Content marketing is the business buzzword du jour. Every brand, big and small, is trying to determine its content marketing strategy as a pathway to building better relationships with customers. That's hardly a surprise, because when it's done right, content marketing actually works.

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By its very nature, content marketing is inherently centered on your customers because it provides information that adds value to their lives. The value is in the eyes of the beholder and should be consistent with what the brand offers and stands for. Value can take the form of entertainment, enhanced user experience or expanded product benefits, to name just a few. Often, there are multiple ways of adding value that come from good content marketing.

Good content marketing doesn’t necessarily come easy, however. I’m often asked how to get there. While there is no simple formula for success, there are a few guidelines that I live by, both personally and professionally:

1. Be the brand.

While the content you create should cater to your customer needs and wants, it should also be unique to your brand as well. It should come from the essence of your brand and what it is all about. You shouldn’t create content that is completely foreign to your brand, even if it is serving a purpose for your customers. Bottom line, your content should make sense coming from your brand and hopefully, your brand alone.

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Don’t talk about yourself all the time.

You’ve been there -- you go to a party, and you get stuck with someone who only talks about himself or herself. You can’t wait to get out of there. The same is true of brands on social media. Don’t talk about yourself all the time. You’ll quickly turn boring, and you’ll turn customers away. I personally follow the 90/10 rule. Talk about other topics 90 percent of the time. Talk about your brand the other 10 percent.

Variety is the spice of life.

Keep your content fresh on a continual basis by serving up a variety of topics and rotating them into a fluid mix. Create a content calendar, and map out the topics you plan to cover, making sure that you’re not repetitive and not sticking to just a few areas. Decide how often you want to post new content -- be it daily, weekly or monthly -- depending on what makes sense for your business and how often you can create compelling, unique content. When you map it all out on a piece of paper, you’ll be amazed how easy it is to mix it all up and stick with your plan.

Change the channel.

It’s important to understand all the various social channels and how to use them. Users go to those channels for specific reasons, so serve up different content in different ways on each of the channels -- whatever makes sense for your brand and your customers. If you have highly visual content, then perhaps Instagram is a great place to inspire your audience.

A highly B2B-oriented business might consider thought leadership pieces on Twitter or LinkedIn. Facebook is more social and could be a good outlet for more pop culture kinds of topics. As you plan your content calendar, you should also weave in the social channels you plan to use each time, again keeping the mix fresh and relevant.

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Content marketing is a lot of work. It takes a thorough definition of your brand, a keen understanding of your customers and a deep knowledge of the social channels, all pulled together via a detailed content calendar. When done right, content marketing can really help you build strong customer relationships and strengthen brand loyalty. It can become the basis for your communications plan to grow your business.

As you can see, content marketing is more than just a buzzword. It’s an action plan for your brand’s connection to your customers.