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Automation in marketing campaigns

What does automation in content marketing mean for the future of campaigns?

Automation, Content, Marketing, Technology | No Comments

Technology and automation have irrevocably changed the world of marketing. Social media, data analysis, and the internet have given marketing a new lease on life, but there’s been very little discussion about the cost of the human element in marketing. At its heart, marketing is about establishing connections between a brand and their audience. But what does our automation-addiction mean for the future of marketing, and the people who create the campaigns? We take a look at some of the areas most affected by the growth of automation, what our programmatic predilections mean for the future of marketing, and how brands can combat the perils of automation dependency.

Social media

We all know the best times to post on social media, and now marketers can pinpoint when they get the most response rate. Every company uses automation to an extent. In fact, when used intelligently, it can even enhance the audience experience.

Automation in social media has been both a blessing and a curse for brands. It’s freed marketers up to deliver content outside of working hours, which means a wider geographic audience range as content can be disseminated across different time zones. Simultaneously, it has also been interpreted by many as a green light to schedule their social media at the start of the working day and then ignore their feeds for the rest of the day. Automation might give more freedom to marketers, but it can also inhibit their willingness to pivot a strategy when new content opportunities become available. It can also lead to brands posting dubious or offensive content purely as a result of bad timing. Agile marketing still very much relies on a human element, but it needs marketers to accept that not everything in life can be automated.

Automation in marketing campaigns

Customer service

A recent Facebook study revealed that 53% of consumers are more likely to shop with a business from which they can message and get a quick response. Meanwhile, a study by Nucleus Research found that marketing automation can drive a 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead. While stats like this give a pretty convincing argument for businesses to explore their own options for automated replies, but it’s important to remember why customers contact companies in the first place.

No other area of marketing requires the human touch more than customer interaction. Chatbots can automate all kinds of tasks, but it would be foolish to think the entire customer service role can be delegated to AI and automation alone. Automation may have streamlined the purchase process for buyers, but as more companies adopt them for their own commercial needs, it’s important to remember that AI still relies on some level of human inputThere’s so much variation in humans, be it syntax, spelling or (if you’re relying on voice interaction) dialect. As Abinash Tripathy of Helpshift explained in a recent VentureBeat article, “Chatbots are still highly fallible, and should not be used to replace human interaction. When people want to talk to a human, they need a human.”

Automation in content marketing

Data analysis

As a relatively new concept to digital marketing, data analysis is probably the tool best suited to automation in content marketing. The process of analysing different site metrics, with its heavy quantitative focus, lends itself perfectly to automation. Numerical data on site visitors, the time spent on each page, the channels by which visitors gained site access and many more metrics can help form a picture of your site’s strengths, and most analytics packages provide automated updates as standard.

Developing actionable insights from this data, however, can be more of a challenge. It’s tempting to say that only a human could draw relevant conclusions from human behaviour, but when this behaviour is filtered through the limited actions and access points of a website, it’s not unbelievable that a well-programmed piece of AI software could replace human input. There are already several software suites on the market offering automated, AI-led solutions to your data analysis needs, although the technology is still in its early days.

So while automation and AI can take some of the monotony out of data harvesting (not to mention saving time and money), it’s still a few years off from replacing the company data analyst completely.

Automation in content marketing

Direct marketing

Perhaps one of the biggest changes in marketing prompted by the tech revolution is the speed and accuracy with which brands can now target their audience. Consumers can not only find out about the latest company offers within seconds of a new campaign going live, they can receive content customised to their specific interests. Automation has played a huge part in reaching so many in a short space of time, but it still depends on human input.

The thrill of marketing is in that elusive human connection, and part of that comes from maintaining a two-way setup in your communication channels. If you’ve automated your content to go out to every one of your followers simultaneously, the chance of you being deluged with simultaneous replies increases. Likewise, the likelihood of these replies requiring a strong understanding of the nuances in human speech (something AI still struggles with) is high.

This makes following up with a satisfactory reply in a timely manner particularly difficult, largely because good customer service depends on giving the respondent something more than a generic automated reply.

The ironically named Progressive, an auto insurance company, learned this the hard way after replying to criticism of a case involving a customer death. Instead of considering each critic’s unique comment they automated their reply and sent out identical, emotionless responses that only served to anger the public more.

Automation in content marketing

Conclusion

So automation has largely been a positive addition to the marketer’s roster, but there are still a number of pitfalls to watch out for. Marketing today isn’t about blindly embracing every new piece of technology that comes along. It’s about utilising technology while considering how it can be integrated with other methods of marketing. Consumers want to feel like their opinion matters, and this relies on real interaction. Automation has become a crutch for too many brands, seeing it as a way of simplifying their daily routine without taking into account the most integral ingredient, the human factor. By accepting that some of the most inspired marketing campaigns grow from not setting your routine in stone, you can begin to integrate technology with human discretion and see real emotional engagement.

content-marketing

How to ensure your content marketing hasn’t lost its impact

Content, Feature, Marketing | No Comments

From Benjamin Franklin’s first published annual ‘Poor Richard’s Almanack’ way back in 1732, to the first Michelin guide in 1900 to the modern day company blog, content marketing has fulfilled a pivotal role in a brand’s marketing campaigns.

The central idea of content marketing is not only to advertise to customers but to reciprocate their interest in your brand by providing information in their quest for information. Content marketing is nothing new, but since the proliferation of the internet, brands have been handed the keys to an altogether different beast. Today, around 4.6 billion pieces of content are produced every day, according to a study by LinkedIn.

