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I’ve no idea if you’re a fan of Bake Off, Strictly Comes Dancing or the X-Factor….

Cakes, sequins, terrible singing – they all have their place I guess.

I’m not one to judge (certainly not in my house where my protests go unheeded!)

But this week I’d like you to take 45 minutes to watch something else.

It doesn’t include Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, but I really think it’ll be worth it.

It’s a film called The Story of Content: The Rise of the New Marketing.

It’s free to stream now on the website of the Content Marketing Institute.

The documentary charts the rise of content marketing, and why it’s changing the way people make money online.

It’s great because it intersperses history with specific tips and advice from experts like Joe Pulizzi – so keep a pen handy.

It doesn’t matter what business you’re in, or considering getting into, you should definitely watch this. Even if it’s just for inspiration.

Because whatever happens, this is the sort of marketing you’re going to have to do.

Sorry to be blunt, but we’ve reached the point where the old methods of advertising have been well and truly disrupted.

Sure, if you have tens of thousands of pounds hanging about you can try radio, TV, billboard, newspaper and magazine advertising.

These things still work, up to a point.

But even giants like Coca Cola, Starbucks and BMW are now turning to the alternative option… and that is content marketing.

There are just too many benefits to ignore…

It’s virtually free, instantaneous, social, human, fun, interactive… and it allows you to get up close and personal with your customers in a way that was unthinkable a decade ago.

I realise you’ve heard me going on about this many times before.

But this is so important, it’s at the core of everything that Digital Upstart will help you achieve.

Why the rise of content marketing is great news for you

Content marketing is a method through which a business shares useful, relevant, entertaining information for free with its customers.

In doing so, it builds up a qualified and LOYAL customer base to which it can sell products.

In the old days (by this I mean only 5 years ago) this was primarily done through a website and email service.

You’d first have to attract customers to your information through Google, then keep in touch with them through email service (if they signed up, of course).

Now the social networks have taken over… and a revolution is underway.

Yes you still need a website, email and some Google presence if you’re going into business…but now you can share content (and find customers) on a wide range of free content platforms: YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo,

These all allow you to follow other content producers, compile and share the best bits with your followers, and also create your own content too.

You might still dislike the idea of social networks. I completely understand that. But you need to understand two things…

  • They aren’t going away. They’re becoming THE way that most of us communicate, share information and shop online. Eventually, all your customers will be on social networks. If you’re not there too, you’re missing out.
  • They aren’t the enemy. Social networks are the great equaliser. They are freely available for anyone to use without skills in web design or traditional advertising.

This is great news for the solopreneur and small business start-up, because you can compete on the same level as giants like BMW and Coca Cola – even if you’re a gourmet pie website, a chartered accountant or a local animal charity.

Until a few decades ago, big brands dominated advertising.

At the same time, big media companies controlled the radio and TV stations, newspapers and printing factories.

Content marketing lets you sneak past the old guard

You no longer need to compete by making TV or radio adverts, putting ads in newspapers or going cap-in-hand to a publisher.

You don’t need a mega-budget or a marketing manager, expensive commercials or art directors.

What’s more, you don’t need a technical whizz to create a whistles-and-bells website with SEO optimisation and glossy design.

Content marketing is about going into the existing networks where your potential customers hang out, then joining the conversation.

That’s all you have to do.

Better still, in those networks being human (flawed, excitable, honest) is more important than coming across as a business.

You don’t need to be slick. You don’t need to be perfect.

But you do need be there.

For instance, let’s say you’re a vegan café with a website .

This could be your content marketing mix:

  • A weekly blog, where you share recipes, ingredient sources, news about veganism and events at the café
  • YouTube channel where you do regular vegan cookery demonstrations
  • Twitter account where you share your blog posts, local news in your area, and share what you’re up to…
  • Instagram account where you take amazing pictures of your cakes, soups and salads
  • Facebook page where you encourage followers to share their own tips, recipe ideas and reviews, creating your own little online community
  • An email newsletter which keeps everyone up to date with what’s going on, with special offers and promotions.

Each of those content marketing platforms will gain a steadily growing following.

Each will feed into the other.

For instance, your Twitter account will push people to your YouTube Channel, Blog and Instagram account… while your Facebook Page will host your YouTube Videos and link to you blog posts.

Bit by bit you pull your prospects into a web of content, until you’re as familiar to them as their cousin Bob or favourite author.

When it comes to promoting a product, you don’t need to advertise in the old sense. Instead you go out directly to the audience you have created.

This is more effective than conventional advertising because you are only ever speaking to qualified prospects who have followed you, who appreciate you for helping them, and who want to hear more.

Better than spending money on adverts that get ignored, chucked in the bin or irritate people.

There’s another final advantage…

As you’ll hear explained in the documentary, advertising used to be all about interrupting people.

To sell a product you had to interrupt a TV show with a commercial, interrupt great music with your radio ad, interrupt an article in their magazine, or pop up on a website.

But online technology has changed the game.

People can now ignore ads or click off content that’s irrelevant or annoying.

They can put up blockers and filters.

They can scroll through ads or skip through audio and video at will.

This is why, if you want to get the attention of your prospects you need to first share stories that interest them on the networks they use for fun, socialising and entertainment.

All businesses must become mini-media outlets

You need to tell interesting stories, make videos, share original insights and create books.

That’s how you build a following in 2015.

Anyway, apologies for the rant, but I feel very passionately about this.

Content marketing offers you a huge opportunity to get your product in front of eager, hungry eyes.

There’s never been a better time to start an online business.

It’s simply a case of embracing the new.

Enjoy the film!