Our ‘Talking Content‘ series continues with the Australian perspective from content marketing speaker, author and ruckus maker Trevor Young.
The Q&A session covers two sections, part one (here) looks at what content marketing means and taking a human perspective. Part two (coming this Thursday) looks a bit more closely from an Australian viewpoint and what the future holds.
Once again, many thanks to Trevor for taking the time to contribute to the session.
A brief introduction to who you are and what you stand for.
I’m a trained journalist going back way too many years; I’ve spent the past two-plus decades as a PR consultant working with some of the biggest communications agencies in Australia as well as co-founding and running my own marketing PR firm for 10 years.
Since 2007 I’ve been fully immersed in the social media, blogging and content marketing side of things, skewed towards a PR and brand communications perspective. These days, I’m a professional speaker and adviser (through my new business, expermedia); I released a book this year through Wiley Publishing, called microDOMINATION: How to leverage social media and content marketing to build a mini business empire around your personal brand.
I describe myself as a ‘pragmatic purist’ when it comes to social media – by that I mean I’m all about putting your heart and soul into your social and content efforts in the first instance, while acknowledging there are some things you can do from an SEO and automation perspective that can help make your efforts more effective. What I don’t like is the fact too many brands and individuals just ‘dial it in’, trying to get maximum results with minimum effort; they’re all about chucking stuff out there regardless of quality, they don’t interact with people, they’re not about delivering value or being a genuine part of the online community.
What does content marketing mean to you?
I think the fact anyone with passion, knowledge and a point of view (as well as a functioning internet connection to their device of choice!) can create and distribute content with scale, on a global basis and in real time – to become their own mini media enterprise, as it were – is one of the greatest opportunities of all time.
To be able to produce original content at minimal cost (barring man hours) – along with using social media to distribute and share that content, and drive conversations and build relationships with the people who matter most to the success of your business, cause or issue – provides individuals and organisations with an unparalleled opportunity to increase their visibility and influence, to grow their audience, build their brand and ultimately, sell more stuff.
Put even more simply, content helps brands to grow their own audience of fans, followers, supporters, advocates and enthusiasts for what it is they do and stand for. Owning your audience (acknowledging they can walk any time!) versus paying someone to rent their audience, is the big force at play here.
How important is it to be seen as an influencer?
In a crowded marketplace, especially if you operate in a space where knowledge and expertise is your stock in trade and therefore a key differentiator between people and brands, then it’s incredibly important.
I like to refer to the word ‘authority‘ – being seen as an authority in your particular niche is critical because an authority is someone people take notice of, listen to – they read their stuff, share their content and refer them to colleagues and peers; an authority is someone the media will come to for quotes and interviews.
There’s nothing wrong with being an expert by the way, but there are potentially hundreds and thousands of them in any given field whereas there are not as many authorities because – well, let’s face it – it takes considerable time and effort to reach that higher level of profile, trust and respect in the marketplace.
Even though we can hide behind our social media ‘personas’ how important is it to be seen as a ‘real’ person and champion being ‘normal’?
The reason social media is so powerful – the reason some companies are nailing it in the space while others simply come across as naff try-hards – is because of this very aspect. People do business with people, not logos. We like interacting with human beings – we are hard-wired to be social. Companies and organisations for too long have been hiding from view, spinning the truth, hyping the trivial and creating self-important brand messaging from the ivory tower confines of the boardroom. Good luck with that in the future!
The companies that are picking up support and growing their base of brand advocates are those that understand that humanising their brand, that putting their people front and centre, is where it’s at.
At an extreme level, look at Zappos.com (I tend not to use Zappos as an example too often as they’re so good in this space, so much so that other major brands can never hope to reach such ‘brand-as-human’ heights).
But some pretty big brands such as Ford, Whole Foods Market, HubSpot, South West Air and King Arthur Flour get this as well and are making tremendous inroads in terms of humanising their brand. It’s the way to go, for sure.
Smaller companies, of course, have the edge in this regard and this is something they should be really accentuating in their social media and content marketing activities.
If the past was about telling everyone how great our businesses are. Do you believe that the future is about delivering value first?
110% yes. As social media entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk would say – “give, give, give…ask.” The metaphor he uses for this is ‘jab, jab, jab – right hook‘ (which is also the the title of his new book – http://garyvaynerchuk.com/jjjrh/). Author and social media authority, Brian Solis, often talks about “relentless giving“, which he says is the practice of solving people’s problems by constantly creating and distributing free content. Both these men are wise individuals and we can learn a lot from them.
For too long businesses have been telling people how great they are – no one believed it then, and we’ve become even more cynical and filtered since. Continue down this path and you’re well and truly on the road to marketing and PR failure, I believe.
Part two of the Q&A continues (click here) with what the future holds for content marketing and the recent Australian report from the Content Marketing Institute and Association of Data driven Marketing & Advertising.
Why not connect with Trevor on Twitter @trevoryoung