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Best of B2B Marketing: Get Inspired for 2021 with These Top 10 Content Marketing Posts

This may be of some interest.

Happy business professionals jumping up in celebration image.

Happy business professionals jumping up in celebration image.

Content encompasses nearly everything we read, view, or listen to this pandemic year, and as our CEO Lee Odden said long ago, it’s also part of the reason the need for search began in the first place.

We’re especially proud of the content marketing successes our team at TopRank Marketing have achieved during this topsy-turvy 2020, for a wide-range of major B2B clients. As 2021 draws close, we wanted to share our top content marketing articles of the year — each filled with best practices, research, examples, and the latest trends.

We’re fortunate to have a wealth of talented B2B marketing professionals contributing to the TopRank B2B Marketing blog — which celebrates its 17th year this month — including Lee Odden, Joshua Nite, Elizabeth Williams, Anne Leuman, Nick Nelson, Debbie Friez, Birdie Zepeda, myself, and Alexis Hall, among others.

Collectively this compendium of our top 10 content marketing posts of the year serves as a valuable resource, filled with practical examples and relevant topics for digital marketing professionals from CMOs to copywriters. We hope that you’ll find these articles helpful well into 2021 and far beyond.

Now, join us as we move on to the top 10! These most popular content marketing posts of the year are ordered by a combination of search visibility and social engagement:

Our Most Popular Content Marketing Posts of 2020:

1. 50 Top B2B Content Marketing Influencers To Follow in 2021 #CMWorld — Lane R. Ellis

2020 CMWorld 50 Content Marketing Influencers

In our top content marketing post of the year I share our annual list of the top 50 content marketing influencers to follow and learn from, released during this year’s all-virtual Content Marketing World conference. You’ll learn new lessons from these 50 content marketing influencers throughout 2021 and into a post-pandemic industry landscape.

You can check out all of my posts here, and follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

[bctt tweet=”“@TopRank has a long history with #CMWorld starting at the beginning, with 10 years of speaking and attending along with 7 years of partnering with @CMIContent to develop speaker and influencer content marketing campaigns.” @lanerellis” username=”toprank”]

2. Where’s the Marketing in Content Marketing? 10 Essential Promotion Tactics That Drive Results — Lee Odden

content promotion tactics

Where’s the marketing in content marketing? In our second most popular content marketing post of the year, Lee shares how to overcome content creation imbalances with 10 proven content promotion tactics that have stood the test of time, to make your content promotion a priority.

Check out all of Lee’s 2,600+ posts here, and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

[bctt tweet=”“An imbalance of content creation and promotion is not only frustrating potential marketing performance, but it’s wasting the investment made in creating great content. What good is that great content if no one sees it?” @LeeOdden” username=”toprank”]

3. 5 Ways to Humanize B2B Content Marketing — Joshua Nite

Humanizing B2B Content Father and Son Cooking Together Image

What does it mean to “humanize” your B2B content marketing? In our third most popular content marketing article of the year, our senior content marketing manager Joshua Nite shares five ways to help your content make a more human connection with a professional audience by:

  • Finding the Emotional Core
  • Earning Trust
  • Personalizing Efforts
  • Embracing Humility
  • Designing a Content Experience

You can check out all of Josh’s posts here, and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

[bctt tweet=”“Find the emotional stories that your solution makes possible, and make them the star of your content.” — Joshua Nite @nitewrites” username=”toprank”]

4. New Research: How B2B Content Marketers Are Impacted and Pivoting During the Pandemic — Nick Nelson

Professionals Wearing Masks and Bumping Elbows

It’s undoubtedly been a year of much change and upheaval, and in our fourth most read article of the year, our content marketing manager Nick Nelson shows how B2B  content marketing practitioners are responding, and breaks down insightful research from Content Marketing Institute.

You can check out all of Nick’s posts here, and follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

[bctt tweet=”“It’s a bit ironic that at a time where more B2B marketers than ever have gotten their strategy down on paper, we’re being forced to crumple it up and rewrite it.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN” username=”toprank”]

5. 5 Examples of Effective B2B Content Marketing in Times of Crisis — Anne Leuman

Woman wearing facemark image.

What is a key factor to successful marketing during a pandemic? “Being helpful,” as our senior operations strategist Anne Leuman explores in our fifth most popular content marketing post of the year. In this insightful piece, Anne shows how B2B marketers can infuse more helpfulness in their efforts, including five examples of B2B brands doing content marketing right during the global heath crisis.

