In the old days – you know, three or four years ago – brands would tell me they wanted to better leverage social media. But that could mean almost anything, because “social media” includes whatever you can do online: share on Facebook, watch videos on YouTube, pin stuff on Pinterest, check out the latest developments on Mashable, and so on.
But now much greater focus is on content marketing, which is a step forward because this practice is much more grounded in measurable practices, goals, and results.
To be specific, content marketing is the practice of creating and distributing content that attracts, engages, and ultimately converts customers. Done right, such content serves others so much that it builds credibility for your brand and motivates customers to move closer to you. It creates the impression, “They have something I need.”
The Content Marketing Institute’s recent 2017 study said that “63% of B2C marketers report their organizations are much more or somewhat more successful with content marketing than they were one year ago.”
They even created this beautiful little chart to highlight the practices of the most successful B2C content marketers:
Content marketing works because it starts with a premise that often wasn’t there in the days of traditional marketing and advertising: serve before you sell.
No one likes, shares, or comments on an article that does nothing but promote your brand. “Our product is new, improved, faster, cheaper” doesn’t work as a content marketing hook.
To be effective in this arena, you have to think more along the lines of “How to cut your grocery budget by 10% and buy higher quality foods.” Educate, inform, and engage. Build trust and credibility before you make a pitch, and even when you do pitch, do it from a position of “this may be useful to you”.
To be honest, one of the reasons that content marketing is growing is because many traditional forms of advertising are in decline. For example, direct marketing used to be a highly profitable way to obtain customers. Today, it is increasingly difficult to make it pay.
24/7 immediate access to information has taught consumers to learn before they buy. Long before they have an intention to purchase, they are exploring options and perhaps even studying your offerings from afar. The better quality your content, the more it embodies a “serve before you sell” approach, the more likely this channel will be profitable for your brand.