Let’s start by talking about what content marketing is, and look briefly at the development of content marketing over time.
Then we’ll transition into why authentic content engagement – which includes actually having something to say – is the real Holy Grail when it comes to connecting with your desired target audience.
Finally, we’ll share several practical tips to help you take better advantage of content marketing for your business and brand. So let’s get started!
Defining content marketing isn’t always that simple, because different people, business leaders, and influencers use the phrase to mean different things. But essentially, content marketing is really just an umbrella term that encompasses any and all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to speak to current customer bases and also attract new customer bases. Content marketing is now typically associated more exclusively with digital marketing formats, but the concept of publishing and circulating marketing & branding content has actually been around for hundreds of years.
How far back can we trace the roots of content marketing? Again, that really depends on how you define it, but it could be argued that modern content marketing really got its start with the introduction of the printing press during the mid-15th century. With this invention, stories and ideas could effectively be communicated and spread to the masses at a scale that had never been possible before. The printing press helped to drive movements, including the Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Scientific Revolution. The proponents of each of these movements all had at least one thing in common – they each had something to say! And the advent of the printing press allowed these thought leaders to effectively share their thoughts with the masses, and help to effect change.
Robert Louis Stevenson is credited as being the first to coin the phrase “everybody’s selling something” back in the late 1800s, and there’s certainly a lot of truth in that statement. The leaders of movements like the Enlightenment were essentially “selling” their ideas and philosophies. Business leaders began to take note, and realized they could be doing more to actively market their brands and sell their products and services. Signs were made, printed flyers were posted, and then modern advertising really began to take off in the form of newspaper and magazine ads. With the advent of modern roads came the introduction of roadside billboards in the second half of the 19th century. As technology continued to develop, so did the opportunity for speaking to the masses at an even larger scale. Radio advertising was introduced in the early 20th century, followed by TV commercials in the 1940s. Many thought that TV would be the pinnacle of mass media advertising. Little did they know that something even bigger was on the way – the internet.
The internet was – and still is – a groundbreaking platform for marketing and advertising on a truly global scale. The first online ad was posted in 1994, and digital marketing has continued to explode in its reach and capabilities ever since. Continued innovations in technology have provided a wide range of platforms for speaking to the digital masses. From email, to messaging and chat, to discussion forums, texting, websites, blogs, video, paid search advertising & PPC, display advertising, native advertising, social media advertising, and more – continued innovations continue to offer us more and more ways to put our message out there for all to see.
But what message, exactly? As author, marketing thought leader, and expert content generator Seth Godin has pointed out, that’s the real question you should be asking yourself as a business and as a brand. In Godin’s words, “What if you and your business don’t actually have anything to say? It’s difficult to find a tech solution for this problem.” Maybe you need to be spending less time looking for the next latest-and-greatest platform from which to broadcast, and more time figuring out what it is you have to say that matters in the first place!
When it comes to selling your products and services, obviously you want to communicate information that’s both clear and compelling about:
But what I’ve described above is advertising that’s squarely focused on sales generation. And while direct advertising of this nature is certainly important, modern content marketing allows you to connect with your audience in some deeper, more authentic ways. Content marketing is a more subtle way to advertise your business to potential customers and promote your brand to followers by providing content that’s truly useful to them. This content can be shared in many enticing formats like webpage copy, blogs, infographics, animations, videos, and social media posts.
No matter what type of business or industry you’re in, the publishing of original content that’s accurate, relevant, and engaging is an incredibly effective way to connect with your target audience – not just your leads, but your current customers and clients as well. In addition, if you’ll make a habit of regularly publishing and sharing digital content, that’s one of the best ways to help you stay connected with your brand community and build even greater loyalty.
Now that you have a better understanding of what content marketing is and how it works, you still need to figure out what it is that you have to say with your content. Start by pulling together your key leaders, and take some time answering these questions for your business/brand:
1 – It’s OK to post things that aren’t necessarily business-related. People who find your brand on social media may or may not respond to a direct sales pitch, but they are likely to be engaged by content that’s real, personal, human, and relatable. While “selling” content can work well in certain circumstances and on certain platforms, you don’t want to limit yourself to that.
Take Gary Vaynerchuck (better known as Gary Vee). He’s an incredibly successful entrepreneur and business leader, and yet you almost never see him directly selling anything on social media. He’s all about providing content that’s valuable, posting it prolifically, and advising others to do the same. He says that the most successful marketers are storytellers, and the best way to succeed in providing content of value is to learn to natively storytell on each platform you use.
How should you use Instagram, for example? Marketing guru Mark Schaefer says it’s perfectly fine to post pictures of your dog, a favorite meal, or an occasional sunset. Schaefer says not to see this kind of content as just “fluff” – it’s actually an authentic lens of showing who you are and what you’re about. And for the purposes of branding and online reputation, that could make all the difference where engagement with your target audience is concerned.
2 – Post content that entertains too, and don’t be afraid to show a sense of humor. Everyone likes to laugh, and many people click onto social media hoping to find something that will lift their spirits or make them chuckle. Honestly, there’s a reason why memes continue to be so wildly popular!
Now, I can’t really teach you how to be funny in the space of this blog, and I also can’t tell you what the best approach is for your business, since I don’t know your business. (SIDEBAR – If you want to connect and talk about best content marketing approaches for your business, just reach out to us at Cibirix!)
But what I can give you is an example of a brand who does social media really well when it comes to infusing humor into their content, and that brand is MoonPie. Give them a follow on Twitter for yourself, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. For example, their Tweet from January 25, 2021 is pure content gold. They post a lot of good stuff, and the amount of engagement they’re able to generate organically is really pretty impressive.
Sometimes – in fact, most of the time – it’s not just about saying it louder. It’s about saying something that matters, and saying it better than the rest of your competition.
Ready to start your own Business or Brand Reformation, Renaissance, or Revolution? Then start by having something to say! Need some help figuring out what it is that you can say best? The content marketing specialists at Cibirix are here to help!
Scott Kyles serves as Senior Content Specialist & Trainer for the Cibirix digital marketing team. Scott brings over 25 years of experience in teaching, training, coaching, and leadership in the business, academic, and nonprofit sectors. Scott has earned CCXP and APTD certifications, and holds both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Wake Forest University. In his role at Cibirix, Scott partners with businesses to help them clarify their message in order to better connect with both current and future customers & clients. Scott’s areas of passion include branding, marketing, customer experience, employee engagement, and organizational culture. He’s also a fan of hot sauces, an admitted weather nerd, and is better-than-average at ping pong.