content and technologyIn the previous posts from the Future of Marketing series, we published insights, guidance and advice from some of the best minds in our industry.

To review, Mark Schaefer discussed culture and the future of search. Marcus Starke predicted the rise of the science of marketing. Ann Handley called for more brands to become Content Brands. And Alan See reiterated that the customer and the content is king.

I am really excited to have received today’s insights from fellow corporate marketer, Todd Wheatland. Todd is the VP of Thought Leadership & Marketing at Kelly Services.  You should check out their highly-respected company blog  and follow Todd on Twitter @toddwheatland.

Todd is also the author of The Marketer’s Guide to Slideshare and is quite active on Slideshare himself.

Tell me about yourself

Todd Wheatland on Content and TechnologyI grew up on the beach in Australia. When I was eight my parents took a year off and bought a motor home and we trekked all over the US and then Europe. That seems to have left me slightly messed-up for travel – when I was eighteen I went and lived in Peru for a year; a few years later I was working for the Australian government in Spain; and for the past eight years I’ve been living in France. I’ve always tinkered with writing, photography, video work – then I sold my soul and became a corporate marketer which is actually exceptionally fun (and I’ll be glad for that part, if it turns out I really did sell my soul).

I relocated with Kelly from the Asia-Pacific region into Europe, and because our business is highly global a lot of my time is focused on the US market. I started doing what’s become known as content marketing in the late 1990s with custom publishing, then moving into online and the full process as it’s practiced by a lot of people today. As you well know, it’s a very high-change, high-growth space and I wake up every morning thinking how lucky we are to get to play in it.

What do you see happening in Content Marketing today? How is it changing?

One thing happening quickly is that the marketing ecosystem itself is really adjusting. PR was an obvious early hit. Advertising is now in high-speed change. A year ago a lot of companies had never even thought of advertising their content; now it’s booming and you can see that with the product innovation going on at places like Taboola, Outbrain, and now Disqus. At the same time, a lot more content being produced means there’s a lot more poor content and click-baiting going on, so every promotion platform is having to confront how they balance short-term revenue with long-term credibility.

This year is also the year companies start to work out how to leverage their internal employees’ networks to promote content. It’s a very attractive proposition – think of your company, SAP. You have more than 60,000 full-time employees. So imagine if just 10% of that group – and personally I think that’s conservative – were motivated to share SAP content with their social networks each week. That’s 6,000 additional likes/shares/etc a week. Now imagine that’s every weekday – something I don’t think is out of reach for a B2B company trying to get content visible across a platform like LinkedIn, for example. That could quickly be over a million likes and shares a year on LinkedIn. And that’s just from the internal networks themselves – add in the flow-on social effects, and that could suddenly be ten million. The pilots someone in my team has been running on this – I have to tell you, the numbers are insane. The thing is right now it’s kinda messy and labor-intensive. But there’s a bunch of interesting start-ups like Addvocate who are going to get some big traction this year trying to help people manage this to scale.

Of course, that will just start another Triberr-type phase of Like inflation. Big brands who have the scale to really leverage it will do great for six months, and then there’ll be pushback, networks will keep readjusting algorithms, and everyone will be back tweaking again. My son asked me a while back what marketers really do and the first thing that came to mind was that marketers break things. You know what I mean – You want Email? We’ll create spam. You want Twitter? We’ll auto–follow. Everyone says that with negative connotations, like if only we could get beyond ourselves and stop breaking everything then suddenly we’d be focused on the really valuable stuff. But what if breaking things actually is a big part of marketing’s value? What if we’re the fungus of the business world – as soon as something grows strong we pile onto it for all we’re worth, and then we weaken it past its peak and then we’re just devouring it, breaking it down and looking around the forest for the next shiny thing to jump onto. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not all that marketing does – and fungus does serve a very valuable role in the ecosystem! My experience suggests it’s possibly not the metaphor you want to use to impress your kids though.

What about the longer-term? Do you have a provocative prediction on the future of marketing?

