If you have been puttering around in the online business world long enough, you have probably heard of content marketing.
But at a first glance, it can be difficult to determine what content marketing actually is, along with the benefits.
The Content Marketing Institute says, “Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior.”
And while that may not seem very different from traditional advertising, the key point is that content marketing is not about selling your product, but about providing value to your audience.
What is the point in providing information and nothing else?
There are major benefits your business can accrue from providing valuable information, and what goes around comes around. Here are five benefits any business can get from a strong content marketing program.
1. Enhance your reputation
The digital age has made your reputation more important than ever before. A customer’s complaint can reverberate throughout the Internet at lightning speed, causing other customers to not use your business.
The best way to counter negative online reviews is by adding valuable and relevant content that will boost your credibility and gain the trust of your consumers. Take, for example, the McDonald’s Canada “Our Food, Your Questions” program, which one content marketer called the best content marketing example ever.
McDonald’s launched a website which lets anyone ask questions, even more ridiculous ones like, “Are your fries made out of plastic?” By being honest and forthright in these questions and by publicizing this campaign, McDonald’s is working to regain its reputation as a hamburger chain which serves good food. The honest dialogue aims to encourage customers to trust their brand and their food.
2. Stay relevant in consumer’s minds
Any online business needs views and clicks. In order to get clicks, you need to keep customers interested in your business. And the best way to keep customers interested is to consistently provide interesting content. In the long run it can be challenging, but there are plenty of ways to start.
Maintaining a company blog is one of the most common and simplest means of content marketing. However, you can go further and boost authority by publishing an industry newsletter or magazine. For example, General Electric publishes a magazine on aviation, future technologies and impressive feats by men and women flying with GE technology.
Meanwhile, Net-a-porter, an online luxury fashion destination for content and commerce, publishes The Edit, a free weekly e-commerce magazine featuring shoppable market stories and editorials, in addition to news and features stories.
Every company has a niche. Talk about that niche, and your business can stay relevant.
3. Leverage the simplicity
Content marketing is not just something which cool tech industries can pull off. McDonald’s, a company which possesses a poor reputation on the Internet, pulled off a successful content marketing campaign as noted above.
Tractor manufacturer John Deere has been using content marketing for over 100 years with their informative magazine The Furrow. And while John Deere has to spend some money running that magazine, content marketing is also extraordinarily cheap.
Any business that can run a social media account or company blog can use content marketing to publish valuable content. It should be noted that it does require plenty of time, especially because a solid content marketing strategy should require publishing new information often and on a regular basis.
4. Encourage good social media habits
While content marketing has existed for a long time, its current state means that it is heavily tied to social media marketing. For example, create a blog to share and curate interesting facts and publish it to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms to reach a wider audience.
Admittedly, one of the big challenges with running a social media campaign is that it is time-consuming. It can be tempting to put off social media in lieu of more important daily business operations. However, launching a content marketing campaign will help your social media efforts since you can integrate the two.
5. Support SEO efforts
When social media and content marketing are integrated, it creates social buzz. And when social buzz is created, you can improve your website’s search popularity.
Remember that Google generally sorts its web pages by the number of links which they receive from other pages. If you have plenty of useful content, then other websites will want to link to your website.
This translates into increased traffic, which can lead to more people linking to your websites; creating a positive feedback loop where people will remain interested in your business as long as you continue to create value.
There is no denying the fact that content marketing can be challenging, as you may struggle to think about what interesting content to post. But as long as you exhibit originality, relevance and value it’s a cost-effective inbound marketing tool you shouldn’t ignore.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Simon Crompton is a freelance journalist and entrepreneur running several online businesses including his marketing firm, Threecolors.blue. Simon spends the majority of his time blogging about business startups and consulting on web development. He has launched multiple online companies. He is also a dedicated follower of fashion, and has written for the Financial Times and GQ. Connect with @PermanentStle on Twitter.