The 21st century has seen the world of marketing change rapidly. The best businesses have had to quickly adapt their marketing strategies in order to engage with their audience effectively. Whilst marketers have been using ‘content’ of many varieties for centuries, ‘content marketing’ has become associated with the new age of marketing including social media, blogging, SEO and the distribution of compelling images and videos. Here’s everything you need to know about content marketing.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a pretty vague and slightly misleading term. Content marketing almost exclusively refers to online, digital marketing. It also refers to content that doesn’t sell or advertise directly; it adds value to its target audience and attempts to ‘engage’ them. It is through this engagement that marketers hope to influence people’s decisions.
So this is the important bit:
Content marketing embodies the shift away from selling and advertising to your target audience and towards engaging and informing individuals.
“Our customers are now our friends and we need to show we understand and relate to them. We understand them, so we developed a product that can benefit their lives and we’re actually helping them out if they buy from us.”
So, content marketing is pretty much anything you share online that is helping you engage with your audience and helping to build a rapport with them. Yes, it is that simple. It’s obviously really important to your brand so make sure you read our rules of content marketing before you get started!
The rules of content marketing
1. Engage first, sell later
So this is the obvious one. Give, give, give before you expect to receive. Empathise with your audience by sharing content they engage with. This can be done through your social networks, your newsletter, blog or a great video. We’re building a relationship, building trust. We need our audience to trust us as much as any other brand they might buy from.
Don’t make this mistake:
2. NEVER underestimate your audience
If you’re a human, you’ll know when you’re being sold to. We’re very good at it. It’s awful when great content is spoiled by some blatant signposting to products or services or if there’s a gushingly positive review or testimonial for your company in there somewhere.
Be smarter about how you promote your brand and your products. Look at some of the best viral and TV ads by leading brands – they don’t focus on features and benefits. Even if you don’t have the budget for superstars, take some of the principles in this recent Adidas ad:
3. Be patient
A great piece of content has the power to gain thousands of views and link clicks, but it won’t happen every time. If you haven’t built up a large audience yet, it will be especially difficult to generate interest. Most digital marketing has a snowball effect – that’s why things go ‘viral’ – and this means that unless you’re receiving views, clicks and interactions, it’s difficult to get off the ground. Appreciate that it will take time for your content marketing to a) grow an audience and b) convert this audience, especially if you’re starting from scratch.
This one’s a bit crazy:
4. It’s not all about content
I know, mind blown, right? But social media is always regarded as content marketing. In fact, for many, social media might be their foremost form of content marketing. The problem is that this seriously sells social media short. Social media has been such a revolution because individuals and companies can now have open, transparent, two-way conversations with each other – not just because you can share content!
Use the interactive elements of social media and Twitter, in particular, to go and engage with people who would otherwise not seen your content.
5. Create your own content
We wrote a piece about creating and sharing content over social media and why both have their merits. Something that looks really great and might set you apart from your competitors, especially if you’re a smaller brand, is investing in some great images.
These might be infographics or might have images of your product or team included. Anything that is personal and professional is much more sharable and, therefore, will grant you far higher reach and engagement than you would achieve by nicking someone else’s!
Content marketing 101 right here:
6. Be relevant to your audience
7. Have a strategy (more here)
8. Be consistent
9. Be real, honest and show some personality
These almost go without saying. Everything you share must resonate with your audience and you have to be clear about what you’re trying to achieve in the long term. Consistency is key if you’re to build a loyal audience and keeping it real and showing some personality does wonders for building that rapport and positive brand perception.
10. Seeding works
Seeding is a way of semi-artificially increasing the reach of a post. Increasing the reach of a post is incredibly important in getting social networks and Google to think your post is important and relevant to your audience. If you can get a few of your colleagues to like a Facebook update or share a blog post, that will do wonders for it. Even huge companies use seeding as part of their marketing strategy so don’t feel like you’re too good for it.
These ones might surprise you:
11. Paying for coverage is okay
Yes, yes, in theory, content marketing is free (if you’re doing it yourself!) BUT this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay for anything out of principle! We’ve had excellent results using modest budgets on Facebook promoted posts. Coupling this with the specific audience targeting Facebook allows you to do, your return on investment is very high.
In light of Facebook’s recent algorithm change, it’s going to become even harder for brands to generate significant organic reach without awesome content or promoted post budget (or both!).
12. Quality will always beat quantity
The danger with social media, especially, is that marketers want to flood their feeds with content and calls to action. Surely the more content is out there, the more likely it is people are to see it. The more blogs I write the more people are likely to buy from me. This is would be absolutely right if (and only if) all that content was exceptional content but, unless you have a team of professional content writers and a video team, let’s face it, it probably isn’t.
If you’re blogging: write extended, interesting and genuinely engaging content that will stand the test of time and become a pillar of information for your industry. For Facebook and Twitter construct quality pieces (even masterpieces!) that are likely to be shared by your audience. Having one piece of content shared 100 times is better than posting 100 average posts that no one shares.
Content marketing is certainly evolutionary rather than revolutionary but it is important to get right in the modern marketing era. Naturally, social media has a huge role to play as content itself, and the promotion of other elements of content. Sticking to the above rules will serve you well.