Sure, you might have read some other textbook definitions – things like (read this with a British accent) “content marketing means all kinds of content created with marketing goals behind it. Whether that’s increasing audiences, generating leads, making conversions spike…”.
Yeah, that’s on point. Or maybe it’s just creating some good old brand awareness. But, of course, it’s more than that… much more. Content marketing creates the possibility of really connecting with users and, by doing that, earning their trust.
Why? Because it’s providing them with valuable information, regardless of whether it is, in actuality, describing a product, giving details about a service through a blog post or stating a brand’s mission in a YouTube video. It has goals behind it, sure – but it also has value. That’s what makes it special, and so important – and that is what content marketing is all about.
Hold on a second. Let’s go back a bit. What is content anyway?
Well, without trying to get into a history lesson here, content is as old as time itself. Any story worth telling, anything worth being shared with another person, in any medium – that’s content. From cave paintings to ads on billboards. Content – and content marketing too, for that matter – predates the internet by centuries at the very least. No need to mention examples here. Google “best advertising campaigns” and have lots of fun.
What the internet did, basically, was to make content production and publishing explode over a myriad websites, platforms, services and applications – to a point where we’re consuming online content pretty much all the time.
A video, a social media post, an article, a web page… they come and go through our computer screens and cellphone feeds like rivers flowing to the sea. Like that guy in The Social Network said, we live our lives online nowadays. And, obviously, marketing is also needed online – more than ever, we might add.
Lots of it, too. Hence the use of content as a means of publicizing products, services, brands and what not.
Anyway, here’s the outline of what we’ll cover:
- Is this content marketing stuff for me? Should I care?
- Some more in-depth information (sounds a bit boring, but please don’t skip this part!)
- Some different channels where you could actually use this:
- Web content
- Social media
- Some tips (it wouldn’t be a content marketing article without them)
- Wrapping it up because you’ve probably got better things to do
1. Content marketing. (Pause for contemplation.) Should I really care?
Time to ask the big questions: is content marketing for your organization? Should you use it? Whether a B2B or B2C enterprise, a small startup or a big corporation – can content marketing help?
In one straight answer: yes. Because content marketing works, plain and simple.
Through content marketing, businesses and brands around the world create meaningful connections with their potential customers, convey their messages in effective ways and even influence them towards decisions with regard to the brand. Needless to say, some of those decisions are profitable.
And while we’re talking about profits – the harsh truth is that it’s hard to measure the actual ROI of content marketing, since its main advantage is to create awareness, inform the audience and create actual engagement. But let’s stop for a minute and think: just how valuable is that? How many leads can be obtained by a thought-provoking, compelling blog post that connects directly with a user? How is it possible to measure the brand awareness gained as a result of a viral post with a powerful, creative, relevant message?
To sum it up: it’s a little something called building trust among users, by presenting them with content that has value. By value we mean something in it for them. Not just information, not clutter, not spam – real, actual value. But in order to properly answer the questions we asked four paragraphs ago, let’s get a bit finicky – just a bit – and consider the stages in the buying process.
2. Some theoretical stuff to give more depth to this article:
the different stages of the buying process
Sorry to get a bit in-depth here, but it’s for a good reason. Every buying/conversion process happens in basic stages – through what is commonly known as a purchase funnel – until it reaches a conversion. Several versions of this funnel can be found, but it basically follows four important stages.
- Awareness/discovery: potential customer becomes aware of your brand, product, service or solution to an existing need/problem.
- Interest/consideration: some sort of self-education happens during this stage, when the potential customer will try to find out more about the solution at hand, and who is offering it.
- Desire/preference: here, different companies/solution providers will be actively compared for a few factors, like quality and price, for example.
- Purchase/conversion: that’s it, the end of the journey. The decision is made, and the transaction step is finally taken.
Often, articles about content marketing tips will (correctly) state that content marketing has a strong hold over the first two stages – which is precisely when users find out about your brand and start to look for more information about it. And that more traditional advertising handles the last two stages better.
But we say: content marketing is going to help at every single stage. Why? Because powerful content can grab the attention of any viewer, regardless of the circumstances and the situation. It just needs to be tailored to each purpose, to use its channel well, to push all the right buttons. Sometimes, by trying to answer the question “what is content marketing?”, we forget that it basically means talking to people, striking a chord, providing them with value (yep, there’s that word again). Even at the purchase stage of the funnel. Why not?
3. We were told to include content marketing examples here
Yep, because we need some clear content marketing examples to make our point. Don’t worry, we won’t list all of them, of course – this is a blog post, not a book. So there you have it – let’s outline some main types of content marketing, which are as common as they are effective.
- Web content: whether it’s a blog, an article or a white paper, content marketing can appear pretty much anywhere across different websites. Take this article, for example, in which we’re trying to convey some valuable information to you, the reader. Or a blog post from any big corporation, talking about a topic that might be only remotely associated with their brand. Or a case study about a specific subject. What do they all have in common? More than simple web pages, they are actually informing the audience and giving them something interesting in the form of content.
