I like to think it's common knowledge that if you're marketing your business online, content is one of your top priorities. Pop up ads are the most hated form of advertising ever dreamed up (so much so that their inventor has publicly apologized for their existence), and you're likelier to survive a plane crash, get struck by lightning, or win the lottery than you are to click on a banner ad. Social and mobile ads have a somewhat better success rate, but conversions still aren't particularly high.
All of these facts, figures, and tales seem like they're making a pretty cut-and-dry case for content creation, don't they? Hold up a sec. Let's not get ahead of ourselves.
I'd like to direct your attention to an infographic put together by Rebuild; one which makes the case for a slightly different form of content marketing: sharing. With content creation, you're looking to establish an audience and draw in leads from that audience. You're looking to show consumers that your brand has something valuable to offer beyond its products: information that entertains or informs them.
By contrast, content sharing works a little differently. You're not trying to sell anything, and sales messages about your brand are both ill-advised and functionally irrelevant. What you are trying to do is get people talking.
"Sharing content has a slightly different purpose [from creating content]," writes Adweek's Kimberlee Morrison. "It is an attempt to start a conversation with fans, followers, and customers. Exposing the customer to the information this way usually isn't seen as marketing, and could increase trust in your brand."
And trust is something that's in short supply these days, especially where advertising is concerned. The days when a business or brand could directly control its image are well behind us. In today's world, even a single slip-up could end up plastered across the web.
"Let's face it: your brand is defined by the interactions people have with it" says Carlton Doty of Ad Age. "Despite all the activity that you try to catalyze through campaigns, individuals more commonly interact with your brand outside of those carefully orchestrated messages. They spread messages by word-of-mouth -- positive or negative -- and that, whether you like it or not, is your actual brand image."
And word of mouth is what social media's about at its core.
Already dealing with a severe image problem (causing multiple financial disasters will do that), many businesses in the finance sector took to social media in an effort to correct their poor relationship with consumers. They failed, due to a combination of poor planning, a lack of understanding of the platform, and ill will on the part of consumers.
They didn't share content that was particularly interesting or relevant. They didn't engage in genuine conversations with their customers. Instead, they simply used social media as a news channel; an attempt to brute-force their way back into the good graces of the public.
They also failed to pair it with a content marketing strategy. Coincidentally, this revelation brings us back to our initial question; the core of this piece. The truth is that your business shouldn't exclusively create content, nor should it exclusively share it. It should do both.
The creation of unique, informative content is incredibly important to draw people in. At the same time, sharing relevant content on social media - especially if it's not created by you - is a great way to inspire conversation among your followers and fans. And engaging in that conversation is, in turn, the best way to maintain positive relationships with your customers.
It's common knowledge that if you're planning to market your business online, you need content. What a lot of people don't know, however, is that the content you utilize need not have been created by you. By combining content creation with content sharing, you can reach and engage with your consumers on a deeper level than if you were exclusively focusing on one or the other.
And that brings more success than traditional ad models ever could.