What worked seven years ago – or even two years ago – probably isn’t going to be the most effective strategy in the saturated content environment of today. – Mark Schaefer
When I first discovered a blogging platform (back then it was liveinternet.ru which was founded in Russia where I initially started to blog), it was both exciting and very nervous as writing your thoughts and publishing them online meant that anyone and everyone can read them and, of course, react to them. This was an absolute novelty. This was back in around 2004, for me.
Since then blogging has been so mainstream that only ‘hipsters’ found it cool (kidding, of course). Content marketing has become a very challenging but, I must admit, exciting event in the digital marketing history.
Content marketing has been and is a lot underestimated and misunderstood, in my opinion, because of too many variables. For example, and foremost, your goals, resources, the time (year or era you are in), the people’s attitude towards technology, your content quality, your promotional efforts, channels you choose, people you work with, etc. This is why, I believe, many people think that content marketing is on the fall. I am going to try my best today to show you why it is not but also try to explain why this is not the relevant thinking all together.
To start with, what is content marketing, really?
Even today, in 2016, there are people who often reach out to me asking to write magical blogs (for about $20 each) which will somehow turn all the customers in the word towards their business’ front doors and buy everything off their ‘shelves’. THIS is where the misunderstanding and backwards thinking come from. For that reason, I am going to give you my definition of content marketing. At the end of the day, I devoted my entire book to it.
Content marketing means marketing your business activities and offerings with the help (help, not magic) of content you produce to support your offers. – Mark Schaefer
This is a very common definition which, in my experiences, confused people often because they are unsure what Mark, or any other content marketing practitioner, mean. I love analogies and examples, they help me simplify terms also allowing me to relate to them better. So, let’s look at the example below.
CAUTION: LIFE EXAMPLE
For example, if you have a new product (or service) you are eager to introduce to the market, you could write an infographic (or manual, guide explaining how to safely the new product or/and service) which you could upload to your website or a landing page or maybe attach to your newsletters (each of which in itself is a piece of content marketing) while shortening the link to it (using bit.ly or any other links tracking tool); then create a unique and interesting social media update informing people of the useful infographic you created, also explaining why it is useful to them; post it, for example, on Facebook; pay $5 a day (or more) to promote it (in other words, ask Facebook to place it in front of people’s eyes online) for maybe a month to promote the update that links back to the infogrpahic and watch the ‘magic’ unfold. Meanwhile, you could (and I think should), of course, blog about the infogrpahic, writing a NOT boring blog (or article) explaining how to use your new product or service, maybe giving some stats and case studies attaching the infographic to the blog or making a button linking to the infographic so people can find it. Additionally, you create a button on your website home page offering people to download the guide. All of these (and there is much more, trust me) is her Majesty Content Marketing.
Are the doomsdays ahead?
The output of content per brand increased by 78 percent in one year, but content engagement decreased by 60 percent at the same time. –Mark Schaefer
I don’t think this will surprise many of you that once blogging was no longer a hip new trend but a great marketing tool, everyone jumped on the bandwagon and joined the ‘cult’.
Unsurprisingly, the amount of blogs published spiked and, before Google regulated it, people could call a ‘blog’ almost anything including a life sucking boring, grammatically poor, dry promotional and plain annoying piece of text on the web; so people were publishing this rubbish all over the web. It worked. And they didn’t know better.
We didn’t know better. I, myself, once fallen into this hole of this writing ‘sin’ betraying my journalistic essence. Note, I worked in an SEO company the clients of which demanded millions of clicks on their websites and paid big buck for it. My boss’ ethics were along the line of ‘a client is always right’ no matter what it costed their brand long-term.
One day I finally left the ‘evil’ operation and started my own practice. I made mistakes, learnt and moved on. This experience helped me understand content marketing and taught me how to say ‘no’ to everyone who were still looking for poor writing help.
I believe content marketing is not falling into the nothingness, it simply evolved. Yes, I agree that it is going through some ‘dark days’ (maybe even due to the Content Shock) but If you don’t recognize content marketing (or think its dead) all of a sudden, it is gone or useless, it simply reincarnated. Let’s review the identification clues so you know it when you see it.
The face of content marketing.
1. Sometime you encounter a piece of content and you think to yourself (or out loud) ‘This is bloody awesome’ or even ‘What the heck?’. I am not necessarily implying a content shock therapy, so to say; but rather suggesting the common outside of the box thinking or let’s stand out approach or do something they have not done. However, remember, whatever is super creative today is mainstream tomorrow. This is why I encourage people to avoid overthinking but rather be simple and fun and continue discovering new angles.
Here is a very simple example.
This type of an Instagram account is really cool today; however it is not necessarily new and has an expiry date. Give it a few more months and it will be all over the show. So, why not to spend your time and effort on finding something unique – a unique content you can be the first one to produce? And before you jump into it, try and replicate the one above -it might help you discover something new.
2. If you think you do not have the resources or your product (or service) is boring and you cannot think of how to spice it up , partner up with somebody who is a supplementing brand for your business.
