We're now in the age of “peak content”.
The amount of content available to read, watch, and listen to is becoming unsustainable on both a production and consumption level, and this affects most content producing mediums.
For example, “peak TV” has been used to describe the glut of scripted television shows produced since 2015. Likewise, journalism struggles with the volume game and has had to find ways to produce more content, despite having fewer staff members and resources than in previous decades.
But what about branded content? Are brands dealing with peak content, too?
Studies suggest they are - in 2016, researchers from TrackMaven examined the activity of 50 million pieces of content from around 23,000 brands across six channels - Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, and blogs. The study found that brand content output had increased by 35%, while engagement with that content had decreased by 17%.
And that was two years ago - with 53% of marketers now saying that content creation is their top inbound marketing priority, brands need to learn how to produce more valuable content, not simply more of it.
Go Niche or Go Back to the Drawing Board
In an oversaturated marketplace, fatigue can settle in quickly, for both content producers and consumers. Given this, brands need to have distinctive content offerings which engage niche markets.
One way to do this is to strategically create targeted content for targeted audiences.
Bonobos, for example, specializes in one thing: men's apparel. Its founders started by offering pants that fit just right, and that singular focus helped the company skyrocket to success in just six months. Since then, the brand has grown - as has its marketing strategy in-step. Bonobos targets specific customers and sends them emails with custom product recommendations. The company also interacts with customers on its blog.
Specificity and originality are the best ways to cut through the noise. If your brand’s not doing that, you need to head back to the drawing board and think about how you can make your content unlike anything else on the market.
Forget Your Competitors - Understand Your Own Performance
While the amount of content available online can feel infinite, there's only a finite amount of time available for your company to produce it - and for your target audience to consume it.
Brands need to figure out which formats, topics, and channels perform best in their industries. This means using native and third-party analytics to determine where traffic is coming from, and how to replicate past content successes.
Why is one piece of content performing better than others? It could be due to length, distribution, promotion, keyword density, SEO, or several other elements.
If your brand understands why your audience members engage with one piece over another, you'll be able to better anticipate what they find valuable - and subsequently give them more of what they want.
To Combat 'Peak Content,' You Need to Own Your Channels
The age of organic distribution is over - as content marketing increasingly becomes table stakes, brands can no longer rely on distribution platforms like Facebook if they’re not willing to pay to play.
And in this age of peak content, brands need to be especially strategic about where they spend their money to maximize their reach. Paid distribution can help, but a sophisticated content marketing strategy shouldn’t be reliant on third-party channels to reach the right audiences.
It's time for brands to increase their reliance on owned channels, instead of third-party sites. Content produced and distributed on proprietary channels - like a company blog - has long-term value, and can build brand credibility, and maintain engagement well beyond that first paid touchpoint.
However, focusing on owned channels doesn’t mean reducing your strategy to a single channel. Research shows that when it comes to the consideration and conversion stages of the traditional sales funnel, consumers source content across multiple channels.
Brands like Sotheby’s International Realty are using owned content to target a new audience: the emerging affluent consumer. The global real estate brand understands that it needs to establish a connection with the young homebuyer without alienating its existing audience. Creating unique content experiences which speak to each distinct consumer segment enables Sotheby's to engage prospective buyers and sellers, capture their interest with lifestyle-driven content, and direct them to a Sotheby’s office in their area. This owned content guides readers along the customer journey, from discovery online to visiting a prospective home for the first time, a path that's markedly different for the younger generation.
By establishing new content-first initiatives on owned channels, you can acquire consumer data - and loyalty - instead of throwing your money at less controllable third-party media outlets.
In the age of peak content, it's no longer enough to produce a good amount of content - brands need to be strategic about how, when, and where they're adding to the saturation of content online. While "peak content" might sound daunting, it boils down to this:
Are you producing something valuable that provides your customers with answers, solutions, and information they need?
And if not, how can you get started?