There’s been a significant shift in marketing over the last ten years; since social media came along, the focus has been on connecting and engaging with more and more specific groups, even down as far as individual people. All of this is linked with spreading the word about a company or product, trying to generate awareness and then desire, ultimately to increase sales and grow the company.
It seems fairly appropriate that we recently saw the 60th anniversary of the birth of TV ads. Although content marketing and advertising are distinctly separate entities, TV ads could be said to be the start of what we now know as content marketing. The earliest ads were simply placing the product on the screen in between programmes, but as TV schedules expanded, the ads were more targeted – famously soap operas got their name because of the laundry detergent ads placed to specifically appeal to the viewers which were mostly housewives. As more channels popped up, more ads were produced.
Something odd happened once internet users started spending more time online at work and at home. As a society, we’ve not just formed a kind of ‘immunity’ to advertising, but we’ve started to look on it as irritating. Recently Apple have announced they’ll allow ad blocking software to prevent ads being shown on their mobile platform – the change has been a long time coming, but it explains the rapid rise of content marketing.
Think of it this way; if a new television channel launches which showed nothing but traditional 30-second long adverts, the number of people watching would be extremely low, if not zero. We generally tolerate adverts on TV because they’re a necessary part of watching the programmes that we like.
Exactly the same is true of content marketing. People use social media to connect with friends, arrange social plans, share ideas and keep themselves up to date; users are not willing to have their feed full of advertisements or hard sales messages and they’d either block your posts or view your company very badly.
Just as with television, people want social media to entertain them, which plays perfectly to marketing. Thinking of content marketing as like the programmes between the ads is a nice analogy for how to go about your social media and online marketing. By giving people something that they find entertaining, informative, engaging, thought-provoking or even just mildly amusing means that users will view your company more favourably for giving them something interesting. It also means that if you choose to place a slightly more focussed sales message in the middle of your ‘programmes’, it’s much less likely to be rejected; in fact, by building up trust with good quality content, sales messages could be much more effective than simply ‘cold-dropping’ adverts into social media feeds.
Put simply, content is a way to engage social media users with you, but on their terms. By giving them something substantial with which they can interact, learn or engage to increase your standing in their minds and allow them to see your company more positively. To this end, you not only build your brand, your trustworthiness and your visibility, but in doing so you become more memorable and therefore increase the chances of being at the front of customers’ minds when they need a service or product you provide.
By Dave Murray
Dave is a director at On Fire Marketing, creating diverse content and social marketing campaigns for a very wide range of clients, everything from steel to sausages. He’s an enthusiast of many things, including craft beer, cars, roller derby, scuba diving, rock’n’roll and woodwork. His experience is diverse, working in fields such as leisure, gas and electricity accounting, financial services, loss adjusting and payroll for agency workers. He studied literature at University, then Fine Art at college and is currently learning to speak German.