Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I? But, more than ever, it’s almost certainly true.
Why? Briefly, because if you’re not, your competitors probably are, and you’re missing out on grabbing the attention of potential customers and keeping your company in the minds of existing ones.
Content marketing itself is nothing new (see Thomas Cook’s travel guides, Pirelli calendars and the Michelin Guide) but the internet, ad-blockers, and consumers’ increasing distaste at the 24/7 hard sell has rapidly accelerated its importance.
So what is it, exactly? You’ll find loads of definitions, and it does have many strings to its bow, but in a nutshell, it’s this:
“Content marketing is the creation, publication and dissemination to targeted audiences of interesting, useful or entertaining content to bring new traffic and customers to your business.”
It’s the art, backed by a bit of science, of connecting your brand to your ideal customer with relevant stories and information.
Pre-internet, content marketing meant producing guides and books – Michelin started producing its guide in 1900, when there were only 3,000 cars on the road in France, containing maps, tyre repair advice, car mechanic and garage listings and, of course, hotel and restaurant guides. The aim was simple, to boost the demand for cars and, by proxy, car tyres; Michelin car tyres.
The same principles apply today, only now the prime battleground is online, where brands strive to stand out amid what’s been dubbed “content shock” – the almost overwhelming amount of content, much of it poor quality, that has drowned social networks like Facebook so much they only show posts on business pages to as little as 1% of your “followed’ audience.
So why does your business need high quality content, and how can you cut through the fog of mediocrity?
If you’re not easily found online, you barely exist
What’s the first thing you do when you want to find something out, shop for something, know how to do something, or check out a service? You Google it (or Bing it if you’re a bit niche).
If your business is anywhere below the first two or three pages in search for any particular term, you’re highly unlikely to get any traffic. Whole books have been written on how to rank in search, but one way – beyond ensuring your website’s landing or product pages have the right keywords – is to produce regular, high quality content that either answers the questions that people are asking, or provides entertainment, amusement or just plain awesomeness.
If you’re not doing it, someone else will
If you’re not producing high-quality content, you can bet that a decent number of your competitors are – and taking web traffic, whether by search or social – away from you. Even if you are found in search, which company are you going to use: the one stocked with helpful information, stories and tips, or the one with static pages that don’t change from month to month, year to year?
You’re an authority – people will trust you
The more you look like an authority on a particular subject, the more you are an authority. A well-stocked website with articles, videos, advice, lists etc gives visitors with an instant impression that a) you know what you’re talking about, and b) you’re a helpful business committed to meeting customers’ needs.
Ignite, promote and amplify
I’ve seen perfectly good blog posts with single-figure views in a whole year. Why? Because there was clearly no effective amplification strategy. There are various free tips to ignite your content, from encouraging friends, staff and influencers to share to using the right headlines and hashtags and including images.
But ever since Facebook took the decision to stem the overflow of corporate adverts (and content) flooding people’s newsfeeds, organic reach has shrunk to as low as 1% of your follower audience. Thankfully, promoting high-quality content on Facebook is highly-targeted, cheap, easy and very effective. It spreads your brand to new audiences, gets them on to your website and opens up a route to more sales.
There are three key drivers of social media shareability – awe (25%), laughter (17%) and amusement or entertainment (15%). It’s why 3.1m people like the Awesome Places in the World Facebook page, why Fenton the dog’s hapless master (remember him?) garnered 16.5m views on YouTube, and on, and on, and on.
So positive content that raises a smile, or an OMG, will usually perform better. I wrote an article for a classic car insurance broker about a man who had bought a Ford Capri new in 1987 and driven it only 582 miles since. If you like classic cars, that’s pretty awesome. It reached 227,000 people on Facebook for a modest budget, and the article itself was viewed more than 20,000 times.
If your business doesn’t lend itself to awe or humour, just be incredibly, awesomely useful. If you answer the questions people are actually searching for, Google will love you forever.
Social signals and social proof
Although the links between social sharing and search rankings remain a little muddy, we do know that Google uses them as a ranking factor. So producing the right type of content that receives shares, interactions and engagement on social media will not only give you exposure to all those people shared to, but it will also boost your position in search.
Social proof – evidence that your posts are being shared more than others – will also convey an authority and kudos to you and your business. Which blog post or advice piece are you more likely to read: the one that’s had 150 shares, or the one with just three? Only high-quality content, properly disseminated, can do this.
Giving things away
Giving things away may seem anathema to a business, but think back to those helpful, useful and informative blog posts. Let’s say you’re a paving contractor and you write a blog post on how to lay your own patio. People landing on your blog post are obviously thinking of doing it themselves; some will, and be grateful for your advice, but others may decide it looks like too much hard work or too complicated, and decide to get someone else in to do it. Who will be their first port of call? No blog post, no phone call or email.
Just like the paving contractor and the would-be patio layer, some people will have the time and skills to produce their own awesome content, and some won’t. If you’d like a helping hand, have a look at my website and my work and get in touch if you’d like to chat.