This post was originally created in April 2017 and updated in March 2021.
It’s a tough time to be a content marketer.
In 2021, content marketers are facing new challenges related to technology, channels, consumers, and COVID-19 news. At the same time, their efforts are expected to do more than ever – drive traffic, build a brand, grow subscribers, produce sales leads, and engage current customers.
With a combination of more obstacles and higher expectations, the result is more dissatisfied practitioners. 60% of B2B marketers would rate their content marketing efforts as successful. In fact, over the last 12 months of COVID-19, 31% said their organizations had been extremely/very successful with content marketing.
To overcome new content marketing challenges, marketers need to understand what they’re up against. So, what exactly makes content marketing so difficult?
1. THERE’S MORE COMPETITION THAN EVER
According to the Content Marketing Institute’s annual content marketing benchmark report, 79% of B2B marketers report using a content marketing strategy.
The trend is clear. Not only is content marketing about as ubiquitous as possible for a marketing strategy, but those buying in to content marketing are creating more content than ever before.
With more content clutter, you need objectively better content in order to stand out. Where, in the past, it was possible to get ahead by being the only content marketer on the block, today, you need to be the best content marketer to get ahead of the competition.
2. IMPACTFUL SOCIAL MEDIA DOESN’T COME CHEAP
Remember when Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter could power your entire content marketing strategy without any sort of significant monetary investment? It’s simply not the case today.
All of these major social networks have taken definitive steps against organic social media marketing in recent years. It makes sense. Advertising is a lion’s share of their revenue and there’s not much incentive to advertise if you can get the same results for free.
Take Facebook for example. In mid-2016, Facebook changed its algorithm to prioritize posts from friends and family over posts from brands. Of course, this was sold as a way to give users a way to see more of the content they care about. But, in practice, it just meant content marketers needed to pay to get the same share of the News Feed.
The same goes for LinkedIn. LinkedIn Pulse is at the heart of the content marketing power of LinkedIn. Engagement there follows something of an exponential curve. The average post doesn’t get much traction, but posts that get featured or reach the top of a category can pile up thousands and thousands of views. The algorithm uses views over a short period (~48 hours) to determine which posts are worthy of being featured. Spikes in viewership are critical to making Pulse work, which plays right into – you guessed it – sponsored content.
3. IT’S GETTING HARDER AND HARDER TO REACH EMAIL INBOXES
Though it may not be the first thing you associate with content marketing, email is critical to a successful effort. From newsletters to lead nurture to promoting new content, email offers a helping hand throughout the content marketing process.
That’s why it’s so important that your emails reach their intended recipient. Emails that get blocked or dropped into a junk folder limit the effectiveness of our outreach. They can also create huge gaps in your nurture and follow-up, causing potential sales opportunities to be lost.
4. TECHNOLOGY USAGE HAS FRAGMENTED AUDIENCES
There are projected to be 50 billion internet-connected devices worldwide by the end of 2030. That means a near-limitless combination of operating systems, browsers/email clients, devices, and screen resolutions.
The vast number of hardware and software combinations only becomes a problem for marketers when paired with the current lack of standardization. Different technologies come with different interactions and supported/partially supported/unsupported languages.
It’s fairly common for web content or emails to look completely different from user to user based on their technology usage. That’s a serious problem for content marketers who pride themselves on consistent experiences across channels.
The only real solution for compatibility is understanding the technology combinations used by most of your audience and thorough testing focusing on these combinations.
With the increase of wi-fi enabled cars, smartwatches, and other internet-connected household items, it remains to be seen if the testing will be able to keep up.
WHAT SHOULD CONTENT MARKETERS DO?
All hope is not lost. There are more content marketing challenges in 2021, but they’re not insurmountable. Competition pushes you to put out the very best content. Paid social forces you to optimize your posts and track ROI. Difficulties in email deliverability push you to send relevant and valuable messages. Compatibility issues force you to make sure your web/email design is airtight.
It’s worth noting that there are also more resources than ever for content marketers. The prevalence of content marketing means there’s great information out there for content marketers in just about any industry.
Likewise, an increased number of content marketers has created demand for all sorts of tools to support efforts. Content marketers in 2021 have access to incredibly diverse and powerful marketing automation and data management tools.
All in all, content marketing is difficult in 2021, but far from impossible. In order for your efforts to stand out, they need to be strategically sound and take advantage of the resources available.
Let us know what you think:
- Do you think content marketing is harder today?
- Will things get easier or harder in the future?
- What are your tips for dealing with some of today’s challenges?