If the following phrase that can transform your content marketing results sounds a lot like something you’ve heard before, rest assured, that’s no mistake. Both this phrase and the one that inspired it have a very common goal - that of being mindful of “the common” itself - community.
We won’t bury the lede here - let’s come right out with it:
Ask not what your content can do for you, but what you (through your content) can do for your community. -Tweet this!
This is the new maxim of our office.
As a result, we are launching this new series of blog posts on the role of community in content marketing, in order to pass value along to you. Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore content and community from a variety of perspectives and provide additional insight as to how you can use this phrase to transform your own content marketing results.
If it sounds familiar, you might be thinking of JFK’s inaugural address during which he famously stated “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Though there are many takes on the nature and meaning of JFK’s words in that particular context, it is clear to say that the primary subject addressed an awareness of the whole, rather than the individual.
This is the key to unlocking the transformative power of content marketing for your organization.
What Community Does for Content:
These days, it isn’t hard to hear folks talking about the role that content plays in marketing, but how do you create content that has a better chance of successfully serving the purpose for which it was created? What makes the content in content marketing different from any other content you create? The answer is to look first to the content's purpose as it relates to the community it is intended to serve.
It may seem like common sense that your content is created for an audience, and that one might want to consider that audience before creating the content; but all too often, in the rush to fill the content void, organizations fall back on poor habits in designing content purposes. There are many ways one can “consider the audience” when building content, from understanding where they live, to when they like to read, to what kind of device they like to use. Not to mention things like where they are in their “buyer’s journey” or how they came to find you.
There are ways of divining any number of truths like these--and we would love to help you do so--but what impact do such facts have on the origin and purpose of your content?
The instinct is to focus on the end result of the content as being directly related to some business element. Folks in business like to talk about ROI, or Return on Investment. The common principle behind this is sound--it takes time, effort, and attention to create content--good business practice dictates the wise spending of resources.
“Hey, look at our awesome products or services!” or “Hey, here’s what makes us unique!” are both common crutches to lean on when struggling for sources of content. Those are both really good things to include in any website and a vital element to most traditional paid marketing strategies (as ways to differentiate yourself in the marketplace.) But that’s not at all what content marketing (or INBOUND marketing) is all about.
What Your Content Does for Community:
It's hard to feed the content monster, we get it. It's hard to sell things in an age where nobody wants to be "sold" anything. We get that too.
When setting out to feed the content monster--a many-headed hydra that demands constant tribute and whose heads increase exponentially the more attempts at conquest--most folks understandably approach the problem with a very pragmatic view: what do we need this content to do for us? Generate leads? Drive traffic? Increase revenue? Those are all noble (and requisite) goals, but they're not so useful when it comes to making great content that delights your community.
Why must it delight your community? Without a community to take interest in your content, there is no content marketing, there is only content that is seen by nobody and absolutely does not provide any return on investment. In order to transform the results you are seeing from your content, you must first examine the origin of the content you have created and ensure that any problem it solves by coming into being is a problem for the community you are intending to serve.
Let’s be clear here, that’s the purpose of your content: to delight your community. Who your community is and how to delight them with your content is part of what we will begin to explore in subsequent posts.
For now, let our maxim sink in:
Ask not what your content can do for you, but what you - through your content - can do for your community.
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