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Content Marketing: A Warning & What To Do Next

This post was originally shared on Mical Johnson’s blog

Slippery road

Slippery road (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being involved in the internet marketing community for over a decade, I’ve always been on the cutting edge of new ways of doing business online, including creating content marketing strategies for my clients. In that time I’ve also witnessed major corporations jumping online trying different tactics to boost their profits. Some, like Amazon, embraced it early on while others, think of banks here, have been slow to move.

One thing has become clear over the years, as someone immersed in the internet marketing culture, it means that I can move much faster than the big companies can. I’m more agile in my thinking and I can find demand for a product where they would just over look it.

It’s our ability to move quickly at the speed of thought that will be our advantage over the bigger, slower, more rigid corporate houses that exist.

Over the last decade we have all watched the rise of social media, but I think only a few of us realize the full potential of what it offers. We now have the ability to create our own media, our own audience. We no longer have to be at the mercy of TV, Radio, Newspapers, and magazines to reach our target market.

For the few that have realized that building their own audience is the future of business, this is a wake-up call. When the big corporations start to figure out what’s going on it’s time to take notice. There’s still time to act for us. There’s still time to take advantage of this new found reality.

There Is Still Time…

Content marketing is the cornerstone of this movement to create your own audience. Most have avoided it because of the time involved to create awesome content. Pay attention to this next sentence very carefully… The time will come when it will be more expensive to advertise than it will to create your own high quality content and build your audience.

Content marketing is the power to tell your story to the audience it resonates with no matter where they are located or on what device they use. Technology is making it much easier to tell our story as a business or brand of one.

Where Do You Go From Here?

To understand where to go next, you need to realize the perspective of where you are coming from. Take a look at this Google Trend graph and see how the term “content marketing” has become much more widely used in the news and media.

 Google trends graph of content marketing from 2004 to 2013

You will notice back in 2011 that content marketing as a subject was still not widely being spoken about. There were a few people that were championing the cause, but for the most part it still sat in obscurity. Even today if you went into the small business world and talked with businesses whose main source of income doesn’t come from the internet you will be hard pressed to find someone who knows and understands what content marketing is.

When you start climbing the corporate ladder, you will find varying degrees of understanding. When you finally make it to the executive level, you find that the CEO’s and CMO’s of the world don’t necessarily understand content marketing in the terms that we describe it in the internet marketing community, but they do understand the power of it.

Consultants and advocates of content marketing have given them examples like Blendtec. The CEO of BlendTec, Tom Dickson, back in 2009 said that the sales of their blender had increased 700% since they launched the YouTube channel. They have continued the posting of videos to this day. How much of an increase in sales do you think they have now 4 years later?

On the corporate side, big companies took notice back in 2010 when Old Spice launched a social media campaign responding to social media chatter about commercials they where running at the time. They created almost 200 short videos responding to questions and comments posted mainly on twitter. Today those videos have over 227 Million video views on YouTube alone.

This doesn’t include the views on all the other sites the videos ended up on or the video views that they received on their on website. But that’s not what made the big corporations pay attention. It was the fact that sales DOUBLED in one month because of that campaign.

The question that should be asked by the executives and by you is: Can this type of social media stunt be sustainable?

For all the nuances in these two different campaigns, one is content marketing and the other is not.

Old Spice vs. BlendTec

One thing I want to point out from the very beginning is that I think the team that put together the Old Spice campaign did a brilliant job at it. They took advantage of a circumstance that was happening and created interesting quality content around it to take advantage of it.

Old Spice created a very successful campaign using great content, but it was not content marketing.

Four Cornerstones of Content Marketing:

  • Simple Repeatable Format
  • Consistency
  • Reliable Schedule
  • High Quality

Let’s take a look at each of the cornerstones and see how Old Spice and BlendTec stack up against each other.

Simple Repeatable Format

When Old Spice launched their social media campaign they made videos by addressing the users, made smart remarks about the person in a way that encouraged more engagement and participation from the community. Old Spice didn’t continue the campaign because the scale at which they produced the videos wasn’t very sustainable and cost effective.

