What Is Content Marketing, and Why Is It King?

A search bar, video, and other icons appear on a smartphone screen in this image for a blog about content marketing.
A search bar, video, and other icons appear on a smartphone screen in this image for a blog about content marketing.

Bill Gates wrote these famous words in a 1996 essay: Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.

This was back when the internet was still in its infancy. Businesses and consumers alike were still testing the digital media waters. The internet wasn’t yet on our phones, much less in nearly every household. So much has changed since 1996, but Gates’ prediction remains truer than ever — content is the king of digital marketing.

As the internet has taken root in more areas of our lives — everything from entertainment to shopping to paying bills and more — traditional marketing is becoming less impactful. As any marketer knows, you need to focus on where your audience is if you want to reach them. Since the average person spends about seven hours a day online, it’s no surprise that content has maintained its hold on marketers.

Here's a closer look at what content marketing is and why it matters more than ever in our digital-first economy.

Table of Contents:

What Is Content Marketing?

Writing content.

Truth be told, the whole internet could technically be considered “content.” What sets regular content apart from digital content marketing is intention.

A hallmark of content for marketing purposes is that it steers away from traditional marketing messages. Rather than promote an item or brand in a sales-y way, content marketing focuses more on providing value to audiences and less on immediate sales.  

How to Define Content Marketing

To define content marketing, think of it this way:

Content marketing is the intentional approach to creating valuable, useful, relevant content for online audiences that encourages a specific action from the viewer.

The idea is that when brands can promote value to the user above anything else, users will be more informed and sales will naturally follow.

What Do Content Marketers and Content Marketing Managers Do?

Marketers have a goal in mind, whether it’s to build brand awareness, improve lead generation, drive sales and other conversions, get audience feedback, or a similar goal. From there, a content marketing manager, also known as a content marketer, decides which type of content will help them achieve that goal.

What Are the Different Types of Content Marketing?

Content marketing idea board.

Regardless of how you market to your online audience, content plays a key role in your strategy. It’s the images, videos, and posts you share on social media. It’s the landing page people see after they click on your pay-per-click (PPC) ad. It’s the variety of links that show up on search engine results pages to match a user’s query and guide them to your brand.

From SEO to inbound marketing, social media to PPC ads, brands rely on quality digital content creation to get seen and boost conversions. Here are some of the different types of content marketing you’ll want to explore:

Content Marketing Blogs

A content marketing blog is among the lowest-hanging fruits for brands. Blog articles provide customers and potential customers with relevant information. For instance, if you sell a software product, your blog might include articles about its unique features, tips on how to use it, or answers to questions from your users.

Blogs also boost your brand’s search engine optimization (SEO) to help people find you via search. Your articles help you reach people who are searching for what you offer. Do some keyword research to come up with content ideas that will resonate with your users. Build each blog around a unique keyword to keep your ideas focused and relevant.

To get even more mileage from your content marketing strategy, you can use your blog posts to beef up your social media and email marketing. Share your articles with those audiences to get more blog exposure.

Tip: Did you know that you can also leverage videos for SEO on YouTube?

Infographics

Infographics are like blog posts but more visual. Instead of sharing information in an article format, you can turn your ideas into graphics. These are light on text since the images do most of the talking. They’re ideal for turning complex or boring topics into engaging content.

These are especially helpful for tough subjects because the human brain processes images much faster than text. Information that might take a person several minutes to read and understand can be presented in an infographic and understood in a fraction of the time.

Great content is heavy on visuals. Infographics are 30 times more likely to be viewed compared to text-based content, plus colorful graphics can increase conversions by up to 80%. Finally, infographics are super shareable!

Videos

We have much faster internet speeds than we did when Bill Gates made the prediction we referenced at the start of this post. We also have tons of video features (like Facebook Live) and tools to create and share video content. It’s no surprise that video now accounts for 82% of all internet traffic and is one of the most popular content types.

Similar to infographics, videos are heavy on visual content. They help bring ideas to life, are easy to digest, and turn complex concepts into easy-to-understand topics. For instance, you might offer a step-by-step look at how to perform a specific task with your product.

Because of their widespread appeal and ability to share lots of details quickly, videos are a great way to bring more value to your audience.

Tip: When creating videos make sure to follow the correct social media video sizes and specs!

Ebooks

Ebooks are excellent tools in a content marketing strategy focused on generating qualified leads. Pick a topic that relates to your brand and requires a more in-depth explanation than the average blog post can offer. Then let your audience download the ebook in exchange for a small fee or their email address. That way, you’ll get leads who are truly interested in the topic, and you can continue helping them learn more about your brand and product or service.

Case Studies

For middle and lower funnel leads, case studies can pack a powerful punch. A case study gives an in-depth look at a customer who has used your product or service and the results they gained. It relies on real stats and figures to illustrate its story and usually contains quotes from the customer about their experience.

White Papers

Similar to ebooks in terms of length and marketing use cases, white papers offer a way to build trust with your audience. The difference is that white papers are more data-driven than ebooks or even case studies. They’re filled with research and present information factually. They are also a great way to highlight original research you have that other brands don't. Because the data does the talking, you can use white papers to promote your brand in a non-sales-driven way.

User-Generated Content

User-generated content (UGC), is content created for your brand by real users or customers. It might be a video or photo of them using your product or a tutorial showing others how something works. UGC carries a lot of weight because it’s made by real people, not your brand. Users trust UGC and see it as raw, honest, and unbiased.

Tip: Check out these user-generated content examples.

Influencer Content

Influencer content is similar to UGC. The difference is that influencer content is usually commissioned by the company or brand, whereas UGC often happens organically.

