Today’s consumers are staring at an invitation avalanche, with every company asking for “likes,” “follows,” clicks, and attention. This is on top of all the legacy advertising that envelops us like a straitjacket. There are only two ways for companies to break through in an environment that is unprecedented in its competitiveness and cacophony: Be “amazing” or be useful (which I prefer).
I call this useful alternative to traditional marketing “Youtility.” Not “utility,” because a utility is a faceless commodity. Youtility is marketing upside down. Instead of marketing that’s needed by companies, Youtility is marketing that’s wanted by customers. Youtility is massively useful information, provided for free, that creates long-term trust and kinship between your company and your customers.
But one of the most critical elements of Youtility — and of creating content marketing overall — is making sure people know it exists. You know what happens when most companies launch a new, branded mobile application or other content-rich marketing program intended to effectively combine information and promotion? Nothing. You’ve heard the saying, “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” The same logic works in these scenarios: “If you create Youtility and don’t tell anyone about it, does it even exist?”
You must market your marketing
When you launch an app, or commence blogging, or begin answering questions, you have not reached the finish line; you have merely reached the starting line. Too many businesses break out the champagne just because something new was created. Remember, Youtility is all about being useful, which literally means “full of use.” The objective is not to make information. The objective is to make information that customers and prospective customers will use.
However, because content marketing and creating Youtility are often inexpensive propositions when considered in the context of the overall marketing program of a company, these efforts are viewed as relatively minor and, thus, don’t receive dedicated promotional support, even at launch. Instead, they are promoted alongside the regular flotsam and jetsam of the brand’s communication: a link here, a mention there. This dramatically curtails exposure — counteracting the entire premise of Youtility.
Content is fire, and social media is gasoline
You can, and should, utilize social media to create awareness and usage of your Youtility. You cannot devote every social media communication to information, because there are, of course, other priorities fighting for attention internally. But being useful, interesting, and relevant needs to be what your brand is known for (at least partially), now and into the future. If you’re creating content that’s interesting, useful, and helpful, your customers and prospects will do more of your marketing for you, helping your company work less arduously and expensively on interruption marketing in its various guises.
Use social media to promote your useful information first, and your company second
This concept of using marketing to promote your marketing also presents the best possible case for using social media, which far too often devolves into self-referential inanities that career employees wouldn’t even care about, much less casual customers. This frustrating scenario of brands talking, talking, talking in social media but never saying anything of value other than “We’re great, you should give us more of your money,” is all too common.
Remember, companies of every size, shape, and description are competing for attention with real people whom we know and love. It’s not about keeping it real; it’s about keeping it relevant. If your social media informs more often than it promotes, you’re on the right track.
Would you like to ask Jay a question about Youtility or content marketing? Post your questions in the comments below, and look for Jay’s answers to selected questions in a future post on CMI. If Jay answers your question, we’ll send you a free copy of his new book, “Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype.”
Editor’s note: Today’s post has been excerpted from Jay’s new book. Visit the YoutilityBook website for more information and additional resources. And don’t miss Jay’s presentation at Content Marketing World 2013. Use coupon code CMI100 for a discount when registering.