It'll likely upset a host of marketing folk who feel like they've discovered the next big thing, but let's be honest, content marketing isn't anything new.
While there may be a host of new digital platforms available to share content, clever brands have been submitting editorial and offering their "experts" up for interviews and commentary for years.
The difference now is that businesses are taking their marketing manager seriously when he or she harps on about the necessity of utilising content marketing to sell and communicate with the consumer, and ultimately start an on-going conversation.
Brian Davies, a managing partner with Moveo Integrated in the United States, recently published a piece identifying what he thinks are the 5 Laws in Content Marketing. They're useful to follow for any SME attempting to get a content marketing strategy to work:
1. The Law of Consumption
Simply put: as the rate of consumption increases, the value of fresh content needs to increase. The recent furore around the Oscar Pistorius bail hearing is the perfect South African example. The consumer wanted real time information. They wanted to be the first to be informed. So what did they do? They turned to twitter. Instead of waiting for a well written investigative piece to be published on one of the news sites, they turned to short 140 character statements occasionally littered with spelling and grammar errors because journalists were attempting to get the information out as soon as possible. My point? Consumers want the latest, not always the greatest. While you may have some of the best content on your platform, if someone else has been there first you may be losing out. Now, I'm not saying we should all run out and publish whatever you have as quickly as possible, quality be damned. That would be a content marketing how not to all in its self. But it is important to ensure what you're putting out has a fresh spin on it and offers something "new" (or as new as something can be on a digital marketing platform).
2. The Law of Complexity
According to Davies, "the amount of chaos in a system tends to increase with the complexity of the system." Confused? Let's make it simple: Posting funny pictures to Facebook, writing the occasional tweet about your fabulous new product or random blog posts about new staff - not quite content marketing. You need a plan. You need to manage that plan. Most businesses sell products and services. They're not really capable of producing and managing editorial content. Outsourcing may be an option or, alternatively, spend a bit of money and get a consultant in to show you how to do it yourself. Content for content's sake is a waste of time and resources. Make sure you're doing it right from the start.
3. The Law of Reputation
The saying goes that nothing on the internet is new. Hell, I'm using someone else's laws to illustrate my views on content marketing. Copying and pasting content and not crediting sources will, at some point, come back to bite you. Publishing blog posts that don't give the "other side" of the story or content that always shines a bright light on your business starts to become drivel to the consumer. Here's where Brand Journalism comes in. Try and think like an (ethical) journalist: is this factual, have I credited my sources, have I illustrated where something is my own opinion? The internet supplies a platform for any business and you need to differentiate yourself from your competition by employing some brand journalism rules. Reputation goes a long way in selling your service or product.
4. The Law of Evolution
Share your content marketing on platforms your consumer is using. Technology is evolving at a drastic rate so it is important to keep up. A great example? Many Industry and B2B magazines have ensured their publications are compatible on iPads and online. So while the print copy is arriving on your desk each month, you can also browse online. App developers are able to ensure the reader viewing the publication on his or her device can click through to an advertiser's website via the publication, or compose an email to the editor, journalist or advertiser, without losing their spot in the magazine. The new technologies available are exciting and fun, but be warned, there is no point spending huge cash on well produced YouTube videos when the majority of your target market falls into a low income bracket and is relying on little bandwidth or their not so smart phone to view content. Make sure you have some target market insight before you select platforms to share content on.
5. The Law of Exchange
Business is about rands and cents. No matter which way you want to play it: marketing your brand (whether via content marketing or some of the traditional tools) is about creating awareness, building an audience and, when we get down to it, the bottom line is about creating sales. You need to see results. Be it collecting target market contact information via a campaign, or an increase in enquiries, or, in an ideal world, an increase in your sales - if you're throwing resources at a content marketing strategy ensure it is working. Set targets, set goals and make sure that from the get go you know exactly what you need to get out of your strategy.
Samantha Wright currently manages the marketing portfolio of an international engineering firm while also consulting and freelancing for niche market SMEs in the brand journalism and content marketing fields. Her passion lies in giving people the tools to "do it themselves". Before she fell into marketing she dabbled in media - from PR to sub-editing the news bulletins at YFM. Contact details: cell +27 (0)82 554 9681 | email | Twitter @IAmSamW
Great article, thanks Samantha. As with any form of marketing, strategy must be integral to content marketing. It still needs to communicate the right message to the right audience, and help to build a consistent brand image.
Ultimately there must be a return on investment. While hard sell is not the right approach for content marketing, at some point we need to convert visitors, readers, followers, friends and fans to customers, consumers or clients.
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