Mike Fishbein is what you might call a content marketing success story. The founder of Startup College, an online school for startups, decided to put content marketing strategies to work for himself after hearing about how other people had used them. After a while, he was hooked. “It’s a radical new way to think about advertising, marketing and acquiring new customers,” says Fishbein.
He was so impressed and learned so much in his own content marketing practices that he recently published a book, Growth Hacking with Content Marketing. We talked to Fishbein to get his take on content marketing trends, pitfalls and best practices.
Content marketing is a popular buzzword right now. What opportunities do you think it has to offer organizations?
It’s popular for a reason. The way that people are interacting with brands and products is totally changing. It’s not as effective anymore to just blast ads at people — people are actually paying to have ads removed. Content marketing gives companies the opportunity to bypass that and actually deliver value and attract audiences.
Have you learned anything from your experiences helping startups that can be applied to content marketing?
One big opportunity with content marketing is there are a lot of new channels and content formats that are underused and underutilized by marketers. At this point everybody knows about blogging, everybody knows about Twitter. But there are other channels like Udemy [a web platform for online learning] that I’m really blown away by. Podcasting is another one, and Amazon is also a great content marketing channel that I think is underutilized.
Each of these has slightly different demographics, and slightly different types of content. But just by being there you can tap into a new audience. It’s like the old Woody Allen quote: 80 percent of success is just showing up.
What are some content marketing pitfalls organizations should avoid?
A few things come to mind: One is just using the right keywords and putting the content in terms the audience is using. I’ve made this mistake myself: I’ve been surprised, thinking, “I use this term, I’m sure everybody else does.” But it turns out everyone else is using slightly different terms, and therefore I’m not showing up in searches.
The second one, which is a big one, is promotion. I think people spend a lot more time on creating content than they actually do making sure it gets in front of people. It takes a lot of work to do, and it’s worth it.
The last one is gaining insights to make sure the content is valuable. What you think is going to be valuable to the audience is just not always true. What I do is get feedback from my audience so I can make sure I’m developing content that is truly valuable. There are a number of techniques I use for that, one of which is just asking them what their challenges are and what kind of content they like. The other is tracking how my content is performing. And the last is iterative content development: Before I do a whole podcast or video course, I want to make sure there’s demand for it. So I might start with a few Tweets and then bring it to a blog post, and then maybe a webinar or something else to validate that there’s demand for it before diving in and building content that people don’t actually want.
Are you seeing any new trends in content marketing?
People are starting to think outside of the box. Increasingly, people are finding new ways to deliver content, and they’re starting to deliver more and more valuable content. It’s not enough to just Tweet cool articles or write the old repetitive blog posts. It’s becoming more important to deliver truly unique and truly valuable content.