If you think about it, Bill Gates was the Gary Vaynerchuk of his era. The principal founder of Microsoft, Gates is the world’s second-richest man (Jeff Bezos is #1), thanks to the company he helped grow into a multibillion-dollar technology multinational. Vaynerchuk has built a marketing empire and an enviable social footprint that’s given his advertising business, Vaynerchuk Media, a massive boost.
“Content is King”
An early champion of content, some 20 years after founding Microsoft in 1975, Gates penned an article called “Content is King” and placed it on the company website. The writeup declared: “Those who succeed will propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products — a marketplace of content.” He foresaw how important content would become, two years before Google was founded; “Content is King” was written in 1996. Google was created by Larry Page and Sergey Brin two years later. Zuckerberg’s Facebook would only materialise in 2004.
What Gates knew back then, and what Vaynerchuk knows now, is that brands are built in the court of public opinion. Brands are literally the sum of what people think and feel about them. One of the best ways of trying to influence this, and impacting consumer behaviour, is through smart content that connects and cuts through the clutter.
Building brands by using content is, as Vaynerchuck says in a recent blog post, tough but really rewarding. “Mastering content strategy, creation, and distribution for your brand on social media is a difficult and long process,” the digital powerhouse writes. The great news is that, if done smartly, and strategically, can offer both B2B and B2C brands a major boost.
Content campaigns that astutely use editorial media to build brands — particularly a new one — can be very effective. In the early days, Gates grew Microsoft in the pages of Fortune Magazine, London’s Financial Times and The New York Times. Microsoft’s mogul once famously said: “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on public relations.”
More recently, Vaynerchuck has grown a monster brand for his agency on the likes of SnapChat, YouTube and LinkedIn. As Forbes states: “In the midst of running a company that grosses over [US]$200 million in sales annually, he [Vaynerchuk] somehow finds time to create content on every available platform: He’s written New York Times bestselling books, he hosts a successful podcast, he has a popular YouTube channel, and he obsessively posts on social media.”
The competition for consumer attention has never been more fierce; today, well over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created daily. Given humans are creating millions of MB of content, how do you create content that engages and connects, that invites conversation but, most importantly, gives your customers what they want?
1. The first rule of content is quality
If you’re going to go to all the time and effort of creating content — make it matter. Neil Patel says this best in his blog, The Ultimate Guide to Writing Epic Content That Will Go Viral: “Epic content is the content that rocks a reader’s world. It gives them hope and strengthens the trust they have for you.” If your brand is going to use content, your marketing department and agencies must commit to creating nothing less than the best content in the world. Creating mediocre content is simply a waste of time, effort and marketing investment.
2. The customer is the starting point
Before setting out on your content journey, it is critical to understand what your brand and business goals are. Global brand strategy and digital disruption advisors, Prophet, conducted research to discover what underpins great content strategies: “We found that companies with successful content strategies had clarity around what they wanted the content to do for their customers and strong criteria for what they would and wouldn’t publish.”
The best content strategies are customer-centric. Prophet advises: “The first and most crucial step in creating a strategy is to know your customer. The primary questions to answer before moving to the next step are ‘Who is your customer?’ and ‘What are their biggest pain points?’ But in addition to those questions, you’ll need to gain an understanding of their content consumption behaviours and preferences in terms of format, device, timing.” (Read Prophet’s guide to content strategy here.)
3. Make more with less
Content creation can be done more effectively when you use Vaynerchuk’s “pillar content” approach. Each time a brand spokesperson does a talk, or writes a key article, use this as a core pillar from which you can create loads of micro-content. A great resource for this is Vaynerchuk’s blog and slide presentation on how to use one article to create 30 pieces of the content.
To summarise, great content is all about the customer and is a vote for quality. To achieve quality, use the Vaynerchuk pillar method to do more with less.