While industry news, marketing blogs, and social media have been flooded with the phrase “content marketing” in the past few years, it isn’t a new idea. In the early days of radio, brands created radio stations and produced their own content. For the past hundred years, advertorials were commonplace in magazines (remember those?) and paid content filled television segments. Even in the relatively short history of the internet, brands tinkered with Flash games and funny videos years before the industry conversation shifted to “content marketing.”
When content marketing entered our collective vocabulary, it was likely in the context of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and for good reason. Inbound links (another site linking to your site in a natural way) continue to drive rankings, and the best way to garner links is to create interesting content. But why were brands investing in content long before anyone knew what a link was? It’s simple. When you take a holistic approach to content creation, the benefits expand beyond SEO and can aid and positively affect your marketing efforts online, including email and social media, and offline, including branding.
Back in the days of traditional media, content was one of, if not the best way to tell your brand story. From long-form television ads which were the subject of water cooler chatter on Mondays, to travel articles and photo essays created by tourism boards to draw attention to hotspot destinations before they could geotag on Instagram, brands like Coca-Cola and Sandals gained consumer interest, trust, and loyalty through strong content that didn’t talk as much about a product as it did experience. Unfortunately, the means of creating and distributing those content campaigns were prohibitively expensive. Media production for TV, radio, and even print, plus ad-buys priced per spot created large barriers to entry for a brand looking to create a content campaign. It made more sense for a brand with a tight budget to use it towards a more direct product-focused ad, than risk missing the mark on a content-focused campaign.
Today, creating a strong piece of content can not only present an experience as engaging as those multi-million-dollar campaigns, but it can also share expertise, promote authenticity, and generate leads and conversions in a quantifiable way. Your content can cast a wider net than a single outlet ad. A single article or piece of visual media can:
- Answer an import voice search question from a potential customer
- Synthesize data in a way that hasn’t been done before on a topic that is gaining importance in your readers’ lives
- Underline the expertise of your staff on related topics, for instance, clothing buyers might have special knowledge of unique cultural textile production methods
- Or, maybe all of the above
Authentic Content Underlines a Brand’s Authenticity: “91% of consumers globally indicate they are willing to reward a brand for its authenticity via purchase, investment, endorsement, or similar action. 62% will either purchase or express increased purchase interest in a brand they view as authentic.” – Mediapost
Not only can content-based branding campaigns expand into different channels, but they can also achieve their goals on a smaller budget. On average, content marketing campaigns cost 62% less than traditional advertising and drive three times as many leads.
Email & Social Media
Banner blindness and email fatigue plague digital marketing departments that stick to the same script. And banner blindness isn’t relegated to the banner positions in social media—it’s spreading to the organic newsfeed. If customers are skipping over emails in their inbox offering the same deal for the third time that weekend, or they’re scrolling past another staged product-focused social media photo, content can cut through the clutter. In fact, 40% of consumers prefer brand emails that are more informative and less promotional, and 70% would rather learn about a brand through an article than through an ad.
How to Integrate Content Marketing With Email and Social Media
According to SEM Rush, 94% of marketers considered social media to be one of the most effective channels to distribute content, while 76% use email as one of their preferred distribution methods. This integration doesn’t happen magically. In order to integrate content marketing into emails and social media, merge your content calendars, or at least give your email and social media teams access to your content calendar, and give them plenty of lead time between when your content is completed and when they can include it in their channels. Consider the timeliness of your content, not only for publication but when it can be used in other channels. And finally, keep track of your content—not just metrics—but actually remember what you’ve created and make sure it’s on the radar for the email and social teams annually, as it is timely or relevant.
Holistic Content Marketing
Once created, content marketing continues to work for your brand. While it may need some attention (updates) over the years, your core content can continue to drive SEO rankings, organic traffic, branding, and to act as email and social media content indefinitely. It’s not a flash in the pan. Before you even begin to brainstorm content marketing ideas, it’s important to take a holistic approach and consider how your article or visual piece will not only aid your SEO, but help all marketing channels. Sure, time-sensitive and entertaining content has its place in creating leads, but the true workhorses of your content marketing are those pieces that can be a tool for all channels.
To get the most out of your content marketing, start with a good strategy, include multiple distribution channels and teams, and remember the importance of content to your brand with each piece. Take your time to craft content with a strong foundation that can produce on multiple levels and you’ll be in good company, as 70% of content marketers prioritize quality over quantity.