Content marketing: move from the selfie and put your customer in the picture

As has been widely reported, Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year for 2013 is “Selfie” – the act of taking a photograph of yourself. As this news buzzed around the wires of the Interwebs, I was fortunate enough to be talking to Marisa Kopec of Sirius Decisions over lunch. She shared a great analogy with me that the selfie is exactly how most organizations talk to their customers today. It’s a great analogy and I promised to steal it. So, here we are –

This post was originally published on Engaging Times in December 2013

Most marketers market through the selfie. Lets take a look at most marketing collateral. It’s about their company, their products, their services, their opinion, a “Nascar slide” of logos of their customers – it’s a selfie.

Almost every organization does this and of course this type of product and service marketing it has its place. After all, the customer engages with an organization to find out some information about who they are are what they do and who they do it for.

So while it’s necessary, does it tell a complete story? Does it bring in the story of the relationship this company will have with this customer?  Or the experience this customer will have? How the solution will help this customer ? Or, to use the selfie analogy, is it a picture with this customer in it?

Today, the conventional brochure-ware site model is past, where we lay out our wares on a virtual market stall for a prospective customer to happen upon and browse. We need to proactively engage the customers attention and bring to life why this organization is the right one to do business with.

Putting the customer in the story is a great way of doing this. Additionally, as we look to have our content amplified through our PR and social channels, is a selfie interesting? Who will find it remarkable enough to share? As I researched this article, I found this lovely quote on a PR agency blog by one of their staff, Harry Langdon:

The rise of the selfie made me think about client news stories – if you have just ‘painted a picture of yourself’ as the perfect brand and wrapped it up in a news story, why are the media going to care? Just like why are my friends going to care when I take a ‘selfie’ with my new sun glasses on?

This is probably why we find so many press releases languishing, ignored in the News Room section of a website and not creating the buzz the author had hoped for. This is not what press releases were ever been supposed to do. They have always been written to inspire someone else to talk about your company (from the very first by Ivy Lee in 1906).A simplification, but, content marketing today is the practice of influencing the channel to your audience that you don’t control.

In 1906, this was just newspapers. Today, it’s the same only on a larger scale and to an audience who faces more distractions. Anyway, back to the selfie.  Today, we need to proactively engage customer attention and put the customer in the story, thinking about their problem from their perspective.

A good example of this is the incredibly popular blog by Hubspot. If you are reading this post, you probably know it. Their blog gives away vast amounts of free content and advice. They tell their potential customers that they get it. They understand what it means to be a digital marketer and they are in the picture with them.

Another example is the granddaddy of them all, the John Deere’s Furrow magazine. They have been doing the same thing for farmers as Hubspot does for marketers, but since 1895 – which, if you believe my sources, suggests that Content Marketing is older than PR!

A slightly more contemporary example is clothing retailer Betabrand, who quite literally put their customers in the picture, by encouraging them to submit photographs of themselves in their clothes. Better than that, their customers can actually appear as part of the site: the customers are the models.

betabrand selfie

Yes, that last example uses a selfie to put the customer in the picture. As ever we’d love to know your best content marketing examples, please share them in the comments.

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