Keep it simple: content marketing expert Ann Handley offers a clear path to creating marketing your customers will thank you for.

Author:Burnette-Lemon, Jessica
Position:Content marketing: strategy - Cover story

What exactly does it mean to use content to market your organization? According to Ann Handley, chief content officer for the marketing best practices site Marketing Profs, it's about making yourself useful to your customers and potential customers. That means giving them information through a variety of channels that serves their needs, not yours. Handley, who co-authored Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, spoke recendy with CW Senior Editor Jessica Burnette-Lemon about how content marketing is evolving and where marketers should focus their efforts.

CW: How do you define content marketing in the social media age? How has it evolved in the past few years?

Ann Handley: Content has always been part of marketing, of course. But advances in technology and the rise of social media bring new and, I think, exciting opportunities for organizations of any size. Increasingly, the social and online interactions we have with one another are leading us to brands. It's no longer simply brands leading us to their products. So here's how I define that opportunity: Content marketing means you consistently create and share information that is useful, inspired and honestly empathetic to attract customers to you. Two critical parts of that definition are "consistently create and share" and "to attract customers to you." Let's break that down:

* "Consistently create" means that content isn't a one-and-done campaign--it's a commitment. "Consistently share" means you can't sit back and expect Google to do all the work of delivering customers to your door. The opportunity of social media means we can share content and resources and directly engage with the people we are trying to reach.

* "To attract customers to you"--the point of content marketing is not to get really good at creating content. It's to get really good at creating content that drives business.

CW: With so many communication channels available, how should marketers focus their content efforts?

AH: There are a lot of choices, aren't there? Research that MarketingProfs conducted in partnership with the Content Marketing Institute found that both business-to-business and business-to-consumer marketers use an average of 12 content marketing tactics--things like videos, blogs, social media platforms, newsletters, mobile content, podcasts, ebooks, white papers, and on and on and on. That's a lot of...

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