Content marketing is all the rage today.
It's a geek marketer's favorite buzzword, more popular than SEO or social media (or so it seems to me; maybe I live in a content marketing reality distortion field).
Everybody is telling you - no, yelling at you! - to create "valuable content" and to promote it.
But rarely do you see specific examples of a valuable content piece, so I'm gonna give you a real one.
A lesson in content marketing from a live Google+ Hangout On Air (HOA)
Yesterday was the first time ever that I tuned into a Hangout On Air. If you've never participated in one, it's a live stream on Google+ and Youtube, used as a cooler alternative to webinars. A person organizes a hangout and invites smart people or celebrities to talk about an interesting subject.
Guy is an entertaining fellow and as soon as he started cracking jokes and tweetable quotes, the nerd in me opened a text editor and started writing interesting quotes, while Guy was inventing them on the fly. After the HOA was over in an hour or so, I looked at my file and thought to myself: My my, that's a nice collection of informative, educational and entertaining quotes! I should totally publish them!
I knew I would never publish this stuff if I saved the quotes in a file and waited until tomorrow. I would probably just forget about it until it was too late or uninteresting.
So an hour after the hangout was finished, I published this original Google+ post with the link to a Youtube recording of the hangout.
People loved and shared my unique Guy Kawasaki quotes collection
And now, the lesson what "valuable content" really is.
Guy shared the link at the moment the hangout was going live. I shared the link after the hangout was over, and I attached the quotes collection in the form of a short, original Google+ post. Nothing fancy, nothing new on Google+.
Guy's link was reshared 15 times, mine was reshared 20 times. The image above is the snapshot from Google+ Ripples, a nice tool that shows you how many times a URL has been shared, and which Google+ user "seeded" the most shares.
Of course, at this moment Guy has almost 4 million followers, and I have less than 9000 followers.
Guy Kawasaki and me, we both shared the same link on Google+ (the link to a recorded hangout on Youtube). I'm not at all saying that what Guy posted wasn't valuable. I'm saying that my link + original content performed relatively much better share-wise, if you compare the strength of my network to Guy's demigoddery on Google+ (demigoddery? is that even a word? I'm so totally allowed to invent one new English word per post).
What was so "valuable" about my content, exactly?
My post was timely and fresh. I was completing it while the live event was taking place. I published it immediately after the event, while people were still thinking about it.
Everybody loves good quotes. And Guy's quotes are funny and smart. Some of them were even completely off-topic, like the quote about being lucky to have a heart attack in Canada, where it's cheaper to take care of it medically :) So, publishing the type of content everybody loves to read helps volumes.
My post was short and snackable. Just right for Google+. I've been on Google+ from day one, and I've learned what kind of content people love to consume and share. So, knowing the rules of the network and playing by them makes your content shareable, and you can't have content marketing without shareable content!
Nobody else thought of posting a quotes collection. I could have posted a review or a summary of the hangout, but these quotes - a product of my unique scribomania - were already sitting idly in my editor! I knew Guy would not publish a collection of his own quotes (because that would be lame), so I jumped at the opportunity. Originality is king, and timely, short and appropriate originality is queen!
It was in alignment with the type of content I usually post on Google+. People who read my stuff know I share links and publish my own original short-form and long-form posts about writing, publishing and entrepreneurship. If I had been posting nothing but animated cat gifs for the last two years, people would uncircle me (sadly, there was no mention of cats in Guy's quotes).
I did not publish my Guy Kawasaki quotes post because I wanted to "do content marketing". I published it because I loved the hangout, I'm a big fan of Guy Kawasaki, and because I love promoting good stuff from people I like (in this case, Guy's new book "APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur" and the event itself from my friend Martin Shervington). So there you have it, the final lesson about where valuable content comes from: from your inner passion.