content marketing myths
Creativity Marketing Transformation

The Top 12 Content Marketing Myths (and What to Do Instead)

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Content marketing is no longer a novel strategy to deploy in an organization’s path to marketing transformation—but that doesn’t mean it can’t impact your organization or industry’s trajectory toward success or failure.

Content marketing myths are extremely hard to dispel—in fact, in my experience, that’s been one of the most difficult things about them. What works, and what doesn’t? What’s most effective? Which strategies are valuable, and which are a waste of a marketer’s time? And whether you’re new to content marketing or you’ve been at it a while, it’s easy to be derailed by a long-standing myth that even the most accomplished marketers haven’t had the chance to bust.

To that end, I’ve assembled this list of the 12 biggest content marketing myths, their corresponding truths, and some actions you can take at your organization today.

Myth #12: Video is too expensive to include in my content strategy.

Many marketers have visceral reactions to the word “video,” often because they believe producing video content is just too expensive. There are two reasons this simply isn’t true.

First, as with any marketing initiative, cost really comes down to the value received compared to the resources required. Overall, video provides organizations with a tremendous amount of value—as much as, or even more than, other content options.

Second, some marketers incorrectly assume that all video has to be perfectly polished; however, that’s simply not the case. When it comes to incorporating video in your marketing strategy, the key is to remember that, more often than not, the story you’re telling and the channel on which you’re telling it are more important than the production value of the piece. A strong story produced on a mobile phone and published on social media is perfectly acceptable and will not bust your marketing budget. And, in a society dominated by social media, any video is better than no video at all.

So what’s the best approach to keep costs low and still take advantage of the power of video? Rather than diving straight into the realm of producing expensive videos and hoping for the best, get creative with guerilla marketing. You might remember how, in 2014, GoPro’s video strategy brought about a renaissance for user-generated content that has opened the door for brands to rely on users to tell their stories. You can take advantage of similar tactics and enable advocates of your brand to help tell your story through video. Along those same lines, a decent smartphone camera is enough to allow you to shoot your own videos and share them via social.

Myth #11: Social media is just a channel and doesn’t count as content marketing.

While it’s true that social media provides additional channels to distribute your content, it shouldn’t be assumed that those channels should be ignored as their own unique marketing opportunity.

Instead of using social purely for content amplification, treat social channels as actual publishing platforms. Content marketing isn’t a cut-and-paste process; you’re best served by defining within your content strategy how you will uniquely adapt your efforts to social in order to maximize user experience and enhance your brand. The better your content fits into a social channel, the better it will be received and the better it will perform for you.

Myth #10: All the content we produce should go on our own channels, not someone else’s.

It’s true, for the most part, that focusing on the channel(s) you own—your website, blog, campaign microsites, etc.—is a safer investment in the long term, but it really shouldn’t be your only investment. Instead of solely siloing your content onto your own channels, make it a point to develop a content partnership with a like-missioned publisher, or find ways to produce and publish content (video, guest blogs, or syndicated stories) on other established channels. As Eric Enge explains in an article for Search Engine Land, “One of the most important goals of any content marketing campaign is to continuously build your own audience. Working in cooperative partnerships with others is an excellent way to do that. Even if you already have a good-sized audience, growing that audience and keeping it engaged can be activities with high ROI.”

And for many major brands, these kinds of partnerships aren’t a new trend. According to Ad Age, Mini VR Films and Fast Company, Clorox and Huffington Post, and Revlon and Refinery29 are just some of the many brands who are putting this idea to good use.

Myth #9: I can hire a few off-shore writers, pay them $50 for a 500-word article, and the traffic will roll in.

The myth in the above statement isn’t so much about hiring off-shore writers, as I’ve worked with very capable content producers on continents across the globe. Rather, it’s that the process of producing valuable, comprehensive, and scalable content worthy of your brand is as easy as hiring a handful of writers, spending a few bucks, and churning out blog posts.

While this may have been a valid technique just a few years ago, it’s no longer a legitimate practice for most brands or industries. Today, brands are moving beyond the “content for content’s sake” methodology and recruiting industry-leading subject matter experts who can provide in-depth research and original insights that result from experience in a particular field. And if you’re looking for a high-quality, sustainable storytelling strategy that’s driven by talented brand journalists, you’ll need to be offering prices that meet your contributors’ needs.

To be successful, content marketing requires time and budget. Be willing to do your research, talk to freelance writers to gauge their fees, make the investment, and see it through—otherwise your chances of failure are greatly increased.

Cargo Ship - Image via Daniel Ruyter

Myth #8: I have to produce so-called “10x” content or it won’t work.

Some digital marketing pundits may disagree, but the idea that you have to produce content that’s 10 times better than your competition just isn’t true. If you can produce beautiful and content that you know meets that level—and if you can do that at scale—then that’s great! But I really don’t think that’s practical advice, and it isn’t a requirement in most industries.