BlendTec on the other hand keeps it simple. They ask the same question at the beginning of every video, “Will it blend?,” and at the end the answer is always the same “Yes”. BlendTec also includes pop culture items to blend so it can increase the reach of it’s viewership. Now they have added special guests (Brandscaping) to further increase their audience. BlendTec has done it in such a way that it’s simple, repeatable, and reliable. Every video gets over 100,000 views within days of the release. The more popular ones have over 10 million views.

Consistency

There are different levels of consistency, but the key is that it’s done more than once. The more the better. Old Spice was consistent with the releases of videos and the quality of the content. However, it was only over a very short period of time (2 days). BlendTec on the other hand produces consistent videos over a much longer period of time. Since 2007 they have made about 130 videos with over 217 Million views. The difference is instead of a spike in sales like Old Spice, BlendTec has enjoyed a steady growth in sales over the years.

Reliable Schedule

This is the most important element of content marketing and creating your own audience. For it to have any value to your business, you must have a top of mind presence in your consumers head. For your business to be able to direct your customer base, you must set expectations for your audience. TV, Radio, Newspapers, and Magazines have done this for years. If you have a favorite show, you know exactly when it’s going to be on TV. Same goes for the radio. You also know when the new issue of your favorite magazine is going to be released.

This is where Old Spice and the other major brands are failing miserably. They don’t produce content on a reliable schedule. BlendTec has quietly and without much fanfare produced videos on a weekly basis for years and built an audience that they direct every week. People talk about what is going in the blenders and who is showing up on video. And they keep going shopping for more and more blenders each and every week. That’s the power of content marketing for you.

High Quality

Old Spice had a team around them that created their campaign. The quality was a byproduct of the great team that was a part of it. Old Spice could afford to hire outsiders to do that. Most likely, in your business you will need to have someone internal do it. The message is the most important part.

The viewers will be forgiving at first because they understand this isn’t what you are really good at. But the quality of your presentation should be getting better with every new release. You can see the quality difference in the first videos of BlendTec over the newest ones but the ever important simple format and quality of the message has stayed intact the entire time.

What To Do Next For Your Content Marketing?

There is still time for you to go out and build your audience with the Four Cornerstones of Content Marketing, but you must commit to each one of them. Here’s a quick action list to take you to your goal.

1. Decide on a medium: Don’t try to be everywhere. Pick one format you are really good at. I used examples of video here, but it could be infographics, images, blog posts, presentations, or what ever medium you are great at now or with practice could be great at.

2. Decide on a simple repeatable format: Look at your medium and see what types of formats are working. You don’t need to create a different type of format, just a different angle. Here’s an example. The show American Idol has 3 judges, amateur participants, and audience judging. Simple repeatable format right?

Let’s look at other shows that also follow that same format; X Factor, The Voice, and Americas Got Talent, just to name a few. I think you get my point. They all follow the same simple repeatable format with a different angle. You may have to experiment with different formats until you find one that resonates with your audience and subject matter.

3. Decide on a release schedule: How often are you going to release new content to the audience that you are growing? The format you decide on can also have an effect on this. Will it be Daily, Weekly, Monthly, etc. Once you decide on a release schedule, keep in mind it’s easier to release more often and not piss off your audience than it is to release it less frequently. Start with what you think will be the minimum frequency of releases that will be acceptable to your audience.

4. Create an editorial calendar: You may have heard this referenced a few different way such as content calendar, blogging calendar, etc. The point here is to know ahead of time what you will be talking about. This will keep the “I don’t know what to make” excuse out of your mind.

5. Decide on Quality Now: Before you make your first piece of content you will likely see varying degrees of quality online. Decide beforehand what is acceptable to you and your business and never go below that. It’s okay to increase the quality, but with rare exception is it okay to let it slide.

6. Do it and Stay to it: Once you start it’s so very important that you don’t stop. You will be experimenting with different formats and topics in the beginning, but once you find what’s working…. keep doing it and don’t stop. Life happens, Businesses will distract you, but you must commit to doing your schedule every time without exception.

Conclusion:

The winds have changed and content marketing is quickly becoming the only business strategy that will make a difference for your success in the very near future. It won’t make a difference if you are producing content online or in the traditional sense. You will have to participate if you hope to succeed.

Thoughts? Leave them below.

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