Today, marketers have access to a vehicle that allows their brands to reach out to consumers around the world, and content marketing is the key to forging a reputation as a leader in their respective field.

Use the right channels, the right way

But with this newfound exposure comes a myriad of challenges. Getting your content in front of the right people today can be more demanding than creating the content, largely because almost every company now has its own content marketing team. Being noticed in the crowd requires a detailed understanding of the best channels to transmit content for your specific brand, a good grasp of the most effective times to share, and a keen eye for the best influencers to help get your message out.

With the explosion in specialist ‘content creation’ sites, being heard above the din is no easy task. That’s why you have to think carefully about every stage of the process before generating content. This in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. The early years of the internet resembled a digital wild west, where any content was deemed worthy of publication and the basic rules of writing were eschewed in the pursuit of clicks. Today, the clickbait industry is (unfortunately) stronger than ever, but audiences expect more from branded content.

Consistency is crucial

Consistent content requires an extensive knowledge of your own brand’s core ethos. To guarantee your audience comes back for more, refer to your core values before posting anything. This is particularly important when you’re devising your new social and outreach campaigns.

Consider what the end goal of your post is, how many new leads you hope to generate and what would make you stop and click if you were in need of the services your company offers. There are some great guides out there to developing your social campaigns while staying true to your brand message.

Alongside this, always keep your audience profile snapshot in mind when generating and disseminating content. Creating an audience snapshot is no easy feat, but it’s a fantastic resource for giving your marketing a strong focus and a genuine consistency.

It’s not just in content development that you need to maintain consistency, however. People like knowing when and where great content is going to be available, so try to find the best time to post for your audience, then stick to it! Maintaining a regular pattern of posting breeds familiarity and increases the chances of readers engaging with your brand.

Involve your audience

Content marketing has been through some dramatic changes lately, but the most significant developments have been in interactivity. Marketing is no longer a one-way channel. Today, it’s a bustling two-way street, where audience feedback can encompass anything from video testimonial to an open-forum discussion with the brand.

Social media has given a microphone to the audience, and the whole world can hear the Q&A session. This is a double-edged sword for companies. Encouraging synergy between consumer and brand can lead to a huge increase in the number of people talking about your brand, but it’s up to you to make sure it’s positive chatter.

Writing for your audience doesn’t have to be an explicit statement of what your company does. Creating compelling content on a subject related to your company, known as brand adjacency, can be a great way to generate buzz. If the content is of enough interest, your audience will debate, discuss and share it with like-minded individuals you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to reach. Not only does this give extra legs to your content, it establishes your brand as a thought leader in the field.

Tailor content to your audience’s needs

This means considering everything about your consumer’s browsing habits. What are the key issues in the industry today? Which social media channels does your audience use most? What vernacular do they use when searching? All of these considerations should play an integral role in deciding the kind of content you create, and when you make it available.

Great content should entice your audience not just to read on, but to read more about your company. Creating content that you know will fulfil a specific need for your industry massively increases the odds of it being shared between other thought leaders. There are hundreds of resources available online to give you a better understanding of the questions being asked in your industry.

Search sector-specific forums and don’t be afraid to ask questions of your own. Likewise, Q&A sites like Quora and Yahoo Answers provide a treasure trove of insights into the topics dominating your industry. When you know the questions being asked, you can begin to formulate the answers people want to hear.

Corporate responsibility is big business

Content marketing is designed to catch public attention, but it’s also vital to mapping a brand’s corporate ethos. The latter has become increasingly relevant as audiences come to see brands as an extension of themselves.

Brands that identify their corporate values through their content can cultivate a lasting connection with their audience providing the content aligns with their personal beliefs. This doesn’t mean shouting every minor act of altruism from the rooftops, but if your company is doing some good in the community or abroad, it’s good marketing practice to let the world know. If your company is working with a charity, this provides even more in the way of inter-brand promotion opportunity. By coordinating the charity’s content marketing with your own, you ensure mutual benefits for both.

This is one of the few areas of content marketing that hasn’t been diluted by the growth in content marketers, as corporate responsibility becomes ever more intertwined with company identity. In fact, companies can now become champions of causes through their content, bringing an issue to the attention of their demographic while positioning themselves as a compassionate brand consumers are proud to be associated with.

Go beyond the blog

Content marketing covers a huge range of media and can encompass anything from a short supporting video to a podcast to a whitepaper in a respected publication. Who could forget the Lego movie, the first ever full-length studio film that also doubles as an exercise in content marketing? OK, so we’re not suggesting you opt for the full studio production, but content marketing doesn’t have to be limited to your own domain.

In fact, there are hundreds of non-conventional methods to get your brand noticed outside of your own website. Posting informed comments on other people’s posts, when not overtly ‘ad-oriented’, can point other readers to your own content. Likewise, answering questions through the aforementioned Quora can prove your credentials before a reader even knows about your company.

Including a link in your profile or occasionally alluding to your company in your answers (providing it’s relevant to the question) can raise your company’s profile while establishing a credible bond of trust between you and the audience.

In conclusion…

Content marketing is changing rapidly, but this shouldn’t be daunting. It means more opportunities for innovative content delivery are becoming available every day. 70% of B2B marketers created more content in 2015 than they did the year previous to that, and the first half of 2016 saw this number rise significantly again. There’s more competition for those top search results than ever before, but the payoffs are bigger in turn.

It’s never been more important to ensure your content is having the biggest impact possible. By staying abreast of all the latest technology, understanding your industry,and being willing to think outside the box, you can increase that impact and make a real difference to the future of your company.