With all the hype about content marketing online, it seems as if it’s a new trend in marketing. The truth is, that even though the importance of online content for SEO and social media has put a new focus on content, the concept of marketing through content has been around for a long time.

For over a year we at exploreB2B talked to experts in the field of online marketing. We conducted many interviews with professionals, entrepreneurs and specialists about SEO, content marketing and social media. We learned a lot about the importance and the purpose of online content and how it has changed and is still evolving. The following is a glimpse of the information we collected in the interviews with focus on the importance of content in online marketing.

The fact that SEOs are getting into the game now might seem like content marketing is on the rise, but when you view the world outside of just SEO, content marketing has been rising for a very, very long time.“

Lee Odden (Top Rank Marketing)

For years now, the main focus has been put on “unique” content – content that the content creator/publisher had the sole rights and “owned” the space where it was published. This had to be done for SEO reasons, as search engines ranked duplicated content lower for search results. As a result marketers forgot the main reason for creating the content: providing the consumer with useful information where he is looking for it. With the recent Google updates and more and more content competing on the web, unique content is not enough anymore. Instead the focus now lays on providing useful and informative content: A huge advantage for the consumer who profits from the competition for visibility and attention, which is now more often won by the content that provides the most benefit.

“We’ve seen a shift away from creating ‘unique content’ to creating ‘purposeful content’ that will contribute value and benefit customers for years.”

Lisa Barone (Overit)

Companies have to learn that marketing is not about being the loudest or the most aggressive voice, but about providing the most benefit for the potential customer (with the marketing material itself as well as any potential products or services). Especially online, marketing is shifting away from selling to giving. Companies and businesses have to focus more on the needs of the audience instead of what they want to sell.

„Most companies are simply promoting themselves with content that says, ‘We are the best. Choose us. Here are all the reasons why we are great.’ But we, as consumers, are tired of these self-serving product pitches and promotions. Marketing is about delivering customer value, not about pitching products.“

Michael Brenner (SAP)

Even though a complete content marketing strategy does consist of a consistent stream of content around the right topics instead of a sole piece of content, the best results are not achieved by the company or business that provides the most content but by the one that provides the most benefit for the target audience.

 “Content marketing isn’t just about adding more content; it’s about creating information for a target audience that has a particular purpose and intended outcome. Content drives awareness but also social interaction, customer engagement and sales.”

Lee Odden

This shift in online marketing from masses of unique content to content that serves the needs of the customer, helps to build a reputation for content marketing: less intrusive, less annoying and less spammy while giving information to people that are asking for it. Where advertisements are often blocked or clicked away as fast as possible, good content created with the consumer in mind, associates positive feelings with the author and helps to build a reputation as a trusted source – only one step away from being a trusted business partner or service provider.

“Content has always had the crown, but now it’s got the respect to go with it.“

Lisa Barone

While the content itself sees an upgrade to more purpose and relevance, marketers and companies need to re-adjust to marketing that is no longer a one-way channel. Audiences have to be built, interaction and communication gets more important every day. Feedback, comments and discussions are making the difference today, being human and approachable is now a must. People in sales have known for a long time, that loyalty and trust can only be build and maintained by interacting, connecting and answering to questions and needs.

“Don’t go in spamming the community. Become a member. Show an interest in the community. And develop an audience that actually cares about what you have to say (by saying stuff that actually matters). You make yourself stand out by developing relationships.“

Lisa Barone

In the end, marketing via online methods is not so far away from what it used to be before the age of Internet. The web offers multiple new ways of reaching out to customers and easy to use communication channels, while using some of the best practices that have been used for ages.

“Social media marketing is essentially what good marketing has always been: marketing that puts the customer first and delivers them value. That value comes back to you in the form of sales and loyalty and – even more importantly – referrals.”

Michael Brenner

The shift we currently see is the shift from advertising to branding and building a community. There is now more focus on social skills. The thin line between being a social business and being a social intruder depends on audience, experience, personality and skill. What may be regarded as friendly and helpful behavior by one person, can be interpreted as spam by another. Thus, where with traditional advertising the goal was to get the most attention with the loudest voice, in social media and content marketing a large part of the success depends on the ability to listen to ones customers and find out what they need and want.

“Using social media to build a brand – whether personal or professional – relies on the same fundamentals. Be transparent (but not confessional), positive (but not giddy), human (but not frivolous), supportive (but not pandering) and, most of all, patient (but not lazy).”

Joe Chernov (Kinevik)

With all the attention and hype about content marketing, the goal remains to build relationships and trust and connect to your target audience.

Meet all the experts and read more of their thoughts on online marketing in the interviews on exploreB2B. Read an in-depth analysis of the statements of our experts in the whitepaper “The Experts Guide to Online Marketing”.