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Marketing in 2024: AI, Brand, and the End of Social Media?

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Marketing in 2024: AI, Brand, and the End of Social Media?

As that song from Rent says, “525,600 minutes. How do you measure, measure a year?”

It’s been a heck of a year in marketing. We’re not going to miss a lot about 2023. It started as disruptive and tough. Many colleagues, especially in tech, suddenly found themselves without work, mostly based on the perceived best practices of some numbskull billionaire who played around with his tech company to see how far he could break it down before it broke.

But 2023 did have its moments. The explosive idea that remains generative AI prompted some amazing new startups and innovations. And, of course, the appearance of the predicted recession never happened.

Maybe the biggest thing in 2023 centered on all the handwringing about what to start in marketing, what to innovate, and what to change. If you were in the business of marketing change in 2023, you spent the large part of the year like Notre Dame’s Rudy — on the sideline just hoping that coach would call your name.

Watch CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose delve into 2023 and his hopes for 2024, or keep reading for his thoughts:

Almost one year ago to the day, Robert covered this new thing called ChatGPT. Demand was so high that OpenAI turned off access requests for the app. He advocated for exploring how it would expand your capabilities and fit into your marketing process rather than how it would replace you. He predicted generative AI would extend your capabilities as writers and content creators and close the doors on the need to do other tasks.

What does he think now? He’s still wrestling with which door (registration required) is best to open and which to close.

Is it still a Web3 world?

In January, Robert talked about the precipitous decline of Web3 and the metaverse. He did so by discussing the evolution of Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 and pointing out Facebook’s brand name change to Meta at the end of 2022. He talked about how NFTs (non-fungible tokens) and the metaverse attracted eye-popping valuations and headlines. Then, he delved into the buzzwords dropping into the conversation even as some of the experimentations continued.

Starbucks got a mention for its new NFT-based loyalty program called Odyssey. It still seems to be doing just fine as the year closes, as is Web3 after the crypto winter. It’s just that thing called AI gets all the type.

Search engines meet AI

As winter ended and spring arrived, AI continued its rumble and started more noise in the search engine market. Microsoft and Google announced AI chatbots that would power their internet search. Google made a big error during its chatbot announcement demo, quickly putting trust as a top issue for generative AI. How many errors would it make? What about hallucinations in which AI just made up stuff?

Robert talked about how searching the internet and generative AI were different use cases, and you needed to explore both. And now, Google tried again with the launch of Gemini, and well, it seems to have failed again with its demo being called fake news.

Giving podcasts and purpose a listen

As spring sprung, we talked about podcasts because YouTube got into the podcasting business. They announced the ability to create and label podcasts on the platform, allowing people to listen or watch. They also offered up new measurement techniques.

YouTube podcasts didn’t shake up the world this year, but the platform has become THE most-used podcasting platform.

The summer saw a pushback on purpose-driven marketing. Contention arose as marketing programs focused on social issues, as exemplified by the trouble that Bud Light’s use of Dylan Mulvaney during Pride Month to promote its products on Instagram. The story wouldn’t go away.

First, the company tried to backtrack and apologize for offending people. Then, the company threw the marketing team under the bus and blamed declining sales at the feet of their missteps. By the end of the year, many articles had appeared on purpose-driven marketing that included mentions of the potential risks it brings.

Robert says he expects brands to double down in 2024 and get even more involved with social and cultural issues. Brand—and purpose-driven brands especially—will be an incredibly important factor in marketing next year.

Social takes up sewing and exploding

As summer hit the dog days, the slow implosion of X, formerly known as Twitter, continued, and it went official with its X designation. In July, Meta debuted Threads, which became the fastest platform to reach 100 million users since, well, ever. Excitement grew that it might become the new Twitter.

But that thinking dissipated quickly as people kind of gave up on social media full stop. Now, at the end of 2023, X can’t get any lower or less useful. Advertisers and users continue to flee. People who stopped using the app increased by more than 30% this year and the company’s revenue is down some 50%

But the much smaller X still commands the biggest headlines and ranks 12th in popularity of worldwide social networks. That’s less than Snapchat and Telegram and slightly more than Pinterest.

Running in 2024

As you get ready for 2024, let’s just all put our collective hearts and heads together for a much more productive year. Predictions are always fun but kind of useless. We’ll let Robert share what he believes should happen in the new year:

  • Marketing teams will understand that AI really is a content strategy challenge, not a tech challenge.
  • Renewed action on Web3, blockchain, and perhaps a renewal of Web3 co-created community-building will occur.
  • Brand marketing will take center stage as the source of information. Investments will continue in influencer and subject matter expertise as a function of brand alignment, especially in B2B.
  • Social media’s upheaval will continue, becoming just another form of media available for renting or organically distributing your content for consumption. A small percentage of content creators will thrive, leaving most people to consume their content. Communities will grow in the form of owned media, especially through events. Both digital and physical brand experiences will be the new social media.

