Content Marketing Haters Gonna Hate (And Why They’re Wrong)

When something gets big enough to attract a great deal of media coverage and conversation, it’s inevitable that not all the attention will be positive. Take Justin Bieber. Or Miley Cyrus. Both have detractors as vocal and as passionate as their fans.

content_shutterstockContent marketing is certainly no teen idol, but as interest in the topic continues to hockey stick up the charts, the naysayers are coming out in force.

Now, I can be as contrarian as the next guy, but I have yet to see a cogent, well-reasoned argument against content marketing. Instead, detracting arguments seem to be ill-conceived, knee-jerk negativity based on conjecture or downright ignorance.

Let’s take a look at the content marketing haters’ prevailing arguments — and debunk them.

It’s A Meaningless Buzzword

This argument is grounded in the belief that content marketing is basically just marketing. By that measure, so are advertising, promotion, branding, user experience and dozens of other disciplines that fall within the broader category of “marketing.”

Marketing contains many discrete areas of specialization. It’s helpful to have terminology and definitions to describe these separate disciplines.

It’s A Stupid Name

This argument is purely subjective. Sure, there are people out there who hate the term content marketing. They’ll insist on “branded content,” “storytelling,” “brand publishing” and a host of other related terms.  There are arguments against other marketing terms as well, such as “native advertising.”

Let’s just all agree to move beyond the semantics, shall we? You can argue a point like this until the cows come home. Ultimately, it doesn’t help move anything forward, or provide much clarity. Love it or hate it, “content marketing” is the industry standard term now, so learn to live with it.

shutterstock_84816412-measuring-tapeYou Can’t Measure It

Oh yes, you can. Establish the appropriate mechanisms and strategies in advance of implementing content marketing initiatives, and you can measure up and down the funnel: intent to purchase, brand favorability, awareness, amplification and so much more.

Even that shining, most exalted ROI metric can be extracted from content marketing efforts.

Doing so, however, requires discipline, strategy, tools, and an understanding of what to measure, and what KPIs matter to the brand.

Rarely are these metrics the same as the ones used by publishers, yet publisher metrics are all too frequently (and mindlessly) applied to content initiatives. That’s not content marketing’s fault. That’s a lack of planning — and maturity — on the part of marketers.

It’s Social Media

Without content, there is no social media — but content marketing is not social media’s equivalent. Content is owned media: it’s media created by a brand for marketing purposes, and distributed or published on media the brand owns or controls.

Social media can be that, but it also heavily relies upon earned media (e.g., from fans or followers), sometimes even paid promotion and distribution. Paid, owned and earned media are converging and commingling in all sorts of new ways, but pure content marketing is no more social media than it is advertising.

It’s SEO

SEO can certainly be a primary or secondary goal of content marketing — and indeed, without content there can be no SEO — but my research indicates that SEO is diminishing in importance as a stated content marketing objective.

It’s Storytelling

Like social media and search, content marketing can certainly be about storytelling, or forming a narrative to relate a compelling message about a brand. But content marketing goes beyond storytelling into utility, thought leadership, education and other initiatives that are useful, compelling and effective, but hardly narrative.

It’s Not New

No. It’s not new at all. Content marketing has been around since brands started marketing themselves. That doesn’t diminish content marketing’s importance one bit. New forms of media, changing consumer expectations, evolving media platforms and channels mean content marketing is rapidly becoming more complex and nuanced than it was back when the term (had it existed 150 years ago) referred primarily to company newsletters and other forms of print publishing.

Content marketing isn’t new at all. It’s the radical transformations in the way we communicate, particularly in digital channels, that accounts for the renewed conversation around the topic.

It Won’t Last

Yes, it will (see previous entry).

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Content Marketing | Content Marketing | Content Marketing Column

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About The Author: is an analyst at the Altimeter Group where she covers digital advertising and marketing. A consultant, author, and sought-after speaker, Rebecca is the former head of Econsultancy's US operations. She was VP and editor-in-chief of The ClickZ Network for over seven years. For a portion of that time, Rebecca also ran Search Engine Watch.



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  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    Most of what people are passing off as “content marketing” isn’t really content marketing. It’s just mechanical publishing for the sake of putting stuff on Websites. In the future we’ll probably have to talk about Classic Content Marketing versus Web Content Marketing or some such distinguishing name just so people know what everyone is really talking about.

  • Chris Elwell

    SEO and social media marketing are tactics for amplifying the benefits derived from creating content. For most content marketing practitioners, they are integral components… not separate diciplines.

  • Lee Stuart

    It’s just a new moniker for something we have always been doing (publishing) because somebody ‘influential’ told us the old name was no longer de rigueur. Its been adopted into the Zeitgiest, we have to live with it, we need to learn to measure it better (our biggest challenge) and help the world stay free from the amount pointless guff we create in it’s name.

  • http://www.prosemedia.com/ Justin Belmont

    As a content marketer, I get very frustrated with these negative arguments. I’m glad that you acknowledge them and then say why they’re wrong. In the end, it’s really based on a misunderstanding of the objective of content marketing. It’s not merely SEO, storytelling, or social media; content marketing combines these aspects into one marketing plan. Great post!

  • Salma Jafri

    Great post Rebecca! I honestly can’t understand why/how anyone would hate content marketing. Its one of the purest, most authentic form of marketing there is. What could be more natural than a brand having a conversation WITH their audience rather than AT them?

 

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