The First Example of Content Marketing
Benjamin Franklin was a smart man. At age 22, he opened up his printing business. The year was 1728.
Franklin had some success in the beginning. He bought out his partner shortly after opening to become the sole owner of the business. Then in 1729 he purchased the Pennsylvania Gazette from his former boss.
Franklin ran several promotions for his business over these beginning years, but none of them succeeded at the level that he wanted. He needed a new way of advertising. One that would blow the other methods out of the water.
So he created a little publication called Poor Richard’s Almanac.
The reason for the almanac wasn’t to get rich off of its sales. It was to raise awareness of Franklin’s printing business and give consumers a regular reminder of the quality work he puts out.
Ben Franklin might not have realized this at the time, but he created a modern form of marketing that is more important today than ever before…
Enter Content Marketing
Content marketing is far different from your traditional types of marketing. You know those ads you see on Facebook and Google, or billboard ads on the highway? Those typically aren’t content marketing.
Instead, content marketing involves creating engaging and entertaining content for customers to enjoy.
These can be commercials that make us chuckle (think Geico); free pieces of content like podcasts, blogs, and vlogs; and memes.
In fact, content marketing can’t be limited to anything because it’s more art than marketing, and art is limitless.
But above all, content marketing involves storytelling.
These stories can be told in short pieces of content, or over a long period of time through several pieces of content. In either case, the purpose of the marketer is to draw in customers through masterful storytelling.
A product may be the best on the market by any objective standards, but simply pointing out all of its best features isn’t content marketing.
A content marketer takes those features and builds a story around them. They get the audience to care about their products and brands on an emotional level.
But why does this work?
We humans are suckers for a good story. It’s in our DNA and isn’t going away anytime soon.
We obsess over stories in every medium, from movies to books to songs (look at all the stories Bob Dylan sang).
Our love of stories makes them much more attractive than plain facts. Consider this quote from G.K. Chesterton:
“People wonder why the novel is the most popular form of literature; people wonder why it is read more than books of science or books of metaphysics. The reason is very simple; it is merely that the novel is more true than they are.”G.K. Chesterton
Stories speak at a much deeper level than mere facts.
And when you start speaking to customers at a level beyond their wallets, you begin to build relationships with them.
3 Types of Content Marketing
Brand use 3 different types of content marketing to tell their stories and build relationships with consumers.
They are online, offline, and hybrid.
Online content marketing involves every aspect of the internet, including social media and Google searches. This is what we see every day, and what companies are putting a ton of attention into.
Online content marketing can involve writing content for a blog; recording audio for a podcast or video for a channel; and creating memes to share, just to name a few.
Offline content marketing takes place in the real world. These are the newsletter we get in the mail and the advertisements we see on TV. They can also be printed forms of media, such as magazines and books.
The distinction between offline content marketing and traditional advertising is that content marketing tells stories. Storytellers can use offline tools just as much as online tools to tell the same story. Both work well when used right.
But together, they can be even more powerful. That’s where hybrid content marketing comes in.
The intersection of online and offline content marketing comes in more ways than you might think. Many people who find themselves in front of a large audience will utilize the hybrid strategy of taking a selfie with the audience and posting it to their social channel.
They will then encourage their audience (the physical one) to check out the selfie online. This uses a classic tool (photography) to bring people from an offline marketing event (the reason why the influencer is on stage in the first place) to their online content channels (Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, LinkedIn, etc.).
Companies that Get it Right
Content marketing in its current iteration is hundreds of years old. Countless companies and brands have tried their hand at it, and the results have spoken for themselves. Here are some examples of companies that have done content marketing right:
Coke: “Share a Coke”
You know this campaign. It’s the Coke bottles that have your name on it. And your friends’ name. And your parents’ name.
Coke took 150 of the most popular names and allowed consumers to personalize their bottles with their name. The soda drinking community exploded.
Now, the campaign has been taken to the global level, with bottles lining shelves across the globe featuring every name imaginable.
Why it’s successful: Personalization.
When consumers feel a personal connection to a product or brand, everyone is happier. And not much is more personal than a name.
The lesson to learn from Coke is to always keep the customer in mine when drafting your content marketing story.
GoPro: Visual Marketing
In the world of Instagram and TikTok, content for visual marketing has become an incredible asset. And no company has used incredible visual content to tell a story quite like GoPro.
GoPro knows that their customers value high-quality videos of some adventurous things: surfing, hiking, skiing, and such. So they set out to prove their product is worth the price by showing these very same quality videos.
As a result, GoPro currently has 8.62 million YouTube subscribers. These people haven’t subscribed because they saw an ad for GoPro. They love the videos.
Why it’s successful: Spot-on visual content.
You don’t need to ski down Mt. Washington to put out visual content like GoPro. Infographics can be just as effective.
Marketing guru Neil Patel states that infographics can double traffic to your website. Even memes can bring more traffic to your website!
HubSpot: Give, Give, Give
Ever heard of “Inbound Marketing?” If so, you’ve no doubt heard about HubSpot, the company from Cambridge, MA that literally coined the term “inbound marketing.”
HubSpot puts what they preach into practice in the form of countless free pieces of information that is available to you right now.
