But, while all the attention has focused on Social Media itself and its darling Superstar offspring like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, there's an unassuming but just as important Superstar that hasn't gotten its due attention.
Of course, Social Media is a big part of the story.
But if you look at things with a slightly different lens, you'll see an even more fundamental change has been taking place. You'll see Social Media in a supporting role and discover that the real "leading lady" is the Message, not the Medium.
Smart Marketers Get the Message!
The "Gift" of Content Marketing
Think about it. Your company knows not only the products and services that you sell but also knows a lot about the topics your customers are interested in that relate to your business. Take Clorox as an example. In researching and developing their cleaning products, one wouldn't be surprised if they learned a lot about people's concerns related to germs and cleaning. By creating content to help parents learn about how to keep their children away from germs as they do here in 5 Fun Ideas for Keeping Kids Clean they take what they know about a topic of importance to their customers and turn it into useful appealing content. Not all that much different from the type of article a reader might find in magazines like Family Circle or Health. Which would you rather read? An article with fun ideas for getting your kids clean or one entitled "How Clorox Cleans Bathrooms Better Than Other Brands"? This new marketing trend is what Bob Gilbreath in his recently released book The Next Evolution of Marketing: Connect with Your Customers by Marketing with Meaning calls "Marketing with Meaning" where the focus is on improving customers' lives through the marketing itself. It's also what Seth Godin is talking about in his bestselling book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? when he encourages sharing talents and knowledge freely- by giving gifts. Godin suggests giving these gifts will make you indispensable. And not surprisingly, content marketing is the very type of marketing that customers actually seek out - and even more importantly in today's social media environment- share and discuss with others.
Whole Foods: Supermarket or Nature Foods Media Company?blog, via its Facebook fan page and on its 150 different Twitter accounts, Whole Foods provides a wide range of useful content- from tips on eating healthy while traveling to advice on the health benefits of Adzuki beans to lots of delicious recipes posted on Twitter to how-to videos including How to Carve A Turkey - they are a fantastic resource for healthy eating! Of course, this content is relevant to the products Whole Foods sells. But the content doesn't just sell products, it also has an independent value to me as natural foods enthusiast. In Seth Godin's terms, it is the "gift" that Whole Foods offers me. And by providing me with this valuable information, this "gift", Whole Foods makes it much more likely that I will buy their products -- and tell my friends to buy from them too.
Every Company is A Media Company
8 Ways to Think (And Act) More Like A Media CompanySo, where do you start if you want to help transform your company into a media company? It begins with thinking and acting like a media company. Here are some suggestions for how you can think (and act) more like a media company:
- Think Audience
- Cherish Your Content
- Put It In Your Marketing Plan
- Commit to Your Content
- Rethink Your Marketing Team
- Make It Easy for Your Content to be Discovered and Shared
- Expand Your Calls to Action
- Broaden Your View of Key Metrics
Media companies spend time thinking about their audience and what their audience wants. Ask yourself who your potential audience is? What problems do they have that you can help solve? What are they curious about? What are their aspirations? What scares them? What motivates them? What do they want to learn more about?
Chances are you know this from your consumer insights research. But don't just assess this research from a consumer lens or use the research solely for conventional marketing uses such as product development, positioning and messaging. Use it also to brainstorm the type of content you can offer to enhance your audience's lives -- even if they never buy from you or become your consumer (but they will if you do this right!). When thinking about creating content forget about selling- focus on informing, inspiring, entertaining, and helping your audience.
Recognize your content as a valuable asset. Media companies value, nourish and protect their content. As a marketer, you make serious investments in marketing - tag lines, marketing campaigns, branding and visual identity, and other marketing assets, etc. If you're going to be a successful media company, you need to invest in content and believe that this content has real value. Acknowledge the value of your content. Quantify it. Start thinking of you content, as Social Media strategist Jay Baer suggests, as an information annuity.
