Content marketing is a cornerstone for every small business. The same way that you have stuff to talk about on a daily basis, so does your business.

It’s more than a marketing campaign. It’s communication with a strategy.

This article sketches the top three ways that you can approach content marketing; the first two are already quite popular. The third is unique, and might open new doors for you.

The three C’s are:

  • Create new content for your audience
  • Curate what’s out there for your audience
  • Cultivate the content that others are making

This last one is really exciting, because no one’s doing it yet.

TL:DR – give me the summary. 

Whether you create articles, video, photographs, inforgraphics, and whatever else, content is the ongoing material you bring to an audience who want to be informed, engaged, and convinced by your value.

You’re probably already doing it if you have new stuff being produced by your brand.

If you’re not doing it, you should start. Otherwise your site looks like a ghost town, and isn’t being updated.

Movement is a sign of life.

When was the last time you visited a website that hadn’t been updated in 5 years, and gave them your money? Exactly.

At the same time, content marketing is a two-edged sword.

Most small businesses need to be doing it to explain and cement their approach to their space, rank for SEO and inbound, and provide insights and value to their audience.

But it’s also reached a critical mass. There’s so much content being created, from videos to blogs to photographs, that we’ll never, ever consume it all.

That’s not a bad thing, necessarily.

Social networks are constantly working their algorithms to sift through the inundation of stories, updates, and content, and bring you what they believe is valuable to you.

And yet, it’s a valuable part of your branding. But, content marketing isn’t a campaign you tack on to your annual marketing list.

Although content marketing might not be a silver bullet, or the latest can’t-lose campaign, thinking of it in terms of “a way to do business” it is proving itself to be a viable part of an integrated marketing approach.

Content Marketing Isn’t A Campaign: An Interview With Joe Pulizzi

So lets talk about the three different ways you can produce content.

Create: Produce Your Own Content

Honestly, this is a hot topic right now. If you’re not already convinced, then you can start with our article here; 5 Important Reasons Your Website Needs a Blog.

The key takeaways are:

  • A blog brings your brand to life
  • It establishes your personality and voice
  • Content is king.
  • It allows you to position yourself as an an authority in your industry.
  • It helps you generate more leads.

“But you just said there’s a ton of content already out there? Why add to it?”

First off, yes, there’s a ton of content. But more than half of it is rubbish. We’re awash in mass-produced blogs and articles trying to rank for keywords and draw eyeballs.

And I hate it. You hate it. It’s a sea of beige, bland stuff written without personality. You’ve read one, and you’ve read them all.

The key is as it always was; find your voice, find what makes you distinct, find what special thing you want to bring your audience. And then write from that place.

If your reader is going to find your content on 50 other blogs, then don’t even bother.

And I get it. We all want to rank for keywords, improve our inbound strategies, and write about the hot topics.

But we can’t let our secret sauce get lost in the hustle for attention. If all you’re doing is struggling for attention, it shows.

Second, if you’re clear about your audience and your distinction, then you’ve hugely narrowed the field of content. Or having a very clear topic that few others are writing about.

Now you’re adding value for a particular group of people. That’s not adding to the beige wash. It’s bright, clear and engagement-worthy.

So you do you. Create content, whether video, or articles, or audio, or visuals. Answer the questions, provide the insights, and find a way to make it unique.

If it’s not unique, why should your reader care to come back for your next article? We’re trying to build relationships here, relationships of trust and transparency around ideas.

And I get it. There’s only so much uniqueness you can bring to a discussion about how to create adwords campaigns. Or how much to charge for building a website. Or why you need content marketing.

But you have to find a way. If you want to be remembered, you have to stand out.

Your content marketing plan has to ride the fine line between a great reading experience, and ranking for keywords.

And yet, my money will always be on a great reading experience. I may search for content, but discovering a unique voice, or a new approach to an existing trend, is what brings me back for more.

If you’re outsourcing your content, kudos to you. But  make sure that you’re finding a way to make it stand out from your competition, who probably paid someone to write on the same topic.

Content is for people first, search engines second.

Curate: Help People Find the Best

What do you do when there’s a ton of options, and you don’t know which flavor of ice cream to choose?

Or which blog to follow? Or even that there’s more options out there than you realized?

You ask someone  you trust.

Curating content has fast become a hot topic, and everyone from influencers, to podcasters, to entire websites, are solely devoted to parsing the content out there, finding the best, and bringing it to you with their takeaways.

For the uninitiated, content curation consists of finding material relevant to your audience from a variety of sources, and sharing it strategically through your communication channels.

For example, writing a roundup blog post of great marketing examples would require you to curatestrong samples of content relevant to what you’re writing about.

