Content marketing and social media: partners or enemies?

As Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram look set to merge, the effect on content marketing is yet to become clear…

 

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It’s the same deal every year. You tear open the cellophane wrap covering your shiny new calendar on 1 January, excited to take on the next 12 months. Four weeks later, you’re staring at the same picture of a cat and it seems like 500 days have passed…

The calendar photo might be the same but it’s safe to say that the first month of 2019 has thrown up plenty of doom and gloom for many in the news and publishing industry.

Hot on the heels of Condé Nast revealing that all its titles would go behind a paywall later this year, BuzzFeed and HuffPost announced job cuts last week . These challengers were once held up as the long-term successors to ‘old school’ newspapers and magazines, so this is a pivotal moment.

With such turbulence in the publishing industry, companies are increasingly turning to specialist agencies and investing in high-quality content of their own. Together, they aim to deliver customers informative and bespoke articles and videos to their chosen sector.

But there’s an elephant in the room…

Social merger on the cards

A real game-changer could be on the cards in the world of social media marketing as Facebook looks to integrate Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram by next year.

Why is this an issue? Well, it’s all a question of reach and revenue.

Just as traditional print newspapers have struggled to compete in the online era, digital media firms are struggling to compete with social media as the flow of advertising funding has shifted once again.

If social media acts as a de-facto news aggregator and can reach a vast amount of eyeballs, you can see why many advertisers are opting for the raw reach.

As things stand, content marketing and social media marketing effectively sit side-by-side, with the latter being a natural extension of the former. So will this proposed merger of the back-end technology make it easier or harder for content marketers to share their work?

The answer is… probably harder.

Where content comes in

Algorithm changes have attacked business content on Facebook in recent years.

Brands have to work significantly harder for their product to be seen – both organic and paid – and more than ever we are witnessing the impact of cost-per-click. The value of insight teams to gauge effectiveness of everything from targeting to timing has never been more important.

The proposed changes could alter the way companies advertise across the Facebook-owned channels. LinkedIn-style private messaging could become much more widespread on these platforms, which has the potential to raise all sorts of privacy issues for brand communications departments.

Done well, content marketing informs its audience about a specific topic of interest while, as a happy by-product, also stimulates positive views towards the brand hosting the content.

Thus far, it has avoided going the same way as digital media outlets primarily for two reasons:

– either a brand is committed to providing industry-leading content and pick up the cost itself, such as the example of the NatWest Business Hub,

or

– it offers lucrative commercial opportunities for sponsors, for example in the case of the ICAEW’s membership publication economia, thanks to its known professional target audience. (In the interests of full transparency, both these resources are created here at Progressive Content.)

What happens next?

Social media is an extraordinary domain and one that remains a vital cog in the marketing world.

Regardless of relentless turmoil around data, bots or misleading influencers, brands continue to swear by maintaining a presence on the various channels. Better the devil you know, eh?

The reason is simple: reach.

The case of Unilad, discussed here, shows the ups and downs of hammering social media for all the reach you can get.

But even outside of such socially-targeted content, when used correctly, social media can be an incredibly simple way to increase awareness of your company and make your marketing budget go that little bit further. Perhaps more importantly, by not having a social presence, you run the risk of becoming invisible or delegitimising your brand.

With the potential merging of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram, brands will lean ever more heavily on social media and insight teams – or agencies with such expertise – to consider the changes and figure out how to adapt effectively.

Should WhatsApp open itself up to advertising, which brands will risk taking the plunge? The potential impressions could be gargantuan in the early stages, but the potential backlash around being seen to promote your brand on a previously closed app is a real thing.

Whether Facebook is even allowed to implement its changes remains up in the air due to data privacy concerns, and will be something that all marketing departments monitor closely in 2019.

Lots to take in, then. One thing’s for sure, the brands that thrive will be the ones that combine intricate audience understanding with fast-reacting social strategy. Be prepared to change your course abruptly as the landscape changes around you.

On the bright side, at least it’s finally February.

Blayne Pereira, Social Media Manager, Progressive Content