When’s the last time you met a social media guru? Probably quite a while ago now, unless you’ve been very unlucky or been hanging out at the wrong conferences.
Think how often you’d come across that cringeworthy description just six months ago and breathe a sigh of relief it’s, almost, over.
Unsurprisingly, this being the digital industry where a love of bandwagons and buzzphrases always reigns supreme, we’ve got a new rash of self-styled experts to shake down nervous brands desperate not to miss the next big thing. Content marketing gurus. Yep, they’re starting to appear, as a quick Google search proves. Even, horror of horrors, ‘content marketing ninjas’.
As a, very recent, ex journalist I have an unsurprising love of content. I can’t get enough of the emotions good content stirs up – love, joy, anger, excitement, anticipation, surprise. And all the reactions and actions it can inspire from loyalty, trust, respect and friendship to hatred, fear and even pity.
Working now at a marketing agency that puts content at the heart of everything it does for clients, it’s fantastic to see brands treating content with the respect I think it deserves. As a living, breathing organism that needs constant nourishment and attention, not merely something to slap a mismatched sponsorship deal on top of or, worse, something to be used to fool people - as we saw until so recently in the nefarious use of shoddy content and content farms trying to fool an algorithm.
So, what’s the problem with the industry froth around content marketing at the moment? My slight worry is that it becomes a repeat of the social media guru phase. ‘Experts’ using industry hype around an eminently sensible and powerful approach to engaging with consumers to blindside brands with the shiny light of a ‘content marketing’ fix and stopping them considering exactly how content, approaching semi-mythical marketing status despite it being the way humans have always communicated in some way or other, forms a natural part of their business.
Instead, let’s use the power of content to help the move to that other semi-mythical marketing goal in digital, integration. I don’t want to go into a top tips on content marketing strategy lesson, you can’t move online for those at present. But what is exciting is that a true content marketing strategy is a perfect symbiosis of digital disciplines. SEO, PPC, social media, online PR, paid media. Every element needs to work in tandem to ensure the magic of content is unlocked. With its Penguin and Panda update, content is critical to SEO. It’s the key to driving social media sharing. It’s the most powerful way to get people to open and read your email campaigns. Content is the only way you’re going to make the most of the non-stop rise in online video.
So while we’re seeing increasing numbers of content marketing roles pop up at brands, content is arguably more than any other discipline one that has to be integrated across the business. The move to true integrated marketing informed by an authentic point of view is the real potential of content. We don’t need another buzzphrase, we just need a strategic understanding of content across every marketing discipline.
What we definitely don’t need, please, is any more gurus.
Justin Pearse is head of innovation at Bite and a BIMA executive committee member. He is a former editor of New Media Age.