- SEO: this one deserves a special note, because SEO content marketing is an important part of pretty much all content strategies nowadays. Through carefully optimized landing pages, with high-value keywords and top-notch information (related to the user’s query, of course), many brands are able to acquire a great deal of organic traffic – and in some cases convert it into customers thereafter. Of course, that’s provided they’re able to get good rankings for said keywords – that is, ideally from positions 1 through 3. Much of SEO content marketing is entangled with web content, of course.
- Infographics: these deserve a separate bullet point because they’ve been so relevant lately – especially considering social media and how easy it is to share them. Take any moderately interesting subject, from environmental issues to all of Superman’s appearances in media and film. Work on a data set with relevant information, hire a professional designer or company to create a visual arrangement and voilà, you have a great piece of content marketing: visually striking, incredibly interesting and ready to be shared over and over across several platforms.
- Ads: some would think that ads shouldn’t be on this list. Well, we beg to differ – ads, be they from PPC campaigns, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, you name it, also need great content to work. And what’s more, they might be a good strategy for driving people to an actual piece of useful content rather than to a product page. So, yeah, we’re going to keep this right here.
- Social media: content marketing tips are always going to gravitate towards social media posts these days. Social media platforms offer a dynamic and vibrant environment where all kinds of content can be created, posted and shared with ease, by anyone with a run-of-the-mill cellphone. Plus, when done right, social media content marketing campaigns can go viral, giving them a very powerful edge over other traditional channels.
- Videos: this one is arguably the most powerful type of content marketing. Think of it from a user’s perspective: how much more likely are you to engage with a well-made, informative and fun video than with a blog post covering the same topic? Videos, when done the right way, can easily be the most engaging form of content – they’re easy to absorb, and they resonate with audiences on an emotional level much more easily. Plus, video platforms own a very big chunk of all internet traffic today.
- Other: yep, there are lots of other opportunities within content marketing. Podcasts over streaming platforms, eBooks, white papers, even manuals – anything can be a tool to attract viewers/readers/listeners and possibly convert them into loyal customers. There’s a whole world of content possibilities if you’re willing to provide relevant information presented in a creative form.
4. This wouldn’t qualify as a content marketing article…
…if we didn’t include some sharp content marketing tips and tricks, now would it? Well, let’s get to them. Just some important things we think would be interesting to know before you embark on a new content marketing adventure with your company or brand:
- Do your research. Two words for you: target audience. Check your web analytics platform of choice, look into your website traffic, investigate your audience and their interests – or maybe just hire a digital marketing agency to do this for you. This is also critical because it will provide you with very valuable information – and that will allow you to make better decisions regarding your campaign. Especially if it’s an SEO content marketing one.
- Come up with a plan. Whether you’re hiring a content marketing consultant or relying on your internal teams to do it, we couldn’t stress this enough: have a solid content marketing strategy. One that considers all of your current content assets, gaps, opportunities and best bets. And, obviously, your business goals need to be part of this plan as well.
- Tell a great story. Content marketing is all about engagement, as you’re probably tired of reading by now. But it’s very true. The story you’re telling your audience has to come first – and by story we mean great, astounding, relevant, valuable, highlighted content. Not just another piece of content on the web. Any benefits that might come from that are great, but they take second place on the priority ladder. It has to be powerful, interesting and fun. Otherwise, it’s going to be nearly impossible to grab the attention of your users – something that’s already hard enough to come by.
- Think multi-platform. Content marketing is usually going to work best when part of a big plan – as stated above – and when it’s following a cohesive message across multiple platforms. For example, social media posts that broadcast your blog article. A blog article that highlights your video channel – with videos that talk about the topic at hand. Videos that mention your… other social media channels. You get the picture. It’s going to be more successful if it’s part of a bigger plan.
- Track your results. It’s not much of an effective “content marketing tips” post if we don’t advise you – strongly – to follow your results and evaluate how your content marketing efforts are doing. It might be organic traffic (for SEO content marketing initiatives), social media likes and followers, the average time spent on your website, video views, even conversions – but track it. And be prepared to change course when things aren’t going all that well, at least when compared with your original goals.
5. This content marketing article is getting too long. Let’s wrap it up, shall we?
I can already hear my editor complaining about this article being too long, so let’s get to the conclusion, and let’s make it brief: when done correctly, content marketing can be incredibly effective.
Real brand awareness, inbound traffic, successful content integration between different platforms, organic backlinks, leads, conversions – there are a lot more reasons to go for it than not to do it.
Just make sure you’re doing it with the right people – the pros, whether as part of your company or an outsourced service – and make sure it adds value to the person consuming it.
Create something that people will actually care about – an article they’ll read in its entirety, a video ad they won’t skip, a social media post they won’t ignore. That’s great content marketing.