Their blog posts are incredibly in-depth and authoritative, and so rank high on Google. If you are within their target audience, they will have no doubt influenced you in some way, even if you never buy from them.
Why it’s successful: They give WAY more than they ask
Gary Vaynerchuk preaches how brands need to do this. Giving way more than taking is the path many companies have taken to success, and none more so than HubSpot, which has become the industry leader.
Put Together a Content Marketing Plan
No matter what industry you’re in — be it finance, writing, construction, or even just your own personal brand — content marketing will help you achieve your end results.
So many people hesitate from actually jumping into content marketing. They’re still holding onto old-fashion techniques that worked just fine before storytelling became cool in marketing.
But, the biggest barrier to entering the world of content marketing is that you may not know how to. This isn’t a “barrier” in the true sense of the word, but one that you impose on yourself.
Because the truth is that not even I know what I’m doing! If you’ve read more of my content then you’ll know for sure that I absolutely am just winging this whole blog and social media plan.
And that’s okay, because it’s an easy thing to learn in the field, and that’s the best way to learn it. I can’t map out for you exactly what your specific content marketing plan should look like, because I haven’t the faintest idea why you have even read this far.
Yet here’s a brief overview of what you should consider when setting up your content marketing — storytelling — plan:
Blogs, Vlogs, and Podcasts
These are what you should be using to tell your story. From these three things — encompassing the written word, video, and audio — you can take massive pieces of content and break it down into many smaller pieces.
Take a look, if you will and for example, at this recent Facebook and LinkedIn post:
This is a piece of content that I made using a quote from my article discussing the benefits and virtues of silence. It is a smaller piece of content made from a much larger one.
And there are countless more pieces of content I can and will make from that article on silence, plus every other article I have published.
Vlogs and podcasts can offer the same bountiful selection of small bits of content. For both video and audio, you can take small clips and turn them into posts.
GaryVee is a master of this. His Instagram is full of short audio and video clips from longer form posts.
A well-crafted story won’t do you much good if you don’t have the means of sharing it with your audience. In years past, this was a much more difficult task. But thanks to social media, your audience is at your fingertips 24/7.
Social media has changed the world. Way back when television was the dominant form of media, the dominant players were ABC, NBC, and CBS.
If you had an idea for a show (maybe one that ultimately promotes your brand) and wanted to get it on one of these networks, you would have to fight your way past countless competitors and through numerous gatekeepers just to even have a hope.
Those gates were thrown wide open with social media. Now the dominant players are those such as Facebook (which includes Instagram and WhatsApp), YouTube, LinkedIn, Spotify, Snapchat, and TikTok.
Anyone who has an idea for a story can post it for free on any of these sites (and countless more too). Plus, the data these sites give on how audiences react to content is invaluable.
Now, before you jump on every app on the market, you have to figure out who your audience is and what apps they are on. Having social media channels that are outdated and unused are worse than having none at all, so make sure that whatever apps you create an account on, you’ll actually use!
With every channel, as yourself “What’s my goal?” Gaining followers isn’t a goal; but targeting a certain demographic of people on Facebook and converting them into website visitors is a goal.
Once you define your goal, you need to figure out what types of content will work well for that specific channel.
Blogs, vlogs, and podcasts can all live on your website. But how they are broken down into tiny pieces of content will be based on what channels you’re using.
Instagram and Pintrest are great for photos, while LinkedIn and Facebook prefer videos. Snapchat and TikTok also uses videos, but in much smaller, bite-size lengths. Twitter is great for short blurbs.
What works on one site won’t necessarily work on the others. That’s why it’s important to create separate pieces of content for each site. Don’t just make a 1:1 image and blast it across 10 different channels; it may work on Instagram, but it would fall flat on TikTok.
To create the best content possible for social media, you will need the right tools. Thankfully, there are plenty of free resources online for this.
- Canva is a great resource for creating images and animated memes to tell your stories with. It provides you with templates for various social media channels and types of images (like infographs). You can edit these images to fit your story, and send them out into the social world! Canva is available as a website or as an app. I’ve used both and am very happy with the results.
- Getting the right keywords for your content will help bring more eyes to your posts. Google Keyword Planner can help you figure out what keywords are trending on Google. It will give you an in-depth look at how keywords are performing in terms of SEO and other keywords you may consider using. Use these keywords for #hashtags and such.
- Scheduling content posts in advance can insure that your content keeps up with your posting schedule. I use Buffer to schedule my posts. It’s easy and free for up to 3 social media accounts.
Conclusion: Why Content Marketing Matters
As you can see, content marketing is WAY different from other types of marketing. But they all fit under the same broad family of tool to help promote your brand.
A clear, concise content marketing strategy can improve your marketing results exponentially, but only if you keep one thing in mind:
CONTENT MARKETING IS STORYTELLING
I can’t say that enough. Content marketing is simply telling a story. And that’s why it’s so difficult.
Content marketing requires us to become authors. We have to craft stories like Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kerouac, not assault our customers with ads like traditional marketing.
But when we do this — when we create a story for our audience — we win their trust. And this is much more valuable than any short-term sales.