When we first started writing a blog way back in 2004, there were very few official rules as to how ‘content marketing’ (in those days called ‘online publishing’) ought to be done.
There were however some unspoken guidelines, which steered all independent content producers at that time. Today, there are far more people / brands adding to the content library than ever before, but are these ‘old-school’ guidelines still relevant today?
As the foundation of modern-day content marketing, could they be considered as The 10 Immutable Laws of Content Marketing?
Here’s a summary of those ‘unspoken’ guidelines:
- Always credit and link back to your source: Online publishing is based on the principle of open sharing. It was – and still is – frowned on to steal work that is not your own without due credit to its creator.
- Do not write to other bloggers / producers and ask for a link back: It was very uncool in 2004, and is still pretty lame today, to ask for a link back from a content producer. In 2015, for some reason, PR companies have this weird idea that if you are an independent content producer you should be publishing the stories they send you, as a favour. It was rude back then and still doesn’t sit well now.
- Don’t lie to your audience – they are much smarter than you: Your readers can smell if you are being dishonest with them. Published content and opinion you were paid to write with a positive slant will not go unnoticed by your audience. Rather label something as ‘paid for’ than run the risk of losing your credibility. Lying online will always be found out.
- Keep a publishing schedule: If you’ve decided to post something once a day, stick to it. Your audience will lose interest quickly if you don’t abide by your own publishing routine. This point is almost more important than the quality of what you are producing.
- Contribute to the conversations of others: One of the best secrets to building an audience, is to take part in the conversations of other publishers. Comment on their blogs, updates, posts – in a meaningful way. If you are making a contribution to their contribution, often the favour is returned.
- Share the value of those you admire: Share the love by highlighting publicly the producers that inspire you. Back in 2004 you would post a public ‘blogroll’ on your side. It feels like the spirit of that open sharing is less prevalent today, but the sentiment and value in it, is still profound.
- Be courteous: Courtesy is the grease that lubricates society. The online environment is no place to forget your manners. If somebody asks you a question on Twitter – answer them. If comments are posted on your blog, YouTube video, Instagram post – indicate and acknowledge that you appreciate their input. It often feels that today social media channels are just ‘portals of distribution’ rather than ‘lounges of conversation’.
- Package value: Online publishing is not about spamming your audience with your opinion, it’s about making some kind of contribution to the collective voice of society. If people see that contribution is a valuable one that resonates with them, you will be granted an opportunity to carry on. Use hashtags, sweat the SEO, build an audience on multiple channels – make sure that your voice can be easily found.
- Develop your own style: A lot of the value you can project with your content is not only in what you say, but how you say it. By developing and crafting your own style of content production, you are subtly branding your contribution with your signature style. Make sure that your style is authentic and try not to deviate from it.
- Focus on what you are passionate about: Don’t just produce content because you feel the need to fill an empty space. Just because a plethora of social media channels exist, doesn’t mean that you need to fill them with stuff just because you feel obliged to ‘be there’. If you feel that your life, and the world at large, would be poorer if you do not share your thoughts – then you have good reason to go ahead and share them.
In a way, online publishing has gone through what feels like a decade long cycle. After the initial denial and belittling of its existence in the beginning, content marketing has gone through an intense period of popularity and overhyping to emerged on the other side – more mature and settled.
What doesn’t seem to change however, are the basic principles of content marketing – the 10 immutable laws of content marketing that should never be broken.