Social Media

Content Marketing vs. Traditional Advertising


According to the Custom Content Council, in 2012, 68% of CMO’s will be increasing their budget for content marketing. While big and small companies alike are seeing the shift, smaller companies are devoting a higher percentage of allocated budgets toward content marketing:

  • 34% of a company’s advertising budget with ten or less employees goes toward content marketing.
  • 26% of the advertising budgets of companies with 1,000 or more employees is going to content marketing.

blurbThere are numerous reasons for this shift, and one of them is that technology has changed consumer behavior. Consumers today aggressively search out information about your industry online. According to Ryan Northover of, before making a purchase decision, consumers now search out 10.4 sources of information vs. 5.3 back in 2010, when just 30% of consumers had Smartphones. This is rapidly changing the face of marketing and creating the necessity for content systems that engage, inspire, educate and inform information seeking consumers.

Here are 5 compelling reasons why you need a clear and robust content marketing strategy today, in comparison to traditional media advertising :

1. More Trusted 

A Nielsen survey of OECD consumers found:

  •  Only 10% said they trusted messages from display advertising.
  • However, 90%  said they trusted brand recommendations from friends or users they trusted online.

2. More Lead Conversions

Traditional advertising methods are generally directed to a broader audience, while content marketing’s  ‘narrowcasting’ strategy focuses on a smaller, core group of potential, high quality consumers. As a result:

  • Content marketing can convert 30% more organic traffic into high quality sales leads, according to MarketingSherpa (See case studies here)
  • Content marketing is aimed at high value customers who will return for more content.
  • Content marketing produces 3 times more leads per dollar than SEM and costs 30% less, according to Kapost & ELOQUA (ebook here)

3. Greater Influence Over Consumer Decision Making

A study by McKinsey Consulting shows that consumers are already well along in the sales process when they engage directly with a brand. Traditional advertising aiming for brand recognition may occur far too early in the sales process to make a difference at a critical juncture in the decision process. Additionally, heir search is more focused, targeted and active. According to a Roper Public Affairs study cited in Forbes:

  • 80% of business decision makers prefer to access company information via a series of articles over advertisements.
  • 70% of decision makers said content marketing made them feel closer to the brand.
  • 60% said content marketing helped them make better purchasing decisions.

4Enhanced SEO and Social Media Effectiveness

Search engines are steadily improving in delivering the right information to seekers of content. And as today’s search engines heavily weight relevance, social sharing and link buzz, the more engaging, shareable and targeted your content is, the better your SEO rankings will be.

Content is also the basis of social media strategy, because compelling content is what drives consumers to engage with your brand on social networks.

5. Greater ROI

Expensive paid advertising campaigns typically only run a few weeks. Content can last for a much longer time, which enhances your return on investment. Revisions in content marketing can keep it relevant even longer. Content marketing can also generate earned media because users and media outlets may share your content to many more users, potentially producing millions of dollars in free brand exposure.

“Content Is Queen”

Because good content marketing aims to help, inform, inspire and entertain a more skeptical, engaged and demanding audience, it is not experienced as a pressure pitch or disruptive. This is why major brands are heavily investing in content marketing. This helps brands capture mind share and position themselves as leaders in their category.

But if content is queen, it also demands to be treated as one. Content strategy requires many months of planning and strategic development to build the most effective content platforms, inventory and engagement streams.

Overcoming the Challenges

According to a Marketing Profs & Content Marketing Institute study in 2012, the top 5 reported challenges are:

  • Producing enough content: 29%
  • Producing the kind of content that engages: 18%
  • Lack of budget: 14%
  • Lack of buy-in / vison: 7%
  • Lack of knowledge, training, and resources: 6%

Overcoming these challenges requires ownership, consistency and measurement.

1. Ownership: Some committed organizations have appointed a Content Marketing Officer to drive these efforts and to be accountable for their success. As companies are slowly but surely becoming their own media, they will have to appoint an Editor in Chief responsible for overseeing this part of Marketing, and managing internal as well as outsourced resources.

2. Consistency: It takes consistent efforts to build a captive audience through the creation of  a body of content worthy of the attention of search engines and of your target audience. Understanding what content types and what channels create the most engagement and generate leads takes consistent effort and experimentation. Generating interest and engagement for your brand, products and services requires a commitment to sustained and continuous investment in producing various types of content on a regular basis. By way of illustration:

3. Measurement: Naturally, the defined success metrics (KPIs) will vary according to the market, media and product. However, the ROI of content marketing is generally defined not by generic Web activity metrics, but  by a sales conversion funnel.

A typical conversion funnel could look like:

Step 1: user lands on homepage
Step 2: user reads a blog post
Step 3: user reads a product or service page
Step 4: user fills in a contact form

Defining performance in terms of web activity such as overall visitors and pages views of a website won’t reflect performance as much as much as measuring how many users start at step 1 (arrive on a landing page)  and progress to step 4 (conversion).

