What is Content Marketing? Everything You Need to Know
It takes more than just an advertisement strategically placed here and there to build a brand.
These days, brands are expected to be not just a household name, but an authority, valuable, relatable, and an integral part of your audience’s lifestyle.
This is where content marketing comes in. Your audience wants content that’s relevant to their lives but that isn’t intrusive. They want to know that you’re not just a brand, but a resource – whether that’s for valuable information or simply entertaining content.
But making sure this content is hitting the right notes with your audience (and at the right time) is a bit trickier than recording a funny cat video for TikTok. It’s an integral arm of your marketing strategy that requires thought.
In this article, we’ll give you the skinny on content marketing, what it is, and how to take a pulse on your content marketing strategy.
(We’ll pause here while you watch funny cat videos on TikTok).
Ready? Let’s do this.
What is content marketing?
In a nutshell, content marketing is a marketing strategy used to attract, engage, and delight your audience in a way that is natural and authentic. Our trusty friends over at HubSpot define content marketing as “the process of planning, creating, distributing, sharing, and publishing content.”
The intent behind content marketing is to:
- Increase conversions
- Improve your brand awareness
- Build relationships between you and your audience
- Help your audience understand how your product or service can solve their problems
- Boost your revenue
- Establish yourself as an industry leader (brand authority and trust)
- Build brand community
Content marketing is used across nearly all industry sectors, regardless of business size. There’s a good reason it’s such a ubiquitous strategy. With nearly all Gen Z customers making purchases through social media, and over 3.6 billion people scrolling through different social media platforms, for many businesses, content marketing is their only form of marketing.
Let’s look at some types of content marketing.
Types of content marketing
There are a number of ways to use content marketing as part of your marketing strategy. But not all types of content marketing work across the board for all brands. Which type of content you choose is as important as what you put into your content.
Here are the most common types of content marketing.
Social media posts
Social media content marketing is a savvy strategy that is used to make sure your content is both tailored to your audience on that particular social media platform, and ends up in their feed.
What do we mean by this?
Well, consider different social media platforms and their users. You won’t get the same audience on LinkedIn as you would for TikTok. While there is considerable overlap in who would use both platforms, what they use them for is totally different. Therefore, regardless of what you’re trying to achieve – whether that’s a product or service launch or building brand awareness – how you go about it will be different on each platform.
However, not all platforms suit all brands.
There are several platforms that you can use (e.g. Pinterest, Tiktok, Instagram, Facebook, etc.) with different ways you can promote your content.
Blogs and articles
Think the blog is dead? Think again.
Blogs can be one of your fundamental tools in your content marketing tool belt. They are what’s called “inbound content,” meaning that it’s content that your audience consumes at their pace and convenience. This is opposed to “outbound content,” which is content that is inserted into your audience’s regular flow, such as email campaigns.
But with blogs and articles, you can not only showcase your expertise, but promote new services, products, and build your brand authority (and even your email list).
Blogs and articles are also a great way to use content marketing because they can be repurposed in many ways. They can be broken down and used in social media sliders or infographics, they can be used as pillar pieces of content or as part of a cluster topic, giving your website organization and keeping your audience engaged.
You can add social share buttons directly on your content, and optimize your content using keywords, hyperlinks, and so on, to make sure your content ranks higher on search engines.
Infographic content marketing
Content marketing is slating very much towards the visual these days. With social media platforms that are visual-heavy, such as Instagram and TikTok, infographic content marketing is a great way to showcase your know-how.
Infographics display your content in visual and digestible ways and present data that’s easy to understand with copy that’s short and to the point.
Infographics are a good choice if you’re trying to deliver information that might not be understandable to your entire target audience.
Podcast content marketing
The 2020s is the rise of the podcast (along with the rise of podcast ad spend). With over 48 million episodes aired in just April 2021 alone, there’s content out there for everyone. And marketers are tuning in.
But why are podcasts such a great content marketing tool? For the exact same reason blogs, articles, and long-form content are: creativity and expertise.
When it comes to more complex or in-depth topics, podcasts are a medium that allows organic conversations to happen, which generates new ideas. They’re also a way to forge connections with more audience members by hosting other experts in your industry. Those experts then bring their own audience wheelhouse with them.
