In this new world of free social media marketing, standing up to be counted can prove difficult. All of the messages, information, education and chatter taking place everywhere makes it all a bit overwhelming and easy for others to overlook you. So what’s a small business to do? The answer is simple – listen first, share next. Tune in as Brian Clark, Founder of Copyblogger , joins Brent Leary to discuss the importance of social listening, context, customer service and mobility in content marketing.
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Small Business Trends: What’s the biggest thing that has impacted content marketing over the last couple of years?
Brian Clark: A few things stand out. When I started in 2006 talking about this stuff, we didn’t even call it content marketing. I think Joe Pulizzi and those guys established that as the term that should be used online, and we adopted it. That was the development, agreeing on a term, even though we all kind of don’t like it.
Another big development was in 2011, when content marketing went from us Internet guys, to a more mainstream thing. I think that had to do with the mainstreaming of social media. Because people were like, “Oh my gosh, this is the greatest marketing channel in the world!” Except people do not want to be pitched in social channels.
That’s how our business was built – by people who shared content in social media. And then, of course, that gets you into a relationship with people over time, where eventually they become interested in your products and services.
The other big thing would have to be Google. The Panda Update of 2011 just destroyed what people thought was SEO up to that point. Then something called Penguin came along and destroyed the other half. Now it has come down to what we have been preaching for 7 years:
“Great content gets shared naturally, and results in organic links and natural social sharing. Google can’t take that away. Twitter can’t take that away. That is how our whole company was built out of a blog. No advertising, no investment capital, and now we’re a software company just shy of 100,000 customers, so it works.”
Small Business Trends: How important is context to content?
Brian Clark: It is absolutely crucial. But I think I just took for granted that it is context marketing not just content. Without context, i.e. in the sense of your business objective, it is not marketing – it is just stuff on a webpage that doesn’t work. I think people are short with that. That is why you hear a lot of people talking about context more and more.
Because we shouldn’t have taken it for granted. Let’s face it, most people aren’t good at old style marketing, right? And now we are asking them to do new style marketing, and people are struggling with it. So there is an entire industry being built around content marketing.
Small Business Trends: What role does social listening play today when it comes to content marketing?
Brian Clark: It’s everything. You have the greatest market research environment in the world and it is free. It’s just overwhelming and we call it social media. But it is has to be responsive to relevant stimuli and that comes in the form of content. So if you put stuff out there first, it is hard to get attention. There’s a lot of content out there.
Every day on Twitter, or Facebook, or Google Plus we see something break. Good content always gets attention at the beginning, and I can tell you from my personal experience; the first three months of Copyblogger were the most unknown, lonely, trial and error period ever. Everyone does it. I was absolutely unknown, and everyone starts out that same place. With two subscribers, you and your other email address.
In the early days, people thought if I put some content out there it will just take off. You gotta hustle behind the scenes. But the great thing is, once you get traction, once you get an audience of your own, you put out good stuff and they will share it. It starts taking off on their own. It’s simple, it’s just not easy.
Small Business Trends: I think the best way to build a brand is to pay attention to customer needs, create better experiences, and then let the customer say how great those experiences are.
Brian Clark: I think you just nailed it. That’s the real power of so-called social media marketing. It is not what you are saying about you, it’s what they are saying about you.
Small Business Trends: So in other words, content marketing is a great opportunity to show your target audience how much you’ve listened to them?
Brian Clark: Yes, you are giving them value up front, which people love. You are basically educating them enough to do business with you, but your point is – they are educating you as well.
Small Business Trends: How important is content marketing once you already have the customer?
Brian Clark: I think that’s probably one of the most valuable and perhaps under served markets. If you do general content marketing that educates people in the arena of knowledge, they need to know how to succeed with your products or services. That does not end just because they gave you some money.
The most valuable customer is the one that pays you again and again and again. Monthly is my favorite.
Small Business Trends: How is mobile impacting the future of content marketing?
Brian Clark: It wasn’t long ago where everyone was saying they’ve gotta have an app. Then it was about getting people to download your app. Think about how social media works, specifically social media sharing. People aren‘t going to download an app to read your site. That is why you are seeing the rise of mobile responsive design, which sounds complicated, but all it means is that when I come to your site on my laptop it looks like you would expect it to.
When I go on my iPad, it is different, but it’s optimized perfectly. It detects that it is an iPad, it’s a tablet. Same thing for a phone. That is where it’s at. The open web is going to win this, because the way people share links still rules and apps will work for certain relationships with content. But if you can get the same experience out of a mobile responsive site, then why not? Does the app actually add value you can’t get with your mobile on the responsive website?
That is where the terms have been this year, and that’s going to continue.
This interview is part of our One on One series of conversations with some of the most thought-provoking entrepreneurs, authors and experts in business today. This interview has been edited for publication. To hear audio of the full interview, click the right arrow on the gray player below. You can also see more in our interview series .