Tech companies have often lead the way in experimenting with new marketing concepts. Businesses built on change and innovation will arguably feel more comfortable exploring new directions than those that operate in more traditional sectors.
So it is not surprising that many tech companies have pioneered the use of content marketing, especially in the United States. Microsoft has a long history of providing content targeted at its customers, as do many companies which have evolved from being largely tech providers into media companies- the most obvious being Aol which now owns The Huffington Post, Engadget and many others. BT in the UK, which runs news, sport and tech channles, is another example.
Other companies began blogs on their corporate sites as long ago as the mid 2000s giving their senior execs the opportunity to share their thoughts about the industry with a wider audience
More recently mobile phone chip maker Qualcomm blazed a trail with its Spark portal which took content marketing in the sphere to a new level. A team of specially recruited tech journalists worked to deliver a website that took an insider eye on the future in the type of way consumer titles like Wired had being doing for years. The key difference is that occasionally the articles would subtly reference work that Qualcomm was developing.
General Electric's GE Reports emerged at similar time and offers readers content in three categories; invocation, perspectives and performance. Articles on exploring the brain's potential - for example an interview with a prominent Icelandic scientist - sits next to a story which highlights how GE has worked with wind farm operators in South America to deliver cheaper electricity. It is one of the most accomplished examples of content marketing online.
Another key trend is the creation of portals for tech companies on existing media sites. Interestingly GE has also worked with major US digital publisher Quartz on a portal that is housed on the Quartz Site. World in Motion is a warehouse for GE's articles, videos, graphics and social media posts from around the globe.
So why do the tech companies value content so highly?
Until fairly recently tech companies, especially in the B2B sphere, tended to keep their expertise to themselves. The growth of content marketing has challenged this assumption. Surely one of the best ways to develop trust and an affinity with customers is to show that you really do know what you are talking about. In an excellent blog post on B2B thought leadership at Imedia Connection Gordon Plutsky argues
‘Those that have are able to rise to the top of consumer and prospect awareness by using once-proprietary knowledge to establish themselves as thought leaders in their field. They don't give away the house, but they share enough valuable insights to pique audience's' interest and prove they're worth their salt.’
There is also the more subtle fact of underlining to readers that the company is very future focused. Blog posts about future trends and interviews with prominent futurologist’s emphasis to the reader that the company, no matter what its heritage, is very much focused on creating, and being a part of tomorrow. Intel’s IQ website is another highly effective portal that majors on future tech and the company’s role in creating it.
For most businesses getting to know the thoughts of its customers is an essential part of the process of building successful relationships that will ultimately lead to more business. Content can be especially useful in powering social media channels which harness comments and views from its readers. From Twitter to LinkedIn it is very hard to create and maintain social media accounts in the tech and B2B sectors without content to share. And that content can generate feedback via comments and shares that can be very useful to businesses moving forward. In the US Sprint has an excellent example of how to generate conversations with its customers on its business blog. It offers content on the future of work and IT’s changing role which is designed to spark debate.
Explaining tricky concepts
For many tech companies explaining what they do to their customers, and indeed to the general public, is often a complicated process. Condensing real world uses into one display ad, or a snippet of video, is often almost impossible.
This is where content scores highly in that it enables tech companies, in an elegant and engaging way, to explain effectively what exactly it is that they do.
Jason Hill, GE's global director of media and content strategy, said in article for AdAge on its deal with Quartz.‘Brand familiarity is an objective. We have tremendously high brand awareness but not necessarily a deep understanding of what the brand does. Reason we've got into a brand marketing space is ours is a story that requires more than an ad. Content helps them explain the technology behind the logo -- why and how GE works and its impact on the world.’
And here lies an opportunity for agencies and publishers, in that brands often don't have the skills in house to create the content that shares that story in an accessible way.
In an intriguing article for TopRank Lee Odden wrote, ‘what I love about working with tech companies in the B2B space is that they often have great products, an impressive roster of customers and important insights about those customers. More often than not, they also need someone with a strategic perspective that can pull all those important ingredients together to create content marketing strategy.
Of course content can be used to entice new customers, or excite existing customers about future products. It can also increase a brand's search engine visibility too. Overall content is clearly a highly useful strategy for tech companies and it is not surprising that so many of them have adopted it.