The Content Marketing Shift: Three New Rules

Aug 25, 2014

Article ImageThere's been a long-standing rule in content marketing that 90% of your budget should be focused on promoting content and the remaining 10% of your budget should be spent producing the content. This rule came about during a time when there were limited distribution channels, and promotion was expensive.

It's time to rethink the ratio. In the traditional media world, advertising was often broadly applied and expensive. Now, as media spends are cheaper, content must become richer and better targeted. It's time for a 60/40 split.

Brands that wish to succeed in content marketing will dramatically increase their investment in the content they produce in the socialized marketplace. The good news is that the costs to promote content are down, so this shift has a bigger impact on process and content philosophy than it does on budgets.

There are three new marketing rules to live by in the 60/40 world:

New rule #1: Fewer social networks

Brands are spreading their energies too thin across an increasingly diverse set of social media channels. In doing so, they fail to connect with their audiences on any of them. Marketers are better off selecting a few key social networks, and then producing excellent content that is tailored to those networks. It requires the same amount of work (or less) and garners a better ROI.  Characteristics of each of the major social networks are below:


  • Remains the dominant social platform, and is most likely to be used in conjunction with other platforms. Facebook is likely the platform of choice for adults using only one social platform
  • Strong U.S. reach (two thirds of American adults are on Facebook
  • The 45-54-year-old age bracket has seen 45% growth on Facebook
  • Mobile-only Facebook users are on the rise

Instagram & Twitter

We've grouped these channels because of the significant overlap in their user base:

  • Significantly fewer users than Facebook, but these users are active on these channels more frequently
  • Urban audience
  • Content consumption is from mobile devices
  • Strong global/international reach
  • Audience skews younger, but older users are rapidly catching up
  • Instagram is dominated by female users


  • Dominated by male users, with some estimates that its audience is 70% male


  • Popular with college graduates
  • Used by higher income households
  • Strong international adoption
  • Dominated by male users
  • Number of users outpaces the level of interaction on LinkedIn. A large and rapidly growing audience, yet engagement remains low


  • Strong female appeal - 4x more likely than men
  • High concentration of tablet users


  • Any brand that is releasing television ads needs a YouTube strategy
  • Reaches more 18-34 year olds in the U.S. than any cable network

New rule #2: The boom and bust of ad campaigns is nearly over

Unlike traditional campaigns, content marketing doesn't have tidy start and stop dates. Content marketing may spike around an event, but exists at all times. The old model of one-and-done advertising has been replaced by an integrated earned/purchased approach that leans on new tools and stronger internal alignment. Further, the ways to measure a social ad campaign have changed. Immediate results don't define long-term outcomes because the social media followers engaged through content marketing can create deeper, lasting customer relationships. The advantage to these longer engagement cycles is that marketers have more opportunities to collect data that can inform future campaign adjustments.  Socially-driven campaigns happen in three stages:

  1. Launch: produce and release promoted content
  2. Monitor: evaluate reaction and set measurement strategies
  3. Measure/optimize: evaluate the success of the campaign and test/tweak to increase engagement

New rule #3: Anticipate the unexpected

Real-time marketing is more effective when brands create a library of content for likely situations. From there, the team is liberated to focus on unexpected situations and be spontaneous when it counts. A content calendar can include classic planned content around opportunities that marketers can see coming, such as trade shows, recurring events, and product releases. Create a content library around unplanned but likely occurrences, such as weather events, or other trigger events like a celebrity mention, social meme, etc.

Which brands are effectively making the shift? Adweek compiled a list of the best brands on Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Tumblr, YouTube, Facebook, and more. What's remarkable about the list is the diversity of brands and strategies at play - and what they all have in common is a laser focus, and dedication to real-time opportunities to engage. They understand that their brand exists within the context of the content around them on the social platforms.

What Lies Ahead

The shift to a 60/40 model is rooted in the maturation of content marketing strategies. Brands are getting smarter about how to promote effectively without compromising engagement. Promotion isn't a dirty word. Promotion simply needs to share the stage with creation.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)