Content marketing continues to be one of the rising stars of the online marketing world as brands from American Express and Proctor & Gamble to GE and General Mills use it alongside more traditional strategies to reach their target audiences. Why? Unlike traditional marketing, branded content is engaging, provides value and adds to the online experience instead of interrupting it.

At Outbrain, we’re all about great content, which is why we wanted to get the scoop from some of the folks in the trenches. Earlier this year, we surveyed senior-level brand marketers and agency executives as they gathered to judge entries for the 2012 Effie Awards — a program that recognizes the most effective and impactful marketing and advertising communications. What follows is an insider’s look at the state of content marketing.

KEY FINDINGS

– 100% of brand and agency marketers surveyed utilize content marketing in their overall marketing strategies. At 87% of respondents, video is the most common form of content created.

– Social media is the most popular channel marketers use for driving traffic to content with 96% of respondents currently utilizing. Usage is up from 88% in 2011.

– Marketers employ content marketing efforts to drive brand awareness and target top of purchase funnel consumers rather than for generating direct leads or sales. Social media engagement is the most popular indicator marketers consider when measuring the success of content marketing efforts (89%), followed by views or content downloads (76%).

– Social media, video advertising and content marketing are viewed as the most effective tactics used for brand awareness, consideration and affinity.

– 82% of brand and agency marketers expect to increase content marketing efforts in 2012.

Video is tops among content marketers

One hundred percent of the marketers surveyed utilize content marketing as a part of their overall marketing strategy and are currently creating digital content specifically for informational and/or entertainment value to consumers. Eighty-seven percent of marketers create video content, making it the most popular medium. Written content, such as blog posts (67%) and articles (44%), also has a place in content marketing strategies. Other visual mediums such as slideshows and photo galleries are used by 44% of respondents.

 

Social media leads content marketing distribution efforts, paid search marketing on the rise

All of the surveyed marketers are creating content, but how do they get it in front of consumers? Social media continues to grow in importance as a tactic for content marketing. Ninety-six percent of marketers utilize social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to distribute their brand’s digital content, up from 88% in 2011.

Other popular traffic acquisition tactics include paid search marketing (78%), display advertising (76%), and organic search optimization (69%). Paid search saw the biggest increase in adoption over our 2011 survey with an increase of 9%.

Brand awareness and top of purchase funnel consumers are target for content marketing efforts

Social media engagement ranked as the most popular factor that marketers use to measure the success of their content marketing efforts (89%), which is unsurprising given that they rely heavily on social media platforms for content distribution. In fact, consideration of social media engagement as a success metric increased drastically from our survey results last year (66%).

The 2012 survey results found increased emphasis on success metrics that focus on brand awareness and target consumers in the top of the purchase funnel such as social media engagement and organic search referrals. We also saw a concurrent drop in direct response metrics such as lead generation, which fell from 69% to 53%.

Social media, video advertising and content marketing are the most effective tactics for developing brand awareness

We asked respondents to rank the effectiveness of popular marketing tactics in creating brand awareness, consideration and affinity online.  Social media, video advertising (pre-roll) and content marketing were the highest ranking tactics. Email marketing was collectively viewed as the least effective tactic for creating brand awareness.

82% of marketers intend to increase content marketing efforts in 2012

From this year’s survey results, it’s clear that marketers are beginning to rely on content marketing as a trusted tool to reach consumers. It’s also clear that the industry shows no signs of slowing down, with 82% of respondents planning to increase or greatly increase their efforts in the coming year.

 

>> Download a high res PDF of the report: The State of Content Marketing, 2012
>> Review last year’s survey results here