Marketing isn't about Content Creation, it's about Platform Creation
Back when I was first starting out, I was actually more interested in technical marketing than product engineering, and this post from 2012 reflects that focus. I’m glad I did get some training in marketing though because that’s come to help me a lot as a developer.
Creating a platform has been a really influential mindset for my open source project JobApis, and knowing about online marketing has helped me communicate more effectively with business teams at all the startups I’ve worked at.
When people talk about content marketing, they usually mean writing articles by the company on a blog somewhere out in the wide world of the web. I’ve got news for you, blogging, link-building, and company-generated content are not the way of the future.
The Best Brands Don’t Highlight Themselves; They Let Their Customers do the Talking
That’s right, branding and marketing are not about making yourself look good by telling potential customers how good you think they are. I don’t know why this is a news flash, but I hear it all the time from shitty content marketers. People make decisions based on what other buyers say as well as what their friends and family say, not based on a company’s projection of itself through a blog or press release. 60% of people look for reviews before they buy a product or subscribe to a service, and in today’s world of online connectedness, this should not come as a surprise.
How Can We Create a Platform?
While bad companies are focused on writing great content about themselves, the good, innovative companies are setting up platforms for customers to talk about them. The good news is that even if you don’t have a huge budget for marketing, you can create a platform for your customers to advertise for you. It doesn’t have to be something proprietary. In fact, I think the best brands build a customer-centric platform on platforms originally created for other purposes (ie: social media). There are several ways that you can turn your marketing efforts away from a company-centric view to a customer-centric view:
Leverage Social Media
Stop talking about yourself on your social media channels. Talk about your customers. Tell stories of satisfied users. Open up conversations. Don’t promote yourself unless absolutely necessary, and start thinking with every post, “how will this benefit my customers?” not “how will this trick people into liking my brand?”
Get Into “New” Areas of the Web
People often talk about social media like it’s just Facebook and Twitter. Every good website has a social element to it these days, so explore them. Quora, Tumblr, Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Pinterest are all waiting for you. Spend time observing each new channel and noticing what gets shared before you attempt to make a spammy-looking, self-serving post. Remember, your goal isn’t to talk about yourself; your goal is to watch and highlight when users or customers talk about you.
Integrate a Social Element Into Your Site
When we added a new feature on Uloop News that allowed our writers to send out status updates to other writers, some people didn’t see the point. Our writers had other methods to communicate (Facebook, Twitter, email, etc.), so why would they use some silly internal system to do it? Nay-sayers be damned, the new communication method saw 75% of our writers use it within a week. Your customers and users want to relate to and help other customers and users out. Give them a simple way to do it!
Regardless of how you implement it, company-generated content should be given very little value in the grand scheme of marketing. Great brands (ie: Apple, Google, Target) have customer-built blogs dedicated to supporting them. You don’t see that for shitty companies, and there’s a reason for it.