You can check out all of Anne’s posts here, and follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

[bctt tweet=”“The true key to success in B2B content marketing is to always come from a place of empathy. The more you’re able to understand and empathize with your target audience, the more likely you are to surface content opportunities.” @annieleuman” username=”toprank”]

6. 5 Steps for a More Powerful B2B Content Marketing Strategy — Lee Odden

Powerful B2B Content Marketing Strategy

How can marketers overcome content attention deficit and stand out? In our sixth most popular content marketing article of the year, Lee shares five helpful steps for building a more powerful B2B content marketing strategy, using:

  • Ideal Customer Profiles
  • Topics of Influence, Search and Social
  • Editorial Plan & Content Mapping
  • Content Promotion
  • Mining Search, Social & Influencer Analytics

This piece is filled with inspiration to begin intentionally and consistently incorporating influencers, social media and SEO in your B2B content marketing efforts, to reach more customers where they’re looking, with the kind of experiences that will inspire more effective engagement, revenue, and retention outcomes.

[bctt tweet=”“Creating useful content by itself is not an effective strategy in a world of brand distrust, content attention deficit and the distractions brought by a global pandemic.” — Lee Odden @LeeOdden” username=”toprank”]

7. 7 B2B Content Marketing Tactics For Long Term Success — Anne Leuman

Man running down an infinite road into the sunset image.

What types of content can B2B marketers utilize for driving long-term success? In the seventh most read content marketing piece of the year, Anne shares seven enduring and powerful B2B content marketing tactics for long-term success, featuring the use of content including:

  • Blogs
  • Social Media
  • Influencers
  • Podcasts
  • Sponsored & Guest Works
  • Digital Advertising
  • eBooks, Infographics, and Larger Campaigns

[bctt tweet=”“For content marketing to be successful, you need those flashy, attention-grabbing campaigns to meet immediate goals. But you also need reliable, consistent, thought-provoking content to compound results over time.” @annieleuman” username=”toprank”]

8. Why Content Marketing is More Important Than Ever for B2B Brands — Nick Nelson

B2B Marketing Content

In our number eight top content content marketing post of the year, Nick explores why content marketing is more important than ever now for B2B brands, and shares three fine examples of B2B brands going beyond mere talk.

By providing ongoing value and propping up your brand values, you’ll see plenty of value in return, as Nick examines in detail here.

[bctt tweet=”“The challenges our world now faces with the coronavirus pandemic and social justice movement create a unique opportunity for B2B content marketing to make an impact.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN” username=”toprank”]

9. How Authentic Content Builds Brand Trust in Uncertain Times — Nick Nelson

Man Interacting via Virtual Meeting

Being there for your audience, and being real with them, presents a key opportunity to strengthen relationships during difficult times. In our ninth most popular content marketing post of the year, Nick shares how authentic content builds brand trust in uncertain times.

“Content marketing is inherently a long game, focused on building relationships first and foremost. Right now, the best way to pursue this goal is through authenticity and altruism, in the context of your business and its audience,” Nick observed.

[bctt tweet=”“There’s never been a better time to open up and share real, relatable stories. Everyone is going through something, and it can be comforting to learn how others are dealing with these unique circumstances.” — Nick Nelson @NickNelsonMN” username=”toprank”]

10. In Search of Trust: How Authentic Content Drives Customer Experience — Lee Odden

Authentic Content Customer Experience

In today’s uncertain digital world, how can B2B marketers double down on building trust with their customers? Rounding our our list of the top content marketing article of the years is Lee’s insightful look at how authentic content drives customer experience.

To help marketers better understand how brands are winning customer hearts, minds, and trust with authentic content experiences, Lee shares 5 important steps including:

  • Accelerating Internal Credibility
  • Doubling Down on Customer Activation
  • Working with External Influencers to Grow Brand Credibility
  • Creating a Content Collaboration Ecosystem
  • Optimizing Measurement to Customer ROI

[bctt tweet=”“If you want your content to be great, ask your customers to participate.” — Lee Odden @LeeOdden” username=”toprank”]

Thanks TopRank Marketing Writers & Readers

Thanks to all of our top content marketing authors for contributing these top 10 content marketing posts of 2020 — congratulations on making the list!

