Technology leaders are responsible for a wide range of elements related to their company’s digital presence: security, performance, scalability, business continuity, core functionality, integration with disparate systems, and increasingly playing a key role in CX processes. Historically, “content” has been an area where IT could remain blissfully uninvolved, leaving it to the marketing and business teams to write and publish whatever words and pictures they deemed beneficial. And while it’s unlikely that IT teams will start being asked to write home page copy anytime soon, spending a few days at Content Marketing World, the largest conference focused on digital content, it was immediately clear that the technology of content has matured to become a far more complex landscape, and one that digital technology teams must keep up with.
Back in the day, there was one key content technology: the Content Management System (CMS). Early systems like Interwoven TeamSite or open-source WordPress focused on enabling business users to publish content without requiring developers to write and deploy HTML code. These systems are still essential parts of any digital stack. Though, the category has now adopted the new more impressive sounding term “Experience Management Platform” to reflect both its enhanced capabilities, such as personalization, as well as increased price tags. But walking around the show floor of Content Marketing World makes it clear that CMS or EMP systems are just the tip of a very deep iceberg.
The Content Marketing World conference is run by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI). No doubt you have been a recipient/victim of content marketing — from e-newsletters that seem to fill up your inbox, to targeted Facebook posts offering white papers on the exact domain of your responsibilities, sponsored inserts in magazines, and the proliferation of books that are thinly veiled sales pitches for everything from SAP software to high end consulting. In fact, a newly released report by CMI indicates 91% of B2B companies are using some form of content marketing, only about 1/3 consider themselves “mature” or “sophisticated” in their capabilities. The majority, however, believe they are improving and that their use of content marketing this year is more successful than in prior years.
And clearly technology is playing a key role in this trend. Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Advisor, CMI and co-author of the new book Killing Marketing, spoke with us on the topic and noted, “The number of technology solutions calling themselves ‘content platforms’ continue to explode. From content collaboration suites that assist with editorial workflows, calendaring and asset management, to platforms that enable the management and acquisition of third-party content, to solutions that focus on measuring and optimizing content display across channels — the choices can be dizzying.”
Why so many platforms? And what are they all for? Beyond basic authoring, publishing, and presentation of content, there are ten key technology capabilities that these platforms tend to support. Different platforms support different combinations and so many content marketers combine different tools together to meet their combination of needs. Here are 10 key capability areas and highlight some examples of platforms that provide some of these features.
“Test and Learn” is the mantra of the content marketer and the ability to carefully track the results of each piece of content is an essential part of the content marketing process. Most enterprises are already using digital metrics packages such as Google Analytics or Omniture/Adobe Analytics for core measures such as page views, traffic sources and common paths through the site. However, content-marketing tuned measurement platforms from companies, such as NewCred, Contently and Atomic Reach, measure whether users are scrolling through your content page and at what speed, and some leverage AI to make recommendations regarding specifically how to improve content performance. Contently, for example, shows heat maps that give a detailed view of where one each page visitors are focusing.
2. Landing pages and AB/multi-variate testing
Moving beyond just measurement, Multi-variate testing platforms from companies, like Optimzely, allow marketers to create alternative versions of content for websites, apps, landing pages from advertising or emails, and then measure which versions perform the best for which segments.
3. SEO optimization
Platforms like Searchmetrics integrate massive data sets on keywords and search ranking to help content authors find topics that are most likely to rank well in search engines and use the right words and phrases to improve their search performance.
4. Video platforms
Video hosting platforms are doing a lot more these days than just streaming video. Tools like Wistia and Vidyard allow you to get detailed metrics on how much of each video was watched and where users tend to pause or fall off. Video platform BrightCove is providing a rich set of tools to enable interactive video.
5. Interactive content
Where is the line between content and functionality? According to another CMI study 75% of marketers are increasing their use of interactive content. Companies like ION Interactive, SnapApp, and Animaker offer platforms that allow point-and-click authoring of quizzes, surveys, animated infographics, and other forms of data visualization that have been shown to significantly increase engagement.
6. Planning and workflow
Many platforms including CoSchedule and Percolate focus on the workflow and planning aspects of content production — creating content calendars, assigning tasks and tracking the full lifecycle of content creation, approval, publishing, and measurement.
One of the greatest challenge of content marketing is getting a continual stream of fresh content written and published. A number of companies, such as Scripted and WriterAccess, are providing platforms geared to connect brands with freelance writers who have the right expertise to create content for their vertical. These platforms act as matching engines, collaboration tools, and payment brokers to make content creation easy to outsource.
8. Webinar platforms
One increasingly popular content marketing technique is the webinar — where prospects sign up to “log in” to an audio + slides or even live stream video presentation and Q&A. Properly marketed, webinars can be a highly efficient method to engage large groups of prospects and then identify those who are seriously interested for more 1-on-1 interaction. Companies like Curata and ON24 provide webinar platforms that are not just conference platforms like WebEx or GoToMeeting but which are specifically geared for the lead generation and metrics concerns of the content marketer.
Digital is the ultimate global platform, and more businesses than ever are realizing the importance of having content available in a wide range of languages. The mechanics of triggering translation of new content on creation, as well as updates, not to mention determining which content is relevant to which market, is taken up by platforms such as E2F and SDL.
10. Content curation and distribution
The content ecosystem typically means that some of the content on your site will be “curated” from other places, and that you will place your owned content on a range of other digital destinations via an array of different arrangements. A variety of platforms are designed to help manage this ecosystem. Tools like Curata are designed to make it easier to find content that you may wish to feature on your own site to expand your content offerings. Similarly named but totally separate company e-contenta helps you find other sites where you may want to place your content, generally via “native advertising” that appears to most users as integrated content in the host site. And companies like Zoho focus on making it easier to post your content on a wide range of social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and measure the results in an integrated manner.
Although these were the main capabilities on display at Content Marketing World, they are by no means the only technology components that touch content. Digital Asset Management systems are increasingly in use to store not only published content but the underlying assets, drafts, and layered graphics files. CRM and marketing automation platforms not only store customer data but help manage the process of optimizing and measuring email interactions, and still other tools exist to improve on-site search, make better content recommendations, and personalize site visitor’s experience.
Given the increasing importance of content marketing as a “hot trend” and the diverse landscape of potentially impactful technology platforms, IT leaders need to ensure their key executives who face off to content teams are aware of this landscape and can both help identify the right tools to pilot and deploy and ensure they are integrated in a manner that is effective, secure, and easy for content marketers to leverage. In fact, like so much in mar-tech, many of these platforms are available in the cloud, and it’s quite possible that more of them are being used within your enterprise than you even realize. So, for IT professionals in some enterprises, before they can lead, they have to catch up. You probably can’t wait until then, but the next Content Marketing World is Sept 4-7, 2018 in Cleveland.