Branded Content: The Billboard in Your Basement?

Don't spend big money on good content that goes unnoticed.


by Peter Coish

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Unless you’ve been holed up in North Korea, you know that content marketing is hot. No matter if you’re in B2C or B2B, “publish or perish” has become the clarion call of the 21st-century marketer. Experts trumpet content marketing as the end of interruptive advertising, as prospects rebel against the brutish “push” of advertising and submit to the gentle “pull” of content. Marketing, they say, will never be the same.

But visit the websites home to such content and you’ll see that few marketers are actually getting a return on their investment. Virtual tumbleweed blows through the sites, and the likes, shares and tweets can be counted on your hands and (sometimes) your toes.

And all that money spent on fabulous content? Wasted.

Getting traction for your content is hard work. First and foremost it has to amuse, inspire, amaze, warn, unite or reward readers (even better, some combination of all of these). And it must be relevant to your brand. No easy task.

But even if your content is on-brand comedy gold, there’s no guarantee it will go “viral” (there, we used the v-word). Too often, brands new to content marketing expect a tidal wave of traffic the moment they hit the publish button. Instead, they see barely a ripple. And they blame the content.

That blame may well be misplaced. Content marketing doesn’t mean you can turn your back on advertising. In fact, it means you have to do more of it. Every. Day. Of. The. Year.

Back in the old days of 2009, you could publish a link to your content on Facebook, and a good portion of your fans would see it in their news feeds and share it with their friends. No ads required. Today that seems quaint. Facebook users’ feeds are now slammed with content from the over 100 brands they like. And post-IPO, Facebook makes you pay if you want your post to reach more than 10% to 15% of your fans (which you paid good money to get in the first place).

That’s why smart content marketers create a mini-advertising plan for each and every piece of content they create. These plans include paid advertising on social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Pay-per-click search engine marketing on Google, or content discovery networks like Outbrain. Old-timey display ads on sites frequented by prospects. And labour-intensive outreach efforts to traditional media outlets, bloggers and owners of like-minded Facebook Pages.

It all costs money. And if you are publishing content several times a week, those costs add up fast. But – ironically – the only way to get a decent ROI on your content is to spend this money.

So the next time you hear someone say that content marketing will kill advertising, go ahead and correct them. Tell them it’s the best thing to happen to advertising in a long time.

Peter Coish is the founder of KURATION.  He can be reached by email here.