brief thought from the train today: content marketing is still somewhat in the "low-hanging fruit" days, but as the information economy becomes more efficient, and the returns on content "arbitrage" begin to diminish, content will have to do more than simply answer questions. Content will have to connect with people.
When you are "working a room," connecting is an exercise in finding common ground. You live in New York City? I used to live in New York. You have a daughter? I have a son. Etcetera. Common ground in this sense, however, addresses the lowest common denominators; the superficial aspects of life. Those help you open a door, of course, but once someone chooses to read your content, that door already stands open, does it not?
People truly connect not when they share the same what, but when they share the same why. There are some companies out there that are fantastic content marketers--and I'd never give them my custom, because their content is incongruous with other aspects of their brand. When that is the case, I find myself irrationally choosing not to do business with them, despite an overwhelming flood of "rationally" helpful content. They've connected with me on the surface, but failed to connect with me on a deeper level.
Every time, for instance, someone sends me an infographic that is based upon lousy data, or is improperly cited, or mixes apples and oranges, a little part of me dies. But you might receive the same infographic, and have that image spark the idea that makes you the next Mark Zuckerberg. Value judgements about content are individual and idiosyncratic, and ultimately it is not for me to judge what content is or is not of value to you. But if you wanted to reach me, you'd understand me. And if you understood me, you wouldn't send me crap infographics. You'd understand, and empathize with, my values, not my search terms.
The strongest brands in the world leave deeper footprints. Content alone rarely does that. Content can serve as a record of proof, but seldom serve as the proof itself. Indeed, if your brand is proving it, every day, in customer service, quality, operational efficiency or innovation (whatever your customers connect with), the content will create itself. Brands scramble to encourage user-generated content, but the best content is the trailing variable of consumer passion, not the product of a contest.
Content marketing begins with who you are, who you hire, and how you act.