Forbes recently listed content marketing as the No. 1 item on their Top 7 Online Marketing Trends for 2014, and we couldn’t agree more (search and social also made the list). In fact, the day after this article was published, our CEO Ray Grieselhuber spoke at Ad Tech: Tokyo about content marketing.
We invited Steve Farnsworth, chief strategist at Jolt Digital Marketing and blogger/vlogger at The @Steveology Blog, to talk content marketing strategy on September 20 as a part of our weekly FOUND Friday hangout. Erin Robbins O’Brien, COO of GinzaMetrics, added her knowledge and expertise to the conversation as well.

What’s the definition of good content?

“We know what we want to read,” said Steve. We want to read things that offer value, that are engaging, etc. Often, marketers are seeking out ideas for content and not thinking about whether they are speaking to the right audience.
Good content for marketing purposes is:

  • Trustworthy
  • Interesting
  • Help solve a problem
  • Clear and simple
  • Unique

Regarding unique content, you may want to write about a popular topic, but there are ways to do it without reinventing the wheel. Find ways to do it better or different, Erin suggested. Be more in depth or find a new format for your information.
Here are some of Erin’s thoughts on content NOT to create.
Steve also added that sometimes you can just change your perspective to make content your own. He referenced The Illustrated Art of War that includes illustrations by Thomas Cleary in addition to Sun Tzu’s 2,000-year-old text along with interpretations by other scholars.
“The more perspective you can bring to a piece of content, the better,” Steve shared.

Tips on creating good content consistently

Finding out who is buying your product and what keeps them up at night is a great way to get insight into the type of content that will resonate with your audience.
As another option, Steve said you could also hire others to help you that are solely focused on creating content. He mentioned that people will spend more money on attending marketing events than on their own content, which may not be the best strategy considering the importance of online content.
Take a look at your budget to see where you can make changes or plan to work content marketing resources into your 2014 budget.
If you want people inside of your company to create the content, Steve suggested finding a way to incentivize them through bonuses or making it a part of their pay increase. But hiring someone else full time or working with various bloggers to produce the content may be the easier route for most companies.
Erin added that feedback from brands and agencies about hiring writers outside of their organizations is that it can be hard to find someone to write for your particular industry. For writers and bloggers, it’s important to stay on top of the latest trends in your areas of expertise so that you can write good content. She suggested that writers find a niche and become an expert.

What’s the changing role of content in terms of brands getting found online? 

Erin pointed out that you want to create great content that gets found organically by search engines and gets shared socially because that is how search engines are starting to rank results. You have to create the content reliably and “keep the ball rolling.”
She said that she expects the role of the content creators as a profession to become a reality similar to how the last five or six years has been the rise of the social media manager or digital strategist because that content can help increase your findability.

Paid + Owned Media

We are bombarded with advertising messages everywhere we turn now, so the amount of times that people need to see your message is increasing.
It’s also important to keep in mind that paid advertising is about awareness and creating a consistent message. The best way to do that is to get your ads to match up with your content campaigns.
“They don’t need to be battling it out all the time,” said Erin. “It’s not really one versus the other.” She compared the two types of media to peanut butter and jelly.
Steve also shared examples of creating highly targeted content and then buying ads that target those audiences on a network like LinkedIn. Vocus would create materials and target journalists to get earned media, which is a great example of tying paid, earned and owned media together.
“If you know already what keywords are driving people to your content and to your site, you should be creating paid advertisements that map back to what people are already looking for,” Erin said. This can help you drive people to what you think they are looking for on your site and continue that already moving tide.

What’s next for Content Marketing?

Content marketing is going to continue to rise in importance. Many companies have staff that want to write, but they have other jobs and writing gets pushed down the priority list. Hiring someone is the smartest way to go, although it’s not always easy if you are a smaller company and/or a startup.
Expect to see more directors of content at companies, which are basically managing editors for content. He quoted Tom Foremski  in saying, “All companies are media companies.”
Companies that hire those content directors and understand how to publish across multiple channels are going to be the most relevant.
Look for content creators that have a good methodology, will do their research and understand your industry. They will get better as they work with you, so there is a ramp up time.
Erin is hoping that there will be a closer bond between organic earned and paid media in the future and that those departments inside of organizations will start to work together.
Steve made some suggestions on folks to follow if you are a digital marketer. Watch the video to see who he likes to follow, and who he thinks posts the funniest tweets.