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Destination Is the Difference Between Content and Content Marketing In order to reach, engage and convert new customers, you have to create content people actually want -- and attract them to a content-marketing destination.

By Michael Brenner Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Luis Llerena | StockSnap.io

What is the difference between content and content marketing? It's the destination you use to attract and build an audience.

Everyone does content -- product content, sales content, customer service content, event content, employee-generated content, etc. But with content marketing, you're attracting an audience to a brand-owned destination versus interrupting or buying an audience on someone else's platform.

Related: 3 Ways to Track the True Value, Not Just Return on Investment, of Your Content Marketing

The content challenge

I talk to people every day about content marketing. And I've noticed that often times, the concept of having a content-marketing destination, owned by the brand, to serve as the digital property for your content efforts, is lost.

Three great examples of content-marketing destinations are AmEx OPEN forum, RedBulletin and VanWinkle's. These are owned by brands, look and act like publisher sites -- and all drive business value for the brands that own them in very different ways.

Most marketing teams are focused on creating content that supports the brand or the products you sell. We create this content mainly because someone asked us to -- not because it meets a customer need. The problem with content is the same as the problem with campaigns. The average shelf life of a piece of content on Twitter is less than three hours. On Facebook, it's five hours. An average article reaches just about everyone it's going to reach in 37 days!

Thanks to social media, our attention spans are now around eight seconds. That's four seconds less than a goldfish. Like content, campaigns run for a short period of time, and then they die. And if you're like most organizations, 60 to 70 percent of the content your company creates goes completely unused.

The problem with most content is that it isn't created for the audience you are trying to reach, engage and convert. Stop creating content that sells. Stop creating content no one will ever see. Stop creating campaigns that have a short shelf life.

The content brand promise

As Seth Godin once said, "Content marketing is all the marketing that's left."

Many people easily confuse content with content marketing. Content marketing is a strategic solution to a strategic problem. In order to reach, engage and convert new customers for your business, you have to create content people actually want -- and attract them to a content-marketing destination. According to author and speaker Andrew Davis, "developing a content brand takes an audience-first approach to business storytelling that builds a loyal audience."

Joe Pulizzi, author and founder of the Content Marketing Institute wrote Content Inc. -- a whole book to help brands and entrepreneurs attract an audience before developing products and services. Joe's work has been an inspiration to me for years. I used the steps Joe recommends in his latest book to drive the approach I'm using right here at Marketing Insider Group. I've been blogging as a marketing insider for over five years, posting one or two times per week to build an audience of engaged readers.

Related: Learn to Write, for God's Sake

The destination is the real difference between content and content marketing.

Ok, so now you've got the message. You're committed to moving beyond just creating better content to acting like a publisher. But how do you go about building an effective content-marketing destination? Follow these eight steps.

  • Determine your content marketing mission statement. This statement should support your brand mission and put your customers at the center. Define who your target audience is, what topic or topics you will support and what value you intend to provide for them.
  • Select a URL. The first step is to consider whether you want your content marketing destination on your company's brand domain like www.yourcompany.com or on an unbranded site.
  • Determine how branded your site will be. This is a similar but different question as above, because you can build an on-domain site that should contain at least some elements of your corporate brand. If you go off-domain, your creative direction should support whatever topic you want to become an authority in.
  • Think about the components of an effective content-marketing destination. Your site should include all the components of any publisher site such as:
    1. Categories across the top to show your audience what topics you are covering

    2. Articles published frequently with visible authors and published dates

    3. Heavy use of imagery to support the topic and break up the text

    4. A strong focus on growing your subscribers by asking them to subscribe to your updates

    5. Highlight your top performing content so your readers can easily discover your best content

    6. A call-to-action, an offer or a "contact us" for those who want to reach out to you

    7. Social sharing options so your readers can connect with your social accounts and share your best content

  • Build the site to focus on subscriptions. I know I am repeating this step from above. But this is so important it is worth repeating. Subscribers are a measure of reach, engagement and conversion. They represent the audience of readers who invite you into their already-overflowing email inbox. Optimize for them. Build your list. Then build trust by consistently producing great content.

  • Commit to publishing consistently. If you pick one topic, publish once a week or more. If you pick two topics, publish twice a week or more. You should publish every day on the categories of content that will attract the right audience.

  • Define your measurement plan. You do not need to pick 65 metrics to track. Just look at traffic (visitors and page views), engagement (social shares, comments, time on site) and conversion (subscribers, contact form submissions).

  • Create a plan to support visual content. Getting all the above done is hard enough. But once you do, you will find that visual content can be a challenge. You don't need to break the bank. You can cover and embed other people's visual content. You can create slide shares for little or no budget.

Best practices for creating your content-marketing destination

If you are looking for more detailed tips and tricks to develop your own content-marketing destination, check out NewsCred's own design guru, Dan Rudy's Slideshare. Dan has helped dozens of companies in building their content-marketing hub. In this presentation, Dan provides 32 examples for 26 different considerations you should think about when designing your own. Dan covers the form and function of both your content hub's homepage and the article page template you should build.

According to Dan, "A content hub is a valuable way of interacting with your customers and connecting them with information, ideas, images and stories. Once you have this content to pass along, you need a place to house it all. Somewhere that is capable of handling a constant feed of new content from a variety of sources, covering a variety of topics while still looking aesthetically pleasing and functioning so well that a customer will want to spend hours browsing what it has to offer.

This isn't an easy task, but it's one that will be simplified and attainable after reading this guide. The guide is split into four sections, two dealing with your main hub page and two dealing with your specific article page. For both page types, the guide is split into a form-and-function section -- form being your most basic layout, the pieces you need for the page and how to handle them stylistically. Function guides you through how a user will experience each page and the added elements to help improve this experience.

Each suggestion is analyzed on its own page and is accompanied by a screenshot of a site that demonstrates the topic. If you want to explore the entirety of the site, you can click the magnifying glass in the upper left corner of the screenshot on each example page to launch the full site on your browser."

Michael Brenner

Head of Strategy for NewsCred

Michael Brenner is the head of strategy for NewsCred, a content marketing startup based in New York City. Previously he was the vice president of marketing at SAP.

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