The most underused tactics in content marketing?

The most effective content marketing tactics aren't necessarily the most popular, research from the Content Marketing Institute suggests.

Chris Alden, freelance copywriter

When you’re considering which content marketing tactics to use, benchmarking tools such as Content Marketing in the UK 2014, from the Content Marketing Institute, are always handy.

This annual study tells you, among other things, which content marketing tactics are most used in the UK and which tactics marketers say are most effective. But the strange thing is the difference between the two lists.

The top five tactics used by marketers, as outlined on slide nine of the research, won’t surprise anybody. Social media (87%) takes top spot, followed by blogs (86%), articles on your own site (85%), enewsletters (82%) and case studies (77%).

But when, in the next slide, marketers consider which tactics they find effective, the table looks different. Case studies (70%) are now up to second in the list. Blogs (63%) are way down in 10th.

If we plot the difference between the two ratings, by subtracting the “effectiveness” score from the “usage” score, it’s possible to create a crude league table of the tactics in content marketing that are the most effective and least used: or in other words, the most underused.

Crunch the numbers on the back of your nearest envelope (statisticians, look away now) and you get this:

Tactic Usage Effectiveness Score
Webinars 45% 65% +20
Mobile content 48% 64% +16
White papers 55% 65% +10
In-person events 69% 74% +5
Case studies 77% 70% -7
Videos 76% 66% -10
Articles on website 85% 68% -13
eNewsletters 82% 66% -16
Social media 87% 67% -20
Blogs 86% 63% -23

Now obviously this is a pretty rough and ready table. There are only 10 entries in the original effectiveness table, so we’re limited to 10 tactics to compare; and tactics that are harder to execute or less universally appropriate will, of course, drift to the top of the list.

But these provisos aside, there are some striking lessons here for content marketers:

1. Whisper it in some circles, but social media, and even blogs, aren’t working for everyone. Many customers, and particularly business customers, want more in-depth, organised content than you can achieve in 140 characters or less.

Of course, it’s actually more in-depth content that customers often go to Twitter to find. White papers and infographics, of course, are great examples of in-depth content that’s eminently shareable via social media or a blog.

2. Of all the types of written content you create for your website, the humble case study is the most effective and (‘mobile content’ aside) the most underused. This makes sense: case studies are your chance to show customers how you’ve followed through on the promises you make, but it can be tricky to persuade existing clients to get involved.

3. It’s important to optimise your content for mobile if you haven’t already, which at a basic level means getting a responsive design – so it can be viewed equally well on all devices – and taking the opportunity to refresh your content while you’re at it.

4. People will always prefer face-to-face contact, but the currency and immediacy of a live webinar is the next best thing.

That’s my tuppen’orth anyway. I look forward to the next edition of the data.