Wow. That headline sure has a lot of buzzwords in it… Content. Marketing. Strategy. Put ‘em all together, and we’re talking about a Content Marketing Strategy. So the question of the moment is: do you have one? And more importantly, do you NEED one?
You likely put quite a bit of time into creating content – you want to make sure that you are giving it the attention it needs in order to have as long and fruitful of a life as possible. So when it comes to developing strategy, we know what you're probably thinking: between creating the content and the marketing pitches to get this content out, you don't really have time to put your strategy on paper.
While we know you probably are strategizing, it might actually save you some time in the long run to organize and outline your actual content marketing plan. How? Well, some of what you are doing may be extraneous -- having a strategy that requires you to provide some hard data as to what's working and what isn't may just allow you to quit spending time on a particular action that is just not working. That's right - this could essentially take something off your to-do list, leaving you with more time to focus on what is working.
In order to help you prepare your content marketing strategy, we've put together a list of what we think is most important to consider:
1. Audience: Who are you selling to?
First and foremost, know who your audience is. Your brand undoubtedly has a target audience that you truly believe would benefit from your products and services. What do you know about them already that can help you figure out how to approach them online? Are they within a certain age range? What are their industries? What type of location base do they have -- local, national, global? Answering these questions can help you figure out exactly what niche to supply with your content.
Next, you need to find out where your audience hangs out online. LinkedIn groups? Pinterest boards focusing on interior decorating? Are members of your audience commenting on certain blogs or forums? Do they spend more time on Facebook or Twitter?
2. Purpose and Voice: What you say, how you say it, and why you’re saying it.
There is definitely a reason you’re creating all this content. The question is – do you and your employees know what it is? Make sure you’ve defined the purpose for your content creation and marketing efforts. Whether you’re working to better explain your products and services, shed some light on industry news, address customer questions, or hoping to ignite a conversation with your audience, knowing the reason behind the content you’re creating will help streamline your efforts.
Once you know why you’re doing what you’re doing, and who you’re sending your content to, you’ll want to determine your voice – or how you’re going to get that message across. Do you want to inject some humor, or be more matter-of-fact? Is your brand’s personality coming from a particular staff member, or a team of people? Will you be letting your audience know who each individual piece of content is created by, or will it be under the brand itself? Are you asking for customer input and hoping to learn something, or are you sharing information and acting as the role of teacher? You are not held to one specific voice for every single piece of content; you can change it up a bit for different pieces presented in different markets.
3. Competition: What's Already Out There, and What's Missing?
If you haven’t already, identify who your competitors are – and check out their online presence. Which social networks are they on? What are they posting to their different accounts?
We’re definitely not advocating that you copy what the competition is doing. We’re actually suggesting the opposite. Is there an area the competition is missing? You want to be able to provide something to your audience that they can’t necessarily get anywhere else. Look at the angles taken by your competitors, address the ‘holes’, and fill those with your content.
Note how your competition is spreading their content – are they reaching your audience in a place you hadn’t thought of or expected? Are they putting out more infographics than whitepapers? Again, do not copy your competitors – but consider the reasoning behind their actions.
4. Package Your Content: Find the Format That Works Best.
Once you’ve narrowed your audience and determined where they are spending time online, you'll want to filter your content and package it in a way that makes the most sense for a particular audience. Are you looking to hit a younger demographic? You might want to consider short videos and infographics. Looking to get the research-dependent types? A white paper, downloadable guide might be your best bet. You can repackage a blog post in several different ways – highlight some of your best points with great imagery and design, and make a Slide Share presentation. Expand on a post that garnered a lot of traffic to your blog, and make it a downloadable whitepaper that you can send out to your email list or host on your website.
5. Goals: How Do You Define Success?
Look back at your purpose for posting all this content. What are you hoping to achieve? Your purpose and the goals you set should be closely linked – if your purpose is to drive traffic to your website, then your goals should include “number of new site visitors,” as well as “number of pages viewed” and “time on site.” You don’t just want people to get to your website – you want them to click around and stay for a while.
If your purpose is to boost brand recognition, your goals might be more tied to search results and social media mentions. Try to be as specific and realistic as possible when setting your goals – and remember to consider your audience; just because Oreo can gain tens of thousands of new followers with one well-timed tweet doesn’t mean that will work for your brand. And that’s okay. Quality over quantity is a perfectly acceptable mantra when setting your goals.
6. Method: Your Roadmap to Get That Success.
So, you’ve set your goals and you know what success looks like. You may even have some rewards lined up for yourself if you and your team reach these goals (ice cream for everyone!). But before you can cash in, you need to know if you’ve actually met your goals.
Make sure you have some tracking processes in place to accurately measure each piece’s performance, such as trackable links, Google Analytics code placement and applicable goals, and social media engagement tracking, to name a few.
In addition to your tracking methods, you’ll want to have a clear plan of what will go out when. You might want to consider doing some A/B testing with times sent, language used, networks posted to, post frequency, and hashtags included. Each of these pieces will be measurable, and the success of each variable will help you plan and optimize for future campaigns. Have an organized plan for each variable, and take note of what you’ll need to come back to when collecting your results.
7. Reporting: Measuring The Results and Proving Your Success.
Speaking of results… don't just throw your content out there and say, "YEP! DID THAT!" You have to actually follow up and look at the metrics behind what you've just posted.
When you’re setting up your method as described above, take note of all the different posts you’re creating, networks you’re posting to, pixels you’re tracking, etc. This will help when it comes time to tally up the results of your hard work, and see how successful your various pieces of content and marketing efforts were. (If you’re using Gremlin Social Guardian™, you can view your various network statistics, Brev.is links, and create social media reports.) For some suggested analytics to track, check out our post on 5 social media analytics you can't live without.
You want to schedule your content to go out at times when your social media team (even if that is just one person) is available to respond to comments and be on the ball if slight edits need to be made or unforeseen hiccups occur. People may ask questions and make comments, and if you aren’t there to respond, it could leave a sour taste in their engagement experience.
8. Evaluation: What Worked Well?
Keep an eye on how much time you are spending on a given project. When you look at the results from your reporting efforts, evaluate if you think the ends justify the means. Was it worth it to spend those hours creating that particular piece of content for the return that you saw? If not, you might look into different time allocations for projects in the future. How much traffic did you generate from the particular piece of content? Is there any amount of buzz existing around what you posted? Are your fans engaging with you? Remember your goals and your tracking efforts. Because you were organized and had a strategy for pushing out your content and measuring the results, you’ll be able to easily determine if your efforts were successful. If they weren’t, you hopefully also have some specific methods that you can eliminate or boost in your next campaign.
Haphazardly promoting the content you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into won’t bring the return on investment you deserve. Take the time to carefully plan your content marketing strategy, pay close attention to the engagement and results, then evaluate and optimize for the future.