What is Content Marketing?
Posted by Ka-Lok Ho
[Watch/listen to me explain it on video, or feel free to read the transcript article instead.]
Okay, let’s all be honest, most marketing and business material is dull – dull AF to borrow popular lingo – but it’s something I think everyone should have at least a basic knowledge of.
Content marketing is one of those things most people including businesses are told is important, but have a general understanding of it as just posting on social media. But when you Google, ‘what is content marketing?’ it pops up with a smorgasbord of colourful yet unintelligible charts and pyramids and funnels and ladders, and matrixes that raises more questions than it answers.
So is it as simple as ‘social media’ or is it as complex as this marketing diagrams? Let’s break this down in a jargon free-zone.
Let’s start with what content marketing is not.
It’s not advertising.
It’s not advertising.
And It’s not advertising.
Marketing alone should not be ‘advertising’ to start with, and content marketing is no different. It’s not just posting on social media or using your channels as a 24/7 rolling billboard. And it’s not just awareness.
So what is it?
Simple. Content marketing is trust building.
And that's really all it needs to be. It should be helpful conversation and audience engagement through value exchanging.
Content is not just posting on social media, it’s sign posts on the whole customer journey - it’s anything that carries message. This could be a bit of copy on your website, SEO, a Tweet, the how-to video an infographic or just a photo caption; it’s almost anything you can put out that your audience can interact with.
At this point if SEO Is about getting you to the top of search engine ranks, then SEO marketing is basically content marketing.
Good content builds relationships and content marketing is all about the audience and user.
Brand TOV and copywriting is usually one way traffic; witty, influential writing to sell something. But in content? It’s a two way conversation where the audience’s voice is most important.
Why should I be doing content marketing?
People work with who they know, who they like, and who they trust.
Content is to get your name our there so your audience can be aware of you, get to know you, and get to trust you. Without content you likely have one entry point to who you are, which is your website, and that likely acts as a sales page which isn’t much insight into your brand.
With content marketing, and now social media particularly, you are allowing yourself to be seen, you're opening the gates for your customers to begin to actually understand what you’re all about.
Brené Brown says that, ‘In order for a connection to happen we must allow ourselves to be seen — really seen.’
If you’re doing it right, you’re strengthening customer loyalty in the most transparent, helpful and authentic way possible. So that when you need your audience to take action, they feel compelled and would be delighted to do so.
Gary Vaynerchuck calls this the jab, jab, jab, right hook. Or Give, give, give, ask.
So when you have an ask, trust is already built. They trust you enough to give you consideration, so they will buy now and worry later, as opposed to worry now and never buy.
In a landscape where it’s a race to the bottom, your story is why someone will choose you over your competitor. Comparing features and benefits is no longer enough to differentiate yourself, when someone with more money, charm and more innate talent can come along tomorrow and begin to compete with you.
Content, is the medium for you to tell your story.
What is good content?
The word value is thrown into every conversation nowadays. Everyone talks about value. But what does that actually mean in terms of content?
[Valuable or] Good Content = Helpful Content.
And the most valuable commodity nowadays is attention, but you can’t buy it. It’s traded. In Seth Godin’s books, he talks about this fact as well as permission marketing.
So you can buy a paid social ad, but that’s not really permission for attention. No-one scrolls their Facebook feed looking for ads, it’s not attention they willingly gave you. When you post a click-bait article or video you start losing your stock in attention.
Whereas, if you create a helpful piece of content and they willingly return, that’s permission for attention. Permission = trust.
If attention is traded then, what are you trading of equal value? It should be clarity. Good content is helpful content, and helpful content should provide clarity on some aspect of their life.
How to make good content?
Now we’re moving into the zone of content strategy that will differ for each business, but what does not change is what your content should do.
I’ve developed an easy framework that you can follow; your content should do at least two of the following three things, be entertaining, be helpful, and be actionable.
[I couldn't help but throw in my own colourful diagram into the mix.]
An easy way to approach it is tell a story, give a lesson, and ask a question.
Good tactical examples that every business can start doing right now are, FAQ videos, how-to content both in long form and short form in video, writing, photos.
Your audience are talking about you regardless if you’re doing content marketing, so you may as well join in. Whether you want to or not, you are in the content game now, and it’s not something you can win at – you’re either ahead or behind, the only way to win is to outlast your competition.
There’s a lot more to be said, particularly in terms of strategy, but hopefully this breaks down more clearly what content is, and gives you a few ideas on how to start implementing content marketing for your business.
If you have any comments, question, or need some help developing content for your brand, let me know.
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