Seven Basics of Content Marketing

Content MarketingGuest Post by S.L. Hoffman

Ask a group of digital marketers to provide a clear definition of content marketing is, and you’ll get various answers.

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Digital marketing expert Neil Patel has a different definition of content marketing. He says that “content marketing is all about storytelling, and humans have told stories for as long as they could speak. Our attention will always go to those who tell great stories.”

I personally prefer Lexico’s explanation of content marketing, which gets far more specific about the type of content that needs to be created. According to Lexico, content marketing is a “type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.”

Content marketing is far more subtle – and in much wider use now – than traditional marketing that hawks a product or service. The tricky part is figuring out what content your audience wants to see and will consider valuable. But the ultimate test of content marketing answers two questions:

  • Brand awareness: Are more people aware of your brand now?
  • Lead generation: Did your organization see a notable rise in sales?

As Neil Patel points out, your content marketing needs to tell a story. But there are other aspects to content marketing to be considered as well.

#1: Show, Don’t Tell

These days, anyone can hop on the internet and claim expertise in a certain area. But with content marketing, you can prove that expertise. You can tell a customer’s story in a video, record a podcast interview with one of your experts or take photographs that reinforce why you’re good at what you do.

#2: Remember Visual Quality

Photographs, infographics, and videos are great ways to tell your company story, but they need to be flawless. Allowing a blurry photograph or an infographic with one or two misspelled words might sound harmless, but your visible lack of professionalism could encourage your potential customers to go somewhere else.

#3: Have a Solid Strategy

Before creating or publishing content, think hard about what you want that content to accomplish. Do you want it to generate leads, raise brand awareness or make you more prominent on search engine results pages? Create a defined strategy with clear, easily measurable goals.

#4: Remember Variety

Whether you regularly publish blog articles, tell your story through Pinterest images, or have a podcast series, take the trouble to vary your content. It’s easy to discuss the topics that interest you 24/7, but bear in mind that your audience has specific needs they’d like you to address. Get out of your comfort zone – try a Facebook live stream or create a video to liven things up.

#5: Realize That Audiences Have Short Attention Spans

If it’s possible to keep your content short and still tell a coherent story, do so. According to Erik Qualman of Socialnomics, human beings now have an attention span of seven seconds. When you combine that fact with all of the content created by your business competitors, creating good, easily “digestible” content for your target audience becomes even more challenging.

Use different storytelling techniques to keep your audience coming back for more of your unique content. For instance, break up an overly long blog article into several stories.

#6: Consider Your Timing

Let’s say you’ve created amazing content that is guaranteed to attract people’s attention. Do you know when they are online? Are more people viewing that content during the day, at night, on weekdays, or on the weekends?

If not, find out what day(s) and what time of day when your audience is most likely to be online with web analytics software. Consider geographic areas as well. If you’re marketing to the residents of more than one country, you’ll want to ensure your content is easily seen by people in different time zones.

#7: Remember Search Engine Optimization

You may have created wonderful stories that are broadcast all over your social media accounts, but not everyone has social media accounts. Make sure that you use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques so your content shows up on search engine results pages over time to maximize your content’s reach.

Whatever forms of content marketing you decide to use, remember to keep your audience’s informational needs in mind. Make it clear to your audience why the content you provide will help them and avoid lapsing into business jargon that will be hard for some people to understand.