Content and content marketing are not the same. Here’s how to frame the 11 best content formats.

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On the Internet, content is anything that expresses thoughts, information, or experiences in written, visual, or audio form.

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This article is content. The 95 million photos uploaded to Instagram today are content. The 500 hours of videos uploaded to YouTube in the last 60 seconds are all content.

The internet is built with content and always has been. It also means that everyone has content and everyone creates it all the time.

This creates some confusion between content and content marketing. A lot of content is meant to market a brand…but that doesn’t mean the brand is doing content marketing.

Here’s why.

What does content marketing really look like?

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach that focuses on creating and delivering valuable content to attract, retain and convert a clearly defined audience.

In other words, it’s about using content strategically to provide solutions to problems your business or your readers are having. Good examples abound:

  • The fitness brand that creates a community and encourages its followers to share their knowledge.
  • The home decor retailer that distributes a monthly magazine on minimalism and good housekeeping practices.
  • The SaaS platform that uses gamification to drive users to discover and learn about its features.
  • The travel agency that uses an exciting interactive website to hint at the experiences it offers.
  • The health supplement site that publishes a blog of vegan recipes.

Do you see a difference? All of these efforts position you as an authority in your industry, demonstrate your long-term expertise in your field, and cultivate the trust of your audience by putting their needs and interests first.

How to know if you are doing it correctly

You’re doing content marketing (not just content creation or digital marketing) if your content:

  • Prioritize your audience. Be customer-focused, not company-focused. You provide useful and valuable content and let the customer decide when they trust you enough to buy from you.
  • Links to a business goal or a solution to a problem. You explained how your content works together to achieve your business goals.
  • Rarely, if ever, actively promotes your brand. CTAs are great, but you’re not trying to nudge your readers towards your solutions.
  • Attracts readers to your territory. You build authority by giving readers a destination they can keep coming back to.
  • Is published consistently and continuously. You build trust by proving you’re a subject matter expert over time rather than posting one-off articles.
  • Uses metrics to measure and optimize. You can identify what is working well and what you need to improve based on the data.

Related: How are you improving email marketing? Start by improving your list.

To master content marketing, you need to master these 11 types of content.

Great content is at the heart of your content marketing, but how you create it can make or break your strategy. It’s not enough to simply create eye-catching e-books, blogs, and social media posts that provide useful information… that are always biased in favor of your brand.

People even understand that now.

Yet with all the content creation you will continue to do, it can be easy to lose focus. Here is an overview of how to use the eleven main types of content in content marketing:

  1. Blogs. Make sure they are SEO optimized as they are one of the best ways to increase your page rankings. Include a CTA and consider opening comments for further engagement.
  2. Case studies. Illustrate your expertise by taking your readers on a journey that presents solutions to their pain points.
  3. electronic books. They make great lead magnets, especially when you create a magnetizing headline and provide information that people can’t find elsewhere.
  4. Emails. Write direct, powerful, and concise copy that contains life-changing information for your readers. They are a direct line to your audience and can build lasting relationships when done right.
  5. Securities. Powerful, compelling headlines (that don’t sound spammy!) let your readers know exactly what they’re getting. They are also a great way to convey the brand with language.
  6. Meta titles and descriptions. Put yourself in your readers’ shoes and let them know you have the answers they’re looking for right now.
  7. Product descriptions. Optimize with keywords and describe products in terms of benefits rather than features.
  8. Posts on social networks. Create an experience that puts them at the center and encourages engagement. It helps your audience connect emotionally with your brand and can help you find their pain points.
  9. Video scenarios. Tell your brand story in an engaging way. You can also include script text on the page to make your content more accessible and boost SEO.
  10. Web Content. Highlight important or useful information, include a clear CTA, and use high-quality images to craft a powerful message.
  11. White papers. Explore relevant topics in depth and give your target audience insights they can apply to their own problems or daily life.

Related: What You Need to Know About the LinkedIn Stories Feature

Content Making Content Marketing Work: An Example

By now, I hope I have demonstrated how intrinsic content creation is to content marketing. However, just because you’re creating content doesn’t mean you’re doing content marketing.

I want to make things clear with an example.

Let’s say we’re developing a sportswear brand and looking for ways to attract more customers to our e-commerce site. We decided to turn to content marketing for help. It could look like this:

1. You want to increase your brand’s presence on Google and social media, but you don’t want to constantly annoy your readers with ads. If not, how can you make your brand known to your readers?

You decide the best way forward is to create a blog full of topics that interest your readers. Some things that come to mind include healthy eating, exercising at home, and self-empowerment. You can also talk about clothing, of course, but your models can all wear your brand, eliminating the need for more direct advertising.

2. You start your blog, set up your social networks and inform your followers.

Engagement metrics indicate that readers are more enthusiastic about exercising at home. Looking through their comments, you notice that things like staying focused, finding the right space, and sticking to a schedule are all major issues they have.

3. You respond by creating an online guide to exercising at home.

You use a combination of challenge-filled e-books that are available as lead magnets and videos exercise tutorials hosted on your site. To demonstrate the popularity of your guides, you create a way for users to record their progress and encourage each other.

4. To keep engagement going, you run an email newsletter with the latest challenges, shoutouts for people who have achieved their goals, and sometimes a promo here or there.

Throughout this, you continue to grow your online community, adding more content to your blog that addresses questions or pain points. You even create a hashtag your followers can use to highlight their fitness efforts so they can spread the word about you.

5. At some point, you realize that you can enrich your readers’ experience with case studies and white papers.

You start including “white papers” about health and fitness that are relevant to your target audience. You also start creating case studies of your community’s success stories.

6. As fitness centers start noticing what you do, you start getting offers for sponsored classes and requests to sell your brand in their stores.

Your content marketing now extends your brand’s reach into the offline world. You will pursue all of the above efforts as the results fuel the production of additional content.

Can you spot the eleven types of content above? Watch carefully. They are there.

(Bonus: Do you know which brand I just described? Spoiler: This is Athleta’s content marketing strategy. Check it out at https://events.athleta.com/)

Now you know the difference between content marketing and content marketing in 2020.

The main difference between content and content marketing? Content marketing involves much more than just creating content. In fact, the focus is not on creating content at all, but on creating an experience that enhances the lives of your readers. If you put your readers first, solve problems, and consistently produce exceptional quality content, you’ll grow your brand while cultivating authority and trust. It’s content marketing.

I hope I left you with an idea or two about your content marketing strategy. Now go ahead and convert this target audience into passionate fans.