And then there’s social media. You know you should be getting likes and shares on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn and Google Plus. But if you want to earn those likes and shares, you need to be publishing really good content in social media – otherwise, you’re just adding to the noise.

So first, let’s get to the basic question: What is content marketing?

Content marketing is any form of marketing that relies on or draws from editorial content. That editorial content can come in all kinds of forms:

• Blog posts or articles
• Video clips
• Infographics
• Photographs
• E-books
• Guides
• Tutorials
• Webinars
• FAQs

Your editorial content should be very helpful to your prospective customers, and to current customers. You can certainly include things like instructions for using your products, but it’s also good to create content that isn’t obviously self-promotional.

It should go without saying that any content you publish on other websites – for example, YouTube, SlideShare or other people’s blogs – must link back to your website. Otherwise, you’re just providing goodness to someone else’s website. Not a bad thing, but not very helpful for driving traffic to your own site.

Why Should I Do Content Marketing?

• It’s great for SEO (search engine optimization). Google constantly changes its algorithm to improve search results. Over the past several years, many of these changes reflect Google’s efforts to favor content that’s truly useful. Conversely, Google’s changes punish content farms and other sites that create content solely to rank high for specific keyword searches. Creating relevant content signals to Google that the purpose of your site is to help people by providing real information.

• Worthy content gets shared. People like sharing their discoveries with their colleagues, friends and family. It’s a way of earning credibility, plus we’re just hardwired to do it: When we share something we like with others, and they like it too, that validates our judgment.

• Great content helps people make buying decisions. I’ll give you a personal example here. In doing some competitive research for a client, I found a personal training website with lots of blog posts about strength training, health, cardio fitness and more. As I read the posts, it became clear to me that this trainer had deep background in kinesiology, plus years of experience helping people get fit. Now I train with him.

• Content gives you something real to promote in social media. If you don’t have relevant, interesting content on  your website to promote, what ARE you going to talk about in social media? And how will you entice people to visit your site? Without compelling content, you may as well just talk about your cute pets and snap photos of the lunch you’re about to eat.

People Share Great Content, Not Meh Content  

It’s not enough to create content – it has to be interesting enough, funny enough, helpful enough or surprising enough to get shared.

Great content fulfills the same goals as great journalism: it enlightens, informs and entertains.

To create great content, make sure you:

•Write about things you genuinely care about.
•Draw on your industry expertise.
•Talk about issues your customers and prospects care abou.t
•Help people with problems they’re trying to solve right now.
•Engage people’s emotions. Make them laugh, move them to tears, even cause them to say “eewww” – anything to engage an emotional response that will motivate people to share.

Note: When I say “write about” topics, I mean it very broadly. You can create content by writing social media posts, video scripts, cartoons, text for infographics. etc. Choose the best way to express your brand and experience, make sure it’s shareable, and you’re good.

Shared Content Brings New People to Your Site

When people share your content, it helps you in two ways:

•Your company becomes visible to people who don’t already know you. And awareness of your brand is reinforced among people who have heard of you already.

•Social media mentions and shares – also called “social signals” – tell search engines that your website is important to people. This in turn can boost your site’s SEO.

Both of these benefits are equally important. In an ideal world, you’d have relevant content visible in every online location that your prospects visit: video sites, slide-sharing sites, blogs, news publications – and search results. Because people use a variety of websites to learn before they buy, you want to be wherever your target customers go.

Be Genuine and Social in Social Media

There’s one last piece to getting your content shared: You have to be someone people WANT to engage with in social media.

This means not being that guy who walks into the cocktail party and starts talking about himself, his thriving business, his genius kids, his athletic prowess and his general awesomeness. You want to be the one who walks in, smiles, and asks the person by the fireplace what she does for a living and how she feels about it…and pays close  attention to the answers.

So be generous in social media. Share other people’s posts; comment on their great advice or insights; ask questions. And when people share your content or ask you questions, respond in a polite and friendly manner. You’ll find more people will pay attention to your content – and share it, too.

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