Start by getting a handle on your current content assets by conducting of an audit of the content you already have. Do you have content you can repackage, update, spruce up? Do you need to invest $ and money in building new high caliber content. Remarkable content isn't free or cheap to create -- even though today it sometimes seems that way. Recognize that building compelling content audiences will respond to requires an investment of energy, time, creative talent and money. Don't take content for granted.
Make your content strategy an official part of your marketing plan. You wouldn't dream of having a marketing plan without a messaging strategy, pricing strategy or distribution strategy, would you? To become a media company, you need to expand this to include a content strategy that you can apply across multiple platforms (or channels). Put it in writing and make sure everyone on your marketing team knows it is a key element of your plan.
Once you have an overall content strategy, you need to nurture and maintain it. One way to do this is to develop an editorial calendar. You can't just put a few terrific articles out there and stop if you want to be a successful media company. The best media companies plan out their content on a calendar schedule and make reporting or writing assignments based on this schedule. This is what helps them turn their content strategies into reality.
You must sustain the creation of remarkable content if you want to sustain traffic and an editorial calendar is your tool to do this. Add your editorial calendar to your list of key marketing tactics. Take it as seriously as any media company would. Maintain it, manage it, and treat it with the same respect you treat any of your other marketing calendars.Don't just put content out there and forget about it - monitor how your audience is responding to your content, ask them for feedback and ideas, and adjust your content strategies and editorial plans accordingly.
To be a media company, you'll need content creators on your team. You may need to rethink the who's and how's of your marketing team. You need people who spend their time (or at least a part of their time) thinking about marketing from a content marketing perspective. You need people who have the talents and skills to create truly remarkable content. Does anyone on your current team show promise of being a content creator? Do you need a Chief Content Officer - someone who can own your organization's content marketing strategy?
Do you need to hire new people? Or perhaps bring on some freelance writers (turmoil in the publishing industry has created a tsunami of true independent talent in this area - perhaps you can bring on an embedded journalist)? Maybe you need a new type of agency beyond your current agency roster - one that can help you plan and manage your content strategy? Junta42 an industry expert in content marketing can also help you find a content marketing vendor through their free matching program.
Media companies distribute their content via multiple platforms- trying to reach as many potential "eyeballs" as possible. They make sure their content is easy for people to find. As a media company, you need a plan to be sure your content "shows up" where your audience is. Today this means putting your content where audiences are increasingly likely to be - on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in addition to hosting your content on your own hub site or blog. You should have an editorial calendar (see above) for publishing your content to these different social outposts.
You need to optimize your content for social media if you want it to be discovered and shared by audiences. Optimizing your content for traditional search engines like Google is no longer enough- as people become more likely to discover content via their social networks than they are to find it via traditional searches. You need to be sure your content uses not only the right keywords but also the right headlines, descriptions, tags and other socially relevant metadata. This is where you need to integrate content marketing into your overall marketing strategy very strategically.
You probably work hard on making sure your marketing landing pages includes strong Calls to Action. You should still focus on Calls to Action, but you may be asking people to take some additional actions. Media companies want to grow and engage their audiences, so they ask people to share their content with others, to comment on their content, and also sometimes to bookmark their content.
Remember to explicitly ask for these things in addition to integrating share buttons on your blog or website. It's remarkable how simply asking someone to Tweet about your article or Share the article on Facebook (given the content is appealing) will boost the number of people who spread the word. I'm not suggesting you remove more conventional Calls to Action. But if you're serious about thinking like a media company, you'll focus too on getting people to interact with and share you content. Here's a great example on one of my favorite blogs MakeUseOf.com of asking directly for people to share your content.
For traditional marketers, conversion, cost-per-click, and purchase performance metrics are paramount. Through the lens of the content marketer, conversion of course is critical ultimately but other metrics count too. Focus on engagement metrics too!
What counts for engagement? Measurements like return visits, time spent on site, shares, likes, comments, and bookmarks to name a few. Understand how people demonstrate engagement with your content and make sure you measure and track these measures too. Don't exclusively focus on these metrics for your hub (blog or website) but also measure engagement for your social media outposts (Facebook Pages, Twitter accounts and YouTube Channels).