As social media becomes an ever-greater part of the fabric of our daily lives, it should come as no surprise that nearly all types of businesses are finding ways to harness the power of platforms like Facebook and Twitter, not to mention the all-knowing Google, to reach target audiences online. There may be no more effective way of doing so than through content marketing.word-cloud-679939_1280

Content marketing involves the creation and distribution of original content relevant to your products and services, while also being valuable to current and potential customers. As in any marketing approach, the end goal is to bring customers into a relationship with the business, but striving for valuable content differentiates content marketing from approaches that are more sales or awareness focused.

Increasingly, businesses are finding that content marketing provides benefits that more traditional advertising and sales-oriented mechanisms do not. Driving simple awareness doesn’t necessarily lead to sales, and pushing for a sale can have the effect of turning people off who want to feel that they are in control. What’s great about content marketing is that it offers a way to connect with potential customers by providing useful, valuable information rather than a sales pitch.

Informative content to build your audience

Content marketing centers on the concept that consumers are after knowledge and information, and they form closer bonds with brands that provide it on a consistent basis. For this reason, even though many businesses still find it beneficial to include a call to action as part of their content marketing efforts, turning a lead into a sale isn’t the main goal.

Instead, businesses employing a content marketing approach focus on providing useful information related to their products or services—or their industry as a whole. An automotive repair shop, for example, might have weekly or monthly blog posts dedicated to communicating with readers on the parts of their brake system, the importance of regular oil changes or the reasons to trust only a certified mechanic.

Some of the benefits of content marketing include boosting your company’s reputation, a larger and more active website and improved search results. Perhaps not surprisingly, these benefits are often closely related and intertwined with each other. Good content means you can build an audience over time, which Google and other search engines will notice and allow you to rank higher in search results related to your industry or service area.

Furthermore, increased visibility via search engine results and shared posts makes your brand more well known, and helps develop a strong association between your company and its website, driving even more traffic. And some of this traffic will eventually lead to sales.

If your business or organization hasn’t yet engaged in content marketing, it’s likely time to reconsider. By offering useful, informational content to your readers, you can build your audience and enhance your profile for the long term.

Tom Useted is an associate editor with ProPRcopy, a respected copywriting provider offering professionally written blog content, website copy, articles, press releases and more.