Brings Content from King to Ka-ching
“Content is King.” The words are stated so often that few people question them.
Yet, kings can be both fickle and demanding sorts. And, let’s face it; for those who work in social media, and areas like marketing, content is not just king, but can be a royal pain, too; after all, it can be a real challenge to generate the quantities of high quality content needed to stay ahead of the proverbial pack.
Bringing social media together with marketing via content marketing can address this concern and offers other benefits. It can provide social media teams with new sources of content and a way to earn ROI for their efforts. For marketers, the practice can help them use the latest methods to reach customers and support thought leadership, brand building and lead generation activities.
In short, social media and content marketing can be a perfect match. When done right, you can use social media to transform content from a demanding diva into an asset, a workhorse that produces real business results.
What is Content Marketing, and why combine it with Social Media?
Content marketing and social media have existed independently, however tools for both are improving and opportunities (and reasons) for combining them are growing.
Wikipedia defines content marketing as a practice that “involves the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumer bases… [it assumes] delivering high quality, relevant and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action.”
The term, and the above definition, is just a fancy way of describing a sales and marketing approach in which you lead with content, generally as part of a “soft offer” (as opposed to a hard offer, i.e. a pitch for products or services that mentions price).
If the meaning is still unclear, just recall all of the times you have been drawn in by “free information” – whether that is a vendor white paper, webinar, or consumer product content like quizzes, apps, games, and nutritional guides. Approaches like these are a warm and inviting welcome, a way to learn about a brand or solution without the cold approach of a hard sell or pitch.
To better understand content marketing, and its growing importance and role in social media programs, it can help to take a step back and consider how marketing and advertising have evolved in recent years.
People now have more media and content choices than ever, and it is harder to get their attention. They are proactively seeking out information they need to get smarter and make purchasing decisions. These trends are driving the growth of vehicles like content marketing, part of the larger trend towards inbound marketing, i.e. tactics designed to pull the customer in rather than bludgeon them with purely outbound efforts like traditional display advertising, Web banner and pop-up ads, direct mail, telemarketing or commercials. They are thrusting content and engagement into central roles, and decreasing the importance of traditional, so-called interruption marketing.
What Makes Good Content for Content Marketing
It is not just any content that drives effective content marketing programs. To be effective in pulling people in, it has to be relevant, compelling and fun or interesting. It also helps if the content is authoritative, that is comes with the imprimatur of a known and respected brand, authority or publication (the latter brings editorial coverage and PR into the mix).
This does not automatically exclude traditional ad-related content – however more information choices means that consumers can more easily act on their natural distrust of blatant sales pitches and just “change the channel.” They can select the tweets, blog posts and Web news that appeal to them.
At the same time, people are often naturally interested in information about products and product categories that they like, and that help them express themselves as consumers, whether they are in buying mode, enthusiasts/hobbyists, brand loyalists, or otherwise part of groups associated with the above.
Elements of good ideas for content marketing will be covered in an upcoming article in this column; suffice it to say for now that they can share some of the same characteristics of successful social media content (if you define success as content that is viewed, shared and acted upon): the information pulls people in, educates and engages them.
Benefits of Combining Content Marketing and Social Media
While content marketing can exist offline, when you bring it online and add social media and Web tactics into the mix, some wonderful things can start to happen:
- Provides an additional source of content for social media programs
- The information can be used to feed social media channels and provide content for owned media such as Website, Facebook pages, blogs and in other places.
- Twitter and other methods of communications and sharing can be used to connect with your customers via a soft sell and call attention to your content.
- Provides an opportunity to integrate Web, marketing, social media, PR and sales initiatives
- With a little planning and design, it is possible to implement closed loop systems that use content as the essential hub, the draw that brings people to your website or micro-site, where you can track their activities and capture their information; from there it is relatively easy to connect the dots between the campaign and sales that result.
- Gives social media and marketing managers a path to ROI for efforts and helps underwrite additional campaigns and content.
In this introduction, I have attempted explain what content marketing is, and benefits of combining it with social media. I look forward to sharing more details in the coming months, to explain how it works, how to make it happen, and examples.
It’s an exciting time for these ideas; no longer does content need to be seen as the stumbling block, the most labor-intensive component of social media that can challenge teams to keep up; it can be the central attention and engagement hub that enhances social media programs and becomes a driver of improved business results.