The Evolution of Content Marketing

by Sarah Quinn on 06 November 2014
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When Bill Gates wrote 'Content is King' back in 1996, he was bang on the money. 18 years later, content is highly regarded as one of the best ways to draw in leads, drive sales and promote your brand. And with 93% of marketers using content today, it just goes to show how forward-thinking the former CEO of Microsoft really was.

Content marketing isn't a new thing. In fact, it dates back to 4200 B.C when cavemen used to carve paintings onto their caves. Centuries past and it moved on to magazines and how-to guides, but when the internet launched, it open the doors up to a whole new world of opportunity.

Gates couldn't have put it better himself when he talked about how literally anyone with a computer can publish whatever content they create. Put your stuff on the internet and you could potentially reach billions of people.

But what has the evolution of digital content marketing taught us and how are we adapting to its changes?

Take a look at the stats to find out....

1993 -- The birth of the e-book

So the very first piece of content to appear online was in fact an e-book and it surfaced pre Bill Gates' predictions. It was published by O'Reilly & Associates who created the first ever commercial website. The e-book was essentially a guide to the internet and it paved the way for corporations to create content and publish it to a wide audience. Take a look below:

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It wasn't until 2000 that Seth Godin introduced a free e-book titled "Unleashing the ideavirus" which is considered to be the most downloaded e-book of all time. It's aimed at marketers and offers tips on how to turn strangers into friends, and friends into customers. This marked a turning point in content, as Godin was essentially giving away valuable advice for free, in order to get people talking about his business.

Did you know that today:

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(Source: Social Media B2B)

1998 -- Blogging became popular

1998 saw a turning point for blogging when a journalist decided to report on a story by blogging about it. In 1999, Blogger was launched and this mode of communication suddenly turned mainstream. By 2001, people started to create 'how-to' articles and it wasn't long until bloggers opinions were regarded credible enough to make the news.

In 2009, blogging famously saved a business from failure as Marcus Sheridan, the inventor of River Pools and Spas, set up a blog that was dedicated to answering the most common questions about pools. Today it is the most visited pool website in the world and Sheridan is now a marketing and sales expert.

Did you know that today:

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(Source: Social Media B2B)

2003 -- We started to get social

MySpace started the social media boom but it was soon surpassed by Facebook -- the most successful social media site to date. Over the years, Facebook transformed from an exclusive website for collage students, to a platform that not only connects people to their friends, but people to businesses. Twitter and Linkedin followed suit -- both with their USP's and offered a different way for marketers to connect to their audience.

Cut to the launch of Instagram in 2010 and social media started to become extremely visual. Savvy Marketers started to realise just how powerful visual communication really is, with 80% of people remembering what they see, compared to just 10% remembering what they hear. Social media made us think outside the box in order to create content that would be valuable, rather than simply posting promotional messages.

Did you know that today:

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(Source: Aberdeen)

2005 -- Video turned viral

One of the first successful commercial videos was by a company called LiveVault. They were targeting IT professionals about a back-up disk and they decided to create a video featuring actor John Cleese. In just a few months it received 250,000 downloads and this was just the start of video marketing. Check out the video below:

Shortly after this video, YouTube launched and today it is the second most successful search engine in the world. Now brands are using video as one of the very best ways to engage with their audience. There's many reasons why a video turns viral, but some of the most successful brand videos include Dollar Shave Club, Dumb Ways to Die and Red Bull. Check them, and more out here.

Did you know that today:

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(Source: Video Brewery)

2012 -- The rise of the infographic

In 2012, Google released the penguin algorithm and one of the fundamental rules that businesses needed to adhere to if they wanted to come out on top was to create quality content. This algorithm marked a huge turning point in content marketing as businesses started to really focus their efforts on creating content that people would want to look at and share.

With that saw a huge rise in infographics. In fact, infographic search volumes increased by over 800%! Infographics are a great way to put a case of data forward, in an attractive way, and because of this, they make a great shareable piece of content. Not only do they offer plenty of valuable stats, but they always tell a story, which is an integral factor of content marketing.

Did you know that today:

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(Source: SproutSocial)

Content today

Today content marketing is so big that marketers on average spend 32% of their marketing budget on content. If you take a look at the most powerful brands then you'll see that 90% of them use this method to promote what they do.

In fact, brands such as Coca-Cola started to revaluate their entire advertising strategy, and they now use content ahead of any other forms of marketing. They stand out as a brand that has really embraced the art of storytelling to not only communicate with their customers, but involve them in everything they do.

What we've learned from content marketing:

  • Content should be valuable, ahead of promotional
  • It needs to be about the consumer, rather than the brand
  • Images and videos are much better received than text
  • Storytelling is the best way to capture interest
  • Content needs to offer something new and have universal appeal
  • It should evoke conversations and make people want to share it
  • Brands needs to use their content to become thought-leaders

With the average marketer now using 12 different types of content, it's clear to see that content marketing is here to stay. As marketers, what we need to do now is start coming up with new types of content so that we can move forward and become thought-leaders within our niche.

What do you think the future has to hold for content marketing? Let me know your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!

Content Marketing

Sarah Quinn

Written by Sarah Quinn

I eat, sleep and breathe great content so it kinda works out for me that I get to do this as a job. But waaaaait, I'm not one dimensional..... I also LOVE peanut butter, odd socks, running, daydreaming about time and space, corgis in top hats, afternoon tea and Chandler Bing.