The Truth About Content Marketing and What Brands Need to Know
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- October 8th, 2017
You may not know it, but 1732 was a great year for content. In December of that year, Benjamin Franklin produced his first copy of “Poor Richard’s Almanack” to promote his publishing business. The publication became a bestseller in the American colonies because Franklin knew how to bring value to his audience: with weather forecasts, demographic insights, trivia, and even predictions of competing publishers’ deaths.
You may be thinking, “OK, John, that’s all well and good, but Ben Franklin didn’t have Instagram. Or video. Or LinkedIn publishing.”
And you’re right. Content marketing as we know it today looks a lot different from how it used to look. The ever-expanding list of new tactics, trends, data, and content tools has definitely changed our approach, and it’s easy to forget content’s core purpose. Here are seven things I wish all brands, marketers, and industry leaders knew about today’s content marketing:
1. Content takes effort.
The good news is that a lot of brands are “doing content.” The bad news is that not all brands are doing content well. Just because it’s everywhere doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, doing content well can be extremely complex, with lots of moving parts and people involved in the process.
With time, the right partnerships, and a great team, the path to producing engaging content and distributing it to the right people becomes clearer — but it’s never something I’d call “easy.” If you’re looking for quick wins and short bursts of buzz around your brand, you might want to look into other initiatives instead.
Consistency matters in content marketing. Creating one piece of amazing content is good, but if you stop there, it won’t be effective. Your audience members — like most of us today — probably have short attention spans. They won’t remember your brand or that one awesome article you wrote, especially if your competitor publishes two awesome articles every week.
Now, this doesn’t mean your content can’t be reused or repurposed, and it doesn’t mean you have to write brand-new content every day for the rest of your life — but you do have to offer relevant, engaging, and valuable insights consistently. One piece of content alone has never made anyone a true and long-lasting industry leader. 3. Social media is fantastic, but it’s only one way to distribute content.
What you do with your content is critical, and distribution is quickly becoming just as important as the actual content itself. More and more brands are coming around to this idea, realizing that the effort they put into creating content will be worthless if their audience doesn’t see it.
Still, I’ve seen too many people limit their content marketing distribution to social shares alone and call it a day. While social media is a solid starting point and a necessary tactic, it’s only one of literally dozens (if not hundreds) of ways to distribute content. Think outside the box to get your content in front of your audience.
4. Content’s purpose isn’t to plug your products and services.
Content isn’t the right method for shamelessly promoting yourself and your products or services. Content marketing is a long-term strategy for building your brand, enriching your audience members’ lives, and earning trust. Save the shameless plugs about how cool you are for your college reunion.
5. Your blog can’t do it alone.
If you’re doing content, you need a blog — but you shouldn’t limit your content efforts to your blog alone. No matter how great your blog is, most of the people you’re trying to reach probably haven’t subscribed to your content, waiting on pins and needles for your next article to go live.
Your strategy needs to be more holistic, and you’ve got to be more active in engaging your audiences where they are. Guest posting is one effective way to achieve that, and PR helps, too. Both give you the opportunity to captivate your audience in a space where they’ll already be more receptive to your message.
6. Great content fuels PR opportunities — and vice versa. There’s a misconception that if you’re already doing either public relations or content, you don’t need the other. The truth is that these strategies actually complement each other pretty well: Both PR and content marketing help you reach and engage an audience, build your brand, increase brand awareness, generate leads, and even enable sales.
The difference is that content marketing is a long-term strategy, while PR is better suited for shorter bursts of buzz and promotion around your brand. Combined effectively, however, the two create a powerful cycle: More content presents more opportunities for PR, and more PR requires content to engage the people who were sent to your site.
7. You can’t run before you can walk.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this mistake with brands that are just beginning to do content. Before they’ve even gotten the hang of creating blog posts or a consistent social media strategy and schedule, they throw money at video.
This often leads to a brand fixating on what’s new rather than what’s actually best for its strategy, ultimately resulting in a wasted investment. Master the basics first: Figure out what resonates with your audience, and nail down a process that works for you. Then, if you want to start a viral influencer/VR video content series, go for it.
None of this is to say that content marketing is a one-size-fits-all process. But there are pitfalls to avoid and steps to take to ensure you’re remembering content’s core purpose and how you can best use it to truly engage your audience and see the ROI you want. What else about content marketing do you wish brands understood? Let me know in the comments.