Monday's Musings: Why Customers And Prospects Expect Clearer Rules About Content Marketing

Original Mission Improves Engagement Through Relevancy
Content marketing re-emerges as a hot topic and trend in improving engagement with existing customers and prospects.  Marketers can improve the likelihood of engagement through the creation and sharing of relevant information.  Typical delivery formats include advertorials, emails, branded websites, white papers, webinars, podcasts, and field marketing events.  Content marketers believe that educating a customers with high quality information will improve the likelihood of a sale due to brand association with expertise and thought leadership.  Content marketing is a powerful and effective approach when done well.
Many Marketers Will Abuse The Model As Marketer Objectivity Standards Go By The Way Side
As with all techniques, content marketing has the potential to improve brand relevancy and conversion.  However, when applied to social media, there is greater room for abuse.  Why? The speed of social media and the lack of rules creates a confluence of forces leading many content marketers to quickly blur the limits of objectivity.  How? By placing biased marketing content and associating with a known, objective, and trusted brand.  It's happening with paid blogs, paid tweets, purchasing Facebook likes, thinly veiled advertorials in trusted magazine brands, and biased white papers disguised as objective research.
Though many will claim that a new generation could care less about objectivity, selling out on standards will create short term gain at a more punishing long term loss of trust.  In today's social businesses, trust is the new social currency.  Without trust based on our actions, we destroy the basis for engagement and relationships.  In fact the newness and pureness of social media is what draws users to engage.  If marketers deafen the channel with the equivalent of ‘junk mail”, spam, and telemarketing in the guise of content marketing, the recipients will hit another level of social overload and disengagement.

The Bottom Line: Three Simple Disclosure Rules Can Improve Content Marketing In A Social World

As expected, a high level of ethics and self-policing is required to prevent abuse.  To keep content marketing as an effective tool, a few ground rules should be put in place to ensure that trust is not broken:

  1. Sponsored content should be clearly stated upfront. Recipients should know that the material is sponsored.  If embedded within the broader content of a trusted source, marketers should call out what's sponsored.  Placing the words "Advertorial" in small font is misleading.  Not noting that content is sponsored in a webinar is misleading. 
  2. Sponsor affiliations should be easily identifiable. The company sponsoring content should prominently display or verbally indicate their name. Hiding the company name until the last page of a document is misleading.  Stating the sponsor name in a rapid voice in a podcast as part of the "small" text is misleading.
  3. Paid relationships should be openly noted. Recipients have a right to know the paid relationship status between the marketer and the channel.  This level of disclosure is key to ensuring trust.

Your POV
Agree or disagree with the disclosure rules?  Got one to add to the mix? Are you trying out content marketing?  Add your comments to the blog or send us a comment at R (at) SoftwareInsider (dot) org or R (at) ConstellationRG (dot) com
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