Last week I posted results from a study of B2B marketers using content marketing in social media. Major findings from the study show lots of firms using content marketing in their social media strategy, but few finding the hoped for results in market performance. Since that post, I’ve read a number of authors posting their take on the study. Some blame poor performance on a failure to develop a cohesive content marketing strategy. Other blame it on unrealistic expectations on the part of marketers.
Personally, having worked with a number of clients from both B2B and B2C marketing firms, I feel the problem is deeper and involves misunderstanding of how content marketing is different in traditional media and social networking. Too many firms think you can just put up advertising and call it content marketing. While traditional media primarily uses this advertising model, content marketing in social media requires a TOTALLY different approach.
Maybe an example will help.
Traditional media and social networking are different
In the old days, a year or so ago, firms used lots of crazy strategies to keep from creating really useful content. They did this because it is a lot cheaper to manipulate SEO by buying links, reciprocal link building, and keyword stuffing. Google fixed that — first with Panda, then Penguin, and, most recently, Hummingbird (they have an obvious preference for exotic animals). Many firms, especially big firms who invested heavily in SEO experts, have resisted the transition. It just didn’t fit their modus operandi.
Plus, they don’t understand how to create content — content visitors will find valuable and addresses their search queries. Coming from traditional media, they just don’t get that creating content in social media requires knowing your target audience and helping them. You’re no longer paying for their programming and subsidizing their magazines and newspapers. You have no currency to trade except your willingness to HELP them. Content marketing is different in traditional media and social networking.
It’s all me; all the time
Sure, they’re willing to create content about how to use their products, which products are best for which needs, and reviews of their products. They’re not willing to talk about anything except THEM.
And, frankly, most consumers could care LESS about you. They want solutions to their problems.
Discover problems and provide solutions
Differences between traditional media and social networking provides options for real communications to solve customer problems.
Instead of a traditional media strategy of talking about yourself, content marketing in social media means you think about providing value to visitors: information (not about you), entertainment, community, etc.
As an example, a firm selling telecommunication systems created a content marketing strategy around sustainability. What did this have to do with their brand? Nothing except it positioned their brand as a good corporate citizen and provided insights visitors could use to enhance the sustainability of their own firms. The sustainability blog even featured posts about how potential clients were acting on delivering sustainable products. Posts caught the eye of potential clients, keeping the telecom firm top of mind and creating a positive image for the firm. This made the sales person’s job so much easier when contracts came up for bid and resulted in gaining new business for the firm.
I face a similar challenge when I discuss a content marketing strategy with new prospective clients. I even had a prospect tell me they’re really not comfortable talking about anything except their brand in their content marketing in social media. This reflects a fundamental disconnect in understanding how content marketing is different in traditional media and social networking.
Content marketing options
Traditional media and social networking difference provide new options for content marketing.
Any number of topics are options for content marketing, depending on the particular target market you serve. All these options build traffic to your site, improve brand image, and keep visitors on your site longer.
- Social marketing – for instance, Dove builds confidence in teen girls through their campaign for real women. Several brands include issues of bullying in their content marketing strategies. Any topic supporting social responsibility can fit any brand — it just takes a little creativity.
- Gamification – creating entertaining games and apps builds engagement and supports your content marketing strategy. For instance, Geico offers it’s app that let’s you diagram and report an accident through your smartphone. They also offer ringtones and games building on the popularity of their Gecko.
- Forums – operating forums offering peer advice and support helps many brands. I did a study of the Disney community and found assistance related to Disney parks, but also help for families traveling with special needs individuals, small children, and inexpensive options.
- News – LinkedIN, in an effort to keep folks on their sites longer and visit more frequently is creating and curating new content. Mashable, Social Media Today, and other platforms operating in the social media space fill a similar need for their target audiences.
- Information – is probably the granddaddy of content marketing strategy. It builds your reputation as an expert while it’s building visits to your site. Many leading social media marketers feature a blog like this one, where they share their expertise to help businesses struggling to understand this new media. Like me, they don’t fill their blogs with reasons for hiring them or about how they’ve helped their clients, or even about speaking engagements. They fill their blogs with information to help others in a selfless effort.
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