What is content marketing?

From uploading snaps to Instagram to falling down a TikTok rabbit hole, most people spend nearly seven hours every day online. As a brand, this gives you an opportunity to be a part of whatever people are watching, reading, or listening to in the form of content.

The downside? Welcome to one of the most oversaturated arenas of marketing — 84% of companies have a content marketing strategy. Moreover, the Content Marketing Institute also reports that 30% of marketers plan to increase their content budgets.

As a result, the net is cluttered with articles, videos, and podcasts that most people have zero interest in (funnily enough this also includes blogs about content marketing that don't have an opinion.) While companies need a quick way to deliver content to the right people on the right channels, creating content without a well-planned content marketing strategy will leave you with nothing but low-performing commodity content.

Get it wrong and your content will just add to the clutter online. Get it right and you’ll get readers excited about your content—boosting traffic to your website, rising up the search rankings, and driving sales.

But what is GOOD content marketing?

Good content marketing has a mission statement behind it and it ladders up to your company's objectives and goals. Good content marketing provides value to your audience. Really good content marketing might not even feel like content marketing. 

Here's the best definition for good content marketing from Content Marketing Institute:

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

Content covers a huge variety of materials. Content can be an email from a brand, a podcast episode, a video, a meme on social media, an infographic, or a white paper. It could be a blog on a company’s website or an article on a new product line written for a third-party website, perhaps shared via social media channels or content aggregation sites, such as Pinterest or Reddit.

The key is finding the best content and content marketing channels for your audience. Let’s take a look at this in more detail.

The recipe for high-performing content doesn't exist

Because it's about the cooking and how you combine the ingredients and where you source them from and when you feed people and how hungry they are. There's no recipe for it or everyone would be doing it, wouldn't they

Despite the many different kinds of content out there, the best content has a few things in common:

  1. It’s based on an interesting idea that’s relevant to the brand’s audience. Joe Pulluzi notes how one swimming-pool company rose to the top page of Google and outsold every single U.S. competitor by creating content based on the company’s 50 most-asked customer questions. That's just smart.
  2. It cleverly uses creative visuals or imagery. For example, in the case of a blog post, breaking up your text with screenshots is an awesome way to illustrate your content and keep your readers reading. I left a DAM meme near the end of the post. Hope you enjoy it.
  3. It sticks in your brain forever because it's memorable. Think taglines like, “Got milk?”, “Finger lickin’ good”, and “A diamond is forever.” Rather than beige and forgettable, this content stays in peoples’ minds often decades after the campaign has been wrapped. And that is pretty cool—that your marketing messages could outlive your tenure at an org, or hey, maybe your tenure on earth (not to be dark but that's cool also.)

The content 98% of brands should start with

71% of small and medium-sized businesses use social media to reach new prospects. If you’re not regularly posting on social media then you’re handing your competitors the advantage.

Social media is an inexpensive way to grow your business and a quick way to get in front of your audience, which to be frank, is half the battle. But where should you post? It seems like there’s always a new platform popping up, but the right one for you depends on where your audience likes to hang out. Here are the most common demographics for each platform this very moment:

  1. TikTok and Snapchat appeals to Gen Z
  2. Facebook is typically used by Millennials to Baby Boomers
  3. Instagram cuts across the generations and is home to several brands targeting people of different ages

It's not just where you post—it's what content you post

Social media platforms and websites come and go, but people will remember the content when it’s good. Think about one of the earliest “viral” videos, “Ze end of the world.” Why was it so successful? The creator of the video says the recipe is, “...two parts popular culture, two parts political climate, two parts nostalgia reference, and then — no, I don't know. [Laughs] I don't think there's any way to create a viral video. Something really captivating, something really funny, that people want to share. That's been the question of advertisers since around 2003 — what makes a viral video? What's the formula?.”

And what makes social content shareable? The best social media content catches people mid-scroll. Either because it’s entertaining, capitalizes on a topical trend or a big interest of that particular audience, or draws people into the fun.

Picture a light-hearted question from a local cinema-like, “Who would play you in the movie of your life? Who would play your best friend?”. Such a question inspires the reader to get involved and encourages them to tag their brother or sister to join in.

