Content marketing is not new. In fact, some might argue that the first-ever content marketer was Benjamin Franklin who, in 1732, created the Poor Richard's Almanack to promote his printing business. Over the history of content marketing, myriad pivotal moments have driven new tactics, grown new industries, and changed the rules along the way. However, one year redefined modern content marketing as we know it: 2007.
Without a full appreciation of the changes that year brought, today's content marketers will continue to employ disjointed campaigns that leave audiences unchallenged and bored.
Pivotal Moment No. 1: The iPhone Shifts the Focus to Bite-sized Content
2007 started with Steve Jobs announcing the first-ever iPhone, a pocket-sized computer that connected you to the Web with the click of a button. Unsurprisingly, the iPhone was a game changer, and its impact continues to make waves today (ie its highly anticipated focus on Augmented Reality). The iPhone killed Flash, demanded responsive design and new innovations with HTML5, while also stealing consumer attention with countless apps and push notifications.
A mobile-first ideology began growing among those who understood that smaller screens meant audiences would favor bite-sized content over traditional long-form content. In fact, 95% of today's consumers prefer short-form content.
Despite this, many marketers still rely on long-form, text-heavy content formats as their primary strategy. While there will always be a place for this, the iPhone gives content marketers the opportunity to connect with target audiences through fast, visually stimulating content in formats such as static micro-narratives, video (live-action and animated), memes, short-form infographics, animated GIFs, and more (with Augmented Reality leading the next wave). If you aren't regularly using short-form media as part of your content marketing strategy, you're missing an opportunity that long-form content doesn't provide.
Pivotal Moment No. 2: Facebook Empowers "Me" Over "We"
At the end of 2006, a little-known tech startup opened its elite social network to the public, dropping its previous status as a channel for college students only. Facebook grew slowly in the beginning of 2007; however, by the end of the year, they were touting 100 million users. MySpace, the ruling social network of the day, began losing market share to a channel favoring clean, simple design over flashy wallpapers and questionable color combinations. In 2009, Facebook surpassed MySpace, and the once-powerful social network faded into obscurity.
But it wasn't just the design of Facebook that held people's attention. Facebook embraced identity as a primary feature. It required users to lead with their real names and encouraged the sharing of personal photos, video, and more. This was the beginning of the selfie culture we know today and shifted the focus from the crowd to a "me" mentality.
Savvy marketers saw this as an opportunity to customize messaging to appeal to personal needs rather than cater to a majority. Content marketers who aren't employing hyper-targeted messaging today are missing the mark. Consider using email marketing tools that utilize machine learning to improve personalization, add quizzes that cater to self-identity to your marketing strategies, and consider how to speak to each individual in your remarketing campaigns.
Pivotal Moment No. 3: The Looming 2008 Financial Crisis Shifts Budgets & Expectations
As signs of the impending financial crisis became evident in August 2007, brands reacted by cutting spending and reimagining marketing efforts, but they couldn't simply produce less content. Content was more in-demand than ever as consumer expectations shifted and new media offered an escape from financial worries.
To meet this demand, a new industry emerged centered around ways to produce quick-churn content through pooled resources. Talented writers and designers got lost in the shuffle because finding the lowest-cost solution became more important than producing high-quality content. While these tactics were necessary at the time, they have become the norm a decade later.
Budgets for content marketing continue to increase, yet many marketers are sticking to old tactics established during the financial crisis. A recent study from Acrolinx suggests that 70% of companies are producing content that doesn't meet basic quality standards. This creates a disconnect between brands and their target audiences. As businesses pump out media, they're focusing on quantity over quality, but consumers have higher quality standards when it comes to the content they'll engage with and share.
Content marketers that are not producing compelling content that is clearly researched, well-sourced, and visually stimulating are falling behind. Consumers know low-budget content when they see it, and they'll put little effort into sharing it.
One Thing is Certain: 2007 Helped Content Maintain its Reign as the King of Marketing
2007 had many more inflection points that cannot be described in one article. Just to name a few, AirBnB launched, the Kindle revolutionized book consumption, and the Android operating system made mobile devices accessible and affordable. As content marketers, it's our job to share great ideas, but in order to do so, we need to recognize how these shifts in technology and identity have fueled new demands -- demands we must step up to meet.