See how it benefits everyone?
Video content marketing
In 2022 alone, over 85% of businesses reported using video as a marketing tool. Why? Because the vast majority of consumers say they prefer video to learn about a brand’s product or service.
Video content can also be shared across multiple platforms, and even embedded in your website landing pages. Video marketing can improve ROI, boost conversions, and help build your brand image through relationships with your audience and colleagues in the industry. It’s all about sharing the love, after all.
(Can Ryan Reynolds make a video for all of us? Maybe with funny cats.)
Paid ad content marketing
Paid ad content marketing is a specialty of its own. It allows you to position yourself in all the areas you want to be seen, reaching a broader market than organic leads would allow. To get the most benefit from paid ads, pair your campaign with inbound marketing, such as articles, video content, and blogs.
Emails still land near the top of the content marketing chart. You can run multiple email campaigns at a time, focusing on a particular buyer persona and call to action (CTA). They can be used for upselling, cross-selling, awareness, or nurturing.
Content marketing: step-by-step
Now that we’ve covered what content marketing is, how do you go about creating your own content marketing strategy?
Good question. And while the real answer is “it depends on your brand,” there are a few general steps you can take.
1. What are your goals?
From the outset, you need to determine what your goals are – no, not just with your entire business (we’d all like to be Elon Musk, but let’s be real). But what are your goals with this specific content marketing strategy?
Are you looking to:
- Build brand awareness
- Promote a new product or service?
- Offer yourself as a brand authority?
- Reach a new target audience?
Once you figure out what your particular goal is, then you can start narrowing your focus.
2. Determine your KPIs (key performance indicators)
In content marketing, a KPI is a measurable figure that shows how effective your content marketing strategy is. Basically, what are you going to use to measure how well your marketing strategy is working (or not in some cases).
Our friends over at SEMRush provide an excellent breakdown of content marketing KPIs. They break down KPIs into four pillars:
This is broken down into: User behaviour, new and returning users, average time on page, bounce rate, pages per session, and traffic sources.
Engagement includes things like upvotes, shares, comments, likes, and mentions. This engagement is often social media-focused.
SEO outcome includes measurements in organic traffic, backlinks, dwell time, and keyword ranking. These are fairly easy to measure and give marketers the opportunity to make rapid adjustments if needed.
Last, but probably the most important, is company revenue. Are your efforts literally paying off? How is this measured though? Again, SEMRush gives us a breakdown of what company revenue as a KPI means.
- Existing leads nurtured
- New leads generated
- Cost per acquisition
- Content marketing ROI
3. Nail down your content type and channel
Does it make sense for you to promote your new product on Instagram? Or will a newsletter campaign work? Or maybe both?
Or perhaps you’re looking to build brand awareness and SEO blogs make more sense to achieve that visibility.
Whatever your chosen method of content is, don’t forget you can repurpose this content in other channels.
Your budget will also go hand-in-hand with your KPIs. How much can you reasonably spend on ads? Do you need to hire social media marketers for a new campaign? Do you need a digital marketing agency?
All of these factors should be considered when budgeting your content marketing strategy.
5. Create and distribute your content
Now you get to pull out your creative chops (or hire someone to do it for you).
But this isn’t just about writing blogs and posting images.
Working through a content calendar can help with long-term planning and mitigate against the ever-dreaded social media floundering.
By creating a content calendar, you can ensure your content is on-brand, relevant, and interconnected.
6. Analyze and measure your results
Remember those KPIs? Now is the time to look back on them. Is your content meeting the expectations you set out? If not, how can you adjust?
Digital marketing is a fast-paced world and your content marketing strategy needs to be flexible.
Keep your finger on the pulse of your results.
Bonus: a few final tips for effective content marketing
Here’s a few tips to get you going with your content marketing strategy:
- Understand your audience
- Think inspirational
- Can you incorporate user-generated content?
- Try to avoid interrupting your audience with outbound content
- Look at your content and assess if it feels natural (your audience will tell, trust us)
- Create a narrative for your content
And last but not least:
- Be authentic. Your audience can see inauthenticity coming from a mile away.
Sparked is a committed partner in your content marketing strategy. Are you ready to get started? Contact us today to speak with a content marketing professional and let us help your brand shine online.