The content marketing changes that shaped the last decade

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Account director Scott Elmslie looks back at the ways content marketing has evolved over the last 10 years – and the ways it’s stayed the same.

Scott Elmslie

Here we are in 2020. For those of us who have been working in the industry since the last century and remember waiting for Y2K to take down our computers as we moved out of the 1990s, this feels like a long way into the future. Unfortunately we don’t have any flying cars yet, even though I’m sure we were promised them. But while the change from 1999 to 2000 didn’t cause the global meltdown that many expected, a younger, fresher-faced me could never have predicted the level of digital disruption we’d experience over the next 20 years.

The start of a new year and decade always feels like a good opportunity to have a retrospective look back. With a bit of downtime over the festive period I decided to have a look at some of the significant changes that have occurred in the content marketing landscape over the last decade. Arguably we’ve seen more developments, more opportunities to engage with an audience and have more data and insights available to us that at any other point in history.

Here are some of the key things I believe have impacted content marketing over the last 10 years:

Three people looking at their phones

Mobile technology

While mobile technology isn’t new, we have seen a significant increase in the number of people who have smartphones. We’ve gone from around 43% in 2012 to 91% in 2019. I can’t imagine not having my phone with me pretty much constantly to answer my burning questions, research on the move or find out what my friend’s dog is up to.

Over the last few years mobile browsing has overtaken desktop/laptop browsing thanks to the convenience of having the answer there in your pocket. Now imagine it was your content that was answering their question. How would that improve the sentiment towards your brand?

Social media

Social media was around pre-2010, but it wasn’t the same. While we all might have had Tom in our Top 8 Myspace friends (or, if you’re like me, thought Bebo was where it was at), these weren’t channels that brands were really utilising. At that stage it still felt like a bit of a ‘nice to have’.

At the end of last quarter there were 2.45 billion active monthly Facebook users, and there has been a swift rise in the popularity of visual networks such as Instagram, Snapchat and (most recently) TikTok. Social media is no longer a bit-part player in content marketing. In many cases, it underpins a brand’s entire marketing strategy because that’s where their audience lives. There is an element of beware though. People are fickle by nature, and the platforms that we consider the latest and greatest today can and often do disappear just as quick as they arrived. Staying on top of social media’s evolutions is crucial.

User-generated content

Businesses become successful when they develop positive relationships with their customers­ – and things get even better when those customers become advocates for the organisation. User generated content is a great form of social proof. Seeing content or comments from real customers increases a brand’s public standing.

In a recent survey by Pureprofile, 58% of participants said they believe that online reviews are the top influencer when it comes to purchase behaviours. As fake news and unethical advertising methods become more common, we’re only going to continue putting our faith in peer opinions in 2020. So encourage your customers to engage with your brand and leave reviews – and remember to share the love. 

Influencer marketing

That leads us to influencer marketing. We inherently trust people who share a similar worldview, and those who do things that we admire. Most of us are far more likely to buy something that a celebrity or someone with a platform tells us to buy over something that a brand tries to sell us directly. In the good old days this would have involved photographing a celebrity with your product and leaving it there, but now, aided by social media, influencer marketing is a multi-billion-dollar industry where a paid post on Instagram can earn a brand a significant ROI. In 2019 the soccer player Ronaldo made more money through Instagram than he did for kicking a ball, and he earned A LOT for doing that.

But it doesn’t need to be all about celebrity – a considered micro influencer campaign can also be very effective. Because micro influencers specialise in niche industries, they tend to have a small, loyal following that is very engaged. Stats from Buffer reveal that micro influencers with 1,000 to 5,000 followers actually attract more attention for brands than influencers with over 10,000 followers. Definitely something to keep in mind.

A chef holding berries in front of a phone that is filming him


Video has become an integral part of social media content marketing. Historically it was expensive to produce but changes in technology have made everything from shooting a video to editing much more accessible. In 2010 we were uploading 35 hours of video every minute to YouTube, which is still an incredible amount of content. Ten years on and we’re now uploading over 300 hours per minute.

This is what your customers want to see from you. According to a survey from Wyzowl 86% of people would like to see more video from brands in 2020. People currently watch an average of 16 hours of online video per week, which is up 52% from 2018. People are also twice as likely to share video content with their friends than any other type of content.


A medium that continues to grow in popularity is podcasting. In 2010 very few people were listening to podcasts with any regularity. Fast forward to now and in the recent Deloitte Media Consumer Survey 44% percent of respondents identified themselves as podcast listeners. While listeners tend to be millennials, they are also affluent, with 67% of high-income earners listening to podcasts.

So where’s the opportunity? According to the report the strongest driver for listening to a particular podcast is to learn something new. This is where brands can step in with valuable, informative content.

Although it feels like there have been huge changes over the last 10 years, none of this happened overnight. It’s been a gradual development. Those that have been successful have embraced the change, been willing to test and learn, and understand that their audience wants and expects to see them in the same places they are hanging out. Be prepared to be agile, try new things and have a percentage of your marketing budget allocated to testing new channels.

However, some things will always stay the same. As I wrote in my article ‘The importance of being earnest’, authenticity and being truthful has always been important and will continue to be integral in your content marketing. 

So, what will the next 10 years bring?

Scott Elmslie, account director

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