Content marketing was supposed to be easier than this. The plan was to dispose of the stodgy old model where advertisers hitch their wagons to content created by other people — cable TV channels, radio stations, newspapers and magazines — and switch to the state-of-the-art new model where advertisers create their own content: blogs, tweets, Vine and Snapchat accounts. Engaging consumers was going to be quick, cheap and do-it-yourself.
Only now, after it's become clear how difficult it is to create compelling original content and spread it across the internet, are the holes in that plan becoming clear. Content-creation specialists like cable TV channels do an awful lot of work on behalf of their advertisers. Not only do they think up, write, produce and edit hour upon hour of content, they distribute and promote that content too. If advertisers want exposure all they need to do is produce 30 seconds of their own content, then pay a fee to briefly rent the infrastructure and broadcast to a ready-made audience.
It's a great argument for going back to traditional advertising. The trouble of course is that a lot of your customers aren't part of those ready-made audiences anymore. Instead of watching TV and paging through Popular Science they're online reading blogs and chuckling at viral videos.
So what's a marketer with a limited budget to do? How can an average company maintain a consistent, engaging presence across all these various media — on sharing sites, social networks, blogs, microblogs, forums and whatever else might be out there? It's a question that has more than a few marketing managers breathing heavily into brown paper bags.
The answer of course is that you can't be everywhere and you wouldn't want to be. One of the great advantages of the internet is that it allows you to target your audiences in ways that were impossible just a few years ago. Thus any good content marketing campaign should start by figuring out who your audiences are and where you're likely to find them.
Make your audience the vertical in your crosshairs and your brand the horizontal and you'll rapidly begin to zero in on the content vehicles that make sense for you. Want to chat with males about a new software product you're developing? Google+ makes a lot of sense. Want to show educated females your new professional clothing line? Pinterest. Turn younger consumers on to your new music streaming service? Look into Tumblr.
What if you're a B2B company? If you're selling a product that's complex or has a long sales cycle, a blog is a great way build relationships and position yourself as a thought leader. Email marketing is another solid way to go (especially email newsletters which, believe it or not, still enjoy wide and enthusiastic readership).
But whatever you decide to do — and you saw this coming in the headline — do it well. Focus on one or two media where you'll really shine. Anything you do well in one medium can be easily recycled to others (there are a lot of social media automation tools out there that are great for this). You'll be surprised how far some good content, if in fact it is fairly good, can stretch.