Until the late 1990s, people had only a few choices for getting information and entertainment: TV, radio, print, movies.
In order to get the content they desired, people had to suffer through ads at the beginning, end or throughout their entertainment.
The internet was built on the same model — using interruption marketing and advertisements to pay for bandwidth — like newspapers, radio and television did before.
Then some interesting things happened.
TiVo, DVRs, satellite radio, pop-up and ad blockers came on the scene, allowing people to skip advertisements. People in the street were too busy looking down at their cell phones to notice billboards anymore. People on the internet developed banner blindness and didn’t click advertisements like they did in the 1990s and 2000s.
New technology means new choices and options for consumers. Businesses still have to get their message out, but they have to do it in a way that is more clever, more entertaining, and more helpful to their audience. Content marketing is the new advertising, and winning customer attention is more critical and more accessible to everyone than ever before.
What Content Marketing Is and Isn’t
While advertising is about selling the features and benefits of a product quickly and directly, content marketing is more about helping the consumer first, and establishing the business as one that can be trusted. Content marketing and advertising both rely on making potential customers aware of the brand, and getting them into a funnel that eventually produces sales.
Advertising is about renting space on a page, screen, or airwaves for a set time and price. But content marketing centers around keeping possession of the material being produced. Building “evergreen” content that is always relevant and useful is a cornerstone of this strategy.
Content marketing can done through a number of channels. Blog posts, articles, microsites, podcasts, webinars, videos, virtual hangouts, infographics, case studies, e-books, white papers, and in-person events are all examples of content being used to market a brand, product or service. The end goal is to persuade people to do business with you by increasing brand awareness, showing expertise, and most importantly, giving value to the customer at each stage.
Social media is a part of content marketing as well, but in many cases, their terms of service dictate they own the content you publish on their platform.
Social should never be the end game. I like social media as another avenue to build on the brand story. But social content should lead back to the main website, where conversions can occur.
Content strategy is a term you might hear, and it is the most important part of content marketing. Content strategy involves the inventory, assessment, categorizing, re-purposing, creation, and publishing of existing and new content.
Traditional advertising hasn’t died and will probably keep evolving to survive, but it’s not as effective as it was in the 20th Century. Content marketing has risen to become an effective means of brand awareness and targeting customers in the Information Age. Creating content that helps customers, solves some of their minor problems, and establishes you as someone they can trust gets them into your conversion funnel. Each piece of content out there on the web is another way for customers to find, connect with, and trust in your brand. And best of all, content lives forever, while advertising does not.