Answers in Four European Countries by Monira Kerler*
CM tactics: What’s popular, what is not and why
In all four countries social media use, articles on the own website as well as newsletters are among if not the most popular means of CM. They were most often used and at the same time assessed to be most useful. Among the social media Facebook is the most often used medium followed by YouTube. Among traditional media in particular press articles and articles in newspapers are popular.
As it comes to specifics of the four countries Poland seems to be the country where familiarity with CM tools is the highest which is indicated by the fact that CM tools were less often unknown to the respondents than in the other three countries. In Poland the social medium “Goldenline” is among the most popular media for CM. Goldenline is comparable to LinkedIn used in other countries and which is also very popular among Maltese companies participating in the survey. In Austria and Italy, but also Malta Twitter plays a major role in content marketing activities.
In Italy videos and in person events are ranking at position 4 and 5 of the most popular tools (after the “golden 3” mentioned above). In Malta traditional newspapers rank on position 3 (!) after social media and articles on own website; videos and newsletters as well as articles on other websites rank on positions 4 and 5. In Austria press articles and traditional newspapers share position 4 – this is the same as in Poland.
But there are also CM tools which often were not known to the respondents – or they were heard about but unknown what they are good for. These were in all four countries predominantly mobile contents, microsites and podcasts. Italian companies rather did not know what webinars/webcasts and infographics are. From the interviews in Austria it is also obvious that infographics and their use and scope belong to the most underestimated tools. There is a very narrow understanding prevailing which assumes that infographics are only suitable for technical instructions. Moreover, occasion and point in using white papers or annual reports for CM purposeswas not clear to some Austrian respondents.
In the study we were also asking for what reasons companies explicitly do not use specificCM tools. As mentioned before the most popular CM tools are social media, articles on the own website and newsletters . And these are free (or cheap) available and immediately connected to the company’s web presence. Beyond this “Top 3 of most popular tools” we found that there are a couple more tools which were assessed as very useful for content marketing by the respondents – but at the same time were often rated as too expensive. Such tools are: Mobile applications, in person events and videos; but also books, e-magazines and annual reports. Other tools were viewed skeptically in terms of being too time consuming; such were blogs and case studies.
Lack of time/HR and lack of budget were the most decisive factors in all four countries. However, lacking expertise and lacking knowledge of how to measure the impact of a tool are also relevant for the decision not to use a specific tool.
All in all, the sample of companies in Poland, Malta, Italy and Austria do know and use CM tools. There is already a lot of knowledge about them; but it is concentrated on few tools. There is the impression that there is a lack of extensive knowledge about tools (how exactly is it working? Who uses it? Could be innovative for our purposes?), their appropriateness (channel, target groups, scope, attractiveness etc.) and implementation (time, costs).
So what’s the conclusion?
One of the most important insights was the fact that most of the surveyed companies – implicitly or explicitly – “want it all”:
They expect benefits at all levels of (content) marketing purposes which are: raising credibility, brand awareness, customer engagement, customer acquisition, customer loyalty, increasing website traffic, increase of sales and create/grow leadership. Though this position is quite understandable it bears the danger of not living up to the high expectations if there are not priorities and defined milestones.
This is directly leading to another important aspect detected:
It is more or less obvious that a noteworthy part of the surveyed companies lacked a coherent CM strategy. Most of the companies have a marketing concept but do not develop and embed a tailored content marketing strategy for their business. This is directly affecting their ability to measure or assess effects of their content marketing actions. Though most of the companies claim to use tools for impact measuring, the type of chosen measuring tools but also statements from interviews allow for the assumption that the meaning of ‘measuring impacts’ is rather blurry. Also, in view of what just was said before, it is obvious that effect measuring and choosing adequate tools of assessment is hard if one didn’t set clear goals and benchmarks for the CM tools of his choice.
Both of the discussed aspects make it clear that there is still a prevalent lack of awareness that employing a CM strategy is essential for exploiting the chances and full range of opportunities of content marketing.
Another critical point that needs to be addressed is the prevailing attitude among many marketers (or persons responsible for marketing) that CM can be done “alongside”. This impression is fostered by the results of the questions asking for benefits and challenges of the CM use: While it is seen as a clear advantage that especially with social media many people can be reached and engaged and tools are for free, time consuming preparation of content and related human resource costs are seen as disadvantages. Against the background that social media are one of the most popular CM tools among the surveyed companies and the fact that these tools first appeared in private contexts there may be the perception that their use in business context should be as well quick, prompt and cheap.
However, can this expectation be hold up? Ideally yes. But it should be recognized that only persons experienced with writing and for whom writing is a piece of cake can meet those expectations probably.
In fact, writing texts of valuable content IS work and needs to be put thought in which takes more time than posting comments on a friend’s latest pics. So another conclusion for companies should be to think about allocating money/HR (or if they have the capacity, to increase) from conventional marketing to their CM activities to ensure that their content marketing REALLY is content marketing: I.e. valuable contents that demonstrate quality and competence of their company.
After all, the overwhelming majority of surveyed companies in Italy, Poland, Austria and Malta agree that content marketing will be getting more important to them in the future. This anticipation is ultimately the most telling argument to rethink and laying even more efforts on content marketing strategies and tools in future.
* The author is research fellow at the Austrian institute abif – analysis, consulting and interdisciplinary research. She is working in the project CMEx and is responsible for quality assurance and evaluation during the project (2013-2015).