Are you trying to improve your content marketing but left cold by all the hype? There’s an antidote.
This post introduces you to six great content creators from outside the world of Content Marketing whose mastery of online communications serve as an illustration of effective content marketing. They’re not selling you on content marketing. They aren’t even talking about content marketing.
They don’t have a dog in that fight. But like us, they do have something to gain by using online media to connect with the people who buy their product or service. Their efforts to connect people with their work can be seen through the lens of content marketing. We could learn a lot by observing them and mirroring their habits.
What are some characteristics of these content creators?
They use multiple channels to communicate. They speak on podcasts, take to YouTube, and post all types of content on their blog regularly even though they’re not “Pros” in many of these areas. They aren’t the slightest bit interested in sounding like experts. They don’t care about the latest content marketing fad. Instead, they’re trying to relate to people and offer something in their content that is valuable. A point of connection or a way to relate to them or their topic. Mostly, they’re focused on creating great content. That’s our goal as well. The point isn’t to become some robo content marketer where all your farts are optimized for search engines.
Another characteristic they share is that they each have a product or service to sell and employ a multichannel marketing or communications approach where they use their website, audio, video, email, and other media to communicate and interact with their audience and prospective customer.
So, in no particular order, here are six great content creators whose work and mastery of content creation and online media demonstrate how to be better content marketers.
Mignon Fogarty aka Grammar Girl
In a fit of commute fueled desperation I searched the iTunes podcast store one day for anything to keep my mind off the drive down 95 to pick my kids up from school. I’d overdosed on tech podcasts so I was looking for something different. I can’t say grammar was top of mind. Grammar Girl’s catchy cartoon avatar, combined with a well written headline that teased, “Supercharge your writing,” pulled me into the Grammar Girl podcast reviews. They glowed. Much like Mignon’s voice and enthusiasm for her subject as I was soon to find out. It turns out that Fogarty’s ability to tease practical, how-to information into bite-sized chunks was so good, she made an entire content network out of it – QuickandDirtyTips.com. Today, Fogarty is a multichannel media wizard with her New York Times bestselling book, iPad Grammar app, online store, audio podcast, video content, and a list of other accomplishments too long to list. Someone with this much credibility could sell me a carbon fiber tea cozy and I wouldn’t think twice.
Hugh Howey, bestselling author and self-publishing man about town
I first encountered writer Hugh Howey less than a year ago while on a weekend getaway with friends. I was poolside with my Nexus 7 and scanning through a list of Kindle top authors. The Wool Series stood out for its unusual name, plot, and the amazing number of giddy reviews. Wool Omnibus Edition did not disappoint. After reading the book I researched the author, only to find that he’d already made a name for himself in self-publishing, a process that’s about 80% marketing, 20% techno-ninja and 100% difficult to pull off. In addition to a deft hand with digital publishing, Howey’s website includes unique updates about book progress where he works hard to keep fans engaged through the entire writing process. A great case in point is Howey’s home page Progress Meter, a bar chart showing how much Howey has written on each of his current projects. Brilliant.
Maria Popova – published author and curator of artist backstories at BrainPickings.org
A few years ago a friend shared a story from Maria Popova and her site BrainPickings.org. Popova is a writer by trade and her passion for literature and her fascination for writers and their craft bleed onto every page she creates. Popova celebrates authors, their works, and helps educate you on their known and lesser known virtues. She produces a combination of content, from the captivating graphics and drawings that give Brain Pickings it’s mood, to Popova’s SoundCloud recordings and Tumblr literary jukebox, she uses to curate content. Popova uses a wide range of media to deliver her content and engage her audience. Brain Picking’s revenue stream includes original art, money from Amazon’s affiliate commission, and also employs a listener supported model to avoid advertisements. Anyone who has tried to make a listener supported website profitable will tell you how difficult it is to pull off. I delight in her content and celebration of art. I don’t know if its possible to be more authentic about a subject matter than Popova is.
Brett Kelly Evernote Essentials and Bridging the Nerd Gap
Want to know a hallmark of great content marketing? Useful and credible content. Brett Kelly is best known for authoring his wildly successful e-book, Evernote Essentials. Evernote liked him so much, they hired him. Last I heard, his little sub twenty dollar e-gem was raking in between $250,000 and $300,000 in annual sales for Kelly. Not bad for a blogger and web developer who wrote this e-book in his spare time. When Kelly’s not at his Evernote day job, he uses his well honed blogging skills to cover a wide range or nerd fodder that attract his target book audience like Klingons to a Comic-Con conference. You’ll also find Kelly on tech audio podcasts where his productivity focused audience hangs out. Brett’s been on almost every nerdcast there is. Um, I can’t tell you how I know this. Like a savvy content marketer, he’s never outwardly pushing his book. Instead, people can’t wait to ask him about his story. He politely answers but stays on topic with his podcast show hosts, where he shifts easily between his interests in programming, tattoos, music, productivity and more. Kelly does a good job of balancing it all and comes across as honest, expert, and approachable. That’s a pretty good list for a top content marketer.
David Sparks – Mac Power Users podcast and ebook author
No one would ever accuse David Sparks (fondly known as MacSparky) of selling or marketing anything. He’s a full-time practicing attorney who co-hosts one of today’s more popular Mac podcasts – The Mac Power Users. David isn’t a professional broadcaster, but what he lacks in a radio voice, he makes up for in thoughtful commentary, and an endless parade of useful information that make his listeners and readers smarter Mac users. At the forefront of every weekly episode are useful guides, discussions and interviews with people who are using their Macs to save time and improve their work. On occasion, Sparks writes an e-book about his favorite subject matter – Mac and iOS productivity. And when Sparks drops a book, he barely has to mention it before his audience is navigating to Apple iBooks to pick up their copy. Sparks uses the multimedia authoring tools in iBooks author to mingle text and screencasts to educate and demonstrate each tip he offers. Sparks is also a frequent speaker on the Mac enthusiast circuit. There’s not a shred of doubt that David Sparks is one of us – a key attribute in earning his audience’s trust. Combine that with the e-books he sells and you have a formidable content marketer/attorney/podcaster/author.
James Clear – author of Transform Your Habits
I found James Clear on one of those Internet list posts that usually lack anything approaching value. Except when they do. I was worried that James might be an evil marketer like me (gasp!) who lost his neck one day at the gym after grinding out one too many reps on the free weights. Clear is neither meat head, nor evil marketer. In fact, Clear makes content and community seem easy. He’s a great researcher, photographer, writer, and communicator…well, he seems pretty good at everything from where I sit. He’s won me over. Post after post is full of useful, well researched, and approachable information. James is genuine. I gave Clear my email address when I first found his site so I could download his e-book, Transform Your Habits (good stuff) and I haven’t looked back. Clear uses his e-book, blog, and email list to build a positive and engaged audience and a great platform to sell his Habits workshop. If you want to model good content marketing practices, James Clear has an olympic bar full of them for you.
Great Content Marketers are Great Content Creators and excellent Communicators
Like ducks that paddle furiously underwater while gliding serenely over the water, each of these content creators would make a best-in-class content marketer. Not that they’re trying to be. Watch what they do. Listen to their stuff. Do what they do.