Content Marketing Success: The First Four Steps [Opinion]

Just Add Ice orchids on Twitter
Just Add Ice orchids on Twitter

Saying that social marketing is different from traditional marketing is a huge understatement. Diving into Facebook, Twitter and search engine optimization requires a new set of skills, but also a new mindset.

This industry is facing a crossroads. A horde of hipsters and technology freaks, kids who have never seen a garden larger than a postage stamp, apartment dwellers and double-income, no-kid couples make up a good chunk of this country’s next generation.

If you want to see this industry thrive, it’s time for everyone to pitch in to market it. And not the way that we’re comfortable marketing, but the way these people, our new customers, want to be marketed to.

If I owned a wholesale greenhouse operation with no retail outlet, or any type of manufacturing business, I wouldn’t leave the marketing of my product up to someone else, even the retailer of my product. There’s just too much riding on the space between the shelf and the shopping cart. If you want your business to succeed, do something to make sure your plants make it all the way through to the patio and the windowsill. Don’t leave it in someone else’s hands.

How To Reach Customers Through Social Media

So how do you reach these new consumers? Quite often, marketers everywhere are looking for the silver bullet — the commercial or advertisement that catches fire or the one spokesperson who everyone loves and adores.

To put it bluntly, this is old-school marketing. These tactics won’t work in new marketing. These consumers are looking for partners, not pitches. New marketing is personal. It’s a two-way conversation. And sometimes you can get your best customers to advocate for you. Here’s what I see working in content marketing.

1. Give your customers the information they need, whatever the information is. This is the foundation of the Youtility theory coined by new marketing consultant Jay Baer. Youtility is marketing that is so useful, people would pay for it.

#GardenChat on Twitter
#GardenChat on Twitter

“It’s a new marketing model for the age of information overload,” Baer’s website explains. There are a lot of social media theories floating around out there, but this one is pretty difficult to argue against.

If you’re on board, here’s a first example to check out: Just Add Ice Orchids. Scrolling through its Twitter feed, it’s difficult to find any kind of sales message. The feed is full of advice and beautiful photos of orchids, and not Just Add Ice orchids, but all types. If I have questions about how to care for orchids, Just Add Ice has me covered on Twitter and its website, JustAddIceOrchids.com. It’s all right there for consumers to find.

2. Realize that people trust their friends, not companies. That’s why social media marketing works so well — the most effective part of it is word-of-mouth marketing. If my friends want me to read something, I’ll most likely read it. If a company wants me to read something, I might read it. What can you do about this? You can make content that is so useful, people will not only pay for it, but they will share it with their friends.

3. Become people’s friends and they will trust you. I’m an advocate for making a face for your business on social media, but it’s not a requirement. The important thing is to interact with your customers. Let gardeners get to know you. Search for #garden on Twitter and see where you can lend a hand to a young gardener. Be a plant nerd along with consumers.

A few weeks ago, I purchased Transcribe Lite, software to help with transcribing audio files. Once I purchased it, I received an eMail from one of the co-founders of the company asking if I needed any help getting started. As a cynical media user, I replied with a few tweaks I thought would improve the software, not really expecting a reply. The same day, I received a reply responding to my concerns. It was clearly written by a human being and included a link to the company’s Twitter feed. Now I’m a follower and a believer.

As small businesses with so much knowledge that consumers want, this industry is primed for success with content marketing.

4. Listen as much as you talk. People are out there talking about what they like and don’t like about your products. There’s a free focus group every day on social media. All you have to do is listen. If you haven’t tuned into #GardenChat, a conversation Monday nights on Twitter, please do. You don’t have to say anything. Just listen.

So ask yourself — what do today’s hipsters and technology freaks need that this industry can fulfill? And how can we get it to them through their favorite marketing channels?

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