Content Marketing…A Useful Methodology or Just Something To Do In Your Spare Time?

16341601This is the third in a series of posts on the topic of online networking and social media.

I’ll be the first to admit that I am a bit cynical about Internet-based business networking sites such as LinkedIn, or Lumpedin, as it is affectionately known in some circles.

The whole idea behind this type of business networking is that you participate through process that has come to be known as “Content Marketing’, which basically involves feeding in blog posts (your own or links to others), joining groups to offer more content in the form of discussion starters and commentary, that will allegedly demonstrate your massive talents to everybody who is tuned in. There are also, evidently, a number of other forms of content marketing that you can employ, as you will see in some of the content below.

Why I’m So Cynical

Now the reason I am cynical about all this, is very simple. For the vast majority of people humping away religiously at trying to create relevant, informative and useful content that somehow demonstrates their expertise and doesn’t feel ‘selly”, all this effort generates zero in terms of new business or seriously interested contacts. Now this is not an absolute…because I have occasionally heard of people who actually do generate business from this process. But honestly, they are few and far between.

If you were to step back and think about social media as a marketing tool, for the vast majority of people involved, it is, at present, almost completely useless. A small minority of people get lucky from time to time and are able to realize some sort of return on their investment. But frankly, the only people I know of who really are able to capitalize on social media are the people who teach other people how to use it. I’m not criticizing these people. Some of them are very good friends and I love them dearly. What I am critical of is the structure and all the so called rules that have been created for marketing your business via this medium.

The following is an excerpt from a conversation thread that ensued from a discussion I started on my favourite group…Sticky logoBranding. It’s actually quite revealing about the different schools of thought regarding the subject of  “Content Marketing”.

Q: Isn’t content marketing just another terms for blogging? If it is, why isn’t it called blogging?

John Hyman
It is so much more than just the blog! Yes, the blog is the cornerstone- a repository for your content- but the term also applies to the other tactics, both inbound and outbound, that extend the reach of your blog. In total, they comprise a diverse content marketing plan.

John Runk
It’s called “content” because “devious marketing disguised as benevolent, obligation-free information” was too long of a title.

Yeah, John…but it’s a lot more accurate. What a load. People invent new names for the same old stuff just so they can create the appearance of having something new to say. It’s kinda sad in a deceptive sort of way.

John Runk 

Jim, it’s no different now than it’s always been. As marketers, we’re always on the lookout for new ways to disarm customers. The difference, if there is one, is that our industry is now drinking its own Kool-aid.  The idea isn’t new. Just the title.

Jeremy Miller

Before blogging there was email newsletters. Before email there were print newsletters. The idea of creating and sharing valuable content (whether print or digital, or written, audio or video) has been around for a long time. I think the main difference today is the costs have come way down. Every company can and should be adding content to their marketing mix. Blogging is just one method of distribution.

John Runk
That’s a good point. And not just cost, but access.

Jeremy Miller
It’s no-brainer marketing. The tools are free, if not virtually free. The cost of creating content is inconsequential, especially if you have in-house talent. The great differentiator is in quality and creativity.

John Runk
Sure, Jeremy. Still, Jim has a point. “Content” is a very ambiguous term.

Jeremy Miller
The benefit of the English language is it evolves with time and use. Content Marketing has meaning. It even has its own Wikipedia page:  Blogging carries different meaning. It has a different Wikipedia page: Just use the phrase that fits 🙂

Inga Friesen
I agree that the idea isn’t new, and the title is neither here nor there. And yes, it’s much more than blogging, including video, how-to guides, info graphics, e-books, white papers webinars, even social media engagement, etc. This definition from says it well: “Content marketing is the art of understanding what your customers need to know and delivering it to them in a relevant and compelling way.” The final objective of content marketing hasn’t changed, ( to lead the consumer to buy ) but the focus of how to reach that objective has. People are sick of overtly being sold to and are considerably more cautious in giving a business their loyalty and trust.The place of content marketing now is to build relationship based bridges of trust and confidence, to earn the right to sell.

John Runk
Seriously, Jeremy? You want to settle this discussion with Wikipedia? : )  All mock astonishment aside, I like Wikipedia’s first sentence describing content: “Content marketing is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers.” I wish I could bold and underline “any marketing format,” if only to put a wry smile on Jim’s face.

Nuntxi López Unanua
For me, these are two different concepts. Blogging is a crucial tool that focus on the features of internet, while content marketing is a communication strategy. But I also think that it became fashionable to increase unnecessarily functional titles of the worker roles in the communication area. Why? ‘Snob’ springs to mind.

Debbie Ouellet
I agree with Inga’s comment…”People are sick of overtly being sold to and are considerably more cautious in giving a business their loyalty and trust.” There’s also too much demand for a customer’s attention today. We’re not as glued to the TV as we were in the past when advertisers held us captive every 15 minutes. It’s harder to go to the consumer, so now they have to woo the consumer to come to them. Providing some valuable information (content) is a good way to do that. My two-cents worth…

John Runk
People have never liked the notion of being sold—long, long, long before “the term “content” ever emerged. For years, surveys proved that even though consumers claimed they weren’t influenced by advertising, they were. And for years, advertisers made their ads and spots entertaining to try and divert consumer attention from the fact they were being sold. And that’s precisely what “content” is doing now. But this discussion didn’t really begin as a debate on the merits of content. It began as a discussion on the definition of content. The definition is rather broad and sometimes unclear.

To me this is just a lot of pussyfooting around. Who actually has time to read all the ‘content’ that flows so freely on the Internet? And since about 80% of the ‘content’ is somebody re-posting somebody elses wisdom, how that that get you any closer to getting new business? Questions do abound. There used to be a thing called direct marketing…nowadays it just seems to be getting more and more indirect. I don’t get that…it defies a lot of natural laws as well as the laws of marketing. I’m starting to develop a theory that ‘content marketing’ is really nothing more than a marketing tool that content marketers use sell to…well whoever they can. More power to them.

Inga Friesen
Regardless of the delivery method, great ‘content’ that draws a consumer in:
– is relevant to their wants or perceived needs
– is engaging and human, meets them where they are at
– informs and educates without being pushy ( people who actually care about helping their customers, not just making the sale, are best at this )
– understands it’s market, and is tailored to to resonate
– empowers better decision making
– stands out in a Seth Godin ‘purple cow’ sort of way

The point isn’t that no one can read all the epic amounts of general content online, and even in print, it’s about being very intentional with the content that we develop and put out, positioning it to be found by the markets it’s designed to speak to. There’s no room for complacency or narrow thinking as to methodology of delivering our message to the market, so keeping a conscious finger on the pulse of the strongest most current trends, and adjusting the content delivery accordingly, is essential.

Stephen Pigott
Sticking to “demand creation” before the other marketing big guns go off. I never liked the “shotgun” approach to getting the word out- specific targeting, after some sort of demand creation (Jeremy Miller) set up, using other aspects of the “mix”- don’t bother them- unless you really have some value to offer or extend along the way, Inga’s right: relevance to the prospects needs are tantamount to doing good business

Let’s call this a group contribution to the furtherance of content marketing, whatever the hell it means.

Egad, More Content

Here are links to a couple more of my posts on social and business media marketing

O&U SignatureI create and implement strategically focused

branding, advertising & promotion for companies

who appreciate solid creative thinking and value reasonable rates.

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