When I use Wikipedia as a source for information in an article, people sometimes get upset and insist that it’s not a reliable source of correct information. I assure readers that I only refer to Wikipedia when I’m sure the information or snippets thereof are reliable. When it comes to the definition of content marketing, I’m not so sure Wikipedia is the best source. Can you make out the following description?
Content marketing is an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to attract, acquire and engage clearly defined and understood current and potential consumer bases with the objective of driving profitable customer action. Content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action. Content marketing has benefits in terms of retaining reader attention and improving brand loyalty.
The idea of sharing content as a means of persuading decision-making has driven content marketers to make their once-proprietary informational assets available to selected audiences. Alternatively, many content marketers choose to create new information and share it via any and all media. Content marketing products frequently take the form of custom magazines, print or online newsletters, digital content, websites or microsites, white papers, webcasts/webinars, podcasts, video portals or series, in-person roadshows, roundtables, interactive online, email, events. The purpose of this information is to inform target customers and prospects about key industry issues, sometimes involving the marketer’s products. The motivation behind content marketing is the belief that educating the customer results in the brand’s recognition.
Marketers may use content marketing as a means of achieving a variety of business goals. These may include: thought leadership, lead generation, increasing direct sales, introducing specific brand language and improving customer retention. The term “content engineer” is being used to describe a new breed of marketer who creates, optimizes, and distributes the different types of content required to engage customers on the social web, based on the data of many analysis tools.
Content marketing is the underlying philosophy driving techniques such as custom media, custom publishing, database marketing, brand marketing, branded entertainment and branded content.
Um, perhaps this needs to be translated into… English? According to the Content Marketing Institute:
Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.
Still a bit unclear? Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects without selling. It is non-interruption marketing. Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. In a great sense, it’s like a blog you write for your business, which holds CONTENT that engages people in the hope they will come back, become fans, give you trust and loyalty while the recognition, loyalty and trust translates into sales.
First Step: Basic Planning
The credo of content marketing starts with six basic things you must understand and accept:
- Dedicate resources to content (whether paying outsourced/contributed writers or in-house editors).
- Enforce high quality editorial standards on all content types (writing, illustration, video).
- Don’t just produce content about yourself; create content that’s helpful to your audience.
- Develop a community of users around a topic (rather than around your brand/business) and let your brand be the host of the community.
- Share content smartly through social channels.
- Remember consistency and patience in building up an audience.
As a content writer, these are the biggest paths to success I have experienced and the biggest mistakes businesses have made by ignoring them.
Here’s a closer look at why and how the basics work:
The first success is when a business puts its best foot forward by planning and executing content firmly and professionally. It’s not just written content but also photographic images, videos and available technology that will educate and entertain the reader/viewer. Good content will bring back the same people, who will also share the content and make it viral. Viral content is the best marketing you can create because others are doing the work for you!
The biggest mistake is the belief you can get quality for free or very little. Professionals who provide content cost money, as does professional plumbers, accountants, pilots and engineers. Would you trust a house of water pipes, tax returns, plane trips or buildings/bridges/oil tanks handled by amateurs?
High quality goes along with what was just said. Professionals provide quality and they expect to be paid for it. The biggest mistake made by many companies is they believe content is content if it takes up space. Some count words and think quantity makes up for quality. War and Peace was a long book… too long for people to finish if it wasn’t a classic of high quality writing.
Part of the quality of writing and sharing is knowing WHAT to write that will engage your target audience. There is only so much information about your company or product they can absorb before losing interest. Clever writing about a subject that also sells a product is called an “advertorial” – advertising through was appears to be editorial content. For instance, an article on healthy pizza, what toppings cost in calories, which seasonings add flavor and are good for certain health benefits will interest the reader and a small mention of YOUR healthy and flavorful pizza will register almost subconsciously, not appearing as a blatant ad. Helpful and entertaining content will bring pizza lovers back for more and they will consider your content valuable to their pizza-filled lives.
This is also part of building a community where you are the expert on the topic, rather than a pusher of just your brand. While it may not convince all readers to use your product immediately, it will create familiarity and trust of your brand and being the host community, build a family of loyal consumers.
