Content Marketing: A Crash Course
What is Content Marketing?
Content Marketing is becoming the leading way that companies make themselves visible and relevant to customers online. The easiest way to think about the role content plays in the digital world is to compare it to the economic world. In the world of economics, commodities are king. Commodities are the raw substances that are traded that often dictate the value of currency around the world and includes oil, minerals, and raw parts of things needed by everyone. According to Adam Smith’s book the Wealth of Nations, one of the founding works on capitalism, ownership of things is the bedrock of every economy. The philosophical comparison between content in the digital world and commodities in the economic world, lies in the fact that each are the fundamental elements of their respective universes. The digital world is at the end of the day made up of nothing but information. As such, whoever can produce a greater supply of information, naturally commands a greater share of the market. Because of this, content marketing is in fact one of the foundations of the digital economy. Because of that we at Marketeering Group often internally refer to the entire philosophy of the creation and distribution of content as “contentanomics”. This is also because the principals of this field, even follow the basic mathematical formulas used in real world economics, especially that of supply and demand.
Types of content marketing
Content is useful information. This can take on several forms including the written word, photos, videos, infographics, or any other way whereby someone who needs knowledge on a particular topic can easily and usefully consume it.
Website content: Producing ample information on your website is the first step in content marketing. It is the primary tool to ensure that your site is properly indexed by search engines– meaning that not only will it increase your rank for keywords that relate to you, but it also provides people with what they’re looking for in the first place, which is knowledge about your services.
Blog Posts: Not only are blog posts necessary to present your site as an active industry resource, they also are a regular way to address particular issues that continually arise in any given industry. A well-written blog post should be an answer to a common question that arises from your clients, be over 300 words, and provide links/helpful resources to back up your statements. Blogging is one of the most common forms of content marketing, and drives over 50% of new traffic to active websites. In a content marketing strategy, blogging is key.
Videos: Video is one of the most rapidly growing forms of content marketing. With video production becoming easier to produce, edit and publish, its ease of production is being matched by the demand. For more technical questions, people are turning to mediums like Youtube as the place to get their questions answered first. When a local company goes to the trouble to provide personal and well-produced answers to every day questions, they become a trustworthy resource to everyone who views them.
Photos: It’s true that a picture says a thousand words. Unfortunately this is not true in the digital world. While photos are not likely to replace written content in value any time soon, they are extremely useful in making written content more understandable, relatable, and impactful online. Every photo is also indexed and categorized online, adding to the overall search engine value of your site. The most useful form of photo is one that tells a story. We like to call this editorial photography, which normally illustrates the use of a product or performance of a service online. These can work as excellent hooks to attract more attention as story lead-ins to your blog, and can be shared on social media in a way that appeals your audiences’ curiosities and emotions, inspiring further learning. Basically, it’s the cover we all judge the book by.
Infographics: One of the fastest growing and certainly most viral forms of content marketing are infographics. While we all became familiar with simple printed formats of these informative and illustrative images in our grade school text books, their distribution has sky rocketed in recent years. This is due to the nature of the way people consume information online. The average attention span of an online reader is very short. Therefore, providing a simple, effective and entertaining way to present information in a short amount of time is pure gold online. An infographic merges the value of a blog post with an image into one. If a company can produce an inforgraphic that is relevant to a wide number of people it will serve as a residual form of marketing for years to come.
Podcasts: While their namesake, the iPod, has all but gone the way of the dodo bird, the format is still a somewhat viable form of content. Podcasts are still subscribed to and distributed by hundreds and thousands of networks. While not as valuable for search engine optimization, a regularly produced podcast is a strong way to communicate on a regular basis with a loyal crowd.
White Papers: A form of content marketing that is mostly used in business to business sales strategies is a white paper. Basically it’s a PDF of highly useful information that is normally more technical and might be something found in a trade journal or instructions manual. Typically, white paper is produced as a form of “free consultation” and is produced by an expert in a field.
Ebooks: If information is too long to be a blog post and more expansive than a white paper, some people consider publishing it in the form of an eBook. Typically these are used to communicate a companies’ overarching story philosophy in 45 minutes or more. An eBook should always offer the reader a important and permanent value. Typically that is perspective on a problem they may or may not have known they have, so they are better equipped and educated to make a purchasing decision or change in direction. While the production of eBooks are a lengthy process, the benefit of having the depth of content it provides is invaluable to the long term relevance of a company to the people who read it and to the internet as a whole.
Portals of distribution
Search Engines: Search engines are the primary mode of distribution of content marketing. The primary purpose of that content is first to increase the total viability of your company. Content in this perspective works like real estate. The larger the real estate you own, the more likely people are to see your business. Because of this, the first goal of content production is always to be sure it is properly optimized by used of descriptions, titles, keywords and categories, and to ensure that it is submitted to the proper directories, be that Youtube or Ask.com.
Advertising: While the return on investment does not pay off for every form of content to be marketed for dollars, it is useful for mediums like white papers, podcasts, or eBooks where people are willing to exchange something (typically their contact information) in return for that content. The cost of converting that person who was “just browsing” into a viable lead is a relatively low threshold and often times far less expensive than most forms of lead generation. Therefore many companies advertise their higher level forms of online content.
