What is content marketing?

What is content marketing, anyway?

Simple. It’s ‘creating the stuff that gets more people buying our things’ — right?

Once upon a time this would have been correct, and it still has a nugget of truth in it, but as you’ve probably noticed by the hype in recent years, the idea of ‘content’ has become so much more.

Hark back to 2010 when it was all about knocking up a customer/patient leaflet, a snappy infographic or a slick new app — a simpler time, before the world went mad.

Without warning, ‘making content’ became ‘content marketing’ and suddenly required its own strategy. It became an entity of its own. It formed its own institute and an association and books, articles and podcasts were dedicated to it.

New agencies appeared everywhere and old ones re-branded with ‘creative content’ services. It hosted it own awards and folk even started putting ‘content’ in their job title (…ahem).

How did this happen? An industry sprung-up while our backs were turned and a once simple tactic became a full-blown discipline.

A brief history lesson…

The difference between ‘creating content’ — the leaflets, apps and infographics etc… — and ‘content marketing’ all started with the dawn of social media.

The mass adoption of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, a decade ago marked a new era of social consumer behaviour. Brands that once relied on the media to reach their audiences found themselves with direct, unrestricted access and a modern day gold rush ensued. A race for domination and share of voice. A fight for attention which bombarded audiences with email offers, pitches, adverts and sales.

Consumers survived the only way they knew how, by developing highly-tuned, inbuilt ‘spam-filters’. They became super scanners with sophisticated targeted attention able to pick out all relevant information from any online space and exit without wasting any time even glancing at commercial, branded messaging.

Keen to protect their audiences, social channels and search engines followed suit with sophisticated algorithms that promoted the stuff people found useful and buried anything that was seen as a sales tool.

The world had changed and nothing was going to be same again.

Time to re-evaluate

It was in the space between the way things were and the way things were to be that ‘content marketing’ was born.

With attention now a commodity, and consumers in charge of how they spend it, if marketers wanted to achieve any cut through they needed to adapt. Evolving from masters in the art of communicating what they wanted to say to becomemasters at creating content that their audiences wanted to consume.

This required new skills like a grasp of the mechanics of the social web, an appreciation of the nuances of new consumer behaviours and an undisputed understanding of an audience’s wants, needs and desires.

These proficiencies formed the foundations of a new strategic discipline.

So, back to the original question. What is content marketing?

It’s the business process of creating and distributing relevant andvaluable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience, with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Or put simply — creating content that means something to the people who matter to you. Content that they WANT to consume, that they will search for and subscribe to, while moving them towards a desired, positive outcome

Got anything to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts — please comment below or catch me on Twitter @Wudruff