Content marketing is far from dead. But over the past three years the strategies for success have certainly changed. As the dust begins to settle, what will clearly emerge are two distinct camps: those big businesses that can leverage big money to plaster the web with premium content, and the individuals and small business owners with limited resources who can use their content as a means of leveraging real relationships.
(Read: Even if you don’t have the budget of Coca Cola or Nike, there’s still hope.)
A few weeks ago, Mark Schaefer posted an interesting article about content marketing that sent a pretty heated debate swirling around the interwebs. His basic premise was that the collective drive to create more and more content lies in direct opposition to our limited human ability to consume it all (a phenomenon he calls “content shock”). Faced with this dilemma, we automatically and even subconsciously shut ourselves off to the messages, content, and other “noise” vying for our attention online. This means that content creators have to work even harder and spend even more (time and money) to gain our attention.
We are thus fast reaching a point where content marketing will not make financial sense for small businesses working with limited resources. Only those businesses that can afford to invest enormous amounts of money to “flood the market with quality content” will get enough of a return.
Now, I’m not going to debate here the specific points of Schaefer’s article, nor will I mention any of the counter points that other bloggers brought up, because the reality is that all of these posts have an element of truth to them.
I will, however, point out some irrefutable facts:
- Content creation and consumption is exploding
- People… are… getting… jaded by it
- The best content doesn’t always get noticed. In fact, most times it doesn’t.
- There are many big companies throwing big dollars into content marketing (…and some of them are getting it right.)
- With personalized search Google has openly made a link between your network of social connections and the kind of content that you see when you do an online search. This means that if someone follows you or shares your content, then it increases the chances that their followers will be exposed to your content, too.
- There are many bloggers, self-employed professionals, and small businesses successfully using content marketing these days and leveraging this content to drive targeted traffic to their sites with moderate amounts of time, money, and effort.
What’s their secret?
There are No Shades of Gray in (Successful) Content Marketing
The Internet has changed significantly over the past 3 to 4 years. It used to be that you could write a decent post on your blog, do some minor blog promotion, and the traffic would come. Not to mention that in those days, Google seemed to favor bloggers- even over other informational sites.
Today, there is just way too much competition and way too much watered-down, and out-right spammy content out there for the majority of small business content creators to stand out. Simply producing more content and better quality won’t do it, either.
Realize that content marketing among small businesses is not a gumball machine. You can’t just put in a quarter, turn the handle, get a return, and then walk away. It’s an on-going, hands-on process– a process that is based on truly understanding your ideal customer and the problem(s) you are trying to solve and building relationships with other people, including mentors, peers, and your customers.
If you are serious about content marketing, and you are working with limited resources then you practically have no choice but to produce good content, while simultaneously making real connections, leveraging real relationships, and eliciting some real engagement from your target market.
Is this a lot of work? Yes! But, it is also an opportunity for you to carve out your own space full of respected peers and the kinds of customers you want.
Quality, targeted content is important. But, what many small businesses fail to recognize in their content marketing efforts is that it should be a means to an end. You are looking to start a conversation with the people you know you can help, not just make quick sale or generate a ton of social sharing. With the right approach, this kind of content marketing can be a very powerful and profitable process, and it doesn’t take a big business budget to execute, either.
Great post Susan. Thanks for helping to move the dialogue forward!
It’s dialogues like these that will hopefully create a little clarity for small business owners in all the online marketing confusion.
I enjoyed reading this post!
A lot of what is happening online (particularly in social media) just seems like one big, sleazy and automated sales pitch. I guess that’s also part of the reason why we are disconnecting. You really have to work hard to find the real people and the real businesses that they are running.
I agree that the whole “sleaze” factor is shutting people off. But, it’s also all the sensationalism. How many times have you clicked on a compelling headline and then were disappointed with what you found when you got there- and often this happens with big, reputable sites.
For small business owners, part of the focus in content marketing is not just on delivering the quality content, but showing visitors and potential customers that there is a real person or team behind it all. This is something that big businesses can’t really do.
Great post. It gave me some things to think about. I think all of this applies to bloggers too.
It definitely applies to bloggers- especially if you are earning any money off your blog.