What is this thing we call content marketing? The term is thrown around by marketing and PR pros left and right, but does anyone actually know what it means, and are they using it for the correct purposes?
I’ll help you out. Content is literally anything and everything that is distributed to a defined audience for the purpose of gaining a profitable customer action (this is paraphrased from The Content Marketing Institute, which is far more knowledgeable on the subject). Ideally, this content is valuable and relevant to the targeted consumers and has a specific goal in mind. AKA, you aren’t