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What Is Content Marketing?

If you want to get official, according to Wikipedia content marketing is “any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers.” Or as Lee Odden put it on the TopRank blog:

Content Marketing is the thoughtful creation of content designed for a specific audience to inspire a particular outcome. It is often mapped to the information needs of a target audience segment during the customer journey from Awareness, to Purchase to Advocacy.

Now, what does all this mean? Let’s break it down.

What is marketing?
Marketing, of course, is more or less anything you do to tell potential customers who you are and what you do, with the intent of turning the potential customer into an actual customer.

What is content?
Content is text, images, video, audio, or any other media.

So, what is content marketing?
If you have a company website and there is content on it, is this content marketing? After all, it’s content, and you’re using it for marketing, right? Well, maybe, maybe not. Most people wouldn’t refer to your website as content marketing. But you can engage in content marketing on your website. A big part of content marketing has to do with the “sharing” aspect mentioned by Wikipedia above. If your website is merely a brochure and it’s not specifically designed to be shared, then I wouldn’t call it content marketing. If everything about your website is designed for people to share the content on it, then that’s different. But it’s easier to understand if we have some concrete examples. Here are some things that are most definitely content marketing:

  • Infographics
  • White papers
  • Blog posts (like this one)
  • Case studies
  • How to guides
  • Books and ebooks
  • News
  • Video
  • Articles
  • Photos

All of these are media that can be used for content marketing. I’m a contributor to Forbes magazine. I write about startups and entrepreneurship in Hong Kong, and occasionally about online marketing. Is that a form of content marketing? You betcha, although I took the gig mostly just because I love writing. I also write on my personal blog, and I often write content that is related to the services MWI provides. Is that content marketing? Definitely. Is public relations content marketing? Yes. Is SEO content marketing? There is definitely a lot of overlap.

How can content marketing help me?
Well, that’s the $20M question, isn’t it? Here’s an easy example. I mentioned I write for Forbes. A few months ago I was contacted by Ally Biring of the UK SEO firm SEO Gadget. Here’s how she involved me in some content marketing for one of her clients, Hotel Club.

Hi Joshua,

How are you-I hope you had a good weekend.

I wanted to introduce myself to you as I have just completed working on a project which I thought would appeal to you. I have been researching and designing an infographic titled Is Hong Kong the New Tech Hub of China? I thought this would appeal to the readers of your column on Forbes. The infographic  explores the population and connectivity of China’s biggest tech centres, the thriving start-up culture currently blossoming in Silicon Harbour, and the role of the government in fostering Hong Kong’s stunning growth.

With your knowledge of starting up a business in Hong Kong I was hoping to get your thoughts on the infographic. This topic has been discussed before on Forbes in this excellent article and I wondered if you felt this would be something that the readers of Forbes would enjoy.

If you have any other questions please do get in touch!

Kind Regards,

Ally

As a journalist, it’s publish or perish. I’m always looking for good articles, and I know that if I publish an article with a good infographic in it, it’s more likely to get shared. Ally not only made me feel good with her intro email by complimenting my writing and showing that she was familiar with it, but she showed me how by doing a favor for her and her client, I’m also helping myself. She also happened to have impeccable timing. Here was my response:

Hi Ally, this infographic is a perfect fit for an article I’m working on and I would love to place it in that article, pending my editor’s approval. I’ve reached out to him and will let you know.

Thanks!

I finished the article, included the infographic Ally sent me, and here’s the final result.

The great things about content marketing this way is that everyone wins. As a journalist, I won because I got a nice infographic to put in my article and it didn’t cost me a dime. Forbes wins because infographics attract readers and get shared more. Readers of Forbes win because they get an interesting infographic to look at which gives them information that might be helpful to them. Ally wins because she can show her employer that she got a client infographic placed in a major publication. SEO Gadget wins because they can show the client they got their infographic placed in a major publication. And the client wins because they got great exposure and a very good link. Plus I turned it into this blog post you’re reading now, which benefits all those parties all over again.

The client likely paid HKD$24,000 to $48,000 for this infographic and the placement thereof. But they’ll get a return on their investment for years to come as people continue to read the article and the link provides SEO value. But it doesn’t stop there, because that infographic will spread around the Internet and be used on other websites in addition to Forbes, generating even more exposure and good links for the client.

Now, you might be asking yourself why I’m writing about what another SEO firm, a competitor, did for a client, rather than writing about what MWI has done for a client to show off our own skills at content marketing. Remember how I emphasized the sharing aspect of content marketing? One aspect of good content marketing is that it’s credible and interesting. Content that comes across as blatantly self promotional does not get shared as much as content that is objective, even handed, and interesting. By giving something up to a competitor, this blog post you’re reading comes across as more objective. Rather than just an advertisement for MWI, which hardly anyone would share, this blog post becomes a helpful resource, which people will be more likely to share.

In addition, by mentioning competitors like TopRank and SEO Gadget and linking to Meltwater, I’m developing goodwill, possibly putting MWI on their radar if they haven’t heard of us already, and frankly I don’t see them as competitors. A few kilometers to the north of Hong Kong is a place called China, which you may have heard of. There are more smartphone users on the Internet there than there are people in the entire United States. Simply put, there’s plenty of business for many times the number of Internet marketing firms that currently exist. It’s more likely that one of my so-called competitors will become a partner than that we’ll be repeatedly fighting for the same clients. Plus when you mention someone in a resource, sometimes they mention the resource, which means more sharing. Yes, I’m exposing tactics here, but if I weren’t, what value would there be in this post?

Are there forms of content marketing I left out? Do you have examples of great content marketing campaigns? How has content marketing helped your business grow?