What Is Content Marketing?

Content marketing is probably one of the newer terms you’ll hear in digital marketing circles. But content marketing is not a new thing. I fact, the earliest recognised examples of content marketing is over a hundred years old! So, what exactly are we talking about when we talk about content marketing? Want to get straight into it? Checkout these content marketing ideas.

How content marketing came to be.

To understand what content marketing is, it helps to first understand what it’s intended to achieve. For that, let’s take a quick dive into not so distant internet past. When social media first became a thing, marketers quickly realised the unique opportunity it presented for reaching audiences. Suddenly, everyone was on Facebook. So instead of relying on people typing in your website address, or finding your website on search, social media could be used to go to them. What’s more, overtime, platforms like FB began making it possible to define and segment audiences based on things like age, gender, location and interests. For marketers, this was – and is – gold.

Naturally, many marketers would approach social media in the same way they approached traditional advertising. That is, it was all about selling. The trouble was, they were selling in an essentially social space. Imagine turning up at a friend’s barbecue and spending the afternoon “selling” your business. It would wear thin pretty quickly. The same thing happened with social media marketing. Marketers realised that to be truly effective in this space, they had to change their approach. Discover the elements your inbound marketing strategy should include.

Content marketing metrics. Measuring what works.

At the same time, marketers began to realise that the metrics they were using with traditional advertising, didn’t translate so well to social media marketing. Now, it wasn’t simply about how many people saw your ad and how many people bought your product or service. Now, things like engagement became relevant metrics to measure your effectiveness. This was partly driven by platforms like Facebook using algorithms that meant the content with a higher engagement rate would be shown to more people.

As a result of all these factors, the social media marketing focus swung more toward sharing engaging content. Or relevant content which was educational for their audience, or simply entertaining for their audience. Think of a surf wear brand focusing on sharing surf videos instead of selling board shorts. Or a camera brand sharing photography tips rather than selling cameras. This approach has a range of great benefits. It will generally improve engagement – meaning people view, read, like, comment and click more. This in turn is more likely to result in your content being shown to more people.

Content marketing benefits.

But there is a deeper, more enduring benefit that can be difficult to quantify. This type of user-centric, engagement-focused marketing lets businesses and brands create more meaningful relationships with their customers. Depending on the focus of your brand and your digital marketing campaign, it can also help you build trust, credibility and authority. These are invaluable brand assets which can convert to increased sales.

Let’s return to our camera store example from earlier. Even the most enthusiastic photographers aren’t buying a new camera every day (even if they’re taking photographs everyday!). You would say that the buying cycle on new cameras is likely to be quite long. So if you’re a camera store owner, and want to market your business on social media, you have a couple of options.

Firstly, you could regularly post new camera sales. No doubt you have lots of product images to use, so all you need to do is keep uploading product pictures and specials, right? Well, you could, but your audience is going to quickly become disinterested at best, and likely to unfollow your page at worst.

On the other hand, you might regularly post photography tips or guides. You could also feature work by your customers. In short, you could provide content that your audience finds valuable in some way. It might be educational or simply entertaining (your focus will depend to an extent on the nature of your brand or business). But what about my sales? I’m not spending all this time on giving away free info for nothing!

Creating value with content marketing.

To think about this effect could have on sales, we need to look at the effect of all this value you’ve been providing. Hopefully you’ve created something of a following of enthusiastic photographers. While cameras might have longer sale cycle. But when it is time to buy, is a local photographer more likely to buy from that annoying camera shop they unfollowed 6 months ago? Or are they more likely to buy from the camera shop which has been consistently demonstrating their knowledge of photography and understanding of the needs of photographers? The same question could be asked any time that same photographer needs a new lens or accessory. Other things being equal, buyers are more likely to go to someone they trust and feel is credible.

Content marketing. Search, social, video and web design.

This is the principle of content marketing in a nutshell. Providing share-worthy content that highlights your brand values without explicitly selling. It applies equally to social media content, email marketing content, YouTube content and website content. In fact, your web design should support your website as the hub of your content marketing. In the next post we’ll look at some content marketing ideas. We’ll also take a deep dive into coming up with your own content marketing topics.