Published January 2012
Content Marketing: It's That Easy!
The term "content marketing" has been popular recently. But what is it? And how do you do it effectively?
Shared experience is the best way to market through online and social media. That's what content marketing is. It's about people saying "Check this out"! Maybe they share a YouTube phenomenon like "Surprised Kitty" which has had more than 57,560,000 views. Or perhaps they share a presentation or whitepaper with valuable information, such as the Getting Unstuck presentation on SlideShare.
Whatever it is - photos, articles, news stories, blog posts, pictures, videos, surveys, games, quizzes, downloadable and online scavenger hunts - people are sharing more information at a faster pace than ever before.
Content marketing leverages this sharing - it works to create shareable information and online experiences in order to build your brand.
Time v. Content
It probably comes as no surprise that businesses and organizations don't have a lot of time for content marketing. Almost three-quarters of respondents to a 2011 HiveFire survey said that creating original content and having the time to do it were big challenges.
One solution to that is content curation, where you "collect" and share someone else's content. John Rife, the founder of Winter Park Harvest Festival, is a content curation convert. Last year, he was part of a four-person team trying to organize a farmer's market for 3,000 attendees. "It was getting really draining to try and come up with original content for social media," he explains. "So we just started spotlighting vendors with a paragraph and a picture, or posting news items about the local food industry." This "bite-size" content often got the highest page views and shares on Facebook, which seemed to indicate that people weren't looking for the whole story so much as a few tidbits.
Lending Your Expertise to the Discussion
Every organization has one advantage: their industry expertise. Customers and clients are looking to your social media channels and your email newsletters for news and advice specific to that industry. You can try sharing news stories or other people's blog posts, with a brief intro that includes your personal comments about the item you share.
The trick is to maintain a balance between original content and curated content. You want your expertise and voice to shine through each Facebook post, tweet, and email so that customers, fans, and prospects understand what the organization is about, while learning something new at the same time.
Content Marketer's Block
Creating a series of articles is another sure way to keep people engaged. But maybe you are having trouble coming up with ideas consistently. Want to know how to make your own version of "Surprised Kitty?" When creating content for the online arena, being concise is key. If you don't have a topic to write about and start rattling away on the keyboard in hopes of summoning inspiration from sheer kinetic energy, the results can be sleep-inducing at best.
Martin Lieberman, the managing editor at Constant Contact, explained recently that he jots down every idea that comes to him on a list next to his keyboard. That way, when it's time to write, he already has plenty of material to choose from.
Another way to find inspiration is to use Google News or use Twitter to see what people are related to your business or focus areas. Or think about subjects that most concern your customers, members or constituents -whether it is healthy lifestyles, environmental road cleanup, organizational tips, tax preparation shortcuts, cleaning up after pets, and so on.
Check this Out!
Once you have the idea, how do you deliver it so that it's fun, engaging, and shareable? An organization benefits most when people share. When creating content, ask yourself: "Would I ever share this with a friend or colleague?" Remember: Creativity, originality, and fun count for something, but great content marketing engages people so much that the marketing message becomes fun, whatever the subject.
Just take the example of the Belmore Court & Motel in Enniskillen, Ireland. Owner Terry McCartney tells of an award-winning video they produced that shows a tour of the property, conducted by none other than Lewis McCartney, his 8-year-old son. The video, which follows Lewis as he remarks on the property's "lovely" bedrooms and "wee balconies" has been a hit on social media channels, earning thousands of views since its debut a year ago. The popularity of this video confirms that the way an idea is delivered matters just as much as the idea itself. There are plenty of video tours of hotels, but how many hosted by a hospitable eight-year-old?
Content marketing, in the end, is about giving value to viewers and readers, but knowing that similar information is just a quick Google search away. The "Check this out!" moment will always be the thing that sets you apart so that people read, react, view, or engage with your content.