Sharing content, as mentioned in viral pieces, is extremely important for your content. I have seen clients who refuse to allow sharing buttons on their sites, insisting that it’s hits and comments from readers they want and not sharing to Twitter, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, Facebook or Pinterest. That’s slow strangulation. Let your content be spread all over. Have an RSS feed so other sites pick up your content. My record, all-time high for Google returns on one article was 74.1 million returns. Even with duplicate and triplicate returns, over 25 million difference sources picked up that content. That’s the key to content marketing – letting people introduce you to other prospective customers, build trust and name recognition.
Consistency and patience is the hardest part but if you stick with it, it WILL pay off! Consistency is the frequency of your new content. One design firm I followed would send out a weekly eNewsletter every Wednesday entitled, “The Hump-Day Hip-O-Meter.” Very simple, outlining three unique and entertaining pieces of pop culture (toys, comics, and weird furniture – general interest type things that most people enjoyed seeing. They listed them as “Hip,” “Hipper” and “Hippest.” It always ended with a spotlight on a recent project and sales pitch to use the studio for design services. At the time, it was the largest circulation eNewsletter around. Eventually, for some odd reason, it stopped. The studio reduced its employees and moved to smaller quarters.
Another company started receiving enough new customers from their new blog (their only form of marketing) that they had to double their staff and then they stopped adding content, thinking the marketing was done and they would maintain the same growth by word of mouth alone. It didn’t work. As their content stopped, their share numbers died and business went down. Even regular customers need to be reminded you are there and not indifferent to their presence.
A new, small bicycle manufacturer ran weekly content about bicycles, equipment, accessories, bike safety and other general biking interest. Share numbers grew, as did followings of biking enthusiasts. They decided to hire a staff social media specialist who had another direction in mind. Content fell off to every now and then and instead of speaking to bike enthusiasts, it reviewed neighborhood eateries. While it was intended to give bike riders destinations, it ignored the basic diet of athletic bike riders and so they lost their core audience. One of the biggest problems for this company changing content was they lost their SEO to bicycle enthusiasts and the blogs and aggregators that carried the material and content of interest.
CORE AUDIENCE is worth examining. Naturally, your core audience is those most likely to become customers. Keep an eye to their needs and interests and what will keep them coming back to your content and gaining your trust as an expert in your field.
If you haven’t heard of the 1,000 True Fan Rule, you should read a bit about it. For any business, this rule applies. Basically, it’s creating a network of fans that will buy EVERYTHING you produce. The number 1,000 is apparently not considered an unreachable number. Again, and especially for smaller businesses, you should learn this rule and consider it for your marketing.
(Check out some stats about content marketing).
Engage Your Content Followers
One of the most important factors of content marketing is the social media aspect. The thing to remember about social media is the SOCIAL part of the marketing. You must be involved with your followers on Twitter or on blog content.
If someone retweets your tweet, thank them for that. If someone comments on your blog, thank that person and if they’ve asked a question… answer it! The worst mistake bloggers make is not engaging the people who ask questions about the content posted.
Always credit source material with a link and give fair credit where credit is due, especially with images that are most probably copyrighted (read more about using copyrighted images).
As with the rules for your core audience, you want to build a personal relationship with people who go out of their way to share your content or build upon it.
See You Later, Aggregator!
A dozen years ago, there were many eNewsletters that touted themselves as having all the news you want to read in one place. One such eNewsletter had the tag; “we read the trades so you don’t have to!”
Now there are sites that exist solely with material pulled from other blogs and news sources in the same practice of aggregating topical news. If you create a site like this, you need to be aware of what is copyrighted material NOT for reproduction and RSS feed material to which you may link freely.
Twitter, for instance, has an application called Paper.Li. In essence, you are creating a daily newspaper of aggregated material and sending it to subscribers.
While aggregators will get your name out in front of people, they do not help your brand or humanize you in the eyes of readers. The best form of content is to make it from your heart and mind, present it professionally and regularly and be patient with growth just as you would with your business and family. In a sense, you are building a family. How will you raise that family?
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