To take your content to the next level, don't forget:

  1. Hashtags help bring your content to new audiences: Scout out trending hashtags by following influencers across different platforms and seeing which hashtags they’re using.
  2. Brand-owned media and creative content visuals help you stand out:Experiment with different images and measure the impact on your likes, comments, and shares. Original photos, like behind-the-scenes snaps of your team, typically out-perform more generic snaps. Make sure the images you use aren’t protected by copyright laws (Unsplash is a great place to go for photos, your own DAM library full of brand-owned media is even better).
  3. Boring content just won't get amplified: Ask yourself "Would I share this?" If the answer is no, then go back to the drawing board.

Beyond social: Get your stories read, heard, and watched

Beyond social media, there are a host of ways to connect with your prospects using content.

There are a ton of opportunities to produce and promote podcasts and video series that can entertain or deepen the ongoing conversations in your sector. To get your content found, capitalize on a trending topic that already has momentum with your audience. To figure out which topics will work best, use social listening—monitor internet forums and social media channels to find out what your target audience is talking about.

For example, if you’re an apparel brand then sustainability is a major buzzword right now, while plant-based eating is a huge trend for food brands. People crave interesting and informed slants on “big topics”, so don’t simply repeat what your competitors say—find a way to add to the conversation.

Also, pair trending topics with a deeper look at your company. Content is an avenue for connection with your audience. People want to know you, your brand, and your philosophies as a company. As an example, you could share an interview with your CEO on how the company got started and where they plan to go next.

Don’t forget that types of content are not mutually exclusive. An idea can live in audio and video, as well as in blogs. In fact, rather than having to brainstorm a bunch of new ideas for each platform, you can take one idea and repurpose (aka reuse) it for each channel.

Content accessibility is important too

As an example, a podcast episode on “curly women’s hair care” could be written up as a blog post, which could then become a sleek infographic that you share on Facebook and Instagram. Many brands are also starting to do explainer videos that go inside their blogs for people who don’t want to read the article but would rather more passively consume the information. Or think about how many news sites also allow you to listen to the article instead of just read it. Content accessibility is super important, and one way you can maximize accessibility is by providing the same content in many formats so you’re not knee-capping yourself before your content is even consumed (adding the ability to listen to our blog is on my to-do!)

F***ing great content marketing examples

Dollar Shave Club: A content marketing example worth a billion dollars

Video is one of the most popular channels in content marketing. Take it from Don’t Panic:

“In research published by Hubspot, 99% of marketers currently using video reported that they plan to continue doing so over the course of this year. No less than 95% of them are even planning to up their investment in video in the near future.”

Exhibit A:

The Dollar Shave Club:

Here’s what they did well:

  1. They amp up the product with wit and humor: "Your handsome-ass grandfather had one blade...and polio.”
  2. They use the language of their audience. Many brands (especially those in the B2B arena) fall into the trap of trying to sound smart and professional, but this can leave much of their content sounding like it was written for a microwave manual. Joanna Wiebe calls content that expertly mirrors the language of their audience “voice of customer” content, which helps your audience quickly form a connection with your brand because you use the same language as they do.
  3. They compare their super-convenient blade delivery service to buying expensive blades in-store with a fun comedic walk around their warehouse facility.

The result?

The one-day shoot, crafted with a budget of just $4,500, has been viewed 27 million times on YouTube. This led to DSC being acquired for over one billion dollars

Superdrug: The value-centered beauty company

In social media, posting content that reflects your brand’s core values is central to driving likes, shares, and brand awareness. Superdrug, for example, regularly blogs about diversity and inclusivity in beauty.

The team highlighted these core values in a campaign with a challenge to eighteen graphic designers to edit the same picture of a model to show what beauty looks like in their country. The campaign was shared by news outlets around and boasted a million shares and 700,000 new visits to its website in just five days of the campaign breaking.

Shutterstock’s creative trends report: The creative’s bible

From tie-die to moody shots that reflect the subject’s inner life, ShutterStock showcases their thought leadership among creatives with the annual Creative Trends report. The yearly report covers the latest visual trends dominating Shutterstock. The team publishes the report on its website but, crucially, it seeds findings to its large following on Facebook to boost its reach.

