Updated: Oct 12, 2021
Let me guess, when you see the term content marketing, you immediately think of content, or creating content, or creating content that the target audiences likes.
I don’t blame you - a lot of self-claimed gurus would say the same. But I’m here to tell you content marketing is actually way more than that.
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Anyone who has directly spoken to me will tell you that Joyce is hard-headedly passionate about the subject matter because she never starts the conversation with execution ideas. Content marketing is like this bottomless well, which leads to so many different places. It spans from its immediate categorization of marketing to the nerdy stuff of structured data and data analysis. Content Marketing, therefore, should (and is) about the whole infrastructure of justifying content at selected touchpoints (that are properly structured) to deliver messages that differentiate the brand from its competitors because it knows how to speak directly to its target audiences.
That was quite a mouthful, but here are 10 examples of what you most likely have not known or misunderstood about Content Marketing:
i) Content should be fully utilized, not merely executed
I believe in the power of fully utilizing every piece of content. Whether through executions, distributions, ad buys, or adaptations, the true art in content marketing unveils all of the potentials hidden within your existing assets.
Creating seemingly interesting content based on your target audience’s persona is just covering the tip of the iceberg. You are not driving anyone further down the funnel unless you know how to tell the same story differently to fit each platform’s specific quality and users’ behavior.
Content Marketing offers the structure to distribute content effectively and efficiently at different touchpoints, whereby the brand’s message remains consistent. Therefore, traffic traveling in from any top-funnel sources is informed to a similar degree. Instead of creating content just because they feel right, content marketing goes from aligning brand propositions with target audience persona and then splintering down into justified executions on different distribution channels - never the other way around. This centralized approach keeps things coherent, even with our influx reception of information in an omnichannel manner.
ii) It is not about creating more new things; it is about scaling things that works
More than often, content creators do not know what caused their content to succeed. It is common to see so-called gurus blaming it on hashtags, posting times, choice of visual, or use of words. Though those elements could induce a degree of impact, the real problem here is they create posts to test, whereas a real content marketer would already have content pillars to justify why they are even testing the piece of content in the first place.
If you are doing content marketing right, you will never be off on a blind road as there is always a framework for you to fall back on, assess, and replicate. While most people waste their time and effort on testing random executions; a real content marketer uses their time to spot content patterns through each content piece. Instead of identifying things like the choice of words as the cause of a poor-performing post, a content marketer can identify which specific pillar is weak and go back to adjust it with collective data. More importantly, they can tell what has caused certain posts to perform well through the specific content patterns they see under respective content pillars. Then, it’s just a process of nailing down the best format and scaling it.
iii) Content marketing is NOT the same as copywriting
I love getting asked if I copywrite because I get to explain to them the difference between copywriting and content marketing, and how granular copywriting is when compared to content marketing. In essence, copywriting is creating text that makes a product or service appear better than it is in order to persuade people to take a specific action. Content creation, on the other hand, is creating content that describes the product or service in a way that attracts the target audience.
They are completely different things!
Content creation under content marketing includes no exaggeration - it is just an alignment with the target audience’s preference. Content is much more than just text, and the way it can attract the target audience can span from platform appropriateness, subject matter, lingo, to the way it is retargeted and placed in the funnel.
Instead, copywriting sits within advertising, and advertising sits within marketing. The two are from completely different schools. Though copywriting, from the traditional marketing school, can be very advantageous for driving clicks and initiating action, it only feels appropriate when placed in the down funnel portion of content marketing. So may I be quite honest and say that those who are hiring copywriters as their top-funnel content creators are not doing content marketing.
iv) It is for humans as much as it is for A.I.
People still fall for the trap of justifying content subjectively, instead of viewing it as a piece of property online. For real human beings to see your content, it needs to go through search engines and algorithms, and if the AI behind these functions can’t understand your content, your content is just as good as a sticky note lying on the ground somewhere.
This is why you often see SEO come up in content marketing-related articles. The both go hand in hand. If you decide to neglect SEO and just write a blog, I would suggest you to stop wasting your time.
