Today’s marketing environment is vastly different to how it was a decade ago. The rise of smartphones and connected devices means there are now more avenues through which to reach consumers than ever before. This comes at a time when we are also living in the age of real-time analytics and social media, making true customer engagement easier to measure but harder to achieve. Rather than being a marketer’s dream, the harsh reality of the modern world is there’s too much competition from too many brands, all shouting their messages in an overcrowded world. In 2016, reaching consumers with a brand message is no longer straightforward.

This problem is further exacerbated when you consider how our attention spans have been affected by the overwhelming amount of information at our fingertips. And, yes, social media has a role to play in this regard. The average consumer has become an adept multi-tasker, capable of flitting between multiple devices and services at the same time. Combine this with the growing use of ad blocking technology and despite today’s hyper-connected digital landscape it’s become much harder for brands to reach consumers through a combination of traditional marketing and digital advertising.

Fortunately, there’s light at the end of the tunnel in the form of data-driven content marketing – a new approach that’s capable of cutting through the oversaturated media environment to reach target audiences with a message that’s both interesting and relevant to them on an individual level.

The role of social media

Social media is painted as a challenge to marketing today due to its attention-stealing nature, but it does hold value. Consumers are tweeting and sharing around the clock, and it’s this very concept of social sharing that brands should be taking advantage of. Brands are investing heavily (both time and money) into digital channels like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, but their current approaches barely scratch the surface of what’s possible. They’re not taking advantage of the core value proposition these networks offer – social discovery.

There’s no getting away from the fact social networks are a great place to get targeted recommendations from those you share interests with. From film endorsements on Facebook to trending topic suggestions on Twitter, we are all influenced by the views and opinions of others more than you might think. Sure, sometimes you’ll find new products or services that interest you through traditional means. But more often than not you will stumble across new things to try, see, or buy, via grassroots advocacy from people you know. And this has tremendous implications for content marketing.

From a content marketing perspective, the use of social discovery is a powerful yet non-invasive way to target potential new customers while also maintaining interaction with existing customers that are already engaged. With more content now available online than ever before it’s become crucial for brands to be present where the customer is, and where conversations are taking place, in order to take advantage of this trend and integrate social discovery into their overall marketing approach. By doing so, they can introduce new products in a far less aggressive and more engaging way.

Introducing data to the mix

It’s clear that social discovery has an important role to play in the future of content marketing, but for brands to truly stand out they need to introduce a data-led approach to their efforts. Where a data-led approach differs to traditional content marketing efforts is in creating a new way of interacting with consumers on a personal level. Naturally, creating content based on what’s most likely to be shared over social media will generate the biggest buzz and greatest number of interactions.

But, by applying data-driven insights to content marketing, it’s not only possible to accurately predict which pieces of marketing collateral will have the greatest success, but also to A/B test variations of the same content to ensure the biggest possible reach is achieved.

This is particularly important when you consider that today’s consumers are no longer accepting of everything that’s pushed their way. Branded content has to resonate with their lives, beliefs, and emotions. The alternative is a poorly planned campaign, which can result to wasted time and revenue and, in some cases, even lead to bad press. Coca Cola’s advert where Christmas was brought to an indigenous Mexican town was pulled from YouTube just hours after being uploaded, a prime example of the importance brands should place on trialing content before it’s released to an audience of millions. To avoid mistakes like this, brands should work with a content marketing and social discovery expert to better identify which content will achieve their desired results.

Trialing and testing content before releasing it will also help brands gain a reputation for generating content people seek out and share, rather than block. With this in mind, all brands should use data to inform their content marketing approach; to personalise their efforts for different demographics in ways that haven’t previously been possible, and to target consumers based on their individual preferences.

The importance of this approach

Ultimately, for audiences of all ages, great content is still great content. Video, text, or images that drive passionate conversations and fierce loyalty, even in today’s oversaturated digital world, are far more valuable than those that do not. Introducing data-led content to a marketing strategy opens up the opportunity for brands to get closer to their target audience than ever before. By focusing efforts on creating newsworthy, sharable, and actionable content that’s underpinned by data, it’s possible to dramatically increase consumer engagement.

Juliette Otterburn-Hall

Juliette Otterburn-Hall


Juliette Otterburn-Hall, Chief Content Officer, Beamly