I’m an MBA student with career goals. I’ve known for most of my life that I wanted to figure out a way to make a living writing, and while I usually envisioned making that money from my fiction, I’ve since discovered that I also love writing on the internet. This dovetails nicely with my course of study: business, and specifically marketing.
What is Content Marketing, Anyway?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines content marketing thusly:
a type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.
This is also known as “inbound marketing,” because it brings prospects “in” instead of the marketer “reaching out” with ads.
A huge amount of the content you read online, whether you realize it or not, can be considered content marketing. Some of it is explicitly so, with sponsored blog or social media posts (this is called “native marketing.” Most platforms require a sponsored tag for this sort of content).
One of the core realizations I had in my undergrad studies is that social media turns everyone into a marketer. Your friends on Facebook or Snapchat or what-have-you curate their lives in order to better support their personal brand, whether they know they are or not. We all do it. Social media would be a bleak place if we didn’t.
Content Makes the Web Better.
Okay, you might contend that corporate blog posts or commercially sponsored content make the web worse, but I would push back on that. Companies are out there creating all kinds of content, from gif spattered listicles to in-depth travelogues, and people are reading it.
But aside from that, let’s consider the alternative to corporate content: more advertisements. Companies are not going to stop advertising on the web, nor would I want them to (I’m in favor of an ad supported internet). Given the options, I would rather see companies producing well thought out blog posts, insightful articles, and hilarious tweets (tell me you don’t follow Arby’s on Twitter).
So why not allow those who have the time and the budget to create the content we admittedly crave?
People like it. We know because it works.
Creating High Quality Content Makes me Feel Good.
I suppose there’s a conversation to be had about whether or not this blog, or any of my social media channels, are high quality content, but I think they are, or I wouldn’t keep doing this. And writing it makes me feel good. Knowing that the five of you might read this blog post and learn something interesting or see things in a different way makes me feel good.
Also? I just love writing. I started my college career as a student of the visual arts, but found along the way that writing is really where my heart lies. Sure, my first love is fiction and that will probably always be true, but this makes me happy too.
Writing content on the web holds the possibility that I might help someone, even if it’s just helping someone feel less alone, or helping someone make a choice or decision of some kind. Even if I never hear from this person. This all goes back to my feelings on art, but that’s a subject for a different blog post.
It’s a Way to Reach Out to People I Would Otherwise Never Reach.
Let’s face it, my sphere of influence all told is pretty small, but it’s even more limited in analog space. I have maybe a hundred people I know who like and/or respect me, and might ask me for advice or hang out with me on a Sunday afternoon. It’s pretty well limited to Northwest Washington State, adding a geographical boundary to that sphere of influence.
But on the web, I can reach people around the world. I don’t, but I can. The kernel of possibility is there. And that makes my world feel both excitingly and terrifyingly large. That, in turn, makes the world feel less lonely and fractured.
You could say that any kind of writing on the web can cause that feeling, but I maintain that this blog is content marketing, as are my social media channels, and thus all of the tools I have for connecting with people around the world.
Content Influences Culture.
One of the incredible things the web has done, whether for good or for ill, is to give us all a much more direct hand in the shape of the culture we live in. Suddenly we’re all connected; discussions can be had, divisions explored (and exploited), consensus can be reached (or not), all of this between people whose reach was previously limited by geography. I think that’s incredible.
Not just that, this cultural influence extends beyond the web. Social media influencers become artists and models, blogs become books and books become best sellers. YouTube stars become organization gurus, and bloggers become journalists.
As much as some of us rail against the corporate influence on the web (again, I’m in favor of an ad supported internet), the web has flattened the media landscape, giving the humblest of us an opportunity to influence culture.
Do some marketers use this superpower for evil? Sure. But some make the choice to influence the culture in positive ways, and those are the moments of confluence that I live for.
Is There A Dark Side? Sure.
One of my instructors in my undergrad days sat the class down for a stern talk. “Marketing,” he said, “is a tool. And that tool can be used for good or for evil.”
Are there people out there marketing hateful ideas? Absolutely, particularly now. Are there corporations socially and environmentally green washing their brands while pursuing oppressive and degrading business practices? There sure are. But there are also companies out there doing good with their marketing budgets.
The web, and content marketing, lend greater reach and power to small businesses for less money than more traditional marketing channels, and those small businesses are more likely to do good with those smaller budgets than are large corporations, with shareholders to keep happy.
And I think, all told, content marketing on the web does more good than harm. And that’s what I’m most interested in in the end; facilitating the need to do good.