Is content marketing as altruistic as it’s made out to be?

Something’s been bugging me about the way content marketing is promoted as a selfless, outwardly-focused marketing method.

As a content marketing trainer and speaker I am constantly telling audiences to focus on meeting others’ needs, on how they can help their right people. “Help, don’t sell” has become the mantra for content marketing professionals.

However, there’s a dark side to this seemingly altruistic approach.

Is content marketing as altruistic as it’s made out to be?

The Dark Side to Content Marketing

That dark side is the concept: What’s in it for me?

You could have the best intentions and show how much you care, so people will care about how much you know, but at the end of the day, isn’t it still about what’s in it for you?

Ultimately, content marketing is not as selfless and outwardly-focused as it is often portrayed,  because the “what’s in it for me?” question will always be a factor for both potential clients and marketers.

Here’s an example:

A new blogger approaches you about guest posting on your website. You go and check them out on social media to see what kind of following they have, how they engage, and how they interact. They don’t have a big following, but they write and come across well. Do you give them a chance and embrace their gumption, or do you say “no thanks” because they are not well established enough yet to attract readers to your site?

My guess is that many business bloggers would do the latter because, inherently, they are focused on what’s in it for them. I must confess, there have been many occasions where I’ve take this approach myself, so I’m not trying to make out that I am in any way more enlightened or altruistic than anybody else. This applies to me as much as it may apply to other marketers.

I don’t know about you, but this creates a disparity for me as a content marketer.

If you are truly outwardly-focused, shouldn’t you apply the same principals to yourself?

Paying It Forward as Content Marketers

Perhaps the answer is in practicing paying it forward.

Not long ago, a fellow marketer sent me a text message out of the blue to let me know there was a typo on one of my landing pages. I had never met this person before. She had simply seen a Facebook ad of mine and clicked through. She texted me because she was concerned that the typo might be putting people off from making a purchase decision. She was right, and I’m forever grateful.

This experience really stuck with me, and it’s something I’d like to explore further, not only as a marketer but as a human being. Perhaps what content marketers could be doing is paying it forward to random business owners to practice being truly outwardly-focused.

Not only does it feel good, but it also helps build camaraderie and connection. Yes, there is always something in it for you, even when you pay it forward, but it might just get you out of that rut where you review every request or connection from a self-focused point of view.

It also might help overcome any resentment about how much you’re giving away for free as a marketer. If you let it go and don’t attach yourself to how much you’re doing for others, perhaps you’ll feel better about your marketing (and your life) at the end of the day.

Perhaps I’m cynical, but I don’t believe anybody is truly selfless. There is always something in it for you, even if you are outwardly-focused in your business and life. And I don’t even think that’s a bad thing. Embracing the “what’s in it for me?” philosophy means you’re not kidding yourself about your motives, and you’re more in touch with reality. Developing some awareness around this issue may just help you be a more authentic, human marketer at the end of the day.

What are your thoughts? Are we promoting self-centredness as content marketers?

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