For as long as I’ve run Evolved Media, we’ve been in the business of helping tech startups and established enterprises create informative, compelling content to explain the complexities of their products. But given the variety of technology, both new and emerging, now on the market that could be used for #content marketing, I think it’s time to turn the tables and ask to what extent technology can assist content marketers.
When I say this, I want to be clear that my focus is on new technology that helps to extend the power of content marketers to become more effective, rather than all the technology that already exists that can be employed by content marketers. I recognize that there are technologies that allow us to build a mailing list, distribute content, and track who clicks on or downloads it. Those tools obviously provide a benefit to content marketers and make them more effective. But that tech was not created specifically for content marketing.
I also do not want to focus on a second realm of technology that aids in distributing content in ways other than email or direct mails. These are tools like Buffer, which allow posts to be scheduled on Twitter, Snapchat, and other social media platforms, and which help users to manage distribution once it’s been posted. Those are valuable technologies for content marketing, but they’re technologies that while invented contemporaneously with the advent of online content marketing, are not designed specifically for it.
SEO technology also helps content marketers, as it allows us to identify which keywords are important in our space, see how they’re being used in our own and other content, and understand which are most effective for bringing people to our site through organic and paid media. To me, this is the clearest example of an existing technology that aids content marketing, as it’s connected very much to the semantic layer of what we do.
But all those technologies reflect where we have been or where we are. I want to explore where we go from here and what other things are being tried. I want to see what new ideas are working or are not working.
One place it could go would be technology that helps to manage the process of content marketing. These are tools that help with creating editorial calendars that allow cross-organization communication or communication with clients and customers and that assemble integrated dashboards with results. But we are awash in a world of process management tools already, from Slack to Asana to Base Camp. Do content marketers really need a tailored collaboration tool specific for our work? I can see such a tool being helpful if you were dealing with a campaign or company with thousands of collaborators, but otherwise, it would seem that efforts in this area would be redundant with what already exists. I don’t think this is a good use of technology development energy and so here, I think this is a fail.
Where I see far more possibility is in the realm of repurposing content. It’s the idea that you can connect with your audience by using other people’s content. Such content can offer incredible differentiating value – for instance, Radian6 and HootSuite have both done some things in this space with social media monitoring. However, those are not comprehensive solutions.
The problem we face right now is that it’s extremely difficult to find relevant content. This is in large part because many of the topics we as content marketers deal with are hard to disambiguate. For instance, recently, I wanted to find some established content about the idea of digital twins. In the tech space, digital twins involve the virtual replication of individual products, software, or whole processes to measure performance and run analytics. But what did my search for content on digital twins turn up?
Sadly (at least for me), little about digital twins and a lot about Chris Pratt. Apparently, Pratt has provided many interviews about how in an upcoming movie, he will get to meet his digital twin through the use of 93 cameras that will capture his every move and tic. While this may be fascinating to some, it’s clearly not what I was looking for. And I think my experience is shared by many content marketers trying to discover relevant content.
This can be blamed in part because the key words we use are not that easy. But we also have to find content of a very specific kind – content that we can use in such a way that it helps to nourish our audience. We’re not just copying and pasting when we use other content. We have to be able to create a coherent narrative and add our own insights to what’s out there. So any technology that could aid in this search process would be hugely beneficial.
The other main area where I think technology could greatly assist content marketers would be in interacting directly with consumers. We have a lot of experience communicating through natural language generation and we could see technology that could use this to create sophisticated personas and stories based on the preferences our customers offer to us. Based on this input, we could then offer specific information that fits their interests, creating a core story and editorial content that could then be expanded upon for other personas. Natural language generation companies haven’t done this yet for content marketing, but I’d be interested to see what they could create if they tried.
Where else could technology take content marketing? I recently had the fortune to speak with Michael Brown, Managing Partner at Bowery Capital, a venture capitalist investment firm focused on improving businesses through the use of technology. He offered a number of insights into how he could see content marketing being changed by technology.
Brown pointed out that content marketing is ripe for automation. “It is amazing how little has been automated in content marketing,” he said. “I am intrigued more by the possibility of automating content creation than of using technology to repurpose what already exists.”
He also told me that he thinks there is surprisingly little leverage in content marketing. By this he meant leverage regarding:
- Efficiency leverage: How can you do fewer tasks, yet get more done?
- Creative leverage: Can you cluster ideas and content together to provide more relevant content to your audience?
- Targeting leverage: How can you deliver content that will be more effective based on what you know about the reader?
The ultimate question that we content marketers need to consider is what would be the ideal solution for our needs. We can then wonder why it isn’t on the market already, but I don’t think there’s universal consensus yet in the #product marketing world about what a perfect solution would entail.
To me, I think any such solution would need to be able to:
- Determine topics that are most attractive to specifically targeted audiences and subgroups.
- Identify and possibly even generate content that matches those topics in a way that is genuine and truthful, rather than a trick or an outright fraud.
- Offer suggestions on how to deliver what clients need the most and then also enable them to get maximum exposure for their products.
A comprehensive solution would be able to map this entire journey, but even solutions that solve one or two of these issues would be revelatory. I also firmly believe that any content marketing solution needs to take the perspective I’ve guided Evolved Media with, which is that content marketing must be done from a product marketing approach. Any tool would have to be able to understand the product in-depth, and then be able to help explain the complexities of the technology in a way that many audiences could understand.
Content marketing only succeeds when it is highly specific. So any automation of content creation has to be able to deliver content that avoids generality. It has to be able to provide customers with the real insights and thought leadership that the best content marketing can. To me, for a true content marketing solution to emerge, tech pioneers should be speaking to those of us in the business to get our insights and better understand where content marketing could go.
To be fair, we are already starting to see some companies emerge that have products that can be used for content marketing. Here are some companies that might be interesting for content marketers to examine:
Torchlite: This company is a digital marketing platform that allows marketers to connect and manage all their work in a single place. There’s also access to marketing experts for those who want it.
PRX: This company bills itself as a new way to manage all your PR. They provide PR managers that help you to set up and deliver PR campaigns, with connections to journalists.
MarketingFox: This company offers marketing automation services, meaning that it can provide data like lead scoring, customer behavior, and dashboard-based analytics.
Marketing Supply Co.: This is an on-demand digital marketing service focused specifically on tech marketing. They offer a range of services, including inbound and emailing marketing, conversion optimization, and SEO advice.
MarketMuse: This company uses artificial intelligence to enable marketers to create and optimize rich, topically relevant content at scale. Think of how many hours content creators spend on content outlines and then body text optimization. This gives you enormous leverage.
Persado: This company enables marketers to generate emotional language that best connects with each of your consumers at scale. The “brain” of the product really helps an author craft a better message and marketing content.
msg.ai: This company enables brands to leverage human-assisted AI for conversational commerce.
While none of these companies yet offer the type of content #marketing technology I mentioned earlier, what they do all show is the trend towards the productization of components of the content marketing process. Going forward, that could mean more technology and services available for content marketers to do their jobs effectively.
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Also published on Medium.