Monday, August 27, 2012

If you're not marketing content, you're not marketing.

Content Marketing builds brands. Here's how to master the Content Loop - in 7 steps:

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, 
Blogger, Foursquare, Quora, Spotify, Tumblr, Path, Slideshare, Yammer...

Social Media is in the air and it's crystal-clear Content Marketing is where the action is now. Digital marketers worldwide strive hard to keep up with the cyclical demand for quality content.

Most social media-savvy marketing managers recognize quality content as a web traffic (and business) driver, and content marketing as digital innovation (and ultimately, revenue generation).

However, despite its vital importance, when I read about content, it’s mostly the same old stuff:

Content is King… (so? what’s new?)
In these days of user-generated content, everyone’s a content producer… (oh! really?)
Content is not about quantity, it’s about quality… (anything else?)

And then, right amid the haze of cliché-geddon, I spotted... a fresh, new thought. A-ha!
“Marketing is not everything today. But… everything is marketing.”

That made me stop and go hmmm! On the same line of thought, my take is:

“Content Marketing is not everything today. But, everything is Content Marketing.”

  • Like when you uploaded the office party photos on Facebook and got 84 comments and 103 Likes!
  • Noticed how the London 2012 Games were aptly called the world’s first mobile-social-online Olympics
  • Or how every big news event (entertainment, political, cultural) also gets relayed in a multi-screen environment (PC, smartphone, tablet, TV), or
  • How most ads now end on www, facebook, @, youtube, blog, AR, or a QR code

The above may seem disparate but from a brand marketer’s outlook, it is all content marketing WIP. The term ‘content’ seems a bit of a broad stroke owing to its multi-dimensional nature.

Simply put, if you’re promoting your business via any media - offline or online - you’re creating branded content.

Life itself is a great source of stories. Owing to easy access and all-pervasive nature of social media, we are constantly creating content by expressing our like (and dislike) for everything happening to or around us.

And if that sounds too much like a Forrest Gump quote, here’s a more formal definition:

Content Marketing is the process of generating marketing and communication material, identifying target markets, and transmitting the material to specific audiences via paid, owned or earned media.

The Creative Objective is to regularly come up with material in context which the audience finds relevant enough to opt-in to receive, compelling enough to share with friends, and engaging enough to demand and come back for more - thus building a community around content.

The Marketing Objective is to amplify reach for all content i.e. make it go viral. Long term, create positive experiences via content association, to increase brand engagement, advocacy and loyalty.

Golden 2-way Principle:
Add value to your community. Harness collective intelligence to your brand.

Master the Content Marketing Loop - in 7 Steps

  1. Create
    Always craft content with your audience in mind. Be consistent. Create a rhythm.
    Keep it easy-to-digest. Packaging and presentation matter. Build your creative skills.
  2. Curate
    Excite, engage, educate, entertain your audience with fresh content to avoid fatigue.
    It’s not feasible to create content all the time. Identify and Organize quality sources.
  3. Integrate
    Synergized brand content across all channels increases impact, reach and response.
    Today's fragmented media landscape calls for integration across multiple touch-points.
  4. Socialize
    The 4 S's of Content Distribution and Delivery: Searchable. Shareable. Social. Simple.
    Listen, Interact and Engage with your audience. Learn and Respect their preferences.
  5. Analyse
    4 M's of Data Analytics: Measure. Monitor. Moderate. Modify. Decide your KPIs first.
    Build a feedback channel. Focus on insights. Select tech/ tools that work best for you.
  6. Optimize
    Unify links and organic keyword-based SEO with social search, content and offline SEO
    Optimize content for people, not search spiders. Think mobile-friendly games, apps...
  7. Monetize
    Define ROI metrics - eyeballs, brand engagement, retail sales, customer acquisition
    Evolve into a social business model - align content marketing with your sales funnel

Holistic Content Management - Working the Content Loop

Holistic Content Management is the way forward. It’d serve your business well to go about it systematically, and implement these 7 steps to manage a branded content marketing strategy. 

Working the Content Loop effectively takes multi-disciplinary skills, and calls for cross-functional teams to come together.

For best results, social collaboration is a pre-requisite. Internally at first, between marketing and tech; then across the company; and finally, externally across the business!

Point worth noting: Social change occurs gradually as it involves a cultural paradigm shift.

Three organisations achieving rock-star results via the Content Marketing Loop are IBM with their Smarter Planet initiative, Coca-Cola (Liquid and Linked Content), and (TED Talk Videos).

And where there’s content, there’s data. Given the sheer scale of content out there, it generates mind-boggling stats which make perfect fodder for number freaks and data geeks to use in their presentations - making audiences pop their eyes and drop their jaws.

Be aware! The numbers in themselves are static snapshots. The gold lies in key consumer insights, buying patterns and market findings from real-time data mining & analytics. Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome… Big Data.

In today’s content-hungry, data-driven ecosystem, digital marketing operates on two dimensions:
Social Collaboration: the new world of work from enterprise collaboration to social business
Information Management: making sense of the resultant wave of big data being generated

At a time when businesses worldwide are going from social media best practice to social business transformation, content marketing is a forward step in the evolution of the enterprise of the future.

Quite fittingly, the Content Loop is now the quintessential multi-tool in every digital marketer’s kit. Because if you’re not marketing content…

- Amar Trivedi | @Mr_Madness

Download your free copy of an eBook on Content Marketing:
How to Feed the Content Beast (without getting eaten alive!)

(Article originally published in AdMedia, August 2012 - Branded Content)

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