Finally, change will be sexy again in 2024. From innovation in AI integration to content and owned media strategy to the focus on brand, activity will center around how you become the trusted source of interesting things.

It’s time to roll up your leaves and get to work. You have 525,600 minutes.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

Writing a book is a gargantuan task, and reaching the finish line is a feat equal to summiting a mountain.

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Being position-less secures a marketer’s position for a lifetime

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Optimove Positionless Marketer Optimove

On March 20, 2024, the Position-less Marketer was introduced on MarTech.org and my keynote address at Optimove’s user conference.

Since that initial announcement, we have introduced the term “Position-less Marketer” to hundreds of leading marketing executives and learned that readers and the audience interpreted it in several ways. This article will document a few of those interpretations and clarify what “position-less” means regarding marketing prowess.

As a reminder, data analytics and AI, integrated marketing platforms, automation and more make the Position-less Marketer possible. Plus, new generative AI tools like ChatGPT, Canna-GPT, Github, Copilot and DALL-E offer human access to powerful new capabilities that generate computer code, images, songs and videos, respectively, with human guidance.

Position-less Marketer does not mean a marketer without a role; quite the opposite

Speaking with a senior-level marketer at a global retailer, their first interpretation may be a marketer without a role/position. This was a first-glance definition from more than 60% of the marketers who first heard the term. But on hearing the story and relating it to “be position-less” in other professions, including music and sports, most understood it as a multidimensional marketer — or, as we noted, realizing your multipotentiality. 

One executive said, phrasing position-less in a way that clarified it for me was “unlocking your multidimensionality.” She said, “I like this phrase immensely.” In reality, the word we used was “multipotentiality,” and the fact that she landed on multidimensionality is correct. As we noted, you can do more than one thing.

The other 40% of marketing executives did think of the “Position-less Marketer” as a marketing professional who is not confined or defined by traditional marketing roles or boundaries. In that sense, they are not focused only on branding or digital marketing; instead, they are versatile and agile enough to adjust to the new conditions created by the tools that new technology has to offer. As a result, the Position-less Marketer should be comfortable working across channels, platforms and strategies, integrating different approaches to achieve marketing goals effectively.

Navigating the spectrum: Balancing specialization and Position-less Marketing

Some of the most in-depth feedback came from data analytic experts from consulting firms and Chief Marketing Officers who took a more holistic view.

Most discussions of the “Position-less Marketer” concept began with a nuanced perspective on the dichotomy between entrepreneurial companies and large enterprises.

They noted that entrepreneurial companies are agile and innovative, but lack scalability and efficiency. Conversely, large enterprises excel at execution but struggle with innovation due to rigid processes.

Drawing parallels, many related this to marketing functionality, with specialists excelling in their domain, but needing a more holistic perspective and Position-less Marketers having a broader understanding but needing deep expertise.

Some argued that neither extreme is ideal and emphasized the importance of balancing specialization and generalization based on the company’s growth stage and competitive landscape.

They highlight the need for leaders to protect processes while fostering innovation, citing Steve Jobs’ approach of creating separate teams to drive innovation within Apple. They stress the significance of breaking down silos and encouraging collaboration across functions, even if it means challenging existing paradigms.

Ultimately, these experts recommended adopting a Position-less Marketing approach as a competitive advantage in today’s landscape, where tight specialization is common. They suggest that by connecting dots across different functions, companies can offer unique value to customers. However, they caution against viewing generalization as an absolute solution, emphasizing the importance of context and competitive positioning.

These marketing leaders advocate for a balanced marketing approach that leverages specialization and generalization to drive innovation and competitive advantage while acknowledging the need to adapt strategies based on industry dynamics and competitive positioning.

Be position-less, but not too position-less — realize your multipotentiality

This supports what was noted in the March 20th article: to be position-less, but not too position-less. When we realize our multipotentiality and multidimensionality, we excel as humans. AI becomes an augmentation.

But just because you can individually execute on all cylinders in marketing and perform data analytics, writing, graphics and more from your desktop does not mean you should.

Learn when being position-less is best for the organization and when it isn’t. Just because you can write copy with ChatGPT does not mean you will write with the same skill and finesse as a professional copywriter. So be position-less, but not too position-less.

Position-less vs. being pigeonholed

At the same time, if you are a manager, do not pigeonhole people. Let them spread their wings using today’s latest AI tools for human augmentation.

For managers, finding the right balance between guiding marketing pros to be position-less and, at other times, holding their position as specialists and bringing in specialists from different marketing disciplines will take a lot of work. We are at the beginning of this new era. However, working toward the right balance is a step forward in a new world where humans and AI work hand-in-hand to optimize marketing teams.

We are at a pivot point for the marketing profession. Those who can be position-less and managers who can optimize teams with flawless position-less execution will secure their position for a lifetime.

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