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Content marketing remains an unstoppable force in marketing, with no signs of abating any time soon. It has become one of the critical tools for building a brand online.

The power of digital content is a reflection of how much time prospects and customers spend online, what they search for and why they share certain content but not others.

Content spans the full gamut of media, including websites, blogs, photos, video and social media. In the ideal scenario, brands create a variety of custom content with a number of goals in mind to educate and engage audiences.

For instance, a recent study published by Forrester Research revealed that driving sales is the top goal for content marketing. Other notable goals in the same study included brand awareness and lead generation.

Content is as old as the Internet itself. What has changed over time is the ability of marketers to unlock the power of content as a means to bolster a brand’s value proposition and differentiate one product or service from another.

It is well known that prospects are skeptical of sales talk; content marketing changes the paradigm and provides factual information in lieu of promotion and overt sales propositions. Striking a balance between information and engagement — another way to interpret the imperative to entertain Web users with fresh content — is why businesses create custom content in the first place.

What type of content works best?

Creating content that is engaging and compelling takes time and effort. Measuring content marketing ROI remains a challenge for even the most advanced marketing and PR agencies. Standard Web metrics, such as unique page views, time spent, bounce rate and search engine rank, still rule the day when it comes to measuring the success of new content. Certainly, these top-line metrics have their place as a starting point, but they do not tell the whole story when it comes to content and what this marketing paradigm can achieve.

To illustrate this point, marketers can turn to research on social media, which has revealed a number of compelling insights in recent years. A large number of digital marketing agencies rely on the “big four” of social media — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube — to distribute content and engage their audiences.

Rebecca Watson, VP of business development for RadiumOne, wrote an article for SocialMediaToday.com revealing that only about a quarter of social media shares originate from popular social media platforms. The remaining 75 percent come from what Watson calls “dark social media,” the private, personal sharing that occurs outside of the big four social networks.

From a slightly different perspective, Watson’s company has also revealed that content shared on a Thursday has the longest link lifespan. Weekends are not the best time to distribute content, despite the fact that Web traffic generally increases on Saturday and Sunday.

Unique, compelling insights of this kind are possible only when agencies leverage content marketing to gain a better understanding of core audiences and their online behaviors. Relying solely on basic Web metrics will not reveal which types of content work best because people share content, not search algorithms.

Where to find value in content marketing

Content marketing builds a business by elevating a brand’s value proposition in the eyes of a company’s ideal prospects. By building trust and brand recognition through a narrative of different content formats, agencies can tell the story of business without taking a heavy-handed sales approach.

It is possible to strike a balance, likewise, between educational, fact-based content and content that begs to be shared for its entertainment value. Content marketing reveals how to find the right mix of digital content with respect to overall marketing strategy.

Having a sound content marketing strategy in place can inform overall marketing strategy. Given the power of content marketing to engage the right prospects, content helps build a brand organically and efficiently.

If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.

Michael Marchese is the founder and CEO of Tempesta Media. He is responsible for corporate strategy, executive team leadership and overall business operations across all the company’s segments.

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