Is content marketing’s future in video or written content?

content marketing neil patel

Join host Sheelagh Caygill as she explores the obvious - and less obvious - trends and influences in communications, PR, and marketing. Also explored are writing and upping your game as a creator of prose. In this essential listen, she interviews senior comms pros and thought leaders to reveal insights you can incorporate into your work.

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There are plenty of marketing strategies that businesses of all sizes are adopting in order to boost their sales and profits. From SEO to learning how to boost Google maps. An extremely popular area of focus right now is content marketing.

Content marketing is here to stay, and for a long time to come. But what kind of content?

Businesses already understand the power of video. There is nothing more persuasive than a product video explainer.

So are we in the age of the long, slow death of written content marketing? Or does text still have some life in it yet? After all, as Liraz Margarlit, a web psychologist and writer, points out, the marketers’ choice of video vs written content marketing depends on variables, including audience, product, and marketing strategy.

To explore this discussion in depth, we turn to content marketing superstar Neil Patel for some insight. Neil is an entrepreneur, marketer, blogger, and author. The Wall Street Journal describes Neil as a top influencer on the web, while Forbes says he is one of the top 10 marketers in the world.

Video: Affordable and easy

Neil, globally there has been a massive growth in video content in the last few years. Video is now affordable to produce, easy to watch on all devices, often goes viral, and does a superb job at explaining and persuading to buy. Do you think that video is the future of content marketing?
It will definitely play a bigger role in content marketing, that’s for sure. I don’t think it will ever completely replace written content. But with so many improvements in technology and the ability for anyone to record/edit video from their phones, you will definitely see it being used more and more as time goes on. This is especially true on platforms like Facebook that are giving published video content more reach than written content.

In the near to long-term future, is there a place for the written form of content marketing? Or are we entering an age where businesses should start developing plans to shelve high-ranking blogs and web pages and transfer all that content to video?

I don’t think written content is going anywhere. At least not in the foreseeable future. Perhaps beyond the millennial generation things will change more drastically but as it is now, we are too accustomed to reading and searching text-based content.

While video is growing tremendously in the marketing world, I think it is still more entertainment related. When it comes to properly educating the consumer, written content is still the way to go.

With the rise of video and availability of Facebook Live Video, the opportunities for businesses are immense. How can businesses best take advantage of video content marketing to win sales?
They can engage more with their audience using video than with written content. By doing so, they put the human touch to their products and branding. This makes the consumer feel more connected to the company. Facebook Live is great because someone can comment and interact with a brand they love in real time. Leaving comments on an article and getting a response is nice, but it doesn’t have that real-time feeling and sense of immediate satisfaction.

Everyone’s seen a few sad product videos over time, and I’ve seen a small number of awful Facebook Live videos. Is this early age of video a bit like the early age of blogging, with some marketers simply feeling pressure to produce and hitting the record button to get a video out there quickly? Surely the rules about quality, compelling content apply to video, too?
You can say that. There will always be a bit of delay in quality whenever companies experiment with new kinds of marketing. It is both common and expected. You saw this as well in the early days of Facebook marketing, Twitter, etc. People and companies take time to get comfortable with new forms of getting the word out.

When the customer wants to read

While some marketers may not like it, some potential buyers still prefer to read, compare, and think, particularly with big purchases. So what kind of weight will consumer preference carry in the future?
This is why I always say that written content will never die. Yes, marketers like to experiment with new mediums and sometimes the results can go either way. I have tried things that have failed miserably and other things that have been great successes.

But written content is still my favorite medium. The reason? Because that is where I see the most love from my readers. They truly enjoy my written content. And my posts are long!

But I do just what your question is asking. I do what my readers want. I continue marketing to them in the style they love and keep coming back for. Marketers need to understand their audience and know what it is they want.

I read your piece on Interactive content recently, which pointed out that longer posts get more shares. What’s your take on short vs long content? Are we set to see an increase in long-form written content marketing?
I think we already are seeing an increase. Many marketers have been talking about it for years now, myself included. There is no magic number where the word count should be that will determine whether it gets shared like crazy or not. I believe that quality is still the main factor.

But when it comes to creating an article that delivers a lot of value, it is hard to do so in a few hundred or even a thousand words. That’s why my articles are always over 2,500 words and sometimes as many as 5 or 6k. If you are trying to teach something or explain a product or service in a way that will actually deliver value to the reader, the word count will be high. It also depends a lot on the market you are trying to reach and the tone you are going for.

If you are producing a satirical article to make people think or laugh, you can do really well in a shorter word count. But if you are trying to explain the details behind a Google algorithm update, the word count will definitely be higher.

What about podcasting?

In some ways, the ongoing dialogue about the rise of video belies the fact that other forms of content marketing are growing, too. Podcasting is surging, and some publishers are keen to publish long-form content. For marketers, what do these facts this point to? What things can we learn and plan for?
As algorithms get smarter and attention spans dwindle, marketers will realize that quality is truly the most important factor. Whether it is written content, podcasts, or video, producing high-quality content that truly educates/entertains will come out on top. You need to deliver value. That is key.

Of course every business is unique, and a customized approach to marketing is essential. But do you have any insights you can share about content marketing mix in terms of podcasts, video, and text?

The best thing that anyone can do when it comes to approaching their marketing – regardless of the medium they use to deliver their message – is to truly understand their audience. I can’t stress the importance of this.

When it comes to mixing different kinds of content delivery, I think it is good to test and see how the reaction is. To me, I focus on written content with my blog and my marketing podcast, Marketing School. While I have dabbled in some other things like Facebook Live, Infographics, etc., I stick with what I know brings the best results and engage my readers the most.

Stepping outside of the realm of marketing, big media organizations were surprised to learn recently that younger audiences are showing a preference for reading, while older adults are turning more and more to watching. At the same time, we’re seeing a renaissance in the rise of long-form journalism, with sites like attracting loyal followers. Is this all about the passion of a smallish group of readers and writers pursuing long-form and the essay, or is there real potential for something big here?
I think it has to do with the fact that there is so much information available today. Sometimes it can be overwhelming. There are times where you read so much or scroll so far down on Facebook and you forget what you just read. When people get deep into an article, they feel more engaged. They are investing their time. They aren’t simply reading a fun listicle or scrolling through photos.

When you read a 5k or 10k-word article you truly commit your time and attention. You aren’t going to just skim if you are truly interested. And once you finish you will feel as if you were in it, as if you were a part of it. You will be way more likely to share a long-form article that taught you a lesson or told you a story than a quick piece that just filled a spot on your timeline.

Advice for the new content writer

Finally, for the content marketing writer just starting out, the one who’s passionate about both words and marketing and who wants to really make an impact, what advice do you have?
Find the niche you are truly passionate about and then own it. By understanding your market – and especially your audience – you will be able to connect with them on a deeper level that will build trust and loyalty.

Neil helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue. His blog is a go-to resource for marketers around the world. You can follow Neil on Twitter and Linkedin.

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