hit the mainstream threshold in the past two-to-three years with more than 70% of B2C and B2B marketers in Hungary now saying they plan to increase their content marketing efforts next year.
The importance of producing branded content has been growing continuously since the invention of the web. With the benefit of hindsight, we recognize four large waves pushing the need for branded content in the past 20 years.
In the early years of the web there was a naive vision that “if you build it they will come”. With the internet quickly reaching the first milestone of more than 1 million websites it became clear, however, that a website in itself is not an enduring attraction. More was needed and that “more” was good content. Content became key to driving inbound traffic and leads.
In the early years of social media there was a “grace period” for brands. On Facebook, if a company collected followers on its brand page their fans would see all their updates. Then, around 2009 Facebook debuted a new type of default sorting order, based on popularity. Brand advertising had to adapt quickly to this evolution of Facebook’s algorithm and marketers had to learn that engaged conversations would get their posts and advertisements shown more regularly. This increased the need for quality content that can make users want to engage in the conversation.
For many years, SEO was a technical and narrow field, promoting sites to increase the number of backlinks or inbound links. In 2011, Google introduced an update to its search algorithm named “Panda” and suddenly SEO and content marketing were no longer two disparate marketing tactics: Google made it clear that they would reward brands that publish quality, consistent content.
Native ads match the visual design of the experience they live within, and look and feel like natural content. The largest social platforms monetize with native, in-feed ads, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. In Hungary, in particular, 444.hu and CEMP’s index.hu stands out on this front. The rising prominence of native advertising is also fueled by the phenomena of ad-blockers. To excel in this new era of native advertising, brands, agencies and publishers, all need to become savvier in creating content.
Content marketing is multichannel: it is happening in social media, in SEO, in native advertising, in PR and beyond. The key challenge for the next years is to infuse content into the customer journey and to integrate all these channels to effectively achieve omnichannel. The heart of the problem is that many of these channels are now separated by departments, by agencies, by budgets, by disparate briefs – by silos –, as if they were very different things. The truth is, of course, that all these channels go together, overlap, blend, cohere. We need content marketing omnichannel more than ever.
The key challenge for the next years is to infuse content into the customer journey and to integrate all these channels to effectively achieve omnichannel.
Brunó Bitter is digital communication and branding expert, founder and CEO at Next Wave Europe (nextwaveeurope.com), senior partner at Kaikaku Consulting and Adjunct Senior Lecturer of Marketing at CEU Business School.
This column is part of a continuing series of opinion pieces from experts at the CEU Business School in Budapest. The opinions stated here do not necessarily reflect those of the Budapest Business Journal.