Ever wish someone would pull back the curtain on content marketing?
It’s a buzzword that marketing directors love to pull out of their hat to sell products and services, develop branding, and get more clicks, likes and follows.
But what exactly is content marketing? How does it work? And what do you need to know to land well-paying content marketing gigs for businesses, custom publications, and agencies?
If you’re feeling a little like one of the judges on America’s Got Talent mystified by magician Shin Lim’s card tricks about content marketing, you’re not alone.
Even though content marketing has been around for ages, it’s gone through a kind of jaw-dropping metamorphosis in the digital world.
Today, about 90 percent of all companies (From Fortune 500s to small business owners) use content marketing to communicate with their audiences. And that’s a good thing if you’re a freelancer. Why? It means there’s more opportunity than ever to make a living writing.
Want to learn a little content marketing magic to land more freelance work? We caught up with an industry expert to reveal the secrets to content marketing success. Pull back the curtain…
Meet content marketing expert Joe Pulizzi
Long before content marketing was a buzzword, Joe Pulizzi was working behind the scenes in custom publishing for Penton Media in North America to help brands and businesses grow. He’s the founder of the Content Marketing Institute and the content marketing magazine Chief Content Officer. He’s also the author of four books, including Killing Marketing: How Innovative Businesses Are Turning Marketing Cost Into Profit.
Here are Joe’s thoughts on the state of content marketing today:
Q: What is content marketing?
A: Think of it like this. Instead of a company using traditional advertising mediums to promote products and services, it uses content. For that to happen, the company’s marketing department operates more like a media company.
The goal: Creating valuable, relevant, and compelling content on a consistent basis to attract customers and prospects. That’s content for things like:
- Social media posts
- E-mail marketing
- White papers
- Case studies
- And more
Q: How long has content marketing been around?
A: More than 100 years. I always like to throw out the example of John Deere starting a publication back in 1895 called, The Furrow Magazine. It was basically a magazine to help farmers with the operational challenges of running a small farm. Instead of talking about their products and services, they talked about issues related to help farmers with their careers and their lives, and technology around farming equipment. Even though that was in print, that’s kind of the first representation of brands acting like publishers.
Q: How does content marketing work on social media?
Q: Is there a company doing content marketing well?
Q: What should freelancers know about content marketing?
A: So even though 9 out of 10 companies are doing content marketing, less than 10 percent of those companies have any kind of content strategy at all. And that’s why they need a lot of help from writers. A lot of organizations out there that are just throwing stuff against the wall and experimenting. Besides writing great content, you can help a company develop a content strategy by answering some basic questions like:
- What are your business objectives?
- What do you want people to do after consuming this content?
- Are you trying to generate leads or keep customers longer?
- Are you trying to shorten the sales cycle?
Q: What matters most, volume or quality of content?
Q: How do you get into content marketing?
Q: How do you market yourself as a niche writer?
- Build your platform. That platform for a writer is usually a blog, writer website, or active LinkedIn profile. I’ve talked to so many writers who say, “I don’t wanna write for free. I wanna get paid.” And I’m like, “Well if you don’t write for free on your own platform and think of yourself as a media company, you’re not going to get found.”
- Leverage SEO. I’m not saying everybody has to go out and start a blog. But you need a content platform, and you need to own that platform. Learning the basics about search engine optimization for everything you write to promote yourself will help you get found on Google.
- Network on social media. Build a social network in your niche area. Find out who the influencers are. You can use tools like Twitter, Twitter hashtags, Google tools and alerts to find out where your people are hanging out online. Then connect, build relationships, share your content, and guest post for free. Giving wonderful, outstanding, truly helpful, free content will position you as a niche expert to land paying gigs.
Today’s writer has to be social media savvy. If you can show that, you jump to the top of the pack, and clients will call you back.
Q: What’s your outlook on content marketing opportunities for freelance writers?
A: There’s never been more opportunity than there is right now. It’s just different than it used to be. Freelancers we’re all our own little start-ups. We’re all our own little entrepreneurs. Start thinking of yourself as your own little media company. The higher profile you can get and make for yourself online, the more revenue opportunities you’re going to have.
Create your own content marketing magic
If you’ve been thinking about boosting your online profile, updating your blog, or building relationships to land content marketing gigs, it’s time to take action. If you want to write for custom pubs, trade pubs or the leading brands in your niche, now is always a good time to start.
Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline, or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultramarathon.