You may have heard of the term “content marketing.” If you have, you’ve probably also heard that it’s important for online businesses. And it’s true.
But you may not be sure what it is.
Content marketing, according to Wikipedia, is
“an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation and sharing of content in order to attract, acquire and engage clearly defined and understood current and potential consumer bases with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
I’ve bolded the headline characteristics, the creation and sharing of content. But it’s important not to lose sight of the objectives and goals behind this content generation and sharing: attracting, acquiring, or engaging customers and driving profitable customer action.
Creating and sharing content in and of itself is not content marketing if it’s not done to achieve these customer-focused goals. It’s also not content marketing if your “content” is really just marketing, promotion, or sales.
Consider these scenarios:
It’s not content marketing if you write a few poems and send them out to a group of your friends. It is content marketing if you are a poet and you create a small, limited-edition ebook of your poems and let fans who subscribe to your mailing list download the ebook.
It’s not content marketing if you have a camera store online and you send out an email to your customer base with all your current promotions. It is content marketing if you create an email with your to 10 tips to help your customers take the best holiday photos.
It’s not content marketing if you’re a car company and you air a commercial on TV (or post it online). It is content marketing if you create a series of short films featuring your cars, as BMW did with its film series called The Hire. (BMW called it “branded content” but it was clearly content marketing of the highest order.)
Content marketing is often an important part of most company’s SEO strategies since web content gives you more things for search engines to index and more opportunities to get inbound links, which will help your web pages rank higher.
Content marketing will also intersect with your social media strategy since when you create content on your website you’ll want to promote it on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. And the sharing of your content on social sites will help support your SEO as well as your initial content marketing objectives.
Here are 15 popular forms of content marketing:
- Blogs: You can blog in just about any style and with any content focus (how to generate ideas for your small business blog). Just make sure you are trying to add value with your content and not just sell your products or promote your business. Blogging can overlap with other items on this list, such as videos, photos, and infographics.
- Videos: Video content marketing could be how-tos, interviews, documentaries, humor or other entertainment. You can post videos on your blog, in a video section of your website, and social media sites like Facebook. You can even start your own channel, like this one for EarthLink Business on YouTube.
- Photos: You can post photos on your blog, create a special photos section of your website, and post photos to social media sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and Facebook.
- Podcasts: Show off your expertise by creating one or a series of podcasts on any subject (think of it as an audio blog).
- Webcasts & webinars: A webcast is typically live, streaming video of an event. Webinar takes its name from Web + seminar and should therefore be educational/instructional in nature. Hold periodic webinars to teach others what you know and increase your online authority. Both webinars and webcasts may be live originally but have long-term content marketing value when integrated into your website.
- Online communities/forums: Create an online forum or other form of online community to position your business as a leader in your field. (Last week we showed you how to get started by installing PhpBB forums on your website.)
- Email newsletters: Create a weekly or monthly newsletter that shows off your knowledge; offers tips, advice, and support; links to related resources, and more. You may include some promotion, but keep the newsletter focused on content or it will be viewed as spam. (Here’s how EarthLink Web Hosting customers can get started with email newsletters using Announcer Pro.) The eLink newsletter that we send to our dial-up, DSL, and cable Internet access members fits into this category.
- Infographics: Infographics are a fun and shareable way to get across numbers and statistics related to your business.
- Whitepapers: Whitepapers are more typically found on B-to-B websites rather than consumer-focused websites. They are typically longer and perhaps more technical and researched-based than most blog posts, but the two do overlap and you can repurpose one for the other easily. See how EarthLink Business uses whitepapers (and webinars) in its Industry Insights educational series.
- Ebooks: Ebooks are the next step beyond blog post or whitepaper, but you can often put together an ebook based on several blog posts or whitepapers; you may need a designer to help you with this one.
- Slideshows/presentations: Think “public PowerPoint.” You can use presentations to show your expertise and passion for your subject, to educate or entertain. Slideshare.com is the #1 site for online presentation sharing. Since you may have already created a PowerPoint, you may be able to repurpose it for content marketing with a minimal amount of tweaking.
- Games: Creating a branded game that’s related to your business can be effective, though it’s not something you can typically do yourself. And even with a professional game builder helping you, success can be tricky.
- Apps: Branded apps that are helpful may be more likely to catch on than game apps and more likely to support your brand; but like games, they do require professional development that may not get much attention if buried below hundreds of other competing apps in the big app stores.
- Microsites: Microsites are just websites, but they’re not traditional business websites with product listings and other company info; instead they are websites designed to educate, entertain, or build community around a topic of interest, e.g., Proctor & Gamble’s Home Made Simple microsite.
- Custom magazines (print & online): If you’re an AAA member, you’re probably familiar with their monthly magazine about cars and travel. My son is a big fan of the Red Bulletin print magazine (which focuses on extreme sports and edgy culture) from energy drink maker Red Bull. They’ve also made the magazine available as a free iPad app.
We’ll be following up with some more in depth tips on content marketing in the upcoming weeks. Until then, good luck.
And, as always, let us know what you’re experience has been. Any content marketing successes? Failures? We’d love to know what you’ve learned.