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In a Mashable piece on Red Bull’s content marketing success, James O’Brien writes, “The idea central to content marketing is that a brand must give something valuable to get something valuable in return. Instead of the commercial, be the show. Instead of the banner ad, be the feature story. The value returned is often that people associate good things with — and return to engage with — the brand.” Content marketing is not more of the same; it’s not talking at an audience; it’s not expecting them to give while you take. It’s the exchange of value from brand to consumer and consumer to brand.

Craft Your Story with Care

Your goal is to be the story; but why should people care about your story? What is going to prompt them to read, watch, or share? This can be a challenge under the best conditions; it is daunting when you are selling a story that is typically not “exciting.”

Regardless of your topic area, you can make it interesting and engaging. Use a variety of media – video, infographics, posts, images, etc. “Interesting” doesn’t mean 1 million people will post your content on Facebook, but rather that it is of value to your audience. That’s all you need to worry about; not going viral, a term which will hopefully stay in 2012.

Your content is where you can let your personality come out – so do it. While professionals do need to maintain a polished exterior, it doesn’t hurt to add humor or a bit of the real you into blogs and other similar types of content. That doesn’t mean you need to tell bawdy jokes or swear, but it does mean you should be human. We’re not engaging with encyclopedias but with people.

While you want to target your audience with content, you also want to expand a bit. While keeping it relevant, what else can you discuss? This encourages new audience members to join the fold. Try out some new and different types of content and topics; track shares, mentions, views, and bounce and conversion rates, to see what content is landing and which is missing. (That being said, you don’t want to alienate your core audience with a bunch of content they’re not going to like. You’ve got to maintain a careful balance.)

Sharing via sites like Reddit and curating content can be very helpful strategies to use. Sharing helps you cast a wider net, and hopefully, your content will gain traction and get passed around. Curation will help you offer the best, latest, most interesting news and content to visitors and help you maintain a manageable content schedule. Pinterest is, of course, the biggest and best example of the power of curation – but, again, your own original content should comprise the bulk of your offerings.

Successful content marketing helps you engage your audience and show them that you really do have something to offer and give. It should be any SEO’s or brand’s top priority in the coming year.

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