I didn’t choose content marketing as my second career because it was hot.
In fact, when I first began offering blog management and social media services in 2011 on the side of my day job, I didn’t even realize the work I was doing fell under the content-marketing umbrella. I simply enjoyed using my writing, editing and communication skills to help small businesses grow communities online.
Since then, the demand for content marketing has gone through the roof. Even people outside writing and marketing circles are talking about this trend because it straddles a number of industries. Years ago, only content companies like newspapers and blogs used the art of sharing valuable information to bring customers in the door. But now, every brand from tech startups to mainstream companies is missing out if content isn’t part of their lead-generation strategy — and they know it, which is why everyone’s hankering to hire chief content officers, content creators and content marketing agencies.
Why does content matter so much? Here are three big reasons it’s taking center stage lately, plus why it’s a huge opportunity for writers and transitioning journalists.
Providing valuable information is, hands down, one of the best ways to grow a community. And not just grow the community, but deepen it, developing a meaningful relationship between a brand and its customers.
Take Rapha, for example. People like their cycling gear because it performs well. But people love their cycling gear because of the amazing stories they tell through their content. How could you not want to wear their gear once you read their stories and watch their videos?
GoPro is another example. Their products are great, but their content is what turns fans into true evangelists. HubSpot manages to do the same using the written word, through its blogs, ebooks, case studies and white papers. For companies like these that play the content game well, buzz around the brand builds, creating a snowball effect that results in more word-of-mouth growth.
When you’re choosing between two services or companies or brands, most of us gravitate toward the one that stands out through content.
Search-engine optimization used to mean building spammy back-links and over-optimizing content for specific keywords. But Google has changed how it ranks search results, and now it behooves brands to focus instead on offering original, high-quality content — and lots of it. In many ways, content is the new SEO. (Click to tweet this.)
Sure, you want that content to be optimized for keywords, and so valuable that it generates organic back-links (because the community shares without you asking them to). But the real key is making your content relevant, helpful, and meaningful. When you create this type of high-quality content and then make small tweaks to optimize for search, you will set yourself up to be rewarded by Google.
Banner ads used to get a lot of clicks, but nowadays they tend to be a poor investment. Readers are used to seeing ads scattered around websites, and we’ve trained our brain to ignore them, which leads to abysmal click rates.
Content marketing is a better option, whether you’re leaning on blog posts and ebooks and webinars on your own website or using content to reach the audience of another blogger or company. One of the reasons it works is because when done well, it doesn’t feel like advertising.
This is why even bloggers with small followings are now inundated with emails from brands that want to pay for sponsored posts. I’m not going to open that ethical can of worms in this post, but the scramble to find avenues for content rather than traditional forms of advertising is a direct result of its effectiveness.
While some people hate the term, I can’t think of another word that covers as much ground as “content.” Content often means blog posts, but it can also refer to ebooks, social media updates, website copy and more. Since my content marketing company specializes in blog management, I tend to think of content as primarily the written word, but more and more it also means video, audio, images and other multimedia.
As more brands recognize the power of content and want to add it to their strategy, we’re seeing an increase in demand for content marketing firms like ours. Many of the top brands are leaning on freelancers to build hybrid newsrooms, as this article on Contently explains, but most also need an in-house editor or a small company like ours that specializes in writing and editing to serve as “the glue that holds it all together.”
Because of this, “agencies that specialize in content will win the day,” PR Newser wrote in a recent post on trends in content marketing. We saw this with the acquisition of Scribewise late last year. I was tickled to see this news, as Scribewise was one of the few content marketing companies I’d identified as similar to Socialexis, both in size and services. While it’s easy to find big companies that specialize in content marketing and lots of freelancers have their hands in this pie as well, you won’t find many high-performing content shops with fewer than, say, eight people.
Scribewise was in business for less than three years when it was bought by Trellist, a technology and marketing firm that clearly saw the increasing demand for content marketing and wanted to beef up their in-house team. Even since the acquisition, Scribewise continues to produce one of my favorite blogs on the industry.
If you’re in the content marketing game, you know it’s a good place to be. And if you’re a writer or journalist thinking about making this transition, it’s a smart move.
Many journos shun this type of work because it includes the word “marketing” — and I did too, a few years ago, back when I thought I’d never leave journalism. But creating content for blogs, publications and businesses has given me freedom to be creative that I never had as a newspaper reporter, and to be honest, freedom I never knew I wanted until it landed in my lap.
Now I run what’s essentially an outsourced newsroom for a number of popular blogs. It’s fun! I love working with lots of writers, developing ideas for blog posts, and editing and optimizing for SEO. When I was a reporter at the Houston Chronicle, my editor once asked if I’d ever want to serve that role, rather than working as a reporter. At the time, I said no, because editing other people’s work seemed so boring compared to getting out of the office to collect information and quotes and then piecing it all together for a story. But now, I get high off helping our writers turn their A-level blog posts and ebooks into A+ work. In fact, I think I’m better at editing other writers’ work than starting from scratch with my own.
All that to say, this work is fun, and though the blogging world is different from journalism in some significant ways, I still lean heavily on the skills I developed as a journalist. As Mridu Khullar Relph explains in this post on how she doubled her income when she moved from journalism to content marketing, if you land the right clients, the work you do will be closer to journalism than to marketing. It will include telling stories, communicating clearly and engaging readers, sometimes even using a news hook to accomplish that. Blogging requires a more informal, conversational voice than reporting, and journalists-turned-bloggers tend to struggle with that initially, but once you get the hand of it, it’s enjoyable and lucrative.
What questions do you have about the rise of content marketing? Whether you’re looking to work in the content marketing space or hire a content marketing shop to up your game, I’m happy to answer questions in the comments.