10 Misconceptions that are Potential Deal Breakers for your Content Strategy

It is hard to believe, but ‘content marketing’ the phrase that has slowly entrenched itself in the minds of businesses and marketers as the marketing method that can’t be beat, came into its own only in 2013. Yes, 2013 and emergence of content marketing as the most popular form of online marketing seems like it happened ages ago, but it didn’t.

This actually gives you an indication of the massive impact content marketing has had on the psyche of marketers and the marketing landscape in general.

A State of Content Marketing Survey by Contently says 36% of company respondents and 35% of agency respondents put content marketing right at the top of their digital priorities, even before social media engagement, conversion rate optimization etc. While these are not surprising figures, they do tell you where the priorities lie.

But, there is a twist in the tale. Some people are overly optimistic about the benefits accrued from content marketing, so much so that they found their expectations on some surprising misconceptions. I say surprising because if you take a look at these misconceptions and chew on them for a bit, you will realize the fallacy behind their whole premise.

Surprising then that there is a substantial number of people who believe these misconceptions especially since these are the kind that can break even the best of content strategies.

It’s time we took a closer look at these misconceptions and bust them:

#1 – Content Marketing is Easy

Wake up. Have you smelt the coffee yet? If you think marketing your content with the objective of enhancing brand awareness, increasing conversions and product sales is easy, you’ve been talking to the wrong people.

One of the most unpopular truths about content marketing is that it isn’t easy. It is difficult and it is difficult as hell.

Joe Pulizzi the man behind Content Marketing Institute says the biggest challenge of content marketing is producing high quality content consistently. And if this guy is saying it, you better believe it.

Content, the piece de resistance, of your content marketing strategy doesn’t come easy. Your content must be compelling, actionable, useful, interesting, current and extremely well-written. But that’s not all; it also needs to be user oriented, and we are talking targeted users here. This requires a thorough understanding of the needs of your target audience and their expectations from your content.

You need to come up with new content ideas all the time, explore diverse content formats and make sure each and every piece increases brand reputation.

Say you own a web design firm and want to employ the use of content marketing to promote its services. This will involve coming up with domain centric content regularly and making sure it satisfies certain requirements of your target audience. This not only requires extensive domain knowledge but also in-depth understanding of the popular design trends, challenges, and the latest design technology entering the market.

Still think this is easy?

#2 – Content Marketing is Cheap

Forget affordable, there are businesses that go for content marketing thinking it’s cheap. Yes, these bargain hunters are looking for more from less. No prizes for guessing their content strategy falls apart before they can say ‘content’.

Content marketing costs less than traditional forms of marketing, but you still can’t classify it as cheap. Yes, Neil Patel has written an awesome post (can it be anything else) on How to Do Content Marketing on a Shoe String Budget.

But this doesn’t mean bottom of the barrel spending. Also, the amount of money you spend depends on the choices you make.

You need to hire writers for coming up with amazing posts. You could hire freelancers (this can be a cheaper option) or you can ask an industry expert to write a post for you (costs shoot up in this case), or you can hire a writer or a content marketing agency to do the job for you in-house (overheads increase). You need to invest in solid team of content writers. This requires money.

As your campaign progresses, you might see the need to create an infographic or a video to diversify your content format. In this case, the role of designers and video makers comes into play. This is again something that demands a fair degree of financial investment.

You could write content pieces yourself (free) and you could even create infographics using some great infographic tools available out there, but do you have the time to do all this yourself; and more importantly do you have the creative ability to produce awesome content regularly?

If yes, you can bring down the costs of content marketing appreciably (but only up to a point); if not, you need to prepare yourself to spend on content marketing. It is the level of marketing that you choose to go for that will determine how much you spend.

#3 – Content Marketing is Only Text and Nothing Else

Did you know that the consumption of podcasts is on the rise? From 12% in 2013 it’s gone up to 15% in 2014. Why am I talking about podcasting and what does it have to do with content marketing?

I am doing this to dispel the belief that content marketing is only about writing blog posts that make a great read. Podcasting is also a part of content marketing. To think of content marketing purely through the prism of text is a really bad idea.

The truth is you need to mix up your content formats if you want to hold the attention of your target audience for any length of time. Give them their daily dose of blog posts by all means but pepper it with a regular helping of visual content as well.

Another reason why you need to focus on content other than just text, especially visual content, is that you can say more in a really short time. Ideally, you will need to put in place a visual storytelling strategy to optimize the use of visuals in your content marketing strategy.

Also, it is visual content in the form of images that gets shared most on social media – yet another reason why you need to shift focus away from a purely text based content marketing approach and move towards a more blended approach that uses text, audio and visuals for making an impact.

#4 – A Content Strategy can Exist in a Vacuum Without Aligning with Other Marketing Initiatives

There are people who think of content marketing as this ‘Godzilla’ of marketing that improves brand reach, enhances brand authority and credibility, increases a business’s sales figures and conquers everything in its path, all on its own. Well, content marketing says thank you, but that’s not how it works.

Content cannot exist in a vacuum. After creating content, you need to go out there and look for your audience; you must also make sure your content reaches your audience.

You can’t get a post live on your blog and wait for people to come to your blog to read it. This will never happen. You’ll need to use a combination of SEO, social media marketing and other internet marketing tactics to make sure people come to your website’s blog to read that content.

