NOTE: I WROTE THIS ARTICLE EARLY IN 2012 – WHILE SOME POCKETS OF BUSINESS HAVE PROGRESSED DOWN THE CONTENT PATH, THE SENTIMENT OF THE ARTICLE STILL RESONATES TODAY, 3 YEARS LATER: WHAT DO YOU THINK?
While corporate Australia gets hung up on the tactical aspects of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, the real action is bubbling beneath the surface.
For many it’s not as sexy as the social technology platforms we hear about and see in the media every day but it’s equally powerful. Indeed, it’s the ‘secret sauce’ – the fuel that keeps the social web cranking along at breakneck speed.
I’m talking about content and how it can be used to keep your brand connected to the people who matter most to your business, cause or issue – how it can help organisations to:
- attract attention
- gain respect
- build trust
… with longer-term goal of generating leads and ultimately growing sales revenue. (And let’s face it, which brands don’t want to tick those boxes?).
Emerging from social shadows
While we’re (finally) starting to take the notion of social media more seriously here in Australia, in the US the concept of ‘content marketing’ has emerged from the social shadows and is set to explode.
The creation, sharing (and in some instances, curation) of content is becoming a cornerstone marketing activity for many major brands and fast-growth companies.
Content can include everything from videos, podcasts, e-books, white papers and case studies through to blog posts, infographics, webinars, microblogging (Twitter), online news releases, mobile phone apps and interactive newsrooms. Used effectively and with strategic intent, content marketing is a powerful means of reaching and engaging with current and potential customers, media and other influencers.
The irony, however, is that despite its huge growth, content marketing is not exactly new. Videos, hard-copy newsletters and custom-published magazines – all corporate communication tools that have been around for years – can be considered content.
Why the sudden interest in content as a cornerstone marketing strategy?
Blame (or more importantly, thank!) the emergence of the social web.
Today, any person, company or organisation can establish its own online TV show (vodcast), radio station (podcast) or web-based magazine (blog), while social networking tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook serve as effective and powerful two-way content distribution channels.
Think about it for a moment. Let the concept percolate a bit – swill it around in your mind.
At the risk of repeating myself, we can now communicate directly with the people who matter most to the success of our business – and we can do it with a degree of scale and intensity of connection we’ve not been able to do before. I might also add: cost-effectively and in real-time.
This presents massive opportunities for companies and organisations to bypass the traditional ‘gatekeepers’ – journalists and editors – and engage directly with their constituents.
Empathy and Respect
But this opportunity comes with a caveat – several, actually.
Content marketing is not a sales pitch. Have empathy for your audience. Treat them with respect.
Create compelling content that’s interesting, relevant and worthwhile to your audience: it’s about them, not you.
Solve problems experienced by your audience (add value); tap into the experts in your company (hidden assets); provide credible information (without selling); and shine the spotlight on your customers (take a back seat).
Content marketing can be a powerful strategy. Get involved, but use it cleverly and respectfully … and reap the benefits!