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The content marketing ecosystem is comprised of many essential elements including, but not necessarily limited to, relevance, usefulness, trust, narrative and authenticity. Today I’m going to talk about the role authenticity plays in this ecosystem and why it is so incredibly important to effective content marketing.

First things first: what is authenticity?

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Essentially it is truthfulness; being genuine; being real. Frankly, it’s not something that can be faked. You either are authentic or you are a counterfeit. With that established, here’s how authenticity fits into the big picture: The more relevant you are the more time your target audience will spend with your brand. The more time they spend with your brand the more engaged they become. They spend time engaging with your brand in the first place because you have something useful to offer them. Engagement, and the prolonged brand exposure that accompanies it (forming a big-picture narrative), promotes trust. To bring it full circle, relevancy affects trust levels, but, you can’t be trustworthy if you are disingenuous. You have to be authentic for this equation to work in your favor.

One example of disingenuous marketing, in my opinion, is the Sprite Films project. Sprite doesn’t inherently have anything to do with filmmaking. They are hoping that holding a contest to find the best up-and-coming indie filmmaker will bring them extra exposure. This sounds like a good idea on paper, but guess which film ended up winning the contest? A film with breakdancers rolling around in green and yellow paint (the Sprite colors). There wasn’t even an interesting story or premise… it was one big ad. It wasn’t useful and it really wasn’t even entertaining. I think they could have made this work by creating a story about a person collecting sprite cans or bottles for recycling and using that money to help someone. There’s a human interest story there and the product could have been inextricably interwoven into the narrative in a real, non-cheesy, non-ad type of a way.

Essentially, being authentic in content marketing means that you need to be who you say you are–or, put a different way, don’t make claims about yourself that aren’t true. As simple and as straightforward as that sounds, there’s more to it than that. Before you can really get any meaningful traction in content marketing, you need to know what your target audience wants from you–what they want you to be to them.

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Through Markerly, surveying your customers as they engage with your content is incredibly easy and powerful. There’s no need to play a guessing game or be subtle: just ask your customers what they think through our polling function. There is no better way to dial-in or tune your campaign than by incorporating real input from your target audience. By finding out what they expect you can more easily, and authentically, become what they need you to be.

Of course, being relevant is a very important part of–and directly related to–authenticity in content marketing. You can have content that is legitimately relevant but unless it is displayed on an equally relevant blog or other touchpoint, your message will not be as effective. Even the most compelling narrative about why your iPhone accessories are the best won’t land well on NothingButAndroid.com.

Again, this is an area where Markerly will greatly improve your visibility where the rubber meets the road. Thanks to a stable of talented, influencers and brand advocates, Markerly can deliver the targeted audience that your brand needs to reach your audience at scale.

Quality content, however, is just a starting point. Distributing the content is a completely different animal, that of which we have years of experience doing. Understanding which methods of distribution are going to work shouldn’t be a guessing game. You need to be able to make data-driven decisions based so that results are maximized. On top of that, listening to sentiment surrounding the content and responding swiftly using the best-fitting social platforms is essential to building long-lasting relationships with your customers.

Finally, being authentic means that you don’t just appear to have the customer’s best interest at heart, you actually do have their best interest at heart. Being genuine in this day and age is too hard to fake because one bad experience can turn into a bad review that can overturn all of your hard work and flush good money down the drain.

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This may mean establishing a long-term relationship and perhaps not going directly for the sale at encounter #1. Establish that relationship first, then deepen it and then you can formalize it. Go ahead and put out your infectious information, then, over time, immerse people with more useful content that will further introduce them to your brand and its products. It’s the reinvention of the traditional sales funnel which in the end results in the intelligent incorporation of a new customer.