According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, content is:
a) Something contained- usually used in plural, ie. the jar’s contents or the drawer’s contents
b) The topics or matter treated in a written work, ie. “table of contents.”
“Something contained?” Is that all? No way! For marketing professionals “content” cannot be a vague amorphous thing that just fits in where we put it, it is our life blood. Neither is it just a list of topics on a page, it is the prime weapon we use to fight our battles.
Here is my definition of "content" which is extremely helpful in getting new content marketing and social media clients off to the right start:
“Content is information with a purpose designed to change a target audience.”
Let me describe the four elements of this definition:
- Information: I use this word in the widest possible way. Information can be newspaper articles, photos, news, stories, analysis, research, pictures, video, or data.
- Purpose driven: in marketing, content is created for a specific mission with nothing random about it. If the content created does not have a purpose, neither will the website, newsletter, magazine or Twitter account built with it. There is nothing magical about a Twitter account or a newsletter. Just becuse you build it, doe not mean they come. The engagement comes from the content, not the platform. On a technical level, Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh's Twitter account with close to 2 million followers is identical to mine with only 773.
- Change: after reading, viewing, or consuming content the audience must be changed in some way. I’m not saying every piece of content has to be life changing but it must be create some change. For example, after consuming content an audience member might be more informed, more entertained, less anxious, more hopeful, more likely to buy a certain product etc. Content that does not create change is useless.
- Target audience: in marketing, content is created for a target audience. Without a well defined target in mind its hard to create content that will hit it. Content audiences can be very varied, for example: car enthusiasts, wine lovers, women between 18-25 years, upper income New Jersey residents, etc.
Before you launch your next content marketing program think about the purpose driven information you will need to create, that will change a target audience. If you do this first, the rest gets easier.