auto blogger floor pedalWe’ve discussed content marketing and thought leadership, but what about the do’s and don’ts of creating content that’s worth marketing? Gilad de Vries, VP, brands and agencies, at Outbrain, told Mashable that though “it’s impossible to open a newsletter, check Google alerts, or visit any news sites without reading something on the benefits of content marketing […] there is a real shortage of practical, how-to advice for brands…”

Tech advances and social media’s increasing role as a marketing channel have changed the game considerably, true, but, de Vries says, marketing content still requires “creativity and skill.” Hence de Vries’ shares recent examples from several companies that, in his opinion, have gotten this whole business of content marketing down:

  • 1. Don’t Skimp on Design. “This may seem obvious, but if you want to be taken seriously by consumers, it’s important to make your content visually compelling.” Example: GE’s ecomagination site, with focus on innovation and environment.
  • 2. Do Make It Multimedia. “Varying the type of content you use is essential to providing an engaging, well-rounded user experience that sucks people in and keeps them clicking for more.” Example: The Tory Blog (by fashion designer Tory Burch), with its visuals, tips, and even playlists.
  • 3. Don’t Go for the Hard Sell. “The focus is on educating, entertaining, and delivering value to the consumer, rather than giving a hard pitch for your products or services.” Example: The Adrenalist, “powered by Degree Men,” spotlights extreme sports, racing, and adventure, not the product itself.
  • 4. Do Strike a Balance. “[T]here’s no doubt that enlisting professionals is key to any good content strategy, but incorporating the consumer voice is equally important.” Examples: by Kraft Foods and Tablespoon by General Mills both feature user-submitted recipes.
  • 5. Don’t Leave Any Dead Ends. “The best time to engage your audience is when they’re already in content consumption mode, which is why every page on your site should offer plenty of links to further content.” Example: L’Oreal’s beauty how-to,, offers plenty of links, tip “of the day,” further reading suggestions, and trending stories.
  • 6. Do Make Sharing Easy. “If you create great content, there’s a good chance that you’ll garner some fans along the way, which is why it’s so important to give them mechanisms to share that content with their friends.” Example: Marketo prominently displays Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google + buttons for an easy share by the reader. (Also, take a look at this blog and its “Share” buttons on top.)
  • 7. Don’t Forget About Offline. “A solid offline strategy can be one of the keys to bringing your online content to life, engaging your audience, and attracting new eyeballs.” Example: Red Bull has a website, magazine, and organizes various sporting events.

blog ideasCrosby Noricks’ notion of what constitutes successful content marketing echoes de Vries’, at least in the areas of shareability and how to use multiple platforms to build — and keep — an audience. Noricks, who is director of social media at Red Door Interactive and founder of PR Couture, says in his recent guest article for Fast Company:

Whether your goal is to galvanize public awareness around an important social issue or showcase new spring denim colors, aim to deliver relevant, sharable content for your customer across multiple touch points that connect to their life moments.

Marketing strategies, Noricks says, will only work on limited basis, or fail altogether, as long as you expect loyalty from your customers but don’t invest time and resources to create content worth sharing, thus failing to connect with your customer.

In his article, Noricks shares four main points that are in his opinion indispensable to creating what he refers to as “brand content people actually care about”:

  • Start with what you already have. “There are likely many existing content resources that with a bit of shine can be revitalized into powerful content marketing pieces…” Example: The New York Times‘ incorporation of existing photos into its Facebook Timeline.
  • Let the social conversation lead. “The social web is a goldmine for business intelligence. Make a point to listen and learn from what people are saying about you, your competitors, and the world at large.” No example was given, but Noricks advises to look at trending topics on Twitter, top YouTube videos, and your own feeds for inspiration.
  • Abide by your customer’s to-do list. “[D]evelop an editorial calendar that takes into account key dates not only in your industry, but those that matter to your customer.” Example: Free People Festival Paint DIY video by Free People, created for the Coachella attendees.
  • Make transmedia your best friend. “Get the most value out of investing in content by including multiple platforms and varied content around singular campaigns.” Example: “Behind-the-scenes still shots at a video shoot can be published to Instagram, and money-saver tips used as website copy can be turned into a series of illustrated JPEGs and posted to Pinterest.”

With all these great tools and technology at your disposal, Noricks says, now is a great right time to develop a marketing strategy for your content. He sums it up:

Whether you imagine your brand storytelling like the great American novel, celebrity blog, or must-see television comedy, know that sales are a natural outcome of placing value, connecting your brand to the broader issues and ideas that interest your customer.

A few final pieces of advice come from the answers provided by the members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) to the question, “What’s one thing businesses new to content marketing need to do before getting started?” They were published in Business 2 Community.

Allie Siarto, Loudpixel, says (emphasis ours):

Listen loudly. Take a look at the conversations that are already happening. What types of content really resonate with your industry? How can you differentiate yourself? Who can you build relationships with? Who could you partner with?

Keep a narrow focus and establish yourself as the go-to expert in your field and create your content with that at the forefront,” advises Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems. Finally, this may seem obvious but may be difficult to execute: create an editorial schedule, says Nathalie Lussier, Nathalie Lussier Media. Matt Mickiewicz, 99designs, also notes that possibly outsourcing content creation “makes sense,” as long as there’s a publishing schedule and some sort of consistency, with content appearing regularly.

Images by Mike Licht, (top) and owenwbrown, used under their Creative Commons license.

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