We’ve all heard of the new kid on the block – the mighty content marketing. Here’s the thing – content marketing is not a new concept.
The principles of content marketing have been first applied towards the end of the 19th century – 1895 to be exact – by John Deere, the US agricultural machinery manufacturer, who created a publication called “The Furrow” which was specifically aimed at farmers struggling with profitability. “The Furrow” was conceived to be a comprehensive resource focusing on the farmers themselves, their everyday problems and the ways to overcome them to increase profit. John Deere recognised the need for this kind of publication and within 17 years it grew exponentially, reaching 4 million readers by the end of 1912. It’s still going strong. Over a century in circulation it’s still one of the most revered farming publications in the world. Why? What made “The Furrow” so special? The answer is simple. They focused on content that was valuable for their community.
Content Marketing As We Know It – Why Do You Need It?
If utilised properly, content marketing marketing induces business growth and is a vehicle for raising brand awareness and your visibility. To the contrary to what logic may suggest it’s not about traffic to your website or more sales. Well it is about it in a way, but hear me out. The better your content is the more regarded as an expert you become. Let’s look at John Deere for a second. We know they build high quality heavy machinery used in forestry, farming and agriculture, but we also know that they help millions of farmers to channel their resources into profit, by giving expertly advice. This brings value to the business in two ways: the brand is being widely recognised by farmers and non-farmers alike, and people come to them to buy their products, without need to being sold to. Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? The better your content marketing is, the easier it will be to sign up new clients and close the sales.
Is My Content Valuable?
The first step in content creation process is to recognise the value and quality of the information you wish to share. Here’s the snag – do you think your content is valuable? Possibly. Do I think this article will be helpful for my readers? I’m sure it will be! Of course! But will it? Here’s my ego talking. We see our content via the prism of how much time and effort we spent creating it. It makes our perception distorted, if not completely misguided. So… I want my content to be useful, but I’m not the one who decides of its value. It’s you – the reader. You have to trust me to be able to recognise its value and by sharing it with your network you make it valuable. You’re an expert and you may think your audience expect pearls of wisdom from you, but you know what? They don’t. Here, I said it. Unless you prove to them beforehand that your content is valuable they won’t even look at it.
How to Make My Content Valuable?
Be out there networking. It’s that simple. Use social media to create a buzz around your persona and then deliver. If you want to establish yourself as the specialist in cultivation of roses you need people to know that you know everything that there is to know about it. Get involved in conversations, be generous with advice, challenge people’s way of thinking by presenting them a fresh angle from the perspective they haven’t previously considered. And get rid of the ego. Learn and apply to newly found knowledge. Tweak it to your advantage and then pay it forward. Once people start talking to you asking your opinion simply give them more. This is your cue to get into the content creation game.
How to Create Valuable Content?
Good question! The rule of thumb for every content creation exercise is to define four key elements:
Audience – Get That Part Right and You’re Halfway There
To define your audience you really need to put some proper legwork into research. Ask questions online. Get people involved in the discussion. Answer question – right there you will be able to determine what topics your audience is interested in and who your audience are. What do you need to do to achieve this? The simplest answer is – make it work for them. If you’re a filmmaker contributing to a Facebook group related to film, just shoot a short, subject specific video. The specific subject in question may not be immediately valuable for every single individual who watches it, but it’ll give them a clear indication that you are a person who knows what they’re talking about. Next time when you publish your video, people will at least tune in to see if it’s relevant to them. Create the content that will work for the group you’re trying to reach. The audience for the article you’re reading right now extremely diverse. It could be small business owners who want to learn more about content marketing, as well as anyone who is researching the subject may it be a budding blogger or a student writing a paper on the subject as their college assignment. For these reasons I make it as succinct and straightforward as possible. It needs to be well-served to serve the purpose.
This brings us to…
Type of Content You Want to Share
How do you want to do it? Do you want to publish a blog or a vlog with a transcript? Do you want to convey a number of facts in bitesize chunks? If so, would an infographic work? What about Facebook Live with Questions and Answers? Get your audience to send the questions beforehand and then answer them live. Are you a tradesperson? How about a short how-to video or a timelapse? Or just a blog post? The list is endless! But again – to achieve this the type of content you share has to be relevant to your audience needs. A highly visual person may not be interested in a podcast, but would prefer a presentation they can actually see, whereas someone who’s more auditory will appreciate a good voice recording. Relevance is key and to achieve the result you need to be willing to try all different types of content, but ultimately, the content you create has to be relevant to your audience.
Content Management Systems
WordPress – I hear you cry. And that’s true. WordPress is a content management system built specifically for blogging, yet it evolved into a comprehensive web building tool, but in reality a CMS is a tool that helps you to create and publish your content, as well as manage it and analyse its impact on your audience. Social Media channels are your CMS. Your Facebook page is your CMS. Pretty powerful at that. Any content posted on LinkedIn (I can hear you groan) can be tracked and measured against the amount of shares, comments and likes. Literally any platform that gives you an ability to create, share and monitor your content is a Content Management System. Again – any CMS you use has to be relevant for your audience.
Most of us use a blog to promote new content, but the reality is that we all need to find a platform relevant to what we do. I’ve been working with a number of filmmakers who don’t have a website, but they publish their content on Vimeo, which they then distribute via Social Media. Some of them transcrip their vlogs and upload them to the online shared folder, where everyone can download it from. Another client of mine operates her business using only Facebook page for sharing her content. Yes, she has a website, but it’s mainly for information purposes and it signposts visitors to specific posts on her Facebook Business Page. Make it work for you and your audience. This blog will be post on my website, shared with my network via social media and its shorter version will be posted on my LinkedIn profile. Find your own formula and soon you’ll find out what works and what doesn’t.
Now, a very important question: do you guest blog? If you don’t you may want to look into it. Your content may be interesting and valuable for the audience of people you do business with and it may bring new leads from a number of unexpected places. Make sure your blog buddy knows the quality of your content and is 100% confident you can deliver. After all you’ll be using their platform and their reputation to promote your own stuff. Buddy up with others. Create value content together – twice the quality, twice the recognition. Interview them. Let them interview you. Make some noise together using Facebook Live – collaborate. There’s no better recommendation and confirmation of your “expert” status than someone wanting to work with you.
What to Avoid?
The most common mistake made by people who introduce content marketing into their business is inconsistency in publishing new material and recycling of the content already published. Everyone is guilty of it at the beginning. The only advice I can give is, find what works for you and stick to it. The quickest way to get your content out there is to shoot a video, paste it on social media and spread the word about it. It may not work for everybody, because – to put it simply – there is no “one size fits all” solution. But there is one absolute. Your content needs to be out there to be seen. Old or new. Reuse, repurpose and re-engage your audience.
And remember – your content is only as valuable as you make it to be. Offer value. Don’t focus on sales. It’s all about people, after all.