As more companies, marketers and industry professionals flood the web with content, the value of those with a true understanding of content marketing keeps going up. More noise increases the value of signal. If your content marketing defines you as that source of signal, you’ll consistently be found, referenced and chosen ahead of competitors. With 6 in 10 marketers spending more on content marketing in 2010, now, more than ever, is the time to find where content fits within your marketing strategy.
Some statistics from Technorati’s 2009 state of the blogosphere back up the efficacy of content marketing:
- 15% of bloggers say they are paid to give speeches on the topics they blog about
- 71% of all respondents who maintain blogs for a business – their own or one they work for – report that they have increased their visibility within their industries through their blogs
- 56% say that their blog has helped their company establish a positioning as a thought leader within the industry
- 58% say that they are better-known in their industry because of their blog
And as powerful as blogs are – they are just one potential avenue for content marketing. Content marketing includes all marketing formats that involve the creation or sharing of content to engage potential prospects or current consumers. No matter how you’re engaged, continually sharpening your content creation skills is core to being an effective digital marketing or PR professional.
If you’re brand new to the idea of content marketing, the following points by Mike Masnick succinctly describe why it matters:
The captive audience is dead. There is no captive audience online. Everyone surfing the web has billions of choices on what they can be viewing, and they don’t want to be viewing intrusive and annoying ads. They’ll either ignore them, block them or go elsewhere.
Advertising is content. You can’t think of ads as separate things any more. Without a captive audience, there’s no such thing as “advertising” any more. It’s just content. And it needs to be good/interesting/relevant content if you want to get anyone to pay attention to it.
Content is advertising. Might sound like a repeat of the point above, and in some way it is — but it’s highlighting the flip side. Any content is advertising. It’s advertising something.
Hopefully we’ve got your buy-in to the idea of content marketing. TopRank Online Marketing as an agency embraces this for our clients and ourselves, as content marketing lives at the intersection of social media and SEO.
To help readers here, following are 10 tips to help make your content marketing efforts succeed:
1. Ensure all content passes the “So what?” test
A great quote from Chris Garrett sums this up nicely:
A much overlooked aspect though is “So what?”. What should the reader take away? Where is the benefit? Why should we listen to you?
Just churning out content for the sake of going through the process is setting yourself up for failure. Unless you’ve got a model like Demand Media and would benefit from being fast, cheap and profitable as hell, go the other route and refine all ideas to pass the “So what?” test. Especially if you’re in B2B – the goal of content marketing is usually to inspire trust, grow your reputation and influence your market. Throw-away content accomplishes none of these things.
2. Create remarkable content, take chances, stand out
With some 900,000 blog posts published every 24 hours, and more than 20 hours of video uploaded every minute to YouTube as just two examples, how do you expect to stand out with “vanilla” content? If you’re going to play it safe or regurgitate what is being done by others you’ve got almost no chance to succeed unless you already have a large community built you can tap. And even then, as we add layer upon layer of aggregation, sharing and filtering to the web it’s still possible to be ignored. You need to consistently break the mold, be an unmissable resource or in some way stand out to make your content heard.
3. Speed and agility are factors
If your content marketing efforts are agile enough to touch audiences in a timely manner, you’ll be top-of-mind for prospects vs. slow moving competitors who have complex approval processes. Again and again, the web rewards nimble companies far more than those who are restricted or micromanaged.
4. Personality is essential
We connect deepest with content that has a voice and personality behind it. No one enjoys reading the language on a corporate website. It’s cold and impersonal and in reality does not connect with audiences, it merely conveys information. Personality and emotion are lacking in most corporate and business communications, and this has carried over into the content marketing efforts of many. But, infusing these elements within your content marketing strategy can be a powerful way to not just speak to prospects but connect with them.
5. Content should forge connections
Your content marketing can also accomplish another valuable goal: building connections and relationships. This has both social and SEO returns. Connections can help build inbound links, increase shares in social channels and ultimately help your content gain visibility. Incorporation of these connections should be worked into the content artfully and naturally. Readers may not even realize what is happening, but those you are trying to forge connections with will.
6. Worry less about perfection, more about tone
Be less concerned with being perfect and more concerned with being earnest, thoughtful and genuine. Perfection is severely overrated and minor flaws are forgivable, while the wrong tone can be as detrimental as causing online reputation management issues.
7. Make content scan-able (and attractive)
Make no mistake, your prospects are busy. To treat them as if anything else were true is disrespecting their time. By making your content scan-able, you increase the propensity they will not just scan that content, but if the parts that catch their eye during the scan are worthwhile they will go back to read it. Use headlines, bold text, get creative with your formatting, get designers involved – do whatever it takes to make content attractive and scan-able.
8. Draft sticky headlines
Follow basic headline writing tips and work to create headlines that entice potential visitors to your content in the first place. Without strong headlines, your blog post will get skipped over in a cluttered RSS reader or inbox, your white paper or PDF won’t get passed along and you’ll never penetrate social news sites.
9. Consistency and quality
As we’ve noted here before, every company is now in essence a media company. The quality of your content is how prospects will imagine your service or product to be, and the consistency you produce that content is a signal to how dedicated you are. Both are required.
10. Realize promotion can’t help bad content
It’s tempting to try to put a band-aid on bad content with things like advertising or push promotions. But if you have to advertise your content, in a sense you’ve already failed. Content marketing should be an organic process, and by advertising your content you’re admitting failure of creating something worth sharing. Push promotion on the social web is similar to this – you’re ultimately going to have to face the fact that your content isn’t working on its own to naturally connect with people. Now, that’s not to say you can’t help good content travel (this is one of the 16 rules of social media optimization) but by trying to force bad content to spread you’re wasting resources.
As many readers here are engaged in content marketing on a daily basis, we’d love to hear your thoughts. What content marketing tips have you found most helpful?