BoxPeople often ask me to define what content is. One would be forgiven for considering this an obvious question. The defintion of content? Don’t we all know what content is?

The posts on our blogs, the images we upload to whatever social platform, the videos we put on YouTube to engage an audience, the e-books we create and spread to create brand awareness or hide behind a form to generate leads, etc.

Content management system specialist Bob Boiko used to say that a website without content is like an empty box. So content is what fills the box. However, what is the box these days? Is an ad content? Again a simple question, but it has led to gazillion debates and thus created lots of content.

Where does content begin and where does it end? By answering this question we can further complete the definition of content marketing. Does it matter? Yes and no. No, because the C-suite is not interested in semantic discussions, but in the ROI of our content marketing efforts. Yes, because when we want to understand what makes people like, consume, share and ultimately respond to content and thus our business and brand, we need to thoroughly understand and thus define it.

Another definition of content: we are the box

I like to look at things from a people perspective. To understand what content is and when it works, we are inevitably confronted with human behavior, ratio and emotions and the huge impact of language and images on who we are in a social context.

Content is not defined by marketers. It is defined by the people who decide to interact with it. Images, words, experiences, thoughts and even gestures can all trigger a reaction in what we do or feel. Many of those reactions can be monitored and interpreted by neutral observers. However, most of them occur in a place no marketer and, even rarely ourselves, can (or want to) see or understand: the subconscious.

Bob Boiko on LinkedIn
Bob Boiko on LinkedIn

Content, as it is used in content marketing, in the end is everything that engages us, provokes an emotional/rational reaction, causes us to take decisions, tell stories and share them with others. We are Bob Boiko‘s box, and so are our relationships.

Content is at the basis of experiences and those experiences, knowingly or subconsciously, drive our actions and becoming stories. The huge impact of language, images and content on what we do and even who we are (words can make us feel proud, sad, angry and excited) should be well understood by content marketers since it has two major consequences.

1. Content is a very subjective…subject

It is not a neutral social object that gets interpreted and acted upon the same way by people who, by definition, are all unique. In other words, what you perceive is what you believe and we all perceive the world just a little differently.

Obviously, people have common traits depending on the nations, families, communities or social tribes they belong to. However, especially, from an international perspective, marketers should be aware of the individual and tribal differences that come on top of marketing-related specifics such as the stage in the buying journey.

2. Small details make huge differences

As ‘language beings’,’ we are very sensitive to slight details in words, gestures, images, etc. When using content for marketing purposes, this increases the challenge to create good, engaging and relevant content that leads to value for both our target groups and our bottom-line.

The subject line of an email, the title of a blog post, even a simple word in a call-to-action a color, a song in a video or a question mark can make a world of difference. As a consequence, we need to thoroughly understand and improve the human dimension of the content we produce to improve conversion, engagement and response, one word at a time.

The definition of content is not that important. Trying to understand it from a human perspective is.


Top image purchased under license from Shutterstock