The Fine Art of Content Marketing
Since the dawn of communication, man has been involved in the practice of content marketing. The level of brand engagement that resulted from the uttering of those first staccato grunts in caves or around fires is unclear, but there was sharing, the message was behavior-driven and the content was geared toward a target audience. Nowadays, whether you realize it or not, if you are actively involved in pursuing business on social media, then you are a content marketer. This might not be the work you signed on for when you created your LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter accounts, launched your blog, or uploaded that first virtual commercial on to YouTube, but it is part of your job description today.
Business people and companies are competing for eyeballs like never before. You don’t have to be a search engine savant to know that the Internet is swollen with content. There is a lot of noise in the cloud. The challenge lies in getting found, getting noticed and getting known. Consider those that followed their dreams and staked their claims during the California Gold Rush. They spent hours upon hours sifting through trays of earth just to find a small nugget. The nugget was always there; the prospector’s tray just had to be in the right place. Such is the case with your incredible article, white paper, blog post, landing page, video, or podcast. Position it well and the right audience will find it.
Although the origin of the term is difficult to pinpoint, content marketing is now a vital entry in the mainstream social vocabulary. I remember first hearing it in 2007, shortly after I swapped out my Website copywriter’s shingle for that of the LinkedIn consultant. Today, content marketing is an industry unto itself, a sub-discipline of Internet science, and a staple strategy of social business. I am amazed at how much content marketing is directed toward, well, content marketing.
So what are the steps to becoming an effective content marketer? Glad you asked.
Create a Visibility Strategy
An all-out assault on the search engines doesn’t guarantee the delivery of a steady stream of spend-ready clients to your virtual doorstep. Well-executed content marketing is inbound, yes, but who arrives is as important—if not more so—than how many. Taking your offerings across multiple platforms and appealing to a wide variety of tastes and personalities within (and external to) your target audience will allow you to be a more versatile influencer and allow you to go viral in the right circles. Build your content portfolio methodically. Depending on the context of your messaging, not all platforms will work. First, decide what you wish to accomplish with your content marketing objectives. Who do you most want to reach? Set some parameters for topic, theme and style, keyword judiciously, and post accordingly.
Be Compelling and Relevant
Ours is an attention deficit society, one that is constantly demanding injections of fresh, topical content. Given the accelerated timeline of social media—unique in that it can move light years in a single day—you won’t get much of a chance to and engage prospective clients unless you compel them at the front gate. People are fickle. Much as they might give you a courtesy scan, or even go a paragraph or two deep on what you have to offer, if you can’t keep ‘em interested, they’re out. Moreover, the shelf life of a given post, update, article or tweet is fleeting at best. Don’t let your output go stale. Regular content flow ensures that your brand stays in front of people and, over time, you will get noticed. Good writing, persuasive or otherwise, has an attractive force operating beneath the surface. It does not happen without practice, purpose and focus.
Don’t Sound Contrived
Not to downplay the importance of keyword density, but often, people will dilute their message by paying too much attention to coming up high in a specific search category and bombard their piece with certain words or phrases. Yes, write for Google, but also write for your brand. People recognize when a piece of content has been doctored for search. Keyword spamming, or excessive mention of specific terms, is unnatural and actually works to your detriment. In social, you have to give to get. You’re going up against people and firms who want to be found in identical searches. Decide on the text that you want to go after hard, and let the rest go.
Devise an Appropriate Real World Strategy
Whereas content always has and always will be king, it’s the level of engagement that determines who wears the crown. These days, it’s about reaching potential customers and clients on an emotional level. Creating a favorable first impression, and converting that response into a profitable call to action, is the goal of any value-added content marketing campaign. Ultimately, the dynamic shifts and you move from a position of content management to relationship management. Over time, you will achieve brand recognition. Social networking, and its requisite skill sets, is the driver. How you handle inquiries and advance conversations in the physical world will determine your success in business, let alone as a content marketer. Walk your talk.
As you’re producing each individual piece of content, ask yourself the following questions:
1). Does it promote my brand?
2). Does it detract from my message?
3). Does it create value for others?
4). Does it influence a call to action?
The once-level playing field has skewed in favor of those who write with clarity, present well, and live up to a perceived brand promise.
What steps are you taking to market your content?
J.D. GERSHBEIN, CEO of OWLISH COMMUNICATIONS, is a specialist in the Art and Science of LinkedIn. He is a trusted asset to top executives, managers, entrepreneurs, professional service providers, salespeople, and those involved in the search for their next great opportunity. J.D. offers unrivaled strategic direction to individuals and firms—ranging from small to medium-sized businesses (SMB’s) to Fortune 500 companies— in using LinkedIn to build brand and generate revenue. Dubbed “LinkedIn’s #1 Brand Ambassador” and “The LinkedIn Black Belt,” J.D. is considered one of the top LinkedIn strategists in the world and a pioneer in the design and delivery of LinkedIn educational programs. Drawing upon his background in marketing communications, industrial psychology, neuroscience, improvisational comedy and broadcast media, he is helping advance the collective awareness of LinkedIn and inspiring opportunity-oriented professionals in all walks of business. J.D. is a nationally-known A-list speaker who has been featured on FOX TV News, in the Chicago Tribune, and has guested on prominent coast-to-coast business talk radio programs. He currently blogs for NBC Chicago and contributes articles on LinkedIn to numerous online publications. J.D. is also an Adjunct Professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Stuart School of Business where he teaches the school’s first-ever course in social media. His first book, a treatise on social business communication strategies, is due out early 2012.