You can hire influencers to promote your product or service to their audience. This helps you expand your reach and adds a layer of authenticity to the process because you’re not creating the content yourself. It's one of the most effective content formats because it's like getting a personal recommendation rather than a typical marketing message.

Online Reviews and Testimonials

Another form of UGC, online reviews and customer testimonials are examples of high-converting content. They give direct insights into your product or service, are created by your customers, and shed light on their personal experiences.

For instance, someone might leave a star rating and review on your Google Business or Facebook pages. Or, you might ask a customer to record a video testimonial that you can post to your brand’s home page.

Online reviews and testimonials are like getting celebrity endorsements for your brand but from your customers instead of celebrities. People don’t want to attach their name to a recommendation if they don’t fully support a product. That’s one reason why most people trust online reviews as much as they trust referrals from family members or friends.

Checklists

Another opportunity to collect qualified leads, checklists are easy to make and offer lots of value to your users. Instead of putting together the nuts and bolts of a particular topic or task, you can save them the trouble by making a checklist. They have something concrete to follow since you’ve taken the guesswork out of the equation for them. And similar to an ebook, you can require your audience to sign up for your email list to access the downloadable checklist.

Slide Decks

Another growing type of content asset is online presentations. Using tools like SlideShare, brands can make their own on-demand slide decks that share information in presentation format. This is a great way to break topics down into bite-sized chunks and let the user go at their own pace.

Why Is Content Marketing Important?

Computer screen displaying a megaphone and digital media.

To understand the full role of content marketing campaigns, look no further than the declining value of traditional marketing. Billboards, direct mail, and print publications just don’t have the same appeal they once did.

People learn to ignore ads — we’ve had to, given that the average person sees thousands of ads per day! When we get overwhelmed by companies competing for our attention, we learn how to tune them out if they’re not important to us.

That’s what makes content marketing different. Its goal isn’t to sell or promote, but to offer real value to the viewer. This helps remove some of the internal ad-block consumers have developed so that brands get noticed. Once you earn some visibility, you have a chance to make a lasting impression on your audience.

There’s also been a shift in the buying process that marketers should note. In the past, buyers would follow a fairly predictable path of discovering an issue, exploring various products, and then making a buying decision. Today, that process isn’t as linear as it once was.

Buyers are doing more and more research on their own. They’re using Google to find information about different solutions to their problem. They’re reading online reviews with companies before they buy. In fact, some studies estimate that almost half of the buying process involves independent research online and offline.

Brands need to be able to accommodate this new buying journey, and content provides a viable way to support it. Brands can present content to users that speaks to wherever they are in the process.

What Are the Benefits of Content Marketing?

Content marketers can expect a wide range of benefits with high-quality content. Here are a few benefits you can expect from a well-crafted content strategy:

Improved SEO

More content gives you more chances to rank well in search results. SEO helps you drive better quality leads because your content answers what your audience wants to know.

Greater Authority and Trust

Creating content lets you show off your knowledge about a particular topic. It makes you look like an expert because you can answer your audience’s questions and solve their problems. In turn, they’ll trust you more because you’ve helped them.

Low-Cost Marketing

A report by Demand Metric found that, on average, content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing. Plus, it’s more targeted because your content speaks directly to your customer at whatever buying stage they’re in.

Stronger Branding

Content allows your audience to get to know you beyond traditional marketing and ads. They can learn more about your brand through the visuals and language you use and how you present your ideas to them.

Higher Quality Leads

Content marketing isn’t like billboards and print ads, where targeting is broad and you have no idea who is seeing your ads. Rather, your content is designed to speak to specific types of customers, which can help you attract quality leads interested in what you offer.

Digital Content Creation and Content Marketing Examples

Let’s put all of this together and see how other brands are using content marketing. Here are a few content marketing examples you can adapt for your own brand.

NeilMed

NeilMed social media post.

Health product company NeilMed has built a strong social media presence and uses it to collect user-generated content. In the above example, they leverage Instagram to encourage online ratings and reviews and offer an incentive for participants.

Lume

Standing near a cubicle.

Natural deodorant brand Lume has taken a relatively mundane product and reinvented it with humor. Their content marketing videos hilariously break the stigma of body odor and help to set their brand apart.

Adobe

Adobe five tips to make your designs stand out post.

Adobe is a name every content creator knows, thanks to the brand’s powerful suite of design software and content creation tools. To help its users get even more from their products, its blog is filled with helpful articles, tips, tricks, and other content to support good design.

Grove

Grove's Thanksgiving Week waste post.

Natural cleaning company Grove has built its brand on creating a sustainable world. To do this, the company generates infographics (like the one above) that help users see the impact of their actions and choices on the planet.

HubSpot

Case studies promo.

Marketing and lead gen platform HubSpot is a pro when it comes to case studies. Because the platform can do so many things and is used by thousands of brands, the company relies on case studies to showcase its potential and how other companies are using it successfully.

How Meltwater Can Help with Digital Content Marketing

Content truly is king when it comes to reaching your target audience. It helps you highlight your brand in new ways, reach more people online, and provide value to your audience.

But creating content for the sake of content won’t help you with any of the above. Instead, more content marketers are choosing a data-driven approach to inform their content creation strategies.

Meltwater supports content marketing by using data to learn what your audience needs and wants. Our platform explores millions of topics across multiple online channels to learn what people are talking about, the questions they’re asking, and the brands and influencers they love.

You can put this insight to work for you in creating eye-catching content your audience will care about. Discover powerful influencers in your niche that can help you promote your brand to others. Learn the best content formats and times to post on social media to maximize visibility and engagement. Most importantly, monitor your content’s progress to see who’s engaging with it so you can build on your successes.

Fill out the form below to learn more about Meltwater's suite of content marketing solutions.

Loading...