Author: Olaf Kopp
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Social media has become one of the most important gatekeepers for content

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Successful content marketing must respond to the changing needs and consumption habits of the target audience. This article shows how the media landscape is changing and explains the implications for your content.

Since 2009, I have been publishing content in various forms such as blog posts, guest articles, podcasts, webinars, talks and social content in all available forms.

To be successful in content marketing, your content must attract attention or, to use marketing slang, generate awareness. This awareness requires a content distribution strategy for the content.

In recent years, I have observed a clear change in consumer behavior, which has consequences for the content distribution of many companies.

I have been observing the following trends for some time now:

Trend #1: Social media as content gatekeepers

Ten years ago, search engines, newsletter subscriptions, and feed readers were the main sources of regular content consumption for Internet users.

The social media landscape consisted primarily of Facebook and Twitter, and to some extent Google+ – an attempt by Google to profit from the emerging social media trend with its own social network, which ended up in the social network graveyard. B2B networks such as  Linkedin were only just starting to reach the general public, and content on YouTube received far less attention than it does today.

Other platforms, such as Instagram, Snapshot, Pinterest or TikTok, which mainly offer image and video content, were in their infancy or not even born yet.

A survey I conducted on Linkedin, Twitter, and our website with over 500 marketing users revealed that search engines, social media, YouTube, and newsletters are the most important sources for keeping up with the latest professional developments. We can assume that the share of social media in B2C will be significantly higher than in marketing or B2B.

Companies used social media primarily to distribute their content on their own blog or website, which worked well. Companies saw social media primarily as a traffic channel for their own website.

Since social networks have an interest in keeping users on their own platform as long as possible for monetization purposes, they have over the years made sure that external links are posted to drive traffic to websites with less reach.

Today, links are clicked less and less for a variety of reasons. The actual content creation takes place primarily in the form of social content on the platforms themselves, which is increasingly possible thanks to the platform’s own features such as polls, stories, live streams, content areas for full articles, etc.

Social media no longer plays an important role as a traffic channel for websites. This is also shown in a study conducted by Growthbadger in 2020.

The most influential social networks, such as YouTube, Instagram, Snapshot and Tik Tok, have increasingly focused on the consumption of image and video content, or have done so from the beginning.

Even Twitter, the mainstay of social media, is following the trend toward social content in the form of Twitter Spaces and Threads.

Social media networks have evolved from former content distribution channels to independent content hubs, which means that external content, e.g. on websites, blogs, etc., is no longer absolutely necessary.

Trend #2: Mobile devices change preferred media formats and consumer behavior

The success story of mobile devices, especially smartphones, has changed consumer behavior around content in a lasting and dramatic way. Content is available and can be consumed anywhere and in any situation. The user’s context determines what and how they want to consume it. Do they have a lot of time or little time? Do they want to be entertained or educated?

Today, most content is consumed incidentally – on the train, while driving, while exercising, at work… It is increasingly rare to have the time and space to focus exclusively on content.

This is one of the main reasons why audio content such as podcasts has become so popular in recent years: Podcasts can be consumed (on the side) in almost any situation and context.

Video content requires more attention because it involves two senses – eyes and ears.

Today, video content is in direct competition with text content for the few slots in the day when users allow themselves to focus on content. However, while a video can be consumed with less effort and attention, reading requires more concentration, which is an advantage in the competition between the two content formats.

Trend #3: A flood of content is changing consumer behavior

While content used to be available primarily through a few radio and TV stations, magazines and books, users now have access to an infinite variety of content in a wide range of forms and formats, especially online. In addition to the types of content and media already mentioned, there are many different messaging services that provide us with information on a daily, hourly, and minute-by-minute basis.

And the flood of content continues to grow year after year.

Longer pieces of textual content, such as articles, books, or magazines, have a much harder time competing for people’s time and attention today, as evidenced by the popularity of services like Blinkist that summarize entire books in a concise manner.

Time and attention are the rarest commodities for people these days, and as a result, consumption is increasingly focused on what is quick and easy to consume, i.e., snackable!

This can also be seen in the rapid rise of platforms such as TikTok or Snapchat and the story formats on Instagram, for example, which allow the distribution of visual content that is quick and easy to consume.

What does that mean for content marketing?

As is often the case, the trends I have observed need to be put into perspective depending on the topic, such as B2B or B2C, and the implications for content marketing cannot be formulated in general terms. But the exclusivity of users’ time and attention does not stop at work. Therefore, the following conclusions can also be applied to the B2B world, with different weighting depending on the target group(s):

  • Social presence and activity is no longer a nice to have for content marketing, but a must.
  • A successful content marketing strategy should combine snackable content with long-form content.
  • Long-form content must be contextual to the user, i.e. at the right time, in the right place, with the right topic and the right approach to attract attention.
  • Headlines and teasers should be eye-catching, engaging, and leave users wanting more, without creating false expectations. No clickbait!
    Audio and/or video should be part of a content marketing strategy.

Companies that want to be successful with content marketing should consider the following points and ask the following questions

  • On which platforms should my company provide content touchpoints to reach my target audience(s)?
  • At which stages of the customer journey do which topics, distribution channels, platforms, and media formats play an important role in reaching users?
  • Why do you want to publish content in general?
  • What is the purpose of each piece of content and how do you measure its success?
  • Which content formats should be combined to be successful in social media?

What does this mean for society?

The increasingly rapid and superficial consumption of information can become a social problem. People are quickly satisfied with a perspective or an initial image without delving deeper into an issue. A headline is enough to form an opinion.

In a personal and professional context, this leads to people quickly thinking that they are finished or have finished learning. This can lead to us becoming a society of half-knowledgeable people. People form opinions too quickly and are therefore easier to manipulate.

It is not clear who is responsible for this. Is social media driving this trend, or is it just adapting to the zeitgeist? A question I have no answer to either. A chicken and egg problem?

About Olaf Kopp

Olaf Kopp is Co-Founder, Chief Business Development Officer (CBDO) and Head of SEO & Content at Aufgesang GmbH. He is an internationally recognized industry expert in semantic SEO, E-E-A-T, modern search engine technology, content marketing and customer journey management. As an author, Olaf Kopp writes for national and international magazines such as Search Engine Land, t3n, Website Boosting, Hubspot, Sistrix, Oncrawl, Searchmetrics, Upload … . In 2022 he was Top contributor for Search Engine Land. His blog is one of the most famous online marketing blogs in Germany. In addition, Olaf Kopp is a speaker for SEO and content marketing SMX, CMCx, OMT, OMX, Campixx...


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