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This blog originally appeared on B2B Marketing Insider

There was a recent exchange on twitter where a prominent, intelligent and well-respected analyst predicted that content marketing will destroy social media.

I mean “Whoa!”…The power of content marketing!

The suggestion was that content marketing will result in the rapid erosion of the sacred trust we all have in the established media.

I certainly do not agree with these statements, but Ido think this topic deserves a healthy dialogue and discussion…

Some of the relevant questions this raises for me include: what is the definition of content marketing? Where is the line between editorial and advertising? Is it blurring? Are marketers pushing the boundaries in pursuit of more leads or are publishers loosening their standards to collect more advertising dollars?

I’ll offer my point of view and share the opinions of a few colleagues of mine who are actively participating in this discussion.

But don’t let us hog the spotlight, chime in with your opinion in the comments below or on your social channel of choice…

 Content strategy will actually save marketing!

I’ve written before that traditional marketing is on the decline and that I believe educational andinformative content along with an audience-first approach are the only ways to deliver more customers, more revenue and better business results from marketing efforts.

So a statement like “content marketing will destroy social media” is by definition a blanket statement (and probably an attempt at getting lots of Re-Tweets). I’m not sure what definition of Content Marketing was intended in that statement but it seems highly likely to be referring to undisclosed “black-hat SEO” attempts at building links, or in some other way undermining public trust with content that has a veiled objective of only promoting the sponsor.

I believe today’s buyers and content consumers are way too smart for such tactics.

In its simplest form, Content Marketing is about meeting all the information needs of your diverse audience, through owned, earned and yes, even paid media, and through all the varied formats of content that we all consume.

When the objective is appropriately on meeting our audiences’ needs and not our own self-interests, then content marketing is the only way to be effective at reaching our buyers and influencers.

And any level of understanding of the media landscape will show you that there is a battle for customer attention taking place as consumer generated content is over-taking journalism at a rapid rate. And this is due to the simple fact that too few of us content consumers want to pay for so-called “trusted-source” journalistic content.

So we are all forced to try and understand the source of the information we are consuming. And to try and discern their objective or “angle.”

The right content at the right time…

As my SAP colleague Chip Rodgers (@ChipRodgers), VP and COO of the SAP Community Network said in a recent tweet:

“‘Marketing done wrong is an annoyance; Marketing done right is a gift’ — Right message about the right product to the right audience.”

Where is the line between editorial and advertising?

According to Bob Evans (@BobEvansSAP), former SVP and Editorial Director at CMP Media and TechWeb, and now VP of Strategic Communications here at SAP, “one of the urban legends swirling around in this new age of content marketing is that all ‘traditional’ journalists are 100% objective and unbiased, whereas any other content creators are biased. That’s utter nonsense.”

Bob continues, “add into this the recent and extraordinary impact and influence of social media, where hundreds of millions of people who used to be passive consumers of information have become creators and amplifiers and conveyors of information—and in some cases highly influential opinion-shapers. Are all of those views irrelevant, biased, or untrustworthy simply because they’re not part of a supposedly ‘objective’ traditional media that turns out not to be objective at all?”

“Sponsored” journalism and the new advertising model

Content production and delivery over the ages of modern humanity has always been paid for and influenced by someone, somewhere. The “someone” and the “somewhere” may change over time but the system remains largely unchanged.

Content gets written and distributed because someone is paying for it. The content must meet a relative standard of quality and perceived objectivity or it will be rejected. Except that now, the financial burden is shifting from the consumer and the advertisers who want to reach them to the the publisher and the advertisers who want access to the audience.

So we’re seeing relatively new pay models emerge as traditional media companies are being forced to the point of extinction. Publishers, as new as the Huffington Post and as established as Forbes, are embracing the era of the “sponsored post.”

And marketers such as my company SAP, and others like IBMDellCoca-ColaMicrosoft, and Gyro are getting into the game. Programs like this are helping us all to evolve to thinking more like publishers – to put our audiences’ information needs ahead of our own. They are clearly labeled as “sponsored” and they are helping media companies to deliver against more of their visitors’ content needs.

Are advertisers blurring the lines between editorial and advertising?

I think it all comes down to the adage Chip mentions above that good (content) marketing is simply a gift – or as I like to say, content marketing means having the right answers to the important questions that your audience is asking.

So it is no surprise that advertisers are looking to reach their target audiences, but the bottom line is thatonly great content wins.

Tim Clark (@TClark01) is Editor-In-Chief of SAP Corporate Blogs and manages the SAP Forbes AdVoice program, which has garnered some criticism from our influencer community as an example of the kind of program that potentially erodes consumer trust by blurring the lines between paid, owned and earned media.

With nearly a million pageviews, hundreds of thousands of potential prospects have spent close to 3 minutes each engaged with SAP AdVoice content. You don’t achieve those kind of numbers with self-serving, or promotional content.

The quality measures extend beyond pure readership to engagement metrics such as the tens of thousands of shares via social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Digg, etc.).

According to Tim, this is because “every piece of our content is clearly labeled as ‘AdVoice.’ We do not get any special treatment from Forbes. That said, the AdVoice label hasn’t deterred folks from reading and sharing our content.  We work very hard to maintain a high level of editorial integrity and publish stories from SAP thought leaders that cover real life experiences and insights into a wide range of business-related topics.”

So let’s review: content marketing puts customer content needs first, it helps publishers to continue meeting the needs of their audience, and it helps advertisers earn the attention of prospects.

Now it’s your turn:

  • What is your definition of content marketing?
  • Do you see the line between editorial and advertising blurring?
  • Are marketers pushing the boundaries in pursuit of more leads?
  • Or are publishers loosening their standards to collect more advertising dollars?
I would appreciate your thoughts in the comments below or comment on TwitterLinkedIn, or Facebook or Subscribe to the B2B Marketing Insider Blog today!
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2 Comments

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    1. Michael Brenner Post author
      Yes I did. He made a similar comment on the original posting. And I agree with Ray’s suggestions 100% and feel strongly about full disclosure.

      Carolyn Brock’s recent blog here on the SCN about social media marketing mistakes had another great example of what not to do (create fame twitter account).

      With full transparency, then I believe the full power of social media is realized where only good content wins, bad content is ignored and malicious behavior is called out for what it is.

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