In 2008, when Seth Godin, marketing wizard, proclaimed that "content marketing is all the marketing left!" it was not a signal to brands and companies to create and distribute reams of messaging disguised as content to their target audience. But in many cases, that is exactly what happened.
Fast-forward, and Michael Brenner, head of strategy for NewsCred and the most mentioned marketer on Twitter, tells companies the hard truth that "promoting themselves doesn't work." He preaches that effective content marketing is not about promotion.
I would take it a step further and argue that content marketing, at its core, is about people and passion. That's why I advise startups and small businesses to begin by sharing what they know best and love most. I've observed that how-to posts (based on experience) that provide the reader with top tips, guest columns that recall personal struggles, and articles on LinkedIn that convey key takeaways all work well-allowing companies to share their brand voice and gain respect for a unique point of view.
Producing and sharing content from the heart doesn't just allow small companies on a tight budget to have a big impact. It also goes a long way toward establishing these companies as authorities, as well as building trust with their target audience and their reputation with industry influencers.
But awareness is not conversion, which is why I tell my clients to repurpose their blog content, using it as building blocks for ebooks, white papers, cheat sheets, podcasts, videos, infographics, and other forms of lead-gen content and collateral to meet audience requirements for actionable advice and immediate answers.
Unfortunately, making the effort required to create and refresh content on a regular basis is when small companies can lose steam. This is where a creative approach to content curation can save time and money. (Content curation tops the list of areas marketers say they are most eager to learn more about in the coming year, according to the 2015 report, "B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends-North America.")
Content curation is becoming far less complicated and time-consuming thanks to companies such as Curated, a startup that's stepping in to help ordinary businesses with a tool it has built to take the manual work out of collecting and sharing content.
Curated's founder, Dave Verwer, was in iOS development and had to keep up-to-date on news around releases and policies. Verwer decided to help other developers with their news needs. He started a newsletter, set up a webpage, and sent out a tweet to kick off the curated news service. There were 600 signups in 2 days. Even though Verwer was earning some money from sponsorship, it could not offset the valuable time he spent bookmarking potentially interesting content with one tool, formatting the links and commentary into a template with another tool, manually uploading the content to MailChimp, and then publishing to his subscriber base.
To relieve his own pain points and help other small publishers reach large audiences with limited resources, Verwer produced Curated-a single tool, with pricing starting at $25. It allows users to fetch and save content, via a Curated bookmarklet, to assemble later when they are ready to publish to their subscriber list via the platform. The Curated platform also assists in content promotion (through social media channels) and conversion tracking. Future releases will give publishers the option to sign up sponsors and collect the money directly from the platform, paying Curated a small percentage of the sales.
The content-and any comments publishers might add (which is a smart move, if you want to reinforce your reputation as a thought leader)-remains property of the publisher, personalized with branding and look and feel. To display this content, Curated also creates a "kind of homepage" where subscribers can view and search issues as structured data, not on an issue-by-issue basis.
Content creation and curation are both valuable because they show that the publisher has an understanding of the industry and cares about its community. Both will continue to be megatrends, as companies, brands, and free agents look for new ways to market effectively to the masses by delivering content that is genuinely relevant and truly helpful to the individual.