Shutterstock revamps each report into a variety of infographics that give image professionals a handy pictorial guide to the latest trends. It’s a central part of the company’s content marketing strategy that has led to 37 million site visitors and earned the company 229,000 links on other sites.

Invaluable: “Shakespearean insults for every situation”

As Murray Dare notes, content doesn’t have to be witty or funny to capture the attention of readers. But it does have to tap into people’s emotions and entertain them in some way (even in the case of educational content).

Check out this masterclass in entertaining content from auction site invaluable, which achieved links from 36 websites to a single blog about Shakespearian swearing. Invaluable jumped in on a seasonal trend with a blog and social media content featuring witty Shakespearean insults on World Shakespeare Day (April 23rd).

The viral post included gems like, “Thou damned and luxurious mountain goat,”, “Out of my sight! thou dost infect my eyes,”, and, “Thine face is not worth sunburning.” Burn.

Content marketing tools

When you first get started with content marketing, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. From figuring out how to get your content to rank to discovering the right topics to write about, a stellar content marketing program takes time to build. Luckily, there are several content marketing tools out there to help speed up and amplify your content marketing initiatives.

The best in keyword tools

If you want your content to rank on the top pages of Google, you need to find the right keywords. Keywords refer to the terms your target audience uses to search for content on Google.

Long-tail keywords take the top spot as longer search terms that granularly target searches. Think, “first date ideas for winter” rather than “date ideas.” Long-tail keywords are less competitive (aka easier to rank for) because there are fewer companies attempting to rise the rankings with the same phrase.

To find the right keywords, look into keyword tools, Google offers a suite of solutions for this, as do the likes of Ahrefs orMoz. The best additions:

  1. Establish which keywords your site is ranking for
  2. Reports on the average ranking position for a specific term
  3. Highlights how many links you are bagging and from how many different domains

Tools to help you power your content strategy

Ever stuck for content ideas? Find hot topics with an analysis tool, such as BuzzSumo. Want to tie your content marketing initiatives into other marketing campaigns and analyze progress in one place? Head over to Hubspot, a customer relationship management (CRM) which also offers marketing automation and analytics.

Consistency is everything in content marketing. People instantly recognize brands by a logo, a sound, a font, a tone of voice, color palette, or style of image. To build a strong, cohesive brand identity, you need to use the same style and tone of voice across your content materials.

Your voice refers to the ‘mood’ and ‘character’ your content encapsulates. For example, innocent’s irreverent, optimistic, and playful tone is automatically recognizable by people—whether it appears on a bottle or in a blog post.

To master brand consistency, your team needs easy access to content resources like style guides. This is where it becomes essential to have a central resource for storing and organizing those content assets so a company’s marketing teams around the world can access them.

Icelandair is one of many brands that has credited Bynder with helping it to maintain a consistent brand experience by providing a “Google-like” centralized, searchable library of digital materials that any team member can access.

Metadata for content marketing

Discoverability is important for search engines, but also for your internal content marketing library. Attaching metadata to content items helps Google understand what an image or video conveys, boosting search results. You can read more about how Bynder helps brands optimize their digital content for SEO here. But the benefit of metadata doesn’t stop at Google. It also helps internal teams like home fitness business Nautilus organize and find content through search filters inside their Bynder DAM platform. There’s a saying from Beyoncé that applies here: If you liked it, then you should have put a ring on it. Swap ‘ring’ for ‘metadata.’ Metadata allows you to quickly filter through your content marketing library to find assets to reuse, repurpose, or update. Brands that use digital asset management also craft content taxonomies that help organize content inside the DAM. Many times you'll find this content taxonomy reflected in the brand's website as well. You can read more about the importance of metadata and taxonomy for your content here.

Dam meme

Create, manage, and distribute share-worthy content

When it comes to creating killer content, hitting on the right idea, for the right audience, on the right channel is essential. Determining where your prospects and customers hang out and the kinds of topics they are interested in are both key to driving success in your content marketing campaigns. Backed by the right tools, it’s easy to organize your content and find the right keywords to generate traffic to your site.

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