Why Content Matters

If you haven’t already heard the term “Content Marketing,” you will. It refers to the changing nature of advertising and marketing strategies, driven by the social networking power of the internet. The days of interruption advertising are dying fast. The rise of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and self publishing tools open up whole new possibilities for reaching and engaging targeted audiences.

The media love to hype the power of Facebook and Twitter, but really these are just tools and they are meaningless without the right content. Anybody can learn to use the tools but it’s the content that will win you customers. Don’t get hung up or intimidated by the technology. Put your efforts into writing and producing relevant, rich, meaningful content. Figuring out how to use different channels for delivery comes second. So what is content that works? Here are ten ideas to help get you started.

#1. Avoid the hardsell! Solve a problem, entertain, educate. Provide real, useful information. Focus on the needs of your audience, not your own objectives. Make the content relevant for people with a specific need. If your content does not do any of these things, it will be more noise that gets you ignored.

#2. Focus: Target, find a niche, identify your audience. The more specific, the better. “Dog training tips” is too broad. “Training tips for Toy Poodle Owners,” much better. Develop content your niche audiences want.

#3. Be Reliable: Don’t start a conversation you aren’t willing to keep going. Let’s say you sell dog biscuits. You set up a blog about training Toy Poodles and after a year, a few thousand people are checking-in and trading tips on a weekly basis. Then, the budget gets a little tight; the Blog has to go. What happens to all the nice people now gathered around your little bonfire? Better not to launch the initiative at all rather than piss off a few thousand possible customers.

#4. Listen. Pay attention to how your audience responds. The point of Content Marketing is to engage with your audience. You listen and you respond. If you hear something you do not like, ask questions. A friend of mine was recently stranded in an airport due to a problem with Delta. He began tweeting his frustrations with how the situation was being handled. He immediately received a tweet from Delta. “What can we do to help your situation?” The company had established “listening posts” in all the right places. They turned the conversation from a bitch session into an example of first-rate customer service.

#5. Hire reporters instead of marketeers. I’ve said this before; I’ll say it again. Marketing is now about effective story telling. Reporters know how to find and tell authentic stories. What’s the difference between a reporter and a marketing copywriter? Reporters think about the questions their audience might have. Copywriters focus on delivering a message. We are all sick of talking points and sales pitches. We want information and answers.

#6. Use video. Here are three reasons to use more video. One, it’s a very efficient medium for explaining how to do something. People like to learn by watching. Two, video lets people see faces, hear voices, get a real sense of place. It’s a fantastic story telling medium. Three, in the right creative hands, video can be very entertaining and engaging. “Will It Blend?” Need I say more? If you don’t know about this case study, Google it.

#7. Set up “Listening Posts.” People are talking about your product. Are you listening? It is relatively easy to use existing on-line tools to monitor chatter that happens around what is relevant to you. It’s also possible to set up blogs and on-line forums to encourage comments and conversations of interests. RSS feeds, Google Alerts, Twitter Grids, are all tools that you can use to monitor conversations of interest.

#8. SEO = Content. Want to make your website more visible? Create better content. Google looks for two main things when ranking websites: 1) Content with “key words” that are actually relevant to what people are searching for. And 2) Links pointing back to your website from other sites. Great content helps in both cases. If you write something interesting and it gets picked up and blogged by others, Google notices. If certain key words are associated with links back to your site, Google notices.

#9. Look for strategic partnerships. Find ways to partner online with people, causes, or organizations that can build and support your brand vision. Share your content and possibly other resources with organizations that have an active on-line community. They will notice and spread the word.

#10. Don’t fake it. Be honest, or run the risk of starting the kind of online conversation marketing departments dread. People growing-up in the internet age are not passive when it comes to information. They know how to find answers fast. If you make a mistake, apologize and correct it. If you don’t know the answer, admit you don’t know and find out. Be transparent because these days, it’s impossible not to be.