In the communications industry, we often see articles comparing content marketing and advertising to each other. Authors sometimes suggest that advertising is dead or that content marketing and advertising are two completely separate entities.
In my opinion, both of these ideas are far from the truth. Advertising and content marketing are alive and well, and the two of them working cohesively will give you the most bang for your marketing buck.
Marketing and advertising defined
I know. That heading sounds a little ridiculous, but it is important. The quick rise in popularity of content marketing and shows like Mad Men have skewed some people’s views of marketing and advertising. They have mistakenly made the two forms of communication seem at odds with one another.
Marketing has a very open definition. According to Kathleen Micken, assistant professor of marketing for the Gabelli School of Business at Roger Williams University, “Marketing might be defined as everything an organization does to facilitate an exchange between itself and its customers/clients.” Content marketing is one piece of that. Advertising is another.
What separates advertising from most other marketing tactics is money. Advertising is paid marketing; it requires you spend money to reach your audience versus earning your audience’s attention.
The idea of paying for attention may make some content marketers cringe. Of course, it is important to earn your audience’s trust through quality content, consistency and transparency, but sometimes you need a little help reaching an audience to “wow” with your content. And with a decrease in organic reach, advertising can be a great way to boost your content and get others noticing (and talk about) the types of topics you’re looking to engage them in.
Why advertising is a vital content marketing partner
Did you know that 76% of marketers are increasing their investment in content marketing? That means there is more competition than ever to get your audience’s attention, to get content at the top of their newsfeeds, to end up at the top of search results. So what is one to do? Pay to play is one way to make sure your content is getting where you need it to go.
It’s not enough just to create great content, you also need to have a complete strategy for where and when to promote it. That does not undermine your content marketing strategy so long as your ads are like your content – honest, helpful and about the customer’s needs (not yours!). Ads simply give your content the opportunity to be seen (and shared) by more people, which will increase your content’s earned attention and decrease the amount of money you need to invest in paying for attention.
When to advertise
Investing in your digital content–in content marketing–is no different than adhering to a traditional advertising budget. You should consistently invest some money in advertising – whether it is on digital or traditional channels – so you can constantly be seen by new people, but sometimes you need to invest in a bigger advertising campaign. Here are a few examples of times you will benefit greatly from an advertising campaign:
- Increase social reach – If you have a lot of likes on your Facebook page, but are not satisfied with your reach, boost some of helpful posts. Boosting a post makes a post show up only on the newsfeeds of people who already like your page, their connections, or those you choose via direct targeting. If your boosted post is engaging enough, people will interact with it, which tells Facebook they want to see more from you.
- Need a bigger audience – If you are putting out quality, consistent content, but just don’t see a lot of people following your social channels or blog, it’s time to advertise. Use social media advertising, Adwords and traditional media to get the word out about your content. Once people know you exist, you will start to see more organic audience growth because people will be talking about you.
- New product or service – If your organization branches out and starts selling a new product or service, you need to spread the word through advertising. New products and services usually mean new target audiences, so you need to target your ads to attract them and rework your content marketing strategy to include them, as well.
If you only take one thing away from this article, let it be that marketing and advertising need to work together to give you the best possible ROI. For that reason, break down the silos at your company. Make sure your content marketing and advertising departments or agencies are working together and always talking about how they can help each other.