A content marketing strategy is essentially a blend of content creation and a diverse range of internet marketing strategies.

Think of content marketing as an essential component of your larger inbound marketing strategy and work forward from there.

#5 – Content Marketing is only for Service Based Businesses

The genesis of this myth rests on the assumption that you can’t create value added content for products based business and therefore content marketing will offer diminishing returns. The thinking goes that if you are selling software, or soap or any other product, you can’t leverage the potential of content marketing for your business.

I have a belief that this misconception emerged from the mouths of marketers who couldn’t be bothered with making the effort to market products with amazing content. But the truth is some of the biggest products brands in business like Coca Cola and others are optimizing the use of content marketing. There is no reason why your products based businesses cannot do the same!

There is no doubt that content marketing comes across as tailor made for the services industry, but give some wings to your imagination and you can own your products-based niche with some innovative content marketing. Think brochures, really well-written product descriptions, product utility videos, product benefits infographics, case studies, white papers and you have a solid content marketing strategy that backs your brand through thick and thin.

#6 – Content Marketing Starts Delivering Results Immediately

Content marketing is a long term-commitment. Don’t get into it if you expect quick results. It’s not a quick-fix marketing tactic with magical powers to transform your brand visibility. In fact, the deliverables of this tactic are slow in coming and if you aren’t a believer in the slow and steady wins the race work ethic, this strategy is probably not meant for you.

Continuous engagement is the defining characteristic of a content marketing campaign. You need to keep publishing quality content and sharing it across all your social media channels to make sure it reaches the widest audience possible.

Do you need to keep doing this till you start experiencing ROI from this strategy? No, you need to keep doing this for eternity or at least till you are using this tactic to push your business growth northwards.

There is no scope for taking a breather if you are using content marketing. Diligence and focused effort is the key to success.

#7 – Creating and Publishing Content Will Directly Lead to Sales

Rand Fishkin calls this The Greatest Misconception in Content Marketing. Yes, it is bigger than ‘Content Marketing is Easy’ and much bigger than ‘Content Can Exist in a Vacuum’. Take a look at the whiteboard Friday video to know more about this misconception.

Content marketing is all about capturing the mindshare of your audience with content they are looking for, over a period of time. It ensures your brand is at the top of their minds when they are looking for products and services you are selling. Your brand not only becomes more visible, but also becomes more memorable because of the authority it has generated through its content; because of all that content you’ve written and which has been read by your audience, your brand will be trusted over your competitors.

#8 – Content Marketing and Social Media Marketing – Chalk and Cheese

Social media marketing involves harnessing the power of social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and others to reach a wider audience. According to a 2013 eMarketer report, social networking reaches one in four users across the world, and by 2017 the social network audience will total 2.55 billion.

Social media marketing works towards leveraging the potential of the ever increasing user base on the various social media channels. A presence on these social media channels allows businesses to grow a network of friends and followers who they can market their services to.

But, an essential component of social media marketing is nurturing personal interaction with target consumers by sharing content.

This is the point at which content and social media marketing converge. The content you create is taken to its intended audience with social media, which in turn helps the brand engage with this audience at a personal level.

You cannot think of content and social media marketing as two separate entities. The efficacy of one is dependent on the success of the other.

#9 – No Specialized Expertise is Required for Content Marketing

The question is – will you allow individuals who do not specialize in content marketing to handle your campaign? Is this a risk you can afford to take?

The answer is no.

If you are a small business and can’t afford a team of content marketing experts, at least hire one person who is well qualified to take charge of your campaign. Some businesses and agencies ask their SEOs to play the role of content marketers; while there are some SEO experts who take to content marketing like a fish to water, there are others who stifle the campaign by looking at it purely through an SEO framework.

This is why you need to get experts into the act.

#10 – There is an Ideal Length for Content

Does content have to be of a specific size in order to be effective? Kevan Lee in a post published on Buffer Blog makes a case for The Ideal Length of Everything Online, Backed by Research. It makes for a fascinating read and at the end of it you have a very clear idea of how long your tweets, Facebook posts, or blog posts have to be in order to deliver results.

But, John Mueller, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst makes an important point on a Google Product Forums thread that there is no minimum and maximum length for content. All you must ensure is that the content is of really high quality. But bear in mind, he’s said this to answer a specific question about how Google views content quality specifically in terms of length.

Now before you think Kevan and John are saying two different things, take a closer look at their answer, you’ll find both are practically saying the same thing. Quality is paramount; each piece of content should be backed by solid research, this is what will work. Also, you need to do what’s best for your audience. If you believe a specific topic you’ve chosen cannot go beyond a particular word count, don’t stretch it.

The ideal length of your content is determined by its subject. Doing full justice to it will allow you to automatically ensure the content reaches its ideal length.

Wrapping up the Misconceptions

The problem with these mistaken beliefs about content marketing is they have the potential to create a domino effect on your overall marketing strategy. One wrong tactic and the whole edifice of you inbound strategy can come crashing down. So stay away from them and make busting misconceptions a 9 to 5 job.

As you go deeper into the world of content marketing you might unearth other fallacies regarding this marketing concept. Make sure they are off limits for your content strategy.