I attended a great evening in Singapore recently – Content Conversations hosted by Outbrain at the Hub. I recommend reading Timi Siytangco’s take on the evening here, as she highlights all of the salient points discussed. It was definitely a lively conversation around driving tangible results in the new world of content marketing, while competing for eye-balls when one is up against the stiffest competition of them all – cute puppies.

But I had an epiphany this night and I’d like to share it with you.

To give you context, I’ve been in the content marketing game in various forms for a number of years. In the early days, a small handful of businesses and individuals understood the concept of delivering awesomely powerful content to their customers to drive business results. This content was something new, something different – it wasn’t about the company at all – it was about delivering information that helped address the customers’ most pressing needs, and it was about building the intangible – loyalty to your brand.

Content MarketingIt was exciting then – new, fresh and there weren’t too many people playing in the sand pit. It was also a nice group of people, because the early adopters were extremely passionate about content marketing – we knew this was a world changer – so we were all sharing our passion and supporting each other.
Alas, that didn’t help me much. While one would like to be considered a “visionary,” being early in the game in Asia went against me as a small business owner. When I was taking this concept to market, the people I was speaking with just couldn’t comprehend the idea of marketing but not marketing their business. What? Why?

Well Asia is getting it now. Awesome!

Back then, we didn’t have syndication or amplification – beyond our social channels. This genre was led by smart, creative people that understood the concept and delivered value. We were focused on one goal – building a loyal customer base. Hubspot, in my opinion, has always been the greatest example of this art form, and of course “the Pool Guy” aka Marcus Sheridan – is a fabulous success story. Read his story if you haven’t. Very cool.

Asia is now at fever pitch around content, and more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon – adding to the discussion about what content marketing actually is. When I listen in, the conversation seems predominantly focused on consumer content – with viral videos and tweets taking center stage in discussions. How can it not? We’re in the age of the selfie, the age of the clever tweet, and the age where the quality of the conversation delivered on the back of a moment is how we measure success. It’s confusing, especially when you’re in a slightly more serious B2B game.

The original content marketing advocates are still out there creating amazing content, but we have new friends to play with now – the advertising/real-time-bidding/syndication people have joined us in the sandpit. These are the people who understand that creating a great piece of content isn’t enough anymore, it’s got to get in front of as many eye balls as possible, and turning those eye balls into metrics is what matters. Things are definitely changing, and changing fast.

It actually reminds me of my Dad, who is a local Australian artist with a small celebrity status in the community I grew up in. While my Dad has creativity at the core of all he is, he is useless at selling his paintings – I say that with love! Growing up with a struggling artist as a Father wasn’t easy, but every now and again, a gallery owner or art promoter entered our life. They’d take Dad on a whirlwind tour around the country and we’d have a few dollars in the bank for a while. That is what the newest members of the content marketing world are – the art promoters.

Content Marketing

The wonderful, creative people are still delivering great work, but a coup d’etat has occurred, and the people who understand how to promote content are leading the discussion. They’re better at it too. I’ve been creating content because I love it, slowly building a loyal readership because people like what I write – well I hope they do.

Now the professional brokers are in the mix, elevating content in a way it needs to be elevated to get it above the noise. It’s good for all of us creative content types ultimately.

However, as the content marketing industry grows up and becomes mature, I ask two things – especially for the B2B players

  1. In Asia, a lot of marketing folk are taking content they’ve been creating for the last 20+ years and pumping it into social channels, calling it content marketing. Content marketing is not about re-purposing existing marketing content, it’s a completely new style of marketing and it’s about delivering remarkable content for your customers to help them be successful. It really has very little to do with you at all. In fact, this blog (which I wrote in 2012) is still pretty much on the money about what content marketing is (or Inbound Marketing, which is/was the same thing.) As an idea, three out of every four pieces of content you create should have nothing to do with your company at all  -I got that 3 / 4 tidbit from Drew Calin at LinkedIn BTW. Why would I do that I hear you say? Because your goal is to make your customers successful AND building their loyalty to your brand. Remember that, remember that, please remember that
  2. Additionally, as businesses start to focus on amplifying their content, please remember that spending the money here as a priority could mean you forget to spend money where equal value sits – in the quality of the content created. You can spend all the money you like on ensuring your content is distributed to the right people across the world, but if it’s bad content, it’s not going to do you any good and it’s definitely not going to make people loyal to your brand. Your ultimate goal is to build a community of people who love your brand, because you’re helping them be better. If you’re focused on one and not focusing on the other, you’re not going to succeed. Get the balance right, make the content creators a priority, partner with great companies that can amplify your content (like Outbrain) and get cracking. Also this takes time, you’ve got to go in with a long term mindset – you’ll be disappointed if you’re looking for instant gratification trust me

Anything I’ve missed here? Any other concerns as the content marketing industry moves into a level of maturity?

These are my take-aways from a great evening. I’ll also definitely be going to the next Content Conversations event. It’s an inspired and excited community of people. I like that.

Cheers
Andrea