As digital audiences evolve and Generation Z takes its place as the next main body of consumers, these customers will more easily spot and ignore self-promotional or manipulative content, and value authenticity and realness (Williams and Page, 2014, p.10.) Marketing with authentic content has developed as a way to bridge the gap between the way people like to buy – researching online and via recommendations from social networks – and the way business like to sell by demonstrating empathy, purpose, and usefulness, not by shouting the loudest (Jefferson and Tanton, 2013, p.11)
Marketing techniques heavy on self-promotion are losing their impact because current buyers do not trust a seller’s message. In 2011, rapper Kanye West tweeted, “Don’t ever try and sell me on anything. Just give me all the information, and I’ll make up my own mind,” this message sums up how buyers feel today. The internet has given the new generation the tools to do their own research, and they hate being sold to, more than they ever did. In response to the dislike of sales messages, customers have learned to block them out and choose to ignore most of the promotional advertising and throwing them directly in the recycling bin (Jefferson and Tanton, 2013). Nowadays, companies need to position themselves not as “buy me!” banners, but as trusted advisors on the web. (Lieb, 2011).
In a digital world where there is little trust. Truth and authenticity are what customers seek.
So how can sellers earn trust?
Authentic content marketing is more than selling a product or brand. Content marketing creates value, provides information, and sparks customer engagement at all stages of the buying cycle, which can lead to long-term, secure, and loyal customer relationships (Lieb, 2011, p.2).
The conventional marketing tactics such as sponsored content, outdated statistics, and stock photos are not genuine and misleading, and companies need to turn their back from these common tactics, and instead focus on proving their expertise and usefulness, their authenticity and humanity.
The first rule of knowing what kind of content a company wants to create is knowing who they are creating it for. A company needs to have its own voice to stand out from the rest and connect with their audience (Lieb, 2011, p.16.) Personalized content with personal research and statics, photos, industry experience, and so forth will position an organization as authority in their niche. This way, a company highlights their expertise and knowledge. It shows that they are actively interested in giving customers what they want and need and are not the digital equivalent of a used car salesman (Lieb, 2011, p.188).
Companies need to be careful of falling into the trap that produces content solely for SEO purposes. For visitors of the website, it has become apparent when an article is written purely as a vehicle to add keywords. At the same time, while key words help boost search engine rankings, it also damages a brand’s reputation and relationship with its audience. It is therefore essential that a company researches what questions their target groups are asking. This research will help the company create content that meets their target groups’ needs by balancing keyword usage with creative writing that appeals to the reader, thus educating, influencing, and inspiring action (Odden, 2013, p.10.)
Engagement can only be achieved by engaging with the audience. Therefore, a company should find ways to encourage their audience to share their own experiences, through photos, videos, or stories. Allowing shared content is an effective way to optimize, content on different channels, and double or triple resulting traffic towards the company’s website.
If an organization tries connecting with an audience on a personal level, publishing a photo of a stock model is not the right choice because it makes the content feel impersonal. Stock photos can easily be used by other companies as well (Odden, 2013, p.142). It is not a true representation of the company or its culture. Instead, a company should take pictures themselves. These could be pictures of daily activities around the office and the team members of the company. Sharing images of their team allows for an audience to know the company better as it helps building a better connection between the company and its potential customer.
It is also important that the brand allows customers to write reviews. A review lets customers connect to make recommendations and share their stories. It is a form of starting real conversations on their website.
In the end, all content should be focused on the end-user experience. This means that companies need to do the proper keyword research beforehand to discover what sorts of words or phrases their potential customers’ types into a search engine (Jefferson and Tanton, 2013, p.106). The company needs to know what problems they are looking to solve for its target group (Jefferson and Tanton, 2013, p.259). Audacity aside, this is the core part of a content marketing strategy.