A simple example I can think of is one of the big guys I am currently working with – Panasonic Australia got together with a few photographers and traveled to Dubbo Zoo, Australia, to launch their new travel cameras. The brands are clearly not competing brands and might not appear as supplementing ones either; however both saw the benefits in getting together and attracting a lot of attention to each of them.
Now, the Zoo was a venue, not a partner. And that’s also an option for you too. However, if you are showcasing a travel camera to a bunch of photographers and journalists and decide to host it at the Zoo, why not to go an extra mile and, for example, and produce a wildlifel & travel photography catalog together with the Zoo which the they could be selling to their customers while Panasonic could have been getting more eyes on their new cameras? This is my off the top of the head thinking, of course. Imagine, though, what you could do if you really drill into it.
3. A friend of mine has a collection of images of her Cheburashka traveling the world. It is cute personal idea but can have great application in your business. It humanizes the toy making us want to follow the toy’s traveling adventures. The point is, it is cool and people are drwan to it because it is different. Or at least, so it was a few years ago when she first started doing it. Do you maybe have a business mascot (or should create one) which your customers could follow as a game or an entertaining story-line?
Another example is another good friend of mine who tattooed her business’ logo on her ankle. You say crazy – I say what a great piece of content – it shows me her absolute devotion to her brand, honesty and no fear to go through fire, water and other ‘misfortunes’ or ‘pains’ for her brand. Maybe not for everyone but it is definitely unique.
By the way, these guys regularly partner up with someone to enhance their visibility and draw all sort of marketing benefits from one another. For example, when Basic Bananas owners were launching their book they also sponsored a whale and focused their book launch attention to the lucky whale making the day particularly special. Could you run a seminar or a party for your customers or partners or suppliers while celebrating some awesome cause?
Now, your turn. Have you created or observed some amazing content marketing examples worth sharing with the word?
On that note, I would like to share a few more personal ideas and you can tell me what you think.
Remember how Periscope first kicked in and everyone were Periscoping literally everything. It was an exciting period of trial and error which bored the living life of some and helped establish their expertise for others. If you were not around for this or lived under a comfy rock here are more details about Periscope.
Gary Vaynerchuk continued vlogging (that is video blogging) assuring us that Snapchat is the future of ‘everything’ because although for a few seconds it holds our 100% attention so whatever content you Snapchat will be 100% consumed. One day, I caught myself watching TV while holding my finger on the Snapchat message the other day. Evidently, I missed the message. My attention wasn’t there. Is it less than 100% now?
Now we have Facebook LIVE, clearly a new cool kid on the block, which is very similar to all other broadcasting app (such as Periscope and Meerkat). Although I cannot see too many brands going live too often; I must admit I shouldn’t judge too quickly and give it a good run before writing off. Agree?
My point is the following: yes, content marketing takes different appearances again and again changing together with the rapid digital and technological change. And yes, there is no magic pill, you simply need to keep up with the world and constantly come up with new ‘bulletproof’ content idea. Blogs work. Videos work. Books work. Social media works. However none of these work if you are not walking the pace of the modern life.
Food for thought to feed the ‘hungry’. What do you think?
So, whether you think social media doesn’t work or blogging is a waste of time, you are most likely not recognising the change hence struggling to find whats working for you.
Content marketing cannot be forced. Moreover, and this is important, I believe that your core product must be a by-product and your content marketing should absorb most of your effort, time and money. Let me explain.
CAUTION: LIFE EXAMPLE
Sometimes people find you and your brand through peers and this is a very trusted way of discovering a r brand. Sometimes your customers find you because you partnered up with the City council and published a map of several new suburbs developed in the area, for example. Throughout the map you placed cooking tips and good restaurant points also noting parks and schools. You, who partners up with the your local government in order to come up with a useful piece of content, run a vet clinic the logo of which was displaced on the map and you also used your brand’s colors and fonts as well as included a small description of who you are and why you created this map at the back of it. You have never advertised your clinic or offered people any services but shared a useful piece of information which you also distributed to a large amount of people captured by the City council during the local events and via their newsletters. Although you didn’t advertise directly and because you shared a genuinely helpful piece of content, you have just sky rocked your market’s interest, trust and eventually fatten up your business’ bank account.
As I am sure you can now see content marketing is not an overnight success, it is a lengthy but enjoyable (or so it should be) process of building your brand recognition, customers loyalty and trust and, of course, becoming the go-to source in your industry. Surprise,-surprise (I am making quote signs with my fingers in the air), there will always be other go-to businesses and, I am sure, you are familiar with the basic economics and know how both competition and monopoly work and which one we, as a society, prefer and why.
Treat your rivals as smart business opportunities and helpful dots on the horizon – you, hopefully, learn from other people’s mistakes and successes. You also join ventures or collaborate for the common good achieving double of what you would have on your own. Do you agree?
I hope I managed to get you thinking today. And if I didn’t I hope you will let me know. I also hope you will share your view on the topic and maybe even share your content marketing approach.