Editor's note: We first published this article in the Digital Marketing Pulse on Cleveland.com. It was so popular, we've republished it here.

Content marketing is a bit of a buzzword these days—and for good reason. With the changes which the internet has wrought to marketing, interruption-based advertising has lost its power in many kinds of markets. People living today have grown up in a world of ad saturation. That means that traditional methods of getting consumer attention aren't as effective as they once were. Particularly with the advent of social media, the brand/consumer interaction is no longer a one-way street. People want to be delighted and entertained.

Here comes content marketing, ready to save the day.

What Is Content Marketing?

As the Content Marketing Institute explains, content marketing is a strategic approach to marketing that uses engaging, educational, and entertaining content to establish a relationship between a brand and a consumer. In a word, it's relating to your target market without selling to them.

Sounds crazy, right?

Wrong.

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Remember ad saturation? People are tuning out traditional advertising. Consider ad-block software and the ability to record TV programs and fast-forward through the commercials. Even on YouTube, a user can mute an ad and skip to another tab until the commercial ends and the video begins. All of this means interruption-based advertising is losing its power. While the degree to which interruption is still effective depends on your market, we do see an overall trend in this direction.

Let's look at our YouTube example. What is the user looking for when they mute the sound on your ad? They're waiting for the relevant, engaging, entertaining content of that video. They're not looking for a sales pitch. They're looking for a story, a how-to, something useful, maybe something unforgettable. When was the last time you paid attention to an ad on YouTube? Can you remember the content of a single ad? I can't. I'd call that forgettable.

Content Marketing: Memorable, Useful, Wonderful

Content marketing isn't advertising. It's relating. Imagine connecting with your friends and family. You have certain things in common, and that's what you talk about. These things-held-in-common establish your relationship and maintain it.

Now, there are times when you'll sell something to friends and family. Maybe you run an Etsy store, selling handmade jewelry. Friends and family will love this. They'll probably buy your jewelry. But what if you turned every family gathering into a monologue about the awesome jewelry you sell on Etsy? Everyone will get tired of that. It's not an appropriate kind of content for the social space you're in. Worse, it's disrespectful.

A similar approach lies behind the idea of content marketing. Rather than bombard every user you encounter with a sales pitch, you should publish content that's interesting and helpful to your target market. But that's only the beginning. On top of relevance and utility, you should strive for that extra something special that's hard to put into words. To put it plainly, your content should delight users.

What Exactly Is Content?

Great question. At this point, you might not have a clear definition of content. Content isn't just blog articles or Facebook posts. These things are formats or containers of content. They're not the content itself. Content is the emotional message that your customers experience when interacting with your brand, regardless of channel.

That means you can leverage every aspect of your business as content. But remember, it has to be relevant to your target market. And it has to be engaging!

Creative Examples Of Content Marketing

Local businesses have some exciting opportunities for content marketing. National brands can't offer the same level of direct, in-person attention to customers as local businesses can. That means that creative content marketing options abound for local business owners.

Consider an offline/online connection. Why not offer customers a coupon for tweeting about their recent purchase? You get a tweet now and a repeat visit later. In this example, your customers actually publish your content marketing for you! (Of course, make sure they @-mention you in their tweet. To help them out, consider painting your Twitter handle on the wall in big, bold letters.)

Remember, everything is content. Get your business involved in the community. Maybe you sponsor a charitable event like a run or a bike-a-thon. Get your customers involved, and get interviewed in local media about your participation in the event. Attend the event and take lots of pictures. Post them to your social channels as appropriate. If you take pictures of your regular customers at the event, get their permission and tag them in the photos. (Note: on Facebook, you'll have to be friends with these people from your personal profile to tag them.)

The Bottom Line

Interruption advertising is basically dead. Content marketing is the way of the present—and the future. Start practicing content marketing now in your local market. The more creativity you put into this, the more you'll get out of it. The sky is literally the limit.

Are you looking to take your content marketing efforts to the next level? Get in touch, and let's start talking about your next big thing.

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