Additionally, we publish several marketing influencer lists every year, and we wanted to share them here as a helpful way to find and follow some of the leading digital marketing influencers:

Another helpful resource for B2B marketers to learn about crafting a successful B2B influencer marketing program is our recently-launched Inside Influence series, featuring interviews with top industry experts such as the latest episode with Tim Williams of Onalytica.

We published dozens of posts this year specifically about content marketing, and plan to bring you even more in 2021, so stay tuned for a new year of the latest helpful search industry research and insight.

Please let us know which content marketing topics and ideas you’d like to see us focus on for 2021 — we’d love to hear your suggestions. Feel free to leave those thoughts in the comments section below.

Many thanks to each of you who read our blog regularly, and to all of you who comment on and share our posts on the TopRank Marketing social media channels at Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

The post Best of B2B Marketing: Get Inspired for 2021 with These Top 10 Content Marketing Posts appeared first on B2B Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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These high-quality leggings, socks, and underwear are made from recycled plastic

This may be of some interest.

Girlfriend Collective is known for its super-soft, eco-friendly activewear. It’s now branching into new clothing categories—and giving back at the same time.

Why is it that the items that we wear nearly every day are often the ones we think of shopping for last? I usually buy new socks at the last minute and in bulk. Same for underwear. Even for workout basics such as leggings, sports bras, and tees, I often find myself mindlessly grabbing the most basic options. But why not take clothing staples such as these up a notch?

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Bookmark these COVID-19 trackers to see how state reopening policies affect outbreaks

This may be of some interest.

The excellent Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center has added two critically helpful new tools.

As 4.8 million Americans returned to work in June, COVID-19 did not magically go away. New cases are spiking in a number of southern states—and tracking this clusterjam from your screen has become the new people watching of our era.

Read Full Story

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These are the workplace trends that give us hope

This may be of some interest.

From flexible work opportunities to more pay transparency, there are plenty of reasons to feel excited about what’s happening at work.

Are we finally creating a kinder, gentler workplace? We’ve certainly seen a number of positive signs over the past decade. A greater emphasis on culture, for instance, has set the stage for higher job satisfaction.

Read Full Story

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These Influencers Are Computer-Generated: The Future of Marketing, or Untrustworthy Advertising?

This may be of some interest.

More likely than not, you see influencer posts on your Instagram feed daily. In many ways, they become part of your life — influencing everything from exercise classes you take, to clothes you buy.

It’s undeniable that influencer marketing is powerful. In fact, over the past five years the tactic has quickly grown into a multi-billion dollar industry.

Plenty of businesses, both large and small, use influencers across their social platforms to reach new audiences, build brand awareness, and increase sales. Examples of successful influencer marketing strategies range from Stride Gum’s partnership with DJ Khaled to Glossier’s partnership with micro-influencers and “regular women”.

And, as influencer marketing grows, it’s no longer just limited to humans — as we’ve seen with Jiff Pom, a Pomeranian with over nine million Instagram followers.

But if any human (or pet) can become an influencer, it begs the question — do influencers even need to exist in real life?

In 2019, computer-generated influencers like Miquela Sousa might argue, “No.”

For instance, let’s take a look at this post by Miquela Sousa (@lilmiquela), an influencer with 1.6 million followers:

IMG_1554-1

By all accounts, the post looks real. Miquela, a 19-year-old Brazilian American model, influencer, and singer, is posting a #sponsored post for Calvin Klein and posing with fellow model Bella Hadid.

But Miquela is a computer-generated character, introduced by Los Angeles company Brud in 2016. Each month, almost 260,000 people listen to her music on Spotify. Miquela works with major brands ranging from Prada to Samsung, and she’s even given interviews at Coachella.

All of which raises the question — why should companies pay real human influencers to promote their products, when they can create their own personal influencer from scratch?

Lil Miquela, a Chinese News Anchor, and Colonel Sanders — Are Virtual Influencers The Future of Marketing?

Before we consider the pros and cons of virtual influencers, let’s explore some examples.

First, as previously mentioned, there’s Lil Miquela. When you scan through her Instagram posts, you quickly realize her captions make her sound like a regular teenager.

In fact, in the following post, she even sounds like she has real emotions, writing, “[One of angel boi’s friends] blew up at me at lunch and stormed out as I ugly cried in front of about 50 strangers … and now he won’t respond to any of my texts”:

4Max1

While her caption is fake, her followers’ comments are real — many of Lil Miquela’s followers respond with empathy or shared experiences, comments like “This same thing happened to me once, you’ll get through it”.

