Content marketing is more about listening than talking, and going beyond just yourself
I am not a very social person. I wouldn’t say I am a recluse. I love conversations. But believe it or not, it is a dying art.
Take parties and social engagements, for example. I don’t see the point of being stuck in conversations where people can’t get out of their own heads. You know the ones. The proud geek who will not stop talking about his/her latest tech acquisitions, the new mother whose world beyond the baby has ceased to exist, and the career-focused over-achiever whose entire personality is a LinkedIn profile. There is so much talking at one another at these parties that nobody is actually listening to anyone else.
Cut to social media and content marketing – it has started to look like the digital equivalent of the same old boring parties. Marketers are talking at potential customers, not to them, gloating endlessly about their business, product, service, and the irrelevant details of their newest solution. It is no surprise that only 37 % of B2C content marketing and 38 % of B2B content marketing efforts are actually working. The premise is simple – if all you will ever talk about is yourself, you will be boring, whether you are an individual or a business.
How do we make content marketing fun again? With conversations, of course. Perhaps it is time to hold back the “marketing” and focus on “content” again. It is time to go back to content that inspires, connects, resonates, and eventually inspires action by virtue of being amazing, not just persistent and in your face all the time! Perhaps it is time to make content accountable for much more than a quick click on the thumbs-ups and hearts that abound on social media.
Feel the room
I will tell you this – nobody cares about your “cutting-edge solutions” and the passion and brilliance that went into creating it. What your audience does care about is the story. They want to hear how it fits into their scheme of things, their lifestyle, or business needs. Telling the right stories is at the heart of memorable conversations.
Find story ideas from a diverse group
Understanding your customers’ pain points is one way to do it. Another is to engage more than just the content and marketing department in your organization. Every brand is a publisher now. Publishers have advisory panels to brainstorm story ideas from diverse perspectives – policy, economy, consumer, etc. Brands too need to engage diverse and often creative perspectives in their storytelling. An advisory panel with subject matter experts from different backgrounds will help you tell diverse stories, and stories that matter to real people.
Leave that desk, already
If content briefs are anything to go by, you can easily create content on the basis of a few Google search keywords. But believe it or not, the real stories are outside the hallowed halls of your office. An editor once told me that he makes it a point to send his interns to remote corners of the state and city. If they can’t find stories there, they don’t have an eye for storytelling. The same applies to content marketers too. Trying to tell relatable stories from behind a computer screen is not easy. Step out, meet your customers where they work and live. Theirs are often the only stories worth telling, and they are the ones that will spark conversations.
Engage influencers and analysts, customers and journalists in content creation. Not only does this allow a diverse storytelling style instead of the boring staccato of one person’s voice, it also fuels authenticity in your content strategy.
In short, I believe that marketers need to start seeing that conversation marketing is really not about them. It is about the other hero of the story – the customer. Although they have been trying, brands are nowhere close to acing the art of telling stories that matter. Most of the writing and digital creatives that pass off as content marketing have zero potential to start conversations. Content marketing at this point is as self-serving as the traditional “make the logo larger” format of marketing. It’s still all about brands. Marketers need to see the benefits of long-term relatability and memorability over short-term transactions. That is the only way to do content marketing right.