The Ultimate Guide to Content Marketing
Content marketing takes the priority in digital marketing compared to all the other modules. There is no doubt in that. It forms the foundation of all digital marketing activities. But good content doesn’t perform on its own without marketing. Good Content Marketing is about creating great content and also marketing it in the right way.
I’ve been blogging for more than 10 years now and in this blog post, I want to share my learning and experiences on content marketing. We will cover 3 major areas:
- Why content marketing?
- The different types of content and…
- The most common content delivery formats.
Let’s get started…
Why Content Marketing?
Before we get to the why – we need to look back a little about the history of content marketing. If you thought content marketing is a recent addition to the ‘tactics of marketing’, you would be wrong.
Content marketing is hundreds of years old and one of the oldest form of marketing that has existed. Not to mention, storytelling is one of the oldest forms of communication and also is a form of content marketing. Stories have been traditionally used to communicate values and establish brands.
If we consider the stories like Akbar-Birbal or Tenali Raman, you can see content marketing & storytelling in action. Even if you haven’t met Akbar-Birbal or Tenali Raman, you still remember them because of the storytelling and the stories were used to established them as brand to communicate morals to the kids.
In the truest sense, content marketing dates back to 1732, when Benjamin Franklin first published his annual ‘Poor Richard’s Almanac’ in an attempt to promote his printing business.
That makes content marketing 285 years old. Let it sink in for a minute. The hottest trend in digital marketing is been practiced for 285 Years.
Now, let’s get back to the question – why content marketing?
In short, the answer is, because traditional marketing is no longer effective to hold the attention of the audience and convince them to take action.
Never been in the history of mankind, people have been bombarded with the amount of ads or promotions they are exposed today. We’re approximately exposed to 5,000 ads and promotions together a day. And, unfortunately, it is not working.
Too much ad exposure has forced us to evolve. we’re now subconsciously trained to spot and skip the ad from a mile.
Moreover, traditional ads are interruptive by nature. They interrupt us while watching TV or listening to music or driving down to somewhere. We now switch to a different channel when an ad is played on TV or radio or wait for the ‘skip ad’ to appear on Youtube and using Adblock tools while browsing.
This evolution has made it difficult for the brands to thrive on advertising. The effectiveness of the traditional media is diluted. And, the attention span of the audience is diminishing like never before. We now have less span of attention than a goldfish.
These consumer changes have forced brands and businesses to search for alternatives to reach customers without interrupting them and engage people so that they want to hear from them.
And, that alternative is content marketing.
Content marketing provides value to the audience which traditional ads never did.
Content marketing educates the customers/audiences to the point they are convinced to buy the product from the brand.
Content marketing creates a sense of reciprocity with the audience because they’ve already benefited from the brand through the content. And reciprocity is one of the powerful influencers. Take the example of this blog. Since most of you were benefited from the free content I’m publishing on the blog when I launch a paid course, some of you feel obligated to buy it. That is the power of reciprocity.
Content marketing attracts customers for almost free. Of course, nothing is free when it comes to marketing. But content marketing continues to attract customers for such a long period it makes it almost free.
Content marketing creates trust. One of the most important benefits of content marketing is the trust it creates with the customers. For example, the free content I publish on this blog has helped to create the trust from you.
Apart from these benefits, content marketing forms the top of the funnel to any business and drives more visitors to the funnel. So, more content means wider top of the funnel and more visitors entering the funnel.
But, if the quality of the content is low, even the wider top of the funnel will not be able to attract more visitors because the content lacks the suction power to do so. It is more important to produce content with better quality than producing more content.
Also, content could be the first touch point with a customer, even if it is an ad. Considering the importance of ‘first impression’ it is important to invest the same effort in the ads too.
I guess this should’ve convinced you the power of content marketing and why content marketing is important to brands.
Let’s now move on to the different types of content.
The Different Types of Content
Almost all the content published out there online can be classified into 5 types.
- Interviews & expert roundups.
- Data & Case studies
- User generated content and
- Curated content.
Let’s have an in-depth look at each.
Almost 75% of content published will fall into this category or type. Most of the bloggers prefer this type of content because it establishes them as a thought leader or expert in their chosen niche.
This type of content could be an article or a blog post or a podcast or a video. The main focus of the content is to share your knowledge and expertise with your audience.
These contents are produced by you (you write them personally) or a ghost writer (someone writes for you without taking credit for the content ) or the content created by your content team (if you are a big organization with a dedicated content team).
Most of you know Neil Patel. He is able to build such a huge brand by producing ‘Gyan’ content. Even though he doesn’t share much about the results he produced for his clients or the work he has done, he has established himself as one of the top digital marketing experts out there by producing tons of ‘Gyan’ content. That is the power of Gyan content.
If you want to become a thought leader in your niche, you should focus more on producing ‘Gyan’ content.
