I am an editor of technical content that is published on a site targeted to developers; I like to say that it is written by developers for developers. Our site also includes downloads and communities, where developers can interact with our technology with other developers who are using that technology. Never have I ever (no, not the drinking game, folks) thought of what we do as content marketing.
I ran across this article, All Content is Marketing, and I’ve read it a few times now. It suggested that blogging, webinars, and eBooks were obviously marketing, but that FAQs and Docs (among others) were not typically seen as marketing (where I fell), but the author quickly cried BS to that. The author defines these odd (yes, that’s my word) levels of quality of technical content: functional, comprehensible, usable, enjoyable, and motivational. It’s this last level of quality that clearly shows the author is a marketer, and why all content is (or should be) marketing content in his eyes.
So, this led me to research some definitions of content marketing:
- From the Content Marketing Institute: “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” (Emphasis mine.) This article also says that content marketing is “communicating with your customers and prospects without selling.”
- From Wikipedia: “Content marketing is any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers. This information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, etc.”
Perhaps the secondary purpose of our content might be content marketing, or perhaps our technical content might be used as a means to the end (and thus considered content marketing material). Noone really wants to be marketed to, but developers especially I think. They are impatient readers of content, itching to get back in their code, itching to get back on task, and don’t really want the “fluff” of the “call to action” that marketing might push into our technical content.
In my mind, I think our technical content is most often written to the developer who has already bought our product or technology, and so “marketing content” is something different or separate. I think I can see how high quality technical content (how-to information) might be used along side of other marketing content, and therefore be seen as just another type of marketing content, but ultimately that is not the primary purpose of our content.
Another article was included in my Google search results as I tried to understand this idea of content marketing. It was a Forbes article, “Ways Content Marketing is Going to Change in 2015“. This article certainly supports this idea that “Content is King” and is at the heart of any good marketing campaign or solution. This article doesn’t suggest that technical content is created for marketing purposes, but that technical content is used in the marketing process. Am I splitting hairs? Maybe so, but as a technical communicator, I put my users first and the users’ goals second, and so my audience and my purpose is not to “attract and keep customers” (that’s the marketer’s goals).
Returning to the original article (All Content is Marketing) that sparked my musings on content marketing, the author actually includes some good guidelines for improving written content in an online web world:
- Include meaningful images, whenever possible.
- Include headings and subheadings throughout.
- Keep your paragraphs short.
- And, speaking of length, the Goldilocks principle wins: Not too short, not too long, but just right for achieving clarity of your message.