What Exactly IS Content Marketing, Anyway?

under Content Strategy.

penLet's be honest - advertising isn't exactly what it used to be. Consumers today have little patience for being marketed to. We've devised a host of tools, systems, and solutions to shut out traditional marketing. That leaves anyone who's unable to adapt in a rather difficult spot - how do you sell to someone who's already geared to ignore you?

The answer is simple: Content Marketing. "Smart marketers," reads the Content Marketing Institute Blog, "understand that traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective by the minute, and that there has to be a better way. Enter content marketing."

For those of you who don't know exactly what it is - buzz-phrases tend to be pretty ill defined, after all - content marketing is a marketing technique whereby you create regular, relevant content for a website. The idea is that users are going to come your site in order to see that content - and that when they're there, they'll likelier be more willing to support your brand. Pretty simple, right?

Well...not exactly. See, being a successful content marketer isn't just a matter of belching out a few blog posts and hurling them onto the 'net.  You need to ensure you're actually creating something people want to see. In essence, you almost need to treat your blog as another arm of your business rather than a marketing campaign.

"The key word here," writes Forbes' Joshua Steimle; "is 'valuable.' It's what changes this definition from one that would describe almost any form of advertising or marketing. You can tell if a piece of content is the sort that could be part of a marketing campaign if people seek it out, if people want to consume it rather than avoiding it."

In case you were wondering, a lot of content marketing is done with the aim of going viral - even though it's not really something you can pare down to a science.

Of course, that definition on its own is a bit of an oversimplification. Things get a little more fuzzy when you take into account the fact that many apparently traditional advertising campaigns - such as Dos Equis' "most interesting man in the world," - have gone viral in their own right. While these ads don't really offer any knowledge or information to the viewer, they're nevertheless entertaining and interesting enough that people actively seek them out. What that means is that they can easily be used from a content marketing standpoint - even if that was not their original intent.

See, at the end of the day, that's the big secret behind content marketing - and what makes it such a formidable means of raising brand awareness. It makes people want to discuss your brand - it makes them want to seek it out, and share information about them. That'll bring more customers in, who'll tell their friends and bring more people, and...

You get the idea.

The simple fact is, the modern consumer hates being sold to. And that, more than anything, is why content marketing is so powerful - because you aren't selling them anything. You're giving something back to them, and they in turn are repaying you with their readership and - eventually - their custom.

Image credit: Maria Reyes-McDavis