Content marketing is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot but what exactly is it? Does your business really need it?
Welcome to the second installment of my four-part Summer Super Fun Digital Marketing Spectacular with Ian Anderson Gray. Last week we talked about what businesses should know about websites, this week we’re going to take a look at the content marketing side of things.
In this week’s episode
For Ian, content marketing is telling a story, it’s creating something that will engage with people. We both see it as something that has been happening since the dawn of time only the mediums have changed.
Well-produced content can display knowledge or expertise on a topic and can build trust, which can lead to sales. One of the oldest examples of massed produced content marketing is a magazine called the Furrow begun in 1895 by John Deere. As a manufacturer of agriculture equipment, the company’s target market is the farming community. The magazine includes articles that are relevant to commercial farmers and is still being published today. Throughout the magazine John Deere products are featured which helps keep the company top of readers’ minds.
What Content Marketing isn’t:
One aspect of content marketing that can be confusing for businesses is that it isn’t necessarily about directly selling. Ian mentions the dreaded tweets that read, “See my latest testimonial” or “Buy my latest product.” Most people wouldn’t do this in real life but somehow find acceptable to do online.
Ian shared a story of a previous job and a manager who taught their employees to use very pushy, in-your- face sales tactics. Ian being the cool guy that he is didn’t go along with what his boss was teaching. What a rebel! Ian took a more patient approach. He asked customers questions, he let them take their time in deciding to make a purchase and ultimately sold more than his coworkers.
There is a time to ask for a sale and offer your product but there has to be time spent listening and engaging with your potential customers for both sides to end up feeling good about the transaction. No body likes to be sold. Nobody likes to be “convinced” to part with their money.
Recently my family and I went to a theme park for a vacation. After a loooooong day of walking we were headed back to our hotel and came upon a guy offering rides on a bicycle driven rickshaw. We were exhausted but had already spent so much money during the day we questioned if it was worth saving our feet the extra steps.
Before talking with the driver, my husband and I set set a cap on the amount we would be willing to spend. If it was going to be more than $30 our feet could hurt just a little more. When we asked him how much it as going to be he surprised us by saying it was all done for tips, whatever we wanted to pay. Woohoo, mama was getting a deal! My feet would be spared and all for a $5 tip!
Can you guess which park we were at?
On the short ride back to the hotel, the friendly young man started a conversation with us. He told us about things to do in the area, how long he had lived there and what he was studying in school. In a few minutes he gave our feet a rest, he gave us helpful information of what to do in the area and he shared some of his personal story. We ended up liking him and gave him more than the $30 limit that we had set for ourselves.
Ian has found that in this world of perceived “perfect lives” shared on Facebook that people are getting tired of this false picture. He’s found that when he’s been honest about some of the things that haven’t gone smoothly or when he’s made a mistake in his business that people really resonate wit it. Ian sees this as an honest way to share his story, to start conversations and build relationships with people. Perhaps at some point down the line they will need the kinds of services he offers and look to him for help.
Social media, what was old is new again.
Ian points out that for over 100 years mass media and huge corporations controlled the information we received. Now it seems that social media has taken us back to the way things were in in the 17th and 18th centuries. Back then, conversations and business transactions happened in cafes and pubs. Prior to that, in medieval times, business was conducted in public markets where people would often build up trust and relationships with their favorite vendors. Now, these kinds of face-to-face conversations are happening virtually and globally. The best part is that it’s open to businesses of all sizes.
Brands used to only work with big name celebrities and athletes to endorse their products. Now, some brands have recognized the following and strong connections that “regular” people have build with their social media profiles that they are being sought out to endorse products. Influence is no longer limited to the rich and famous. It can be a blogger who blogs from their kitchen table but has built a following and gained their trust.
Content marketing and its many forms
Content marketing can happen in different formats including print, audio and video. What’s important is that you find the format that works for you. For me, writing is a challenge. I prefer audio and in the past year I have put a big focus on my podcast. The show notes that you are reading now help keep my website visible to search engines but I have removed the pressure of writing blog posts from my schedule and focus on creating content in a format that I enjoy.
I recently met a woman who showed me a YouTube video she had made for her business. It was amazing! In the video I could sense her enthusiasm and passion but when I read her blog, that passion and enthusiasm just didn’t come across. She said she was able to do the video in one take and had a lot of fun making it. I strongly encouraged her to do more videos and if she was concerned about the SEO factors she could have the videos transcribed and include the transcription in her blog.
Ian loves to write and goes into a lot of detail in his writing. The drawback to his approach is that it takes a long time for him to write each blog post and it’s difficult to publish his work on a regular basis. He’s found that he can create short videos quickly and easily. He’s decided to incorporate video in to his content schedule so he can publish content on a more frequent basis.
When it comes to the form at of content you’ll produce, it’s also important to consider where your audience is likely to be and what type of content they’ll be likely to consume. For example, with my business, I know some of my community only listens to my podcast while others prefer to read blog articles. To find a happy middle ground between the content I like to create and the ways my community wants to consume it, I create an audio podcast with detailed show notes.
Find inspiration and content to share
Ian and I both use a tool called Feedly that lets us know when content has been published by websites and blogs we choose to follow. Keeping up with other content gives us insight into news and industry trends and helps to inspire ideas for our own content.
BuzzSumo is another tool that Ian uses for finding inspiration for content to create. It helps you find the top shared content around a particular topic. With this information you can see what it is people are interested in and in what format it was published.
Of course my favorite tool to use is Pinterest. Through Pinterest searches I can see the what’s being pinned about a particular topic and what kinds of images are being used. From the number of number of repins, comment and shares I can get an idea of its popularity. I then use this information to guide some of the topics of my podcast episodes. Even if a topic has been written or talked about before, I can still add my perspective.
Sharing and repurposing your content
Once you’ve created your content you’ll want to share it across your different social accounts but once you’ve shared the link or pinned the image that doesn’t have to be the end. You can create different forms of spinoff content from the original piece. For example:
- This podcast has written show notes.
- I can create a slide presentation based off this episode and upload it to SlideShare that can also be viewed on Pinterest and my LinkedIn
- I can turn some of the slides into an infographic to pin and share on my social accounts.
- I can create a video of me narrating the slides upload it to YouTube and share on my social accounts.
Honestly, this isn’t an approach I have yet taken but it is something I would like to do as my business grows and I’ve added more team members. Interested in becoming part of the team? Send me an email.
Sharing the content we find online to our social networks gives us an opportunity to add our voice and commentary to it. This can be a great way to start conversations and build relationships with followers. Sharing or curating useful, helpful or entertaining content takes us back to the more social side of our online presence and helps to position us as a resource for our community.
Real content marketing
Each piece of content you create doesn’t have to be perfect. I will never be an award-winning writer but I have definitely improved over the past few years. Ian recommends not comparing yourself to others just be your self and communicate your story.
There is help available if you can’t handle the content creation on your own. There are many agencies and services available that you can hire by the project or on a recurring basis. If you choose to hire this part out I STRONGLY recommend that you don’t completely hand over the reigns to them. I have seen instances where the business’s core message was lost and all that was produced was fluff. While cat pictures get lots of engagement, unless your business is about them, cats shouldn’t be the focus of the content you produce.
Connect with Ian
Ian Anderson Gray is a digital Marketer, social media consultant and a web developer. He’s also a great singer 🙂
Be sure to come back for the next two weeks to listen to the rest of this series!
Week 2: Content Marketing Part 1 – What is it and why you need it
Week 3: Content Marketing Part 2 – How to create and distribute your content
Week 4: Digital Marketing Productivity and Timesaving Tools
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