Do You Know What Your Content Is?

by Danielle Haley FSE Online Ltd
Danielle Haley

Content is everything you create or that is about you – you might have more than you think!

Most people think of content as the items directly linked to their website. However, content can be so broad as to defy easy definition.

Content marketing is one of the hottest topics in modern management theory. It is seen as very much a part of the digital age, and a product of the 21st century online world.

However, with many business theorists hailing John Deere’s 1895 magazine The Furrow as the first real example of content marketing, it might be wise to take a step back and understand what we really mean by “content.”

By taking that first step of understanding what customers see as content, and how they react to it, you can more effectively tailor that content, both through the most modern online tools, such as SEO copywriting and through more traditional methods that would have been familiar to those 19th century business thinkers at John Deere and contemporary organisations.

What do people see as content?

Ask 50 people to define “content” and you will receive 50 different answers. This in itself is part of the problem of content optimization and marketing – the notion of content is so broad that it can encompass literally anything. Perhaps it was best summarised by Olivier Blanchard on the Facebook discussion “What Is Content” as follows:

The thing about the term “content” is that it’s just vague enough to mean everything and anything, which is to say it doesn’t mean anything at all. It’s essentially a word that means “stuff to fill an empty space with.” It could be photos, video, marketing copy, thorough analysis, poetry, farts, vacuous nonsense, cat hair or cheese cubes. The only thing it hints at is that there is a finite volume of the space it must fill. Ironically, the word itself is a vessel for more content: Here’s an empty word. Now fill it with meaning.”

Good and bad content

Perhaps a more useful question, therefore, is how to define “good” content. There is a general consensus that content means “information” and that this information serves to inform, entertain or serve some other purpose.

Thus, we can begin to form a better understanding of what content we have and whether or not it is fit for purpose by assessing what it says about our business, and how effectively it says it.

Digital and non-digital content

Online marketing activities are often seen as a siloed subset of the information age, something linked to traditional marketing but also linked to the mysteries of the IT department. However, customers, viewers and other “consumers of content” do not differentiate between digital and non-digital content in this way.

Research has shown that consumers react in different ways to different content channels, be they word of mouth, radio advertising, social content, online reviews, etc, but do not specifically differentiate between digital and offline channels in the way that marketers might think.

So what is your content?

Content is all-encompassing and it is an important and necessary aspect of business and consumer communications. Content educates an audience about your product, service or brand.

To effectively manage your content, you need to fully understand what it is. While online product descriptions and blog posts are important, think too about wider aspects of content – from social media and forum discussions to business cards and signage.

Only then can you move on to the next step of optimizing how you structure, unify and market your content to get the best out of it now and in the future.