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What Is Content Marketing?

By Natalie Slyman

Create content from a chalkboard full of ideas.

Updated on 1/3/2017. Blog post originally published on April 10, 2014.

Audiences — including yours — love content. Whether you’re creating and distributing content yourself or standing by while your competitors do, your audience is consuming it.

Needless to say, your brand needs content marketing. But — and it’s OK to admit this — maybe you have a hard time nailing down an exact definition of content marketing or explaining to your team what it actually is or describing what it looks like in practice.

To effectively incorporate it into your marketing strategy and build your industry influence, you have to understand what it is and why it’s so effective.

Content marketing is the creation and distribution of high-quality, engaging content that ranges in format from guest-contributed articles and blog posts to whitepapers, infographics, and more about topics specifically related to your target audience and what they find valuable.

By using content marketing effectively, companies can turn themselves into trusted resources for their audiences and generate loyalty, top-of-mind awareness, and inbound leads, as well as enable sales, attract investors, and recruit and train employees.

At Influence & Co., we approach content with the ultimate goal of enabling industry leaders to connect more authentically with their audiences through content. And a key part of that approach is remembering that content isn’t just your opportunity to get yourself in front of your audiences and promote your brand — it’s an opportunity to position yourself as a valuable resource and expert.

People want to build relationships with individuals they know and trust, and brands want to build relationships with those people in their audience. Engaging content helps make both happen because it humanizes your brand and gives you the opportunity to communicate authentically with your audience.

The (Continued) Rise of Content Marketing

Content marketing has become one of the most popular, effective forms of marketing over the past decade (though the history of content marketing spans much longer than that). And to really understand why that is, we’ve got to dive into the factors that contribute to the continued rise of content marketing:

1. Social media is changing the game.

Everyone and their mom (literally) is on social media, so it makes sense that digital content is popping up in places where consumers are already engaged. How many people do you see on their phones on the train to and from work? How many of you check your phone or tablet before you go to bed to see what’s new or to engage with content one last time before turning off the light?

It might seem weird to think of yourself as a content consumer when you’re just browsing your social feeds — but that’s exactly what you are. We’re all consuming content on our phones and through social channels. And to become more content-friendly, social media platforms are changing, and that gives content marketers a natural place to connect with their audiences.

By creating content and using the social channels at your disposal, you’re able to target audiences on a platform they’re already actively engaged with, making your content easier to consume — and more effective at reaching your goals.

2. Technology has disrupted the buying cycle.

Due to the handy-dandy internet, the buying process no longer starts in-store or on a sales call; it starts online. Your audience is completing more than half of their buyer journey before ever talking to your sales team. That’s because consumers perform their own research first; they’re reading articles, blog posts, reviews, forums, and checking out social profiles to learn about who you are, what you do, and what others are saying about you.

And knowing that consumers are out there researching is often enough to make companies curious (even nervous) about what they’re finding. The good news is, content marketing gives you the opportunity to influence that process and regain a little of that control.

By becoming an industry resource through quality, authentic content marketing, you’re leading the conversations that happen in your space. Those consumers will have a greater chance of finding (and trusting) you in their research before a sales call. Produce timely, relevant, high-quality content, and consumers will turn to your brand in moments of need.

3. The internet has made niche audiences more accessible.

One of the most effective ways the internet has changed our world is that it’s provided us with the ability to connect to anyone, anywhere. Back when there was no internet, smaller market sizes were difficult to reach, and when they were spread across the county (or around the world), reaching them and delivering products and services was very difficult — and almost unsustainable for smaller companies.

Fast-forward to present day, and your company is better able to deliver value to increasingly smaller niches. Companies no longer have to find the most people to buy from them; they just need to find enough of the right people to do so.

With digital content crafted specifically for your consumers, you’re able to target and and become a resource for the right people, no matter where they are or how small the audience. And by distributing that content to a blend of the right mainstream and niche publications, you can be more confident that your message lands in front of the audience you’re targeting. (If you need some insight into which outlets your audience is reading, take our interactive publication quiz for suggestions.)

Content marketing may have been on the rise for a while, but it’s never too late to get started. As you set out to make content marketing a priority for your brand, check out the Influence & Co. resource library; it’s full of templates, checklists, and guides we’ve put together specifically to help you improve your efforts and make the most of your content marketing investment.

Now that you understand what content marketing is and what elements shape it, start creating it. Download our free guide below! 

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Posted on January 3, 2017

About Natalie Slyman

I absolutely love meeting new people, and my drink of choice is champagne (I'm fancy). I prefer to spend my days outside, riding my bike or catching up on my favorite blogs. I enjoy telling stories about my cat, even though no one is listening.

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