10 Content Curation Tools Every Marketer Needs

Curating is a no-brainer in terms of value, and a solid way to build a relationship with your audience.

Some of the reasons it’s valuable:

  • Roundups help people discover what’s out there.
  • Share your key takeaways to highlight thoughts for people.
  • It establishes yourself as a leader; you’re going out and doing the legwork for your readers.
  • You’re networking and linking between blogs – that’s always a good thing.
  • You’re helping to organize and make sense of the web.

Curating quality content that adds value to people’s lives can bring you all types of opportunities (and that’s before you even start creating your own original content).

The 3 Most Effective (And Overlooked) Content Curation Strategies

There’s so much that can be said about this. Just give it a Google over a fresh cup of coffee. Hubspot and Moz always have solid stuff to say.

Once again, remember that the key is your voice. Don’t string together a list of links. Take the time to share why you selected this link; perhaps quote the part that jumped out at you.

Demonstrate to your audience that you’ve engaged with the topic, and have a unique approach. You might keep a clear focus on  what makes you unique by the types of articles that you choose to pick. Certainly the audience and the tone of voice you take when writing for them.

How many listicles have you seen that simply grabbed a chunk of copy from the original sites, and then strung them together in a blog post with a couple of sentences introduction?

Always, always find out what it is about you and how you approach curating content that makes you different from all the other curators.

If you’re bland, they won’t come back. They might not even make it through the list.

As a curator, your opinion, your insights, and your takeaways are the most important thing. You want to build up a relationship of trust.

No podcast or Youtube series ever survived if the host wasn’t interesting and engaging.

Your curation should be too.

Cultivate: Enrich the Content Others Produce

So this one’s kind of my idea, so far. I’m excited by it.

It’s based on the fact that there are four to seven ways that people learn.

Scientists and psychologists have developed a number of different models to understand the different ways that people learn best. One popular theory, the VARK model, identifies four primary types of learners: visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic.

Each learning type responds best to a different method of teaching. Auditory learners will remember information best after reciting it back to the presenter, while kinesthetic learners will jump at the chance to participate in a hands-on activity.

The Four Different Types of Learners, And What They Mean to Your Presentations 

Most of us are good at one of those types, and in fact, we usually pick the content channel that best suits how we like to learn and communicate.

  • Visual: you’re likely a photographer, graphic designer, painter, etc.
  • Auditory: then you’re probably podcasting, creating audio books, and so on.
  • Reading/Writing: blogging, writing books, articles, etc.
  • Kinesthetic: creating activities, events, finding ways for people to interact with each other and the material.

Why is this exciting news?

Because most content marketing out there, especially online, is text-based. It’s blogs and articles.

Few people are good designers. Even fewer are great at podcasting. And not many have figured out ways to be kinesthetic online.

So instead of creating all new content, what if we went around and enriched other people’s content?

Think of it as deconstructing what they’ve produced, and turn it into a new method for learning. Think of it as helping them layer on new ways to reach people, on top of their cornerstone content.

So you may know that you need to have a content marketing plan, but have no idea what to bring to your space that hasn’t already been written.

Cultivating content seems like a fantastic hack-around, for multiple reasons:

  • You’re helping an author expand their text into new learning methods
  • Out the gate, you’re building relationships with content producers, and brandscaping (working with your landscape of brands)
  • You’re almost guaranteed to get eyeballs on your work, because the author will share it with their audience
  • You’re helping that content producer/influencer be more awesome to their audience
  • You’re instantly tapping into to established audiences

Imagine someone wrote an in depth article about some high-value topic.

Here are some ways you could help them enrich it.

Graphic Design

Now imagine you approached them with an amazing design portfolio, and offered to enrich that blogpost by turning it into a set of attractive slides, that could be embedded.

Boom. That author now has a fresh reason to share that article with their network. Not to mention that they can now expand their audience potential into sites like Slideshare.

And also not to mention that most of those slides will also work well as standalone quote graphics, that could be scheduled up over the course of a year. If it’s evergreen, then there’s always someone who hasn’t seen it yet.

And everyone knows that infographics are always fantastic summaries of detail-rich content.

Video

Imagine you used a site like Animoto, or Biteable, to make trailers or video shorts of an article’s takeaways. Now you’re helping that blog start a presence on Youtube, and get more video on Facebook.

Your video could also be embedded on that blog post, with a linkback to your website.

You could even devote a video to walking people through the article in person, sharing the best parts, bringing their attention to key elements, and giving your takeaway. If you’re hoping for an embed and a share, make sure you’ve run it by the author.

