The term “content marketing” has been getting popular in recent years, but whenever I hear people talking about it, I think of men in white lab coats, carefully growing “content” out of glistening vials in some sterile lab.

That highlights what I believe is one of the biggest problems with the trend: the phrase itself.

If I was in charge, I’d probably change the artificial-sounding “content marketing” to something organic, like “good stuff marketing.”

After all, that’s what it’s about — giving customers, clients, members, supporters, and prospects good stuff to share. “Stuff” like photos, articles, news stories, blog posts,  pictures, videos, surveys, games, quizzes, and online scavenger hunts … basically, anything that encourages people to have that “Check this out!” moment.

Think of YouTube phenomena like “Surprised Kitty.” Not a whole lot of marketing budget there to be sure, and yet the video has more than 57,000,000 views, thanks to so many people having a “Check this out!” moment.

A shared experience is still the leading way to market through social media. Content marketing is about how to create that experience.

Time v. Content

It probably comes as no surprise that businesses and organizations don’t have a lot of time for content marketing. Almost three-quarters of respondents to a 2011 HiveFire Survey said that creating original content and having the time to do it were big challenges.

One solution that we’ve advocated before is content curation, where you “collect” and share someone else’s content.

As the HiveFire survey explains, “If the marketing world had a Grammy award, content curation would be this year’s Best New Artist.”

John Rife, the founder of Winter Park Harvest Festival, is a content curation convert.

Last year, he was part of a four-person team trying to organize a farmer’s market for 3,000 attendees. “It was getting really draining to try and come up with original content for social media,” he explains. “So we just started spotlighting vendors with a paragraph and a picture, or posting news items about the local food industry.”

What he found was that “bite-size” content often got the highest page views and shares on the festival’s Facebook Page too, which seemed to indicate that people weren’t looking for the whole story so much as Winter Park Harvest Festival’s take on the subject.

Lending Your Expertise to the Discussion

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, keep in mind that every business and organization has one advantage: industry expertise.

Customers and clients are looking to your social media channels and your email newsletters for news and advice specific to that industry.

If you’re an expert in the field like financial planner David Lewis, founder of Resource Advisory Services, you can step into the ring by sharing news stories or other people’s blog posts, with a brief intro that includes your personal comments about the item you share.

If you know the things that are close to your audience’s heart, you could send emails like David Dixon, the founder of Strange Imports / Eastern Elements, an import store in Glenwood Springs, Colo. Every so often, he includes a “Strange News” section, which covers issues facing the world or sometimes just shows subscribers photos of the places that he’s traveled, from Nepal to China.

An editorial calendar never hurts, either. Virginia Berracasa, the communications and admissions officer of the San Diego French-American School in California, says that the communications team gets together once every two weeks to tackle content marketing.

“We draft a dashboard of stories to include in our newsletters based on what’s happening at the school, whether it’s a field trip, a public lecture, student volunteer projects, or anything else about campus life,” she explains.

The trick is to maintain a balance between original content and curated content. You want your expertise and voice to shine through each Facebook post, tweet, and email newsletter so that customers, fans, and prospects understand what the organization is about, while learning something new at the same time.

Creating a series of articles is another sure way to keep people engaged. Speaking of which, are you having trouble coming up with ideas consistently? Want to know how to make your own version of “Surprised Kitty?”

Check out “Content Marketing: It’s That Easy! (Part 2).”

How do you market your business or organization’s ‘good stuff?’ Let us know in the comments below.