And then, there are Miquela’s “friends” — Bermuda (@bermudaisbae), with 170K followers and a bio that reads “Robot/Unbothered mogul with daddy’s PIN and a flawless highlight”, and Blawko (@blawko22) a self-described “Young Robot Sex Symbol” with 141K followers.

As Miquela writes on the following post: “Me and my mains! Always getting me through the roughest, there for all the highs, ride or dies … ILU guys!”

MkDFC

While these three are the only robots currently engineered by Brud, there are other “virtual humans” out there.

For instance, Xinhua News, a Chinese media outlet, unveiled an AI news presenter in 2018 who can work 24-hours a day without breaks, reducing news production costs. As the artificial news presenter stated in his introductory video, “I’ll work tirelessly to keep you informed as texts will be typed into my system uninterrupted.”

Image Source

In another example, Balmain, a fashion label, commissioned photographer Cameron-James Wilson to create a diverse “virtual army” of models for Olivier Rousteing’s 2018 collection:

In a statement on the campaign, Balmain writes: “Anyone and everyone is always welcome to join Balmain Army’s growing ranks — they need only share our bold spirit of adventure as our new virtual icons, Margot, Shudu and Zhi who mirror the beauty, the rock style and the confident power.”

Of course, the campaign was met with mixed reviews — one follower wrote, “This is disgusting! I do not understand why they think these models are attractive”, and another commented, “As if Photoshop wasn’t enough, what’s wrong with this world?! #realpeople #realmodels please”.

And, last but certainly not least, there’s KFC’s Colonel Sanders, mocking the very trend of virtual influencers while taking part in it:

All of which is to say — are virtual influencers untrustworthy, or the future of marketing?

What Virtual Influencers Can Offer — and What’s Missing

There are some undeniable benefits to creating or hiring a virtual influencer.

For one, a virtual influencer isn’t human, meaning he or she won’t need breaks. Xinhua News, mentioned above, clearly saw the benefits of this — by using a virtual news anchor to cover breaking news 24-7, they lowered the cost of hiring real people to cover news throughout the night.

If you’re trying to work around-the-clock publishing and promoting content to raise brand awareness, then, it makes sense you’d consider using a virtual influencer, who can post and promote content without sacrificing human needs like … well, sleep.

Additionally, your virtual influencer isn’t as much of a PR liability as a real influencer is. For instance, Debra Davis, founder of NKLS — a company that researches, advises on, and invests in virtual and augmented reality — told WWD, “With a virtual influencer, so much more thought has to be put into the message. It’s not just someone with a Twitter stream. It’s more carefully constructed and thought through, and therefore can be controlled.”

Real influencers and celebrities make mistakes that could influence the public’s perception of your brand. With a virtual influencer, you don’t risk associating your brand with any negative press.

Additionally, it might cost less to hire a virtual influencer compared to a celebrity or supermodel. 

However, if your brand is considering hiring micro-influencers, you’ll more likely find a real micro-influencer for cheaper.

It’s also worth noting that much of what we see on Instagram is edited, filtered, and posed — so, really, is a real person’s highly filtered version of “real life” much different from virtual reality, anyway?

Lastly, a virtual influencer is incredibly rare and unusual, so it draws immediate attention to your brand. If your brand is trying to reach Gen-Z or a younger audience, a virtual influencer might be something that appeals to your intended demographic.

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On the flip side, there’s still something uniquely powerful and engaging about real influencers connecting with their audience through social platforms. Virtual influencers like Lil Miquela can pretend they have human emotions, but that can just as easily backfire if her audience doesn’t trust the emotion behind it.

Ultimately, influencer marketing is about engaging in authentic, meaningful connections. How is an audience ever supposed to trust a promoted post when there isn’t a real human advocating for it?

Additionally, influencer marketing is often most successful when it’s seen as real and genuine. For instance, direct-to-consumer beauty brand Glossier has become insanely successful due, in large part, to its authentic marketing strategy.

As Emily Weiss, founder and CEO, said during a live interview with Kara Swisher for the Recode Decode podcast, “At Glossier, something we’ve always stayed very true to, since pre-launch, day one, is that every single person is an influencer.”

You’ll notice Glossier adheres to this strategy on its Instagram page, which exhibits real women using Glossier products:

At the end of the day, there’s something to be said for brands that find real people to promote their products or services to other real people. Sure, there’s risk involved — but that risk is the same component that enables audiences to trust, listen to, and connect with those influencers in the first place.

Thank you for reading.