Audio

What if you offered to record their blog for them as an audio file? Say you did it for free, and if you’re good with audio, then collaborate with the author to create a little intro and outro and some music.

Then upload it to Soundcloud, or turn it into an audio-based video with wave-form animation.

Now that content influencer is able to access a whole new audience they never could before.

And if you’ve ever followed Gary Vaynerchuck on Instagram, he often shares a variety of content types. Often he’ll take his larger pieces of content and ‘sawdust’ them down into pieces. And then share those little pieces on the network that resonates best with that type.

An audio recording could be cut into smaller pieces; like a blog post, it has key takeaways that can be isolated and shared as featured fragments.

Activity (Kinesthetic)

This one is obviously more challenging online, but so far I can imagine that creating quizzes, polls, and the ability to vote on topics is the way to go.

The key is to give people a chance to be active with the content, and not just consume it passively.

Imagine a detail-rich article with loads of valuable action points.

What if you turned that into a quiz that people could take to test their memory? Now you’ve added a layer of interaction that the article never had before.

Readers can now engage, vote, interact, and so on. You’re helping that influencer’s community do stuff.

Influencers are always looking for ways to engage and connect with people. You just made that easier.

Writing/Reading

What if some amazing content only exists in a video format? Most vloggers are extremely visual, and a ton of video isn’t optimized for keywords and searching.

You could pay to transcribe, or find an easy way to do it yourself. Then structure the article with basic keyword research, provide an opening section and closing takeaways.

Now your vlogger has text that they can drop into the description area of their video. Or start a blog and start ranking.

If you’re a designer, you could take key points from their video and turn it into slides, or a gallery of quote graphics. Or video snippets that they can share on Instagram.

The ‘cultivating’ mindset is less about creating new stuff.

It’s all about taking what’s already out there, and enriching it by layering on new modes of learning.

It’s about deconstructing it into its core ideas, and converting them into different media so that influencers can discover new fans on other networks.

It’s about sawdusting a piece of content into shareable bits, providing a ton of new ways for people to engage with the content.

Most content producers are good at one thing. If you’re good at another, go around and volunteer to help them.

Give, give give, before asking for anything.

You might help them boost their traffic that they’re willing to pay you to continue to work with them.

You might open up new doors, new ideas, and new opportunities that they never had access to before.

TL;DR – The Key Points

Most small businesses need to be doing it to explain and cement their approach to their space, rank for SEO and inbound, and provide insights and value to their audience.

But it’s also reached a critical mass. There’s so much content being created, from videos to blogs to photographs, that we’ll never, ever consume it all.

That’s not a bad thing, necessarily.

Because everyone will always be hungry for fresh, value-driven content – customer-minded value, not the self-serving stuff on a lot of blogs.

So first, everyone wants content that speaks to them, gives them actionable insights, ideas and information. Content that entertains and makes them look good. Content that they will enjoy sharing with their networks.

So go ahead and create that. Take the time to discover your brand strategy, and then create from that place. Stay in line with it. 80% of your content should be super-clear about your distinction.

If it’s boring, or beige, don’t expect people to read it. And don’t be suprised when they don’t.

Second, if you don’t have something new to add to the discussion yet, go around and curate the amazing value out there produced by other creators. 

Create things like listicles and interviews, ‘Best Of’ pieces, and so on. Do the legwork for your audience by finding the good stuff, and sharing it with your top takeaway.

In the same way that you might ask a friend about a good movie to catch on Netflix, that’s what curation does. And it’s a solid way to build up relationships with other blogs.

Third, if you don’t have a voice yet, or are more creative than curative, then get cultivating. 

Tons of content out there is created for one type of audience. And there are at least 4: readers/writers, visual learners, auditory learners, and activity-based learners.

What if you reached out to a blogger and offered to turn their blog into a batch of catchy visuals and graphics that they could share? Or record it as an audio file, or turn it into a video?

These are the top three reasons this is a valuable approach:

  1. You’re helping that author enrich their content, provide more value to their audience, and access new potential audiences on new networks.
  2. You’re getting linkbacks and exposure to audiences – probably during a phase where few are willing to pay you yet.
  3. You’re creating relationships with other content creators.

In fact, the best content marketing plan has a bit of each. It’s always important to be bringing your audience valuable content, whether you created it or not.

Have you had good or bad experiences in this kind of thing?

What’s your content marketing approach? Create, curate, or cultivate?

Dominic is Enable’s design and brand specialist. He thoroughly enjoys helping businesses find meaning in their brands and define their distinction. Coffee, cooking and binge-researching are his hobbies. When not building websites, he is delving into projects to find the boundaries of his imagination. He hasn’t found them yet.

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