What is Content Marketing and How Can it Benefit a Small Business?

If you keep one eye on current eCommerce and digital marketing trends, you may have noticed this term “content marketing” being bandied about a lot recently. But what is content marketing? What exactly does it mean and what are its implications for your business?

If you research the term “content marketing” online, you may be led to think that it’s some scientific, inaccessible, mysterious art form known only to the digital marketing and SEO elite. The good news, however, is that you don’t need to sign up to some exclusive webinar or download some gimmicky e-book to learn about the basics of content marketing and how it can benefit your online presence.

Essentially, content marketing involves sharing content online that “does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.” You’ll have probably had the experience of scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed and encountering a video post which shows a tasty looking recipe with instructions on how to make it. This immediately engages your attention, before you even realise it has been posted by a major supermarket who obviously have a vested interest in sharing such content – “follow this link to shop ingredients” etc.

The theory behind content marketing is that your customers are far more likely to engage with content that is less spammy and explicitly sales-oriented. You’ll get more shares, more comments, more likes and, thus, more exposure. If you are looking for a simple and cost-effective way to get your name out there, content marketing is the perfect solution. All that is required is a dash of creativity, inspiration and innovation.

The holy grail for any content marketer is, of course, to “go viral.” But creating content designed to go viral is kind of like making up your mind that you are going to win the lottery. These kinds of things can’t really be forced. When something goes viral, it’s usually the result of a proverbial “perfect storm” with a lot of good luck involved. Endeavouring to draw attention to your brand by filming your dog doing something cute or filming an “hilarious” prank on your flatmate may come across as a bit desperate to the modern digital marketing savvy consumer. It’s a good idea to bear in mind the tone and message you are conveying with the content you share online and it’s important to have a consistent voice.

Google places emphasis on content which it perceives as having value. Therefore if you are creating a video, infographic or blog article which is replete with useful information, not only will it be more likely to reach a wider audience and help with your brand exposure, it will also have the added benefit of effecting a positive SEO impact. Examples of this include how-to articles, explainer videos, and infographics which relate to your industry. Remember, the goal here is to generate interest with engaging content – content for content’s sake, if you will. From there, brand exposure, leads, and sales will come. We said that content marketing shouldn’t be explicitly sales-oriented, but that’s not to say you can’t include a link to a relevant landing page, as long as it’s appropriate and does not dilute your message.

So let’s also compare to traditional advertising, when asking “what is content marketing”. If you think about it, content marketing isn’t all that different from traditional advertising. Consider the famous Cadbury’s advert with the drumming gorilla from a few years back. That advert wasn’t explicitly trying to persuade people to buy chocolate and it got all the more attention and interest because of this. Modern content marketing levels the playing field slightly – you don’t necessarily need a huge budget and professional marketing team to compete with the big guys anymore. The disadvantage of this levelled playing field is that there are a lot more voices now competing for your customers’ attention. As a result, only the most interesting and captivating content will rise to the top. Take a moment to ask yourself what this could be and how your business could achieve it. It’s kind of cliched, but terms such as thinking outside of the box and brainstorming can actually come in handy here. It’s advisable to devote a bit of time to bouncing ideas around before you start sharing content. Once you begin content marketing, the next step is to begin measuring engagement. But the slightly more advanced world of analytics and metrics is something we will cover in a future blog post. For now, it’s time to set forth and think about how you will capture your audience’s attention, good luck!

Featured image courtesy of DigitalRalph.

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