Takeaways: As shown above, the realities of today’s markets demand that a very focused and robust content marketing effort is put in place for an organization to position themselves as a thought leader, differentiate themselves in a crowded market space, and  reach the buyer at the critical stage in the purchase decision process to make a difference and drive conversions. Since companies are struggling beneath the weight of the sustained effort needed to become thought leaders through content marketing, investment in dedicated resources is increasingly recognized as indispensable.

Related Post:


Declining Investment

Investment in social media marketing by financial services companies has declined sharply since the end of 2011, according to Fourth Source. While in the last quarter of 2011, 22% of companies in the financial services sector were investing in social media, this fell to 8.5% in the first quarter of 2012 and 6% in the second quarter. This is a marked turn around.

A More Cautious Approach in 2013

study commissioned by Pitney Bowes Software and conducted by Vanson Bourne shows that, compared to other industries, retail banks and credit unions are beginning to lack confidence in the effectiveness and business value of social media, and plan to invest less in it in 2013.

This independent study compares social media marketing trends among marketing directors to consumer attitudes about social media marketing in The US, UK, Australia, France and Germany. It analyzed seven business sectors: fast-moving consumer goods, insurance, the public sector, retail, retail banking, telecoms and utilities. The results for retail bank marketing:

  • Decision-makers are split 50/50 in their confidence in being able to link social media spend with their organization’s profitability.
  • Just 53% are confident that their social media campaigns are effective (Only the insurance sector came out lower in terms of rating their campaigns as effective  at 49%.)
  • 31% rated them as not effective.

Early Adopters

The survey also showed that retail banking has consistently ranked among the earliest and most aggressive industries to adopt social channels. In fact, 

  • 74% of retail banking marketing directors in retail banking saw a greater emphasis being placed on social media in their external communications, which is significantly higher than average (69%), and second only to the telecommunications sector (81%).

Expect Modest Spending Increases

The research shows social media spend in retail banking, as a share of marketing budgets, will still increase incrementally over the next few years:

  • Spending was 16% in 2011, when banks were among the biggest spenders on social media.
  • It is expected to climb to 22% in 2013.
  • By contrast, other sectors like telecommunications will be committing over a third of their marketing budgets (36%) to social channels.

Consumers Haven’t Been Enthused

The pullback in retail banking can be seen as a realistic assessment of the risks of and consumer responses to social media marketing.

Risks – 65% of consumers surveyed say that they would stop using a brand that upset or irritated them with their social media behavior. According to Kieran Kilmartin of Pitney Bowes Software:

It is not surprising that retail banks have been keen to jump on the social media bandwagon early on, but are now taking a step back to evaluate this new channel more thoroughly,” says The continued use of old-school broadcast marketing models in social channels is likely to turn people off, and at worst, trigger them ultimately to become ‘brand blockers’.

Consumer Response – The response to bank social media marketing has been less than enthusiastic, showing a lack of desire among consumers to engage:

  • Only 26% of consumers use social media to follow and keep up-to-date with companies or brands.
  • Banks and credit unions don’t rank high on their priority list.

Top Challenges for Retail Banks

Pitney Bowes finds that the greatest challenges for retail banks are:

  • Dealing with all the data being generated as the number of customer touch points increases (50%).
  • ROI, and connecting online engagement with new customers (42%)
  • Managing the amount of time and money spent on social networks (42%).

Consumer Disconnects

Identifying which social media channels to invest – Beyond  Facebook (considered to be the most popular and trusted social media site) marketers disagreed about other social media outlets, and appeared slightly out of step with consumer sentiment. They indicated that they devote most of their remaining spend on:

  • Twitter (57%) and
  • Google+ (51%)
  • Marketers rated YouTube as only fifth.
  • Yet consumers prefer YouTube over Twitter and Google+ .

Conflicting Perceptions about Brand Interaction – The study shows some disconnects about the reasons that consumers interact with brands on social media:

  • Consumers are most interested in discount or money-saving vouchers, new products and services, and upcoming sales and events.
  • Yet fewer than 10% of marketers surveyed mention this.
  • Marketers highly rate the effectiveness of newsletters, information about their organization’s social responsibility and customer satisfaction surveys.
  • Yet these were least interesting to consumers.

Opt In is important – The study shows that building trust and familiarity over time is vital:

  • 48% of social media users who choose to follow brands  are positive towards receiving their marketing messages.
  • Yet 40% say communications from companies they don’t follow are annoying.
  • They rated unsolicited marketing (‘spam’) and pop-up advertisements as the lowest form of social media marketing.


The research would appear to suggest that it is challenging for financial brands to engage with social media consumers in emotionally meaningful ways. Of course, this has always been a challenge for financial services marketers, given the often cold and transactional as well as complex and confusing nature of their products. Another observation is that marketers have been quick to embrace new social media, but have not been as adept at gleaning the behavior and attitudes of social media users.

