Content marketing is a long-term play - you want to build relationships and shape brand perception whilst appealing to the search engine’s taste for quality content. So, what are the do’s and don’ts?
Gone are the days of simply packing copy with key search terms. You’ve now got to provide authoritative content to be rewarded by the search engines.
1. Encourage participation
Patagonia, an outdoor clothing company selling sustainable products, run a blog called The Cleanest Line where they publish content on climbing, surfing, eco-living, conservation and more. One of their recent blog posts details the travels of a hiker who encourages readers not to buy a pair of new shorts. Instead urging them to ‘repair and reuse’ and learn the ‘value of fewer’ possessions.
Although it doesn’t encourage a sale, it does something more valuable - it builds a bond between the brand and its readership by sharing common values and interests. In content marketing, ‘participate’ should not be a synonym for ‘buy something’. Instead, communications should encourage people to get on board with your brand’s ethos.
2. Know your audience
Creating a relationship with your target audience does not mean stating your values and waiting to see who agrees. You must understand the tastes and preferences of your target audience and share their enthusiasms.
A great example is Land Rover’s One Life blog. Who’s their typical customer? Perhaps, a family that loves an adventure but lives in North London. So they post blogs on ‘nights in the wilderness’, ‘microadventures’ and ‘exploring the city at night’: all perfectly suited to young families living in cities. Land Rover know who buys their cars and they tailor content to mirror their lifestyles and attitudes.
3. Avoid the temptation to promote
Influence and Co. conducted a study where they interviewed editors about the issues they faced when receiving content: 79% stated that the biggest problem was proposals that were ‘too promotional’.
Now that is not to say there’s anything wrong with advertising a brand, but don’t try and make a sale under the guise of informative content, as people will question your brand’s trustworthiness. As a rule of thumb, if your products are going to appear make sure they’re in the background rather than the foreground. The customer experience should be the hero.
4. Provide insight
Everyday, a vast amount of content is published. Somehow, google’s algorithm identifies the best, most useful items and ranks them highly. So you have to strive to be an authority in your field.
One way to do this is to provide insights. Saying the same thing as everyone else will not get you noticed, nor will it galvanise and extend your current readership. Research your field and give readers something that your competitors aren’t offering.
5. High concept content marketing
Content marketing typically means articles, newsletters, blogs etc. But increasingly, you’re seeing major brands create concept-driven content marketing campaigns. They look and feel like advertising campaigns, except they’re designed to stimulate an audience’s interest in a subject rather than a product.
Take Nike’s ‘Breaking2’ campaign - a push to use technology and innovation to break the two-hour barrier for a marathon. Nike products appear in the background but the primary content is not the shoes - it is what’s happening to push the barriers of possibility, an expression of Nike’s ‘Just Do It’ attitude. Whether you’re breaking a marathon record, or going on your first run in years, it’s a subject their customers can embrace, follow and participate in. There’s a story to it: you want to see what will happen.
To summarise, content marketing is a way to talk with, rather than talk at, your audience. Remember that content marketing is at the first step in the purchase process: attracting new customers. So avoid blatant promotion, understand your audience’s values and enthusiasm, provide some real knowledge, and don’t be afraid of big ideas.