So many people think their websites are okay because it looks nice, or because there are blog articles on it. But rarely do they consider if their blogs are even hosted on a proper blog site that allows Google to crawl through and recognise their keywords. This is why content marketing is so important. It is both art and science, and it recognises the need to balance ideas and concepts as much as keywords and searchability.
v) If you are really doing Content Marketing, you would not be using (or creating) content templates
I understand that a lot of small business owners or entrepreneurs appeal to the idea of purchasing content templates. But I don’t understand why any content marketer would create these and sell them. The profit margin is tiny, they are creating an excel or word file of paragraphs with empty spaces, and it screams isolation from any sort of tailored content strategy.
Content marketing should be initiating content ideas from top to bottom and responding to target audience reactions by refining content executions through spotting content patterns. All executions should come from specific content pillars. And though one could argue the content pillar for most entrepreneur would involve things like behind-the-scenes and owner’s sharing, I can never wrap my head around why anyone would think one size can fit all.
vi) Content Marketing can’t be done in bits - you either do it or you don’t
I have been asked things like, “Can't I just do a blog and try it out first?” And the answer is no. As digital strategist Jono Alderson said, “You wouldn't say, "should I do 20% of a TV advert, or should I only solve 20% of my marketing question", you do as much as you need to control the messaging and to convey the information you want to convey."
Unless the blog has the keywords derived from search results, which are based on the brand’s target audience’s behavior, and that blog is hosted on a site up to par for both humans and AI, plus it is following a content strategy backed by content marketing, how can that blog possibly showcase its real performance?
vii) SEO and SEM drives traffic; content marketing converts traffic into relationships
Many people get excited seeing traffic come into their website. I mean, I do too. But a lot of these people use traffic to grade their content’s performance without asking what these clicks do afterward? If these clicks just come in and immediately exits, never navigate to another page, and barely remember you at all, what good is the click?
SEO and SEM are great at driving that click into your landing, but content marketing is the real thing waiting on your website to welcome your traffic with a warm cup of tea. If traffic comes in and there’s nothing to see, why have the website in the first place?
Good content marketing provides the audience with value-adding content every step of the way. The most important thing is it makes the right people remember you.
viii) Content Marketing doesn’t survive on social media; social media needs content to survive
Content can be a post, a filter, a game, an installation. Social media is just a platform initially designed for people to socialize on. Though social media is a great tool to distribute content and help accelerate reach, content marketing does not have to be on social media. If I had the power to change people’s perceptions, I would tell them to go back to their website and email lists and prioritize that instead of the posts they create on social media.
viv) It’s about giving, not receiving
10 out of 10 times, people ask what they are getting out of content marketing. That is the completely wrong question to ask. Instead, they should be asking themselves what they can give to do content marketing. Do they have a story to tell? Do they have value to add? Are they involved in different subcultures? Can they inflict emotions? Are they solving problems? Once they have identified these things and executed them on a professional level, content marketing will spit out leads and clients. That’s just the way it works.
x) Stop talking the talk, you need to walk the walk
Saying you are a lifestyle brand doesn’t make you one. Tagging your products with travel doesn’t make it true either. If you want to grow your brand into an industry thought leader of some sort, you need to be in the culture you want to share in. If you’re a lifestyle brand, you need to offer lifestyle advice, inspirations, and better yet, have a product that aids a type of lifestyle. If you’re a brand that wants to get noticed as a travel guru, you need to go on the trips, share your findings, and prove that your product is serving the circle. A nice photo in Bali just isn’t going to cut.
Content marketing was coined some 300 years ago, and it has never been about creating more new things. Most of the time, it’s about adopting a new perspective and way of thinking through understanding the magic behind a content strategy and applying it through what you have. The real solution is to specialize, understand, and then utilize your content in a way that is attractive to your target audience. You would be surprised to see how this builds a much more consistent brand, where you can acquire more customers by marketing less.
So start scaling things that work, don’t do everything, and win more customers by marketing less.
Thinking about content marketing yourself and don't want to start on the wrong foot? I suggest you click here.