Content will remain the catalyst for a brand’s online success (or failure) and ultimately having a tremendous effect on their overall digital return on influence (ROI).

John Bell (author of The Digital Influence Mapping Project) wrote a fabulous piece (which inspired this short writeup and graphic) on this shift in marketing and communications – content marketing finds its value (head on over and take a peak, come back, and we’ll continue on).

Examine the intersection between user and brand.

Content marketing goes beyond the products and services (it touches them indirectly) your organization possesses. It takes a look at who makes up your core demographic and then directly speaks to that user group about that shared interest. You have to examine the intersection of a user and brand. What’s the warm and fuzzy for the user, what’s the shared interest, what’s that one thing that makes both brand and user tick together? What’s the value you posses to help shape that user groups way of life? Speak to that topic.

Though I wholeheartedly agree on everything John is saying throughout his post, I think there’s one piece that’s being left out, or maybe that I would alter…

Creating content for users instead of consumers.

First, users aren’t customers. Users simply absorb your relevant and valuable content. This user group is your brands targeted audience but has a far greater reach than speaking to just consumers. Think about this for a second (refer to the graphic above as well or click here for a larger view). You are able to speak, with adding high levels of relevant value, to a user group that is five times (I have no idea how big, but it’s bigger) the size of your costumer base means huge opportunities. Though a user may never become a customer of yours, what this means is you have created a brand ambassador indirectly. This new ambassador is sharing relevant content that is deriving from your brand. This user group has become much larger making your brand (content) much more visible in an instant. By speaking to a community of users, this eventually will produce consumers who will want to give you some cash for your product or service. Users have now joined the group of brand ambassadors along side consumers. The larger the user base, the greater opportunity of obtaining customers. But, content must remain relevant and valuable. There is still a targeted direction, it’s not the masses.

American Express does it best.

American Express is a financial organization that offers credit card solutions for both personal and business use. What they have done with their content marketing strategy is created a hub that speaks to a core of their demographic. This platform is called American Express Open Forum. Their content consists of how to operate a small business – “powering small business success”. What it doesn’t consist of is how to operate a small business leveraging their credit card solutions. Instead it’s simply a forum. A place where top influencers and thought leaders in the small business space offer their advice, via guests posts, on running a successful small business. From managing, to marketing, to design, etc. This is the true kicker – it’s powered by the small business experts outside of American Express. They seek to the SMB expert to produce the content. They have even gone to the extent of declaring their own day of the year called “Small Business Saturday”. It’s the day after Black Friday that encourages shoppers to shop small and local. When a small business owner thinks about financials, they instantly gravitate to American Express. Through persistence they’ve molded their brand to become the “all things small business expert”.

Keep the platform in your control.

What must be remembered is that the content hub needs to be in your control. Meaning, don’t use third party platforms to create content. Instead, establish your own platform that both creates and distributes relevant content by means of social channels to your targeted user base. Refer to the graphic above for the path a user and customer takes. The idea of this platform and content marketing strategy is to always be creating. This results in shareable links and high SERPs. It’s constant, consistent, and filled with fresh content and conversation. Conversation and dialogue that takes place in your living room – your brands controlled environment.  This large group of users are continually returning to your content hub, it’s only a matter of time before they themselves, or one of their SWYN (share with your network) recipients, meanders to your website to research your product/service and then filters to the bottom of your sales funnel.

As John Bell stated at the end of his post – it’s definitely a marathon.