Digital marketers are often proud to have never completed a formal marketing class because in their mind this is what gives them an edge since traditional marketing is so 1990’s, Proctor & Gamble, and Seinfeld. But it turns out these same folks may be able to use a little formal training after all since some have fallen into the trap of thinking ‘likes’ equals engagement, and a fast publishing tempo equals effectiveness.
The rise of content marketing as a strategy
Inbound marketing is a phrase coined by a company (HubSpot) who sells marketing automation tools. Though early online marketers adopted the phrase “content marketing” to define the approach of using content for the purpose of selling a good or service. The raison d’etre for content marketing – the derivative name for inbound marketing – originally was to improve search engine ranking on Google to improve discoverability of their products.
In an attempt to manipulate Google search rankings, online marketers discovered publishing articles was an effective way to trick Google into thinking their site was worthy of ranking higher than the competition. But in the early days, this content was often nothing more than keyword stuffed tomes barely readable by humans but loved by Google search since they contained all the “trigger” words for the topic the site was attempting to rank for.
Thus, content marketing was “born” and for a season, it seemed to be the future. However, as a recent Moz article pointed out, many startup websites get their clicks, not from content marketing, but good ole’ fashioned publicity from high-profile announcements and news coverage. Interesting, because if you listen to the content marketing evangelists, they say to publish often to win. Yet a recent study as pointed out by Moz showed that PR attributions actually provided more traffic than the content article itself. So what gives?
Google and Facebook disrupt content marketing
As Google rolled out ever sophisticated search algorithms to give credit to high-value sites while penalizing spam sites, marketers who had become adept at low value but high volume keyword stuffed marketing techniques were forced to change their tactics. Similarly, Google Adwords and Facebook Advertising became incredible vehicles that afforded excellent targeting options, and thus, pay per click became popular as an “alternative” to content marketing strategies. But not to be marginalized, content marketers hung in there with the message of “content is king”.
“The reality is, content has always been king. In fact, content is all that is left in marketing today.”
Content messaging is the primary job of marketing
Our customers are jaded by empty promotional marketing phrases that don’t say anything, and with the plethora of information and social platforms available, never has it been easier to click away.
Marketing’s primary job has always been the creation of messages that serve the business objectives of the enterprise. Inserting messages into content pieces that will build the brand, increase demand, and drive the sales funnel by transmitting that content over a channel to an audience is the essence of what marketers do whether traditional, social, digital or whatever “next new title” you wish to assign to the effort.
“Whether the channel is traditional as in a TV network, Internet based, or a social property, the objective is the same – drive corporate value by creating sales opportunities and brand engagement.”
Content is not a commodity
Facebook is wrong, content, especially in the written form, is as relevant ever. However, marketers must change their thinking and stop treating “content” as a literary license to spam the Internet.
Think about your own behavior as a consumer, I doubt you summarized the last book you read by uttering the words, “wow, that was great content.” Instead, you expressed your appreciation for the book based on the value it returned to you. Value that may have been purely entertainment related, or value that brought knowledge transfer in an area you were seeking to grow in. Either way, value is when the reader perceives that by digesting the words that were written, their life was enriched or useful knowledge was gained.
Content must add value to be useful as only useful content will be liked or shared en mass. Of course, there is the exception of sensational “gossip” or celebrity news content that is the opposite of useful, but can still receive a high degree of sharing activity. But this article is for B2B marketers who are launching differentiated and disruptive technologies into the market where valuable content will serve to educate and promote to the industry, channel or targeted beachhead our company, product, and solution. Remembering that valuable content offers a greater probability of causing the reader to think different about your brand or product, causing them to take action.
Content marketing should be an essential part of every go-to-market plan. The “mistake” of subscribers to the principal of inbound marketing is not the use of the tactic itself, but the lack of understanding of the importance that the reader must extract meaningful information (value) from the content.
Add value to the reader or die
As a marketing practitioner, I know very well the tension of needing to feed dozens of social outlets, and the company blog, while maintaining a high standard for providing value to the reader. This task of value creation cannot be outsourced or delegated, and for a marketing leader, I submit it is one of the most important to get right.
“Stop, slow down, and develop your marketing messages carefully, only then can you put a high volume of content into the market and not fall into the spam folder abyss.”
A marketer I consider to be the master at getting to a perfect message-to-market fit is Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary is famous for flooding his channels with content – blog posts, videos, pictorials, social posts he covers every content form and then some. According to Gary, the secret to building an effective content marketing play is first to know where your audience is.
Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, Linkedin, they are not all equal. First, you need to know which platform your users are on so you don’t waste time speaking where no one is listening. The way each platform works is different, which means getting the message right for the platform is one of the single most effective activities you can undertake to increase engagement.
Always respect the platform. Get inside the head of your target market – what is their mindset when they are on Facebook compared to Pinterest, and be sure to give them content that intersects with their psyche on the platform you are speaking to them on. You want people to share and comment, so give them a reason by talking about things they care about. If you match the appropriate message with the psyche of the user on the platform you are communicating to them on, you’ll crush user engagement.
Jump on emerging platforms early. The advantage of early platforms is that the audience will be highly engaged. On new platforms everyone is new both publishers and users, everything is fresh, and the “rules” of engagement have not been secured yet. Publishers and content producers will be struggling to figure out the best approach, topics, message length, formats, and update intervals. It’s a perfect time for an under-resourced company to jump on and benefit from the massive momentum that if the platform is successful will surely be built. I’d rather ride an existing wave in motion than try and create one large enough to carry my company all the way into the market position we are seeking.
If you build it they will come was a great movie line, but being on a leading platform is not enough to guarantee success. Which is why you must always evaluate the numbers. What is your engagement as measured by the number of fans, likes, shares and comments? Are the numbers trending up or staying flat? And, how are you monetizing? Be sure that you have a clear way to track the effectiveness of your content marketing as a driver of revenue. With platforms like HubSpot be sure to watch the numbers and adjust.
Should you use inbound marketing techniques?
Yes, absolutely! But don’t spam with low-value content. Be sure that you are not assigning more value to quantity over quality. If you deliver maximum value to the reader, you will capture high levels of engagement and achieve your market goals and objectives.
Thank you for reading. I trust you received value for the time that you invested!