Many people still struggle to come to terms with the concept of content marketing (while others take it it straight away), so let’s first define exactly what it is, and what counts as content.

Ian Lurie, CEO of Portent puts it best: “Content isn’t ‘stuff we write to rank higher’ or ‘infographics’ or ‘long-form articles.’ Content is anything that communicates a message to the audience. Anything.

Emails, Tweets, sales material, product information, user comments, blogs – are all examples of this ‘anything’.

Content marketing, on the other hand, is the action of taking that content to your audience, thereby shortening the distance between those people and your products or service.

It can all feel a bit daunting, but here are our 7 essentials that will lead to great content marketing.

1. It must spark conversations

Content is nothing if it isn’t shared or commented on. This may mean going out on a limb and taking a stance on potentially controversial topics.

Be very careful not to harm your brand when doing this, as it could have the opposite effect of what you’re trying to achieve.

Boring content, devoid of any conversational points, however, will disappear into the Internet archive where it belongs.

Stand out, make a difference, be different, be unique and original (all in a brand-positive way) and people will talk about you.

Measure the conversation, shares and comments around each piece of content and if there are none, it’s time to change tack.

2. It must be from your heart

The minute you start talking at people, they will click away. Nobody likes to be patronized, but they do like to be entertained, learn something and feel like you are talking to them as though they are a friend.

Do this by changing your tone of voice, being selective with word choices (‘we’d like to hear from you’ is so much more friendly than ‘contact us’), speaking directly at the reader, telling stories in easy-to-understand language, and by throwing in some humour where appropriate.

3. It must be published consistently

In a chaotic Internet world, people have come to love and appreciate consistency. If you attract users to your brand content through a clever campaign or, say, a Vine, and you never publish again or take another two weeks to produce another piece of content, you are likely to loose their attention.

If you send an email newsletter, do it consistently on the same day every week or month. If you update your website, ensure you have fresh content on the homepage and in your sections every week.

And never say ‘coming soon’, or ‘next time we’ll talk about …’. Users want everything now, and won’t want to come back again and again to see if you’ve delivered on your promise. If you make a promise, put a date to it and stick to that.

4. It must be useful

People are naturally curious about the world around them, so creating informative content is a great opportunity to educate them in an informal way.

All those instructables sites and How To videos do well for a reason – they help people, even with seemingly simple tasks. If you can dumb-down instructions on how to create a 3D printer, or outrun a cheetah, you’ll have the audience at your feet.

5. It must be better than the rest

With this we mean you really have to outshine the competition. Never copy their ideas or curate their content.

Draw on experts in your field to create fresh, original content that is not available anywhere else on the Internet. Bring new research to the fore, do things they aren’t (but should) be doing; identify gaps and embrace innovative technologies before they do to deliver your message.

6. It must downplay the sales pitch

How and how much you brand your content is the tricky part, but follow the industry rule-of-thumb of 70% content, 30% brand message and you will be fine.

The trend today has made a big shift towards marketing-by-association, where the user first discovers the content and only later realises it is branded.

7. It must include your audience

If the audience is allowed to contribute to your creative process, they will love you more.

Iconic car maker Mini, for instance, allows anyone to ‘build a mini’ by changing colours and trim on their website; food retailers may encourage users to upload recipes to their digital properties, or a watch maker will ask users to upload pictures of their own, same-brand watch to the company’s Instagram account.

This way strong communities are built and passersby become loyal fans.

And finally …

Now you know what kind of content markets best, don’t forget it should also benefit from SEO. Search engines today favour Social Signals, multimedia and content that’s optimised for mobile.

Keep your content to-the-point, accessible across multiple channels and devices, and available everywhere where your audience is, and you are doing Content Marketing right.

Need great content?

Zeentree has been formed by a group of content experts, editors, journalists, industry authorities and online marketing professionals who are experienced in creating high volumes of content or digital magazines for international brands.

Our primary focus is to provide cost-effective, high-quality content for brands in the form of a digital magazine, in multiple languages.

Striking the right balance with news, opinion and industry insight, you’ll receive bespoke content to sustain a digital magazine published directly onto your website. Talk to us today about how we can help you publish great, marketable content.

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