Great content is no longer the only thing that matters. You may have an excellent blog or a slew of top-quality YouTube videos, but these days, so does everyone else. The past two years have been banner years for content marketing, and producing content is very in. Bank of America now sponsors political luncheons. Microsoft offers its opinion on cybersecurity. Red Bull famously has a man jump from space — all in the name of good content.
If you’re in charge of content marketing for your company, you probably already feel the pressure to endlessly create better and better content. Your blog posts aren’t enough anymore — they need infographics, videos, podcasts and branded photos. Your white paper needs to be presented as a keynote speech somewhere. Guest blogging is a thing of the past; now popular websites charge native advertising fees, which can get pretty hefty.
Internet marketing has evolved, and simply producing good content isn’t enough anymore. Content may be king, but he’s powerless without his better half. If content is king, he needs the queen of audience curation to maintain his rule over the marketing land. (Cheesy, but you have to give me credit for sticking to the “king” metaphor.)
To fully understand the importance of audience curation, it’s necessary to reexamine the original goal of content creation. By producing enough interesting content, you’ll get eyeballs on your page which will lead to brand exposure and, hopefully, sales leads. Obviously, this process requires an audience for your content. Previously, it wasn’t that hard to generate such an audience, but now that good — dare I say great – content is everywhere, it’s gotten much more difficult.
It’s similar to what happened to social media. Brands were able to create strong loyalty and huge followings for Facebook and Twitter until everyone had created a Facebook page. Gaining 1 million Twitter followers today is still possible, but it’s far more difficult than it was five years ago.
The point is that you can’t produce content — even if it’s genuinely great content — without also focusing on building and audience for that content. Otherwise, your potential customers are only going to get swept away in the aura of another brand’s blog/social media/white paper/podcast/blah blah blah. And with them is going to go any chance of increased sales conversions, brand exposure, and every other potential content marketing benefit.
Same Tactics, Different Goals
The bad news is that it’s harder to win an audience of considerable size these days. However, the good news is that it can still be done, and the process isn’t that different from what you may have done before.
Note: I’m not going to say anything about the content itself other than it still matters. It goes without saying, but keep it top-notch.
Once you’ve posted your content, then you have to work on building an audience. I won’t sugarcoat it: This is very time-consuming (If you’re spending an equal amount of time producing content and curating and audience, then you’re doing it right.), but it’s absolutely worth the effort! Today, there are two major ways to accomplish this:
- Influencers: People with huge online followings matter today just as much as they did when Twitter was just taking off. Name recognition is an asset, regardless of format. By partnering with influential people in your industry, you’ll already have a lead by simply associating yourself with them. Tactically, I believe that hosting panels and conducting interviews are two of the best ways to engage industry leaders. By appearing in a panel or interview, influencers have a reason to promote themselves by also promoting your content. It’s a win-win.
- Paid Advertising: Advertising still matters today, but with a different goal. Ten years ago, companies paid to advertise products. Now they pay to advertise content. It may seem counterintuitive (Why would I not just advertise my product?), but with more adults (especially Millennials) becoming deaf to the pleas of traditional advertising, content marketing is taking on an increasingly important role. And like I said before, it’s unlikely your content will do well if you don’t actively seek an audience for it. Of course, like any good advertisement, it’s important to take your message to your audience. Social media advertising and native advertising will be much more effective than a TV spot.
Create, Then Nurture
A while ago, content marketers could do fairly well by throwing content onto a webpage. A few years ago, when everyone was posting content, the game changed. Marketers had to think of ever-increasingly creative content in order to shine out. The game has now changed again, and great content is no longer enough. It takes great content and time spent nurturing an audience for that content to be effective.
The game will likely change again, and we’ll adapt again. But make sure you’re keeping up now by growing your audience. If you do that, you’ll be ready for the next change.