Instead of trying to dump too much time, budget, and effort into figuring out what constitutes 10 times better, spend your time focusing on what your customers need. Put yourself in their shoes and ask: Am I giving my customers thorough, meaningful content that’s easy to understand? Could I answer their questions in a manner that would be better than my competition? From there, learn as much as you can about your audience—their needs and their pain points, yes, but also their interests and their favorites (places, devices, etc.). Then, start crafting stories that meet them where they are, challenge them, and inspire them to new heights. Compete with yourself, and with the right passion and data to back you, 10x quality will follow.

Myth #7: We really only need a handful of blog posts and then we can stop producing content.

While it’s true that you could begin to see a payoff from just a handful of blog articles or case studies, however a handful of content (even if it’s super useful) will only get you started.

Instead of creating a few pieces of content and then stopping, you’re better off engaging in your marketing transformation by delivering a consistent stream of content at a regular cadence. Your production may ebb and flow a bit as you learn more about your audience’s engagement behavior, but make sure your expectations are set that publishing content requires a longer-term strategy. Keep a finger on the pulse of your site traffic and content strategy, to ensure you’re publishing regularly and demonstrating to your customer base that you’re committed to providing them with information that matters to them.

Myth #6: Search engine optimization and organic traffic sources are too competitive for me to compete.

The assumption is that as more content is published and shared, it gets harder it is to obtain any significant traffic from organic search. This isn’t quite true. First, consider that Google alone still registers at least 2 trillion search queries every year. Beyond that, there are also billions of topics and niches out there for you to tap into (with still more to come).

Instead of giving up on SEO, it should be ingrained in your content marketing teams. Writing for pure SEO is dead—especially with Google now prioritizing quality over keywords alone—and let’s face facts: it usually sounds robotic anyway. You can still execute best practices around SEO and set yourself up for organic success. Even if you only receive a small sliver of those organic searches, it can amount to very substantial traffic.

The Top 12 Content Marketing Myths (and What to Do Instead)

Myth #5: Content marketing ROI measurement is easy.

“Let’s go digital,” they said. “It’s easy to track ROI,” they said.

While digital marketing is inherently easier to track performance and ROI, achieving a true ROI calculation is more difficult than most marketers expect.

First, let’s dig into what is meant by ROI. By its very definition, ROI is the return on investment—how much do you get back from what you’ve spent? Or to put it another way, if you spend “X”, how much can you expect to get back in return? True ROI calculations are difficult in many organizations because marketers have to trace sales all the way back through the lead generation process. Did a sale come from a newsletter subscription, or a local event lead? Most companies struggle to answer questions like this reliably, and they know ROI calculation takes time.

Instead of assuming that measuring ROI is easy, assume you’re going to have to work toward a true ROI calculation. Understand what your calculation milestones are, from lead capture to attribution, contribution margin, and beyond. It will take time for you to get to a real ROI for most of your efforts.

Myth #4: Good content markets itself—I don’t have to bother with marketing or promotion.

While it’s true that the best content can just take off on its own, that’s not the case for the vast majority of content produced.

Even high-quality content won’t share itself—it may need a bump initially to get some momentum. Share your content on social media for a bit of a boost, and even better: put a little bit of budget behind your content promotion as well.

Myth #3: Content is just a means to an end—it holds no intrinsic value for my organization.

It’s surprising, but some organizations do believe the content they produce isn’t really an asset to the organization; thinking instead that it’s just a cost of doing business.

This couldn’t be further from the truth—if you’re producing content that provides value to your customers. Content is a major company asset; the more you have, the more value you provide to your customers. And, just like other assets, content is often accumulated gradually, intentionally, and strategically.

Make sure you see content for what it really is—not just an empty expense, but an asset that your company will possess for months and years to come.

Myth #2: Content strategies and calendars aren’t worth their effort.

Sure, you can wing it for a few weeks, or maybe even several months—but if you think a content strategy and content calendar are more work than they’re worth, you don’t likely understand their value.

Content strategies and calendars both provide coordination, awareness, and focus across an organization. A small team experimenting with a blog in a remote corner of a company may not feel the need to formulate a strategy or maintain a content calendar. But as soon as content marketing becomes a cross-functional effort, both become integral to your marketing efforts.

Myth #1: A call to action isn’t a necessary component in a content marketing plan.

This is the single biggest content marketing myth that I’ve heard so far. While telling authentic, powerful stories is crucial for building and nurturing relationships, there are absolutely times when we want people to take action. If your content lacks a clear call to action, you leave your audience without a next step. Whether you’re hoping they’ll read more content, purchase a product, download a whitepaper, or subscribe to your newsletter, it’s important to give them that direction.

Some marketers, and even senior marketing leaders, think that content marketing is an easy path to success. They’re destined for disappointment if they buy into this notion—or any of the other key myths I’ve identified above. Content marketing is a very effective strategy, but it’s important to understand that opportunity in this area lies in the medium to long term, not in quick and easy wins.

How does your organization’s content marketing compare to others in the industry? Find out in five minutes by taking Skyword’s Content Marketing Continuum assessment.

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Daniel has been a software development and digital professional since 1998. He currently serves in a digital marketing leadership role with the 2nd largest healthcare system in the state of Florida. In addition, Daniel is a current member of the Samsung ImageLogger program, a published author and supplements his written work with beautiful, unique and tailored visual content.

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