Some companies – notably in the property and casualty insurance sector – have been more successful than others in transitioning to the moving picture. Alstate, Geico, Progressive come to mind. In the banking sector, only Ally Bank stands out for their clever vignettes.

Gratitude to Seyi Sandra David for sharing:
Here’s a way to create your own free website, easily. It gives your own domain, and is customizable to your specifications:

free website


1. Research, Objectivity and The Pursuit of Truth

From Tom Eigelsbach, this might as well be the axiom of Snap!, as I attempt to expose the myths and memes associated with Marketing and Economics:


2. The Illogic Cultural Memes and Propaganda Marketing

A post shared by George Geddes to expose the fallacious reasoning of cultural memes that play into sentiment and coopt consent. I used to reason like that when I was a child. For starters, without a cite, it’s doubtful that the quote/paraphrase is truthful to begin with. But I’m particularly curious about who these 19 year olds are that “protect his…ass.” It probably references the thousands of kids that bought and sold politicians in the most militarized nation in history put in harm’s way to support the the chosen economic benefactors – the defense industry, the energy sector and others:

gun crap

3. Economics: NonSustainable Business Models

This two-part contribution from Mike Henderson needs no explanation but extensive research, analysis and wisdom to truly comprehend the unsustainable business models to which it refers.  First, vies at the LA Times article,

Throwing the Middle Class off the Cliff” to appreciate the real meaning of the Fiscal Cliff debate – “Slight of hand, misdirection leading us to general austerity, not prosperity. Score for the Big Money elite:”


Kevin Allen in Ragan’s PR Daily explains that he takes the time to look at a baby animal every day, even though he’s a baby animal enthusiast. It’s just that he spends so much time on the Internet.Fortunately, Japanese researchers (who else?) have shown that this increases productivity. The Atlantic Wire highlights a study at Hiroshima University:

“A team led by Hiroshi Nittono had 48 male and female students perform a visual task where they were asked to look for double digits in a series of random matrices with numbers. The students were asked to give as many accurate responses as possible in three minutes. Then, the students looked at pictures before doing the task again. One group looked at cute baby animals, another at less cute adult animals, and a third at pleasant-looking food.”

Results: the group that looked at the baby animals was the most productive.

I’m curious whether marketers can use the effect to stimulate people to buy more.

IBM’s “The Business of Social Business” report serves as a reminder that whether the media is print, to TV, banner ads, social media or mobile, we need to leverage the unique advantages of each of them. The basic steps we need to take to make social media marketing work are:

  • Create valued customer experiences
  • Drive workforce productivity and effectiveness
  • Accelerate Innovation

 Create Valued Customer Experiences

Social media is a two way conversation. If you only use it to inform or entertain or inform, you are missing the opportunity to take advantage of its unique value as a medium that lets us actually listen to what our customers are saying and to provide them a way to engage with you and your product. Of those who responded to IBM’s survey, 60% said they use social media to respond to customer inquiries.

IBM suggests that you:

  • regularly mine social media conversations as a way of determining customer preferences and marketing trends.
  • Use your communities as mini-focus groups.
  • Locate the influencers in the group and work with them one-on-one. Where they go, others will follow.

Drive Productivity and Effectiveness

Social media can help us get unstuck from the same routine. It takes ongoing thought and effort. One alarming statistic: 70% of business pages aren’t being updated at all. It may take more work than expected, and not provide as much return as hoped, but consistency, creativity and the help of a few key influencers can build your social media platform into an integral and influential part of your business and marketing strategy.

Accelerate Innovation

Accelerating means that, having heard the voice of the customer, you need to also solicit ideas from everyone in the company, and then proceed to try ideas out, see the results, and then adjust your strategy accordingly. The exercise can be revitalizing in itself.

Rather than bother with innovation, too many businesses are just phoning it in. In a recent article, I compare Costco to Wal-Mart. While Wal-Mart takes the easy way out – slashing expenses to increase profits, Costco has been paying its employees better wages and benefits, and has thereby created a more engaged workforce that handily outperforms Wal-Mart’s.

The problem with the Wal-Mart model, aside from the immorality of not working for the benefit of the employee, is that it’s a one-note strategy: squeeze as much money out of as few resources as you can. You can only get so much blood out of a turnip.

Costco is achieving superior business results than Wal-Mart without stooping to the same kind of easy financial fixes.  They are doing so through sound business and marketing practices that are more responsive to the needs of their consumers and their employees, which makes them a more sustainable model for the long run.

Costco owes its success to a strategy that values not just its shareholders, but its employees and consumers. A firm commitment to social is an outreach to your consumers. It builds more not just quick profit, but long term relationships and community. And this is what will differentiate you in the marketplace.

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