It has become increasingly clear that the most effective way to gain your customer's attention is to earn it. Rather than needing to sponsor 'traditional' media channels, digital distribution channels such as blogs and YouTube have made it possible for brands to become content creators themselves.

In essence, content marketing is the process of creating and sharing something awesome - entertaining, engaging content (text, photos, video, audio, interactive) that promotes the brand in an indirect way.

Social media, which many brands already use, enable content marketing on a useful and sustainable scale, which in turn grows the audience for your brand. Brands are cottoning on - 60% intend to increase their content marketing budget in the next year.

The content can be created, curated or user-generated. Brand-created content is usually what people mean when they refer to content marketing. It requires the most investment but potentially reaps the greatest rewards.

Your content should tell a story: about an event, about your principles, about a person. Customers don't care about your latest product, but they do care about the awesome township school initiative or music festival you're sponsoring. That's what makes content marketing so powerful.

Technology provides an unparalleled way to spin amazing tales in new ways. High-quality content doesn't have to mean skyrocketing costs - the web and related technologies have made creating slick web videos, insightful blog posts, funky infographics and informative podcasts affordable.

For content marketing, it is not enough to create ordinary press releases, keyword-laden articles and automated retweets - you need valuable, amazing editorial content. That's because real content marketing success relies on sharing - people need to "like", upvote, share, promote and rank your media, so that more people see it and its reach spreads.

Media creators have been trying to define what makes content successful and are refining the process slowly - it's easier said than done, but brands need to start building up these skills to ensure future success.