RSS feeds: When you set up your blog, you want to make sure that it’s seen by much more than just search engines when they happen to crawl your website. A great way to do this is through RSS aggregators that can categorize and distribute your content to sites all over the internet. Every day people and journalists uses these aggregators to sift through and find information relevant to them.
Social Media: Central to any content marketing strategy is social media. It has the means not only to broadcast content that is produced to communities of people, but also to interact with the people who consume that information. Your choice of social network should depend on the kind of content you are producing. While Twitter is great for sharing blog posts with catchy titles, Pinterest might be preferred for a story thats best lead-in is a photo, or to distribute an infographic. In any network you choose to share your content, make sure that the content can be tied back to you either by a link, hashtag, watermark or embed code.
Email marketing: Email marketing still remains one of the best ways to stay top of mind with your existing clients or followers. While most people have the chance of missing information that is posted on a social network even if they follow your businesses, email has a much higher chance of being seen. The best form of email marketing is consistent and provides lead-ins/links to information relevant to those on your list.
How it helps your business
Time is money: The most important thing that content marketing provides a business is a scaleable way to spend time in front of a client. In the same time it takes to have a single in-person consultation, a blog post, video, podcast or white paper can be in front of a potential client for the same amount of time. For clients that are experience-driven, like businesses in the personal service industry, it is the personal connection that drives the majority of their sales. A video shared on social media of an event can greatly grow the time people spend seeing, hearing, and experiencing your business. At the end of the day, any time that is voluntarily spent with your content is in fact an exchange in which you, the business, receive a client or potential client’s time in a scaleable and residual way.
People are willing to exchange more: In plenty of cases, if a client likes your content they will want more. If this is the case, most will follow a blog or social media profile naturally. This is organic social growth, and is only fueled by content marketing. This entirely voluntary following is an exchange where they are identifying themselves for you as a potential client or customer. This provides the real value of social media, and cannot be accomplished with out content marketing. Great tools to encourage this are plugins like Shareaholic, or SEO Facebook comments.
Exchanges of information do not always have to be passive or voluntarily. It is quite common for businesses to in fact require that exchange of information for the content. Traditionally this is for white papers, but can also be done for eBooks and Podcasts. Simple plugins like ’email to download’ are great ways to implement mandatory exchanges for content.
Means of capitalization: The two primary ways to capitalize on content marketing can be divided into simply passive and proactive genres.
Passive means are simply building “mouse traps” into your website and content that is a call to action. Simple tools like WordPress Popover can be programmed to appear after a person has read an article or arrived at it via certain keywords that you believe is relevant enough to ask them to take action. This can also be as easy as putting contact forms and information into your forms themselves, inviting them to request a free consultation, or book a service.
Active means of capitalizing on content marketing involve taking advantage of initiating contact with the information your potential clients have provided via email subscriptions, social media following, or ’email to download’ options. Each time you get a new follower on Twitter or a new subscriber, you have the ability to reach out directly to those people and to explore ways to provide them with your products. Different social networks even have different cultures of customer follow-up. Twitter, for example, has a culture of coffee requests that is common and often a great source of new business various industries.
Share-ability (the referral): Let’s face it, referrals are not only normally one of the largest forms of all new business sales, they are also one of the best, whether that be for an insurance provider or a restaurant. Your clients, however, often find it hard or awkward to to blindly refer a business. However, armed with readily available and useful content that is share-ready on their personal social media profiles, that referral is easier than ever to attain.
Tips on producing content
Fill up your website with your knowledge: Start typing. Turn off your email and phone, and spend the same amount of time in front of a new page on your website as you would with a prospective client. If it helps, even pretend you’re having a conversation with them. Imagine the kinds of questions you normally get and create an outline. Before you know it, your website will be populated with the wealth of knowledge that exists in your head. Perfection never comes first thing. One of the great things about the internet is that it’s not set in stone you can continue to re-write, re-organize, and add additional information as you get feedback.
Blog regularly: The minimum any small business should be blogging is once a month. So put it in your schedule, like going to the gym. If you’re afraid of the quality grab a friend that you trust to revise it after you’re finished. The most important thing is to regularly produce content that is useful to your clients. You know them best and field their questions every day. That’s a great starting point.
Use every day devices to record what you’re doing and how: Thanks to the iPhone 3 and all its successors on various devices, we’re all experts now at the selfie. If you’re on a budget, don’t be shy– record yourself answering common questions or showing off the skills of your services. If it takes two hands, grab a friend. Most phones have the ability to publish to youtube directly even with some editing. If you’re more technologically adept, every computer now comes with basic video editing software, slap on your logo at the beginning and end. Make sure you add a good 200 word description (so it can be found easier) of your video and upload it to Youtube, then embed it on your website or in a blog post.
Share Share Share: Don’t worry about perfection– communication is more important. Everything you published should be shared on various platforms, on every network, and in some cases multiple times. Be brave and ask your friends to share it, because they will (no one wants to be rude). You can also ask your employees to share it (they kind of have to if they’re going to be on Facebook at work, right?). In the process you may get some creative feedback. Just remember it’s not personal, and it’s a good way to get better at content in the future.
Production Companies: If you have some cash to spare, hire a company like ours to produce and distribute that content for you. Truth be told, you have limited time, and all this writing and sharing takes time. If you’re curious about what this would look like, give us a call.