Savvy marketers no longer depend solely on traditional advertising in traditional media to reach their audience. Creating and managing their own branded media — from e-media to print magazines and from video to iPad apps –marketers now are learning that content is the glue holding their marketplaces together. Since our own Rex Hammock helped to create what is now the largest content marketing trade group in the United States, the Custom Content Council, we asked him to answer one simple question that we get asked a lot these days: “What exactly is content marketing?”
Simply put, content marketing refers to all the traditional and new ways organizations are today communicating with their customers (or members, supporters, etc.) that go beyond what many marketers used to think was the only way of communicating: advertising.
Here are just some of the most popular forms of content marketing used to engage customers, association members or supporters of causes and institutions.
e-Media: From iPad apps to Twitter streams, “the screen” is the fastest growing window into a wide array of content marketing approaches that keep customers informed and engaged. Location-aware technology, social media and customization are just some of the emerging opportunities that allow marketers to build deep and long-standing relationships with their customers.
Video: For instruction, inspiration. customer service and engagement, video can now be created by anyone with a smart phone. Finding ways to use professionally produced and user-generated video to solve a wide array of communication challenges is one of the fastest growing facets of content marketing.
Publications: Print magazines, Kindle eBooks, event programs and guides, white papers and other print and digital publications are being used by marketers to meet the various preferences of their audience.
Social Media and Social Syndication: You’ve probably heard of social media — people going online to share their interests and activities with others, but what is “social syndication”? Marketers are discovering that almost any content they create can reach a wider audience if they build in the tools that allow their audience to share it with others.
Content marketing is a recognition that we live in a world where you can’t succeed by merely creating a 30-second TV spot or a one-page advertisement. Content marketing goes far beyond those to include the information, data, stories, images, videos, games, news, events and more that serve as the glue holding together the participants of a marketplace.
(See accompanying box: “Marketing Media’s Content Toolbox”)
While that may be the “simply put” version, in reality, the term “content marketing” is a very big umbrella that covers a very wide array of trends and and emerging influences. The Internet, and the way it has changed how people connect with one-another and with the organizations they support, is the biggest influence on marketers’ recognition that micro-messages limited to a few seconds or a few sentences are no longer enough.
Organizations and their audiences are participants in a marketplace of shared interests and needs. Marketers want more and more information about their customers. And customers are exerting more and more control over how products are defined in the marketplace. We no longer live in a world of buyers and sellers, creators and consumers. With the Internet, consumers have the ability to “make or break” a product in lightening speed.
And, over the next few years, the role that consumers (or association members) will play in creating products, defining brands and setting organizational policy will continue to grow.
When your marketplace requires such mutual cooperation, you learn that it is critical to utilize as many ways as possible to communicate with and engage your audience.
And that’s where content marketing — the way we define it at Hammock — comes in: thinking beyond the traditional ideas of what marketing and media are. Finding new approaches, new tools, new channels to build stronger relationships.
That’s content marketing.