When it comes to ‘Gyan’ content, there are two approaches – personal experiences and thought leadership contents.
The personal experience content helps to create a personal connection with the readers. You can talk about how you achieved the results (that are important to your readers), the problems you faced and how you overcame them, lessons learned in professional life, mentors you look up to, books you read and more. Adding personality through the personal experience content is an important part of your brand building efforts.
The thought leadership content helps you to establish professional credibility with the readers and position yourself as an expert. Thought leadership content comes in different formats. let’s look into them.
How to articles/post are the most popular post type used in thought leadership content. People always have the question about how to do this or that and regardless how many posts are already out there, they still want more.
If you look into my posts, you can notice most of them belongs to this category.
Few of the popular titles are:
- How To …. in [#] easy steps
- How I do (or did) ….
List posts or articles, popularly known as listicles are the next popular content type. Readers love lists because they give a definitive sense about the content.
Few title ideas to start your creative juices:
- [#] Secrets To ….
- [#] Types of ….
- [#] Tips For ….
- Top [#] ….
You can also do product reviews and comparisons which would be received well because it helps people to make a decision and choose a product and it will also help you make some $$ through affiliate programs.
You can also do opinion posts about the latest trends or new items related to your niche.
2. Interviews & Expert Round-ups
Networking is an important skill and creating interviews & expert roundups content helps you to excel at it. interviewing different experts in the niche helps you to produce content that is different from your usual perspectives and also gives an opportunity to expand the horizon of your readers.
While interviews are where one person answers multiple questions, the expert round-ups focuses on one question answered by more peoples. expert round-ups helps readers to get different views from various experts for a particular question.
Publishing these contents also helps you in reaching the audiences of the experts featured in the article because most of the time the experts tell their audience about the content they are featured in. It also helps in getting backlinks.
Though I have done several interviews, doing an expert round-up post is still pending.
Conducting interviews not only helps your readers but also helps you as you can learn a lot from asking the right questions.
3. Data & Case Studies
This is one of the hardest to produce and the most rewarding content type.
As it requires more time and effort, data based content like surveys, polls, and analysis of existing data is one of the least produced content. As the results published will be quoted by people in the industry long after the content is published, it is one of the most rewarding content to produce.
Also publishing one real case study adds more credibility to you as an expert than tens of how to articles or listicles.
4. User Generated Content
In this type of content, you bring the users together on a platform such as a group or a forum and the users, in turn, produces the content that is consumed by the other users with or without much of your contributions. facebook groups and forums mostly thrive on the user generated content. blog comments are also one of the users generated content type.
The success of this type of content depends on the quality of the users who create the core content, the users participate in the discussion around the content, and the moderation of such discussions.
The Learn Digital Marketing Group on Facebook is a good example of this content type. I recently ran a meme creation competition that resulted in 25+ memes where I did almost nothing but used the content to improve the engagement in the group.
Pepsi, Coke, Redbull, and GoPro are few of the brands who have excellently used the user generated content to grow their brand reach and engage the audiences.
5. Curated Content
If you are running tight on the content calendar and need to publish a quick post, then this will be your favorite content type.
Pick a topic, search the web for a list of content published on the topic, collect a number of them, write a brief intro or summary about each one and your post is ready to publish.
This would also keep your readers happy and engaged and get you backlinks from the sources listed in the post or article. this type of content also helps you to get closer to the audience because you’re shedding the self-promotion.
A right mix of all the above-mentioned content types will definitely help you to become a thought leader and a trusted expert in your niche.
Content Delivery Formats
Before I conclude this post, let me tell you about the different content delivery options. The same content will have a wider reach if it is delivered in different formats.
The major formats are:
- Images (visual)
- Video (audio-visual)
Written Text: Text as in articles, blog posts, ebooks, white papers, emails, and social media posts, still remains the widely used content delivery option.
Images: Images like memes, infographics, cartoons, slide decks, and charts are catching up with the text content. In recent times, people feel more comfortable in interacting and sharing image based content more than text based content in the social media.
Audio: Audio as podcasts is seeing a spike in the recent times. Since more people prefer to listen instead of reading while commuting and working, podcasts and audiobooks are being used by bloggers and publishers.
Video: Video is touted as the next content channel to watch. with YouTube and recent Facebook’s love for videos, the production of the video has more than doubled than before.
It is also assisted by the growing speed and penetration of mobile internet. Studies have shown that people are spending more time on the mobiles than desktops and consume most of the content on mobile. this is confirmed by the explosion of services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime videos, and HotStar.
If you can afford to produce more video content, I would recommend you to put your efforts on this delivery format.
I hope this post has given you a good introduction to the content marketing, types of content and the content formats. Content marketing is the only marketing that works and your success as a brand and an established expert depends on how well you are able to execute it.
A sound plan with smart execution and consistency will help you achieve your goals. You should also read about the evolution of content marketing that I wrote a while back.