For the past few years there’s been this growing buzz around content, a happy coming-together of people from many different disciplines: digital, SEO, social, IT, PR, advertising, content strategy, creatives and the like. It’s been awesome for breaking down certain silos – but actually I think deep down people might just love silos. I think we’re going to see more of a growing apart again now, and maybe that’s how it was always going to be. Different disciplines take what they need from the trend and absorb it, just as is happening with social.

I think the biggest ‘growing apart’ will be between those people who embrace the technology side, and those that don’t. Frankly, a lot don’t, and I think their relative value to a company is declining. If you’re a CMO then you almost definitely didn’t grow up a tech native. As imperfect as they are, the tools that now exist to manage demand generation, connecting content to promotion channels to lead nurturing to sales, well, the world really has changed very quickly in that regard. You can use technology as a marketer in the social and lead environment now in ways that was unimaginable a few years ago. More and more we’re going to see companies’ marketing departments looking like trading floors, tracking inputs, values and variables in real-time.

So we’re going to see an increasing gulf between those won’t or just don’t want to master the tech side, and those who are doubling down on it. The former group could still be producing great, valuable content, and get a lot of stuff right. But those that see content as a central component of an ever-more technology-driven sales program are going to be talking in a language that is increasingly foreign to the other group. Great marketing requires getting the balance right between both; but there will be a lot of people who pare off and specialise in just one of those 2 camps. Hopefully they’ll keep the blinkers off and hire smart people around them who are passionate about the other side too.

Let us know what you think in the comments below. And follow the conversation on Twitter (@BrennerMichael or @ToddWheatland),  LinkedInFacebook or Google+.

About Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner is the Head of Strategy for the leading content marketing platform, NewsCred. He is also the author of B2B Marketing Insider, a contributor to Forbes and a frequent speaker at industry events covering topics such as marketing strategy, social business, content marketing, digital marketing, social media and personal branding.  Follow Michael on Twitter (@BrennerMichael)LinkedInFacebook and Google+ and Subscribe to B2B Marketing Insider by Email

12 Comments

  1. Really great interview. I appreciate your views on the value of technology in marketing. As a CMO, I don’t know if I am a “technology native,” but I think first through the lens of the global marketplace and thus technology. You have to be aware of how uber-connected we are and how, as customers, we have so many more options and so much more information than we had in the past. It’s an exciting time. I love working in an area that is growing and evolving so that I can both learn and contribute.

  2. Michael Larsen said…

    Thanks Gents, A great article with many useful insights.

    Agreed that people seem to be splitting into the highly vs. non engaged, and think the greatest challenge for the former is managing the fire hose of content.

    Lots of good tools continue to emerge on that front effectively creating one’s own unique news channel, which is pretty amazing.

    Mike

  3. Douglas Burdett said…

    Todd’s explanation to his son, “marketers break things” brings to mind a keynote I saw Gary Vaynerchuk give last August where, in the typical Gary Vee F-bomb style said …”Marketers F#@k up everything.”

    Great interview – nice to step back and peer into the future!

  4. Bhaskar Sarma said…

    That was a great interview.

    The part that really connected with me was getting more re-shares of content using internal networks. Todd, and Michael too, do you have any advice for motivating employees to share the corporate blog on say, their LinkedIn pages?

    • Michael Brenner said…

      Thanks Bhaskar, what we are finding is that you can’t go too far in encouraging employees to share corporate comms. So best bet is to simply communicate what is there and subtly suggest how they can share if they find it appropriate. But it has to be authentic.

  5. Kristel Jarvis said…

    Completely agree on the using the internal network. I find that employees want to share but don’t know how to do it. If you start off by providing some suggested content on a regular basis, employees can start with that. We have some ready to tweet/post comments on our intranet. Once people get started they are then more comfortable creating their own content. I now receive emails from people across our organisation either asking for help, or showing me the reach (with great enthusiasm and pride!) they have achieved. With a little help to start off with, you can use the 100s or 1000s of employees you have to promote your brand and your content. If those people have worked in your industry for 10 years or more then they are very likely connected to your key target audience. 500 people each connected to 500 people+ communicating once a month is a compelling reason to invest time in giving people the confidence to use social media to engage.

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