Content marketing is all about the use of content to connect with your audience. The phrase ‘content is king’ has been extolled so much in the world of online marketing that we’ve all become rather anal about it.
Conforming to Google algorithms, and curtailing to search engine preferences has become an obsession when it comes to online content. Digital marketing companies are constantly trying to stay ahead of and outwit the artificial intelligence machines to push clients’ websites further up the rankings. It’s a strategic game that some digital marketing companies are good at and others are not.
With the focus so much on strategy-informed content, we have to wonder if we are starting to miss a point. It may tick all of the ‘Google algorithm’ boxes, but is strategy-based content really and truly connecting with our audience?
The big question is, has obsession with strategy taken the heart and soul out of our content? Let’s back track for a second and spin through some of the basics, then we’ll address the question in hand.
Content marketing – the basics
Content marketing is the use of any content to help find new customers, retain existing ones, and generally make people more aware of your brand. On all fronts, content marketing is designed to stimulate interest in your company, your people, your products and your services.
Consistent, quality content is good. In fact, it’s very good. Search engines reward businesses that publish consistently high quality content. That pushes you up the Google rankings and gets you more business. Right? Well actually not always. Getting people to your site is one thing, converting them into a customer is another.
Content is extremely important for search engine optimisation (SEO). But, hitting the leader board when it comes to search terms doesn’t always mean you’ll form a lasting relationship with a potential customer. Content marketing isn’t just about strategy. Its success is reliant on those who can really write.
Brand strategy – the basics
Brand managers are concerned with long-term market trends, and the lasting impression marketing and advertising activities have on products, services or people. They oversee the objective of delivering the right message to promote those products or services. It’s all about image, and the development of a plan to get the brand to appeal to a wider or specific consumer base. Brand strategy has content marketing at its core.
But has strategy taken the heart and soul out of content?
The best branding has a story behind it. People need to know that the person behind the brand stands for something they believe in. Storytelling is one of the biggest writing skills a content writer can have. They also need journalism skills to research, interview and uncover gems.
It’s why more and more marketing companies are on the lookout for great content writers. It’s essentially what drives their well-oiled machines. It’s not new news that content needs to be personal and relevant. Anyone can create OK content (well I concede, perhaps not anyone!). But turning out content that stands out takes a lot more than great writing skills.
It takes courage to write about a subject with authority. It takes a sense of humour to inject a bit of personality. And, it requires life experience to actually have something to say. New-out-of-school content writers and brand managers may be cock-a-hoop with their newfound theoretical knowledge. They may think they are ready to take an unknown brand to global success. But, theory doesn’t match a heart when it comes to connecting with real people.
Remember the famous content marketing success story of Oreo’s tweet at the Super Bowl; you can still dunk in the dark. People still tell that story as if it was a rip-roaring single-tweet success. They leave out that it took 18 months and dozens of people to work on it, and as marketing expert Seth Godin pointed out shortly after, “it should have been one person who simply loved Oreo cookies.” In actual fact, the tweet that went viral didn’t actually sell that many more Oreo cookies.
People aren’t foolish. We all know a gimmick. Seth Godin, considered by many as ‘the godfather of modern marketing’ made the bold statement in 1999 that ‘content marketing was the only marketing left.’ He was right then and he is right now. Everything from email marketing to social media, website content and blogs needs writing with a heart if it wants to stand a chance of making lasting connections. Creating content that cares comes from companies who care about the people they hire.
The driving force behind how we write content lies in the generation of Millennials. Born between the early 1980s to 2000, Millennials are changing retail patterns. Forbes reports that Millennials are in fact much less ‘brand loyal’ than previous generations. Being highly motivated by discounts, Millennials switch brands much more easily then the generations before them.
Millennials also care more about where the products they buy come from. They want to make purchases from companies who practice business sustainably and ethically. Content reaching out to Millennials needs to have a heart and a soul. Companies need to have good business ethics and writers who care.