Setting The Record Straight: Debunking Six Content Marketing Myths

There are many misconceptions floating around in the world of content marketing: Are infographics and blog posts really all there is to it? Can you really measure the return on investment (ROI) of your content marketing strategy? Is content marketing a stand-alone discipline? While there are many different ways to go about creating and distributing your content, there are some well-known content marketing myths that may be stopping you on your path to greatness. Today, I’m debunking some common myths so you can be sure that you’re not putting unnecessary or baseless limitations on your content.

All content must be “snackable.”

Many believe that all content marketing should be packaged in short, bold statements or visuals—little sharable nuggets of information that can be passed around online with ease. While “snackable” content can be great for sharing, how useful is it if a reader is looking for an in-depth understanding of your product or service? Enter long-form content. This type of careful, detailed storytelling that will relate and resonate is a must for developing a relationship with your audience. This article from Pitchfork artfully breaks up the wealth of text with fiery (literally) images, color-blocking and interactive pop-ups to keep the reader engaged. While producing content exceeding 1,000 words may seem daunting, when combined with bright art and snappy section headings, it can have the same effect as short-form content: namely, not overwhelming your reader, while providing more information.

If it doesn’t “go viral,” it’s a failure.

In reality, “going viral” should not be the ultimate goal for your content. What’s the last viral video you watched? Have you been back to that website or thought about that product or service lately? Right. Viral content is popular for a day or a week or two, but after that, it sinks into the abyss of the Internet. It may garner a few clicks for a while after its initial stardom, but the significance it held for your audience will diminish greatly after that point. Your content should compel users to come back again and again; it needs to stick with them over time. That’s why in this business, quality over quantity reigns. Your work doesn’t have to be a bestseller every time, but all of it needs to satisfy a few key questions that will help your audience determine if your product or service is right for them.

When developing your content, ask yourself: Does it answer the questions my audience is asking? Does it provide them with value they can’t get anywhere else? If the answer is “yes,” you’re on the right path to creating effective content that people will want to engage with. For more tips, check out this article on taking your content from good to great.

You can’t measure the ROI of content marketing.

The end goal of most marketing efforts is—you guessed it—a sale. While sales are important and drive companies to engage in content marketing, it’s also important to remember that it’s not the only reason. Your overall return on investment includes other key factors such as visibility, engagement, brand loyalty and trust, to name a few. And there are, in fact, many ways to measure the results of your content marketing. The Content Marketing Institute has provided a simple method for determining ROI just using Google Analytics and Excel. A more in-depth way to gauge ROI, however, can be seen in “The ROI of Content Marketing: How to measure success.” This whitepaper can give you a better understanding of the importance of making your measurement strategy unique to your company and recognizing the different factors that contribute to your ROI. The takeaway: You can measure content marketing ROI, but you need to decide how you’ll do it.

Content marketing isn’t different from regular marketing.

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Content marketing and traditional forms of marketing are fundamentally different because they were designed to achieve different results. Here’s a quick rundown for you:

Outbound marketing

The “traditional” marketing model that mainly relies on four key mediums: print, broadcast, direct mail and telephone. The most popular medium still being used from this model is direct mail, but rather than coming to your house, it’s going to your digital inbox in the form of email blasts and campaigns. This is a “bring the product to the masses” form of marketing that continuously delivers the product or service to customers whether they want it or not. The methods and mediums involved typically address the brand’s needs more than the audience’s. This creates a one-sided relationship where the company reaps all of the benefit and the audience is left without a voice in the conversation. Essentially, the goal is to target an audience to generate interest and sales, not developing a relationship with the consumer.

Content marketing

This is short- and long-form storytelling that doesn’t simply promote the company or brand; rather it’s a way to communicate with customers without selling to them. In the words of Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience—with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” The goal: Provide a target audience with consistent, valuable content, where the main goals are to build relationships and engagement, gain their trust and increase conversions.

Content marketing is different for B2B brands.

Sure, B2B branded content may be different in both tone and delivery, but in the end there’s a person on the receiving end of your message, a decision-maker on the other side of that content, who you’re trying to reach. The goal remains the same with any audience: Provide useful, relevant content that will drive engagement and conversions. Once again, ask yourself: Does my content address the needs of my audience? Does it provide them with value? Does it help them identify with my company or my brand? B2B content marketing may sometimes be less complicated than B2C because you don’t always need an emotional angle or appeal. Sometimes, all you need is sound, practical information to capture the attention of decision-makers and get them interested in your brand. Take a look at this B2B content marketing from First Round Venture that makes venture capital, (yes, venture capital, that thing that most people don’t understand) fun and relatable with their digital magazines. Careful organization, curated content, bright visuals and a call to action combine to make this an interesting and informative take on a fairly obscure topic. 

Content marketing is only about creating content.

Ever heard of content strategy, content activation or content optimization? Well, they’re pretty important, and they encompass far more than just creating content and publishing it on your website. A great content strategy is what leads to great storytelling. Your content will not be successful if you’re just throwing out posts, infographics or how-to videos left and right with no direction or follow-up. Many factors have to work together in order to produce a successful content marketing program. There needs to be thoughtful planning, efficient content development, constant governance and content activation through the use of a variety of formats and delivery platforms. A truly persuasive story has to be told strategically, carefully crafted to target a specific audience with a specific message. In order to accomplish that, research has to be done, analytics have to be studied and a plan needs to be developed for how, when and where you’ll put out your content to generate the most impact. This article on using data to develop a successful content strategy can give you a better understanding of how knowing and understanding your target audience will help you create a plan for your content that can help drive results. See, it’s not all about the words!

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Hopefully, I’ve done some mind-blowing myth-busting today, so to wrap up, here are a few key points to keep in mind: Don’t shy away from long-form content. While some readers might find scrolling through content on a mobile device challenging, it’s the best way to give your reader—regardless of device—a real understanding of what your brand can offer them. Providing that value for your consumer is key; it’s what gets them coming back again and again. So don’t forget to craft your content with care. It doesn’t have to appeal to everyone online. It just needs to hit home with your target audience.

Make sure you’re using a system to measure and track your content and its success, and then use that data to improve your strategy. By analyzing how your audience engages with your content, you’ll have a better understanding of who they are and what they want, making it easier for you to deliver results. Content marketing is a multifaceted marketing approach that relies on building a relationship with your audience—be it a single shopper or a corporate buyer—so don’t be fooled into thinking that all you need to do is write a sharp article and put it in a blog. Remember that it needs to be backed by a solid content strategy to encourage engagement and deliver results.

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