We hear a lot about "content marketing" these days. It’s the new black.

In reality, it’s the same stuff great marketing has always consisted of but with a new name. Anyone who’s dabbled in social media is already doing content marketing to some extent.

But something about the term content can be intimidating. It should be. Creating things your audience looks forward to, enjoys and shares with others is tough, sweat-inducing work.

It’s important, though. And worth a second look after the initial knee-jerk reaction many companies have: "We’re not a publisher, we’re a __________."

Jessica Swesey

Think of this: Red Bull is not a publisher. Neither is Whole Foods, Nike or BMW. Yet each of these brands has gone "all in" with content, resulting in some of the most creative, buzz-worthy marketing out there today. (Click the links to see a content example from each of the brands.)

Why would a car company bother making a documentary? To further brand recognition, establish brand personality, authenticity and ultimately, to be shared on the Web.

Something to share

According to data The Atlantic recently cited in an article about the history of social behavior on the Web, 69 percent of social referrals on many media sites came from places like email and IM. By comparison, 20 percent came from Facebook.

Content is still being shared significantly more outside of Facebook than it is within Facebook.

So not only is content king, it’s the social queen.

The only way to optimize your efforts in attracting that large portion of sharing that happens outside of Facebook is to create great content. In other words, it’s not just about posting to Facebook and Twitter throughout the day, it’s about creating fantastic, unique content that you can share there and more importantly can be shared well beyond the walls of the social network.

Two simple ideas

I’m bullish on content for real estate companies. In an industry plagued with consumer skepticism and reputation problems, a sound approach to content can help create authenticity and authority. It’s a grueling path that, when taken, can lead to consumer trust, social sharing, and business.

While I’d love to see some heavy-hitting creative content campaigns in real estate like Nike’s Better World or BMW’s Activate the Future, it doesn’t have to be this ambitious.

The obvious opportunity for brokers is neighborhood content and real estate "how to." (Nest Realty does a great job with neighborhood profile pages.) But there are two additional killer content opportunities every broker can access right now: customer testimonials and reviews.

Rather than approach neighborhood content and real estate "how to" as two small aspects of an overall marketing plan, think of them as content opportunities — a chance to tell your story through other people.

Go for authenticity.

Use Red Oak Realty’s client stories as the benchmark for what compelling testimonials can be.

Include full names, detailed stories of exactly what challenges your clients had and how you helped them overcome them. Interview them in their new homes, where they will feel relaxed and excited to talk about the process. Take their pictures.

This is how you create authentic stories that make those who don’t already know you feel more confident in your abilities.

Reviews are another area-rich content vein. But you can’t leave it up to fate. You’ve got to create a process for getting clients to create reviews on third-party sites. You can’t do it for them, but they’re much more likely to actually do it if you make it easy for them and give them a gentle nudge at the end of every closing.

The Good Life Team in Austin does this well, as you can see in the number of recent reviews it has on Google.

Point is: Content is a major player in marketing today and going forward. It’s critical for authenticity, trust, Web traffic and social marketing.

If you’re a broker who’s not thinking like a publisher or feeling like there’s value in doing that, then think about the fact that publishers are already thinking about real estate as content. Look no further than this Chicago Real Estate page on Huffington Post, which features listings (your content) with articles and commentary contributed by Trulia and Zillow.

You have plenty of great content (and publishers want it — bonus!). You just have to start — and commit.

Jessica Swesey is with 1000watt, a marketing, design and strategy firm focused on real estate. Reposted with permission of 1000Watt.

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