Content marketing is becoming a staple for companies, but some brands are foregoing white papers for formats easier to digest.

Content marketing has crossed the threshold into being a mainstream practice that most brands realize is essential for success on the ‘net. To learn how strategies are evolving, LinkedIn’s B2B Technology Marketing Community Group Owner Holger Schulze surveyed professionals about their strategies moving forward. Responses revealed 82 percent of companies plan to invest more heavily in content creation throughout 2013, but long-standing staples like white papers may be a tired offering many brands will avoid.

Customer testimonials were cited as the most effective content marketing tactic by 89 percent of respondents, while 88 percent think case studies help them reach their goals. Just under 80 percent list in-person events as the tactic they find drives the most results, followed by online articles, videos and white papers.

This order might come as a surprise to content marketing and SEO veterans because white papers have continuously helped brands generate leads and establish themselves as thought leaders. In fact, long-form documents held the No. 2 spot for most effective digital content type last year.

Customer testimonials were cited as the most effective content marketing tactic by 89 percent of respondents.

What caused the dramatic drop? Schulze’s report implies consumers’ shortening attention spans are to blame. Shorter, interactive formats that are easy to digest are on the rise such as news content and videos. In fact, Brafton recently noted that 99 of the Top 100 Global Brands use video marketing to engage their target audiences and increase awareness.

Success is in the writing, not the length

The problem may not lie with the format itself, but in the execution. Brafton explained how to craft compelling white papers in a blog by Head Energy Writer Travis Whalen. He points out that it’s equally important to write text that people want to read as it is to clearly convey technical topics. White papers shouldn’t take readers hostage, forcing them to sift through hundreds of words to get to information they want. The most successful pieces make it easy for people to spot relevant sections and digest critical takeaways quickly.

By revisiting white paper approaches, marketers may find they are missing opportunities to capture customers’ attention and generate leads by creating documents that are difficult to interpret when accessed online. White papers should not be conceptualized, outlined or written in the same fashion as printed books, which are seen as ineffective by more than 20 percent of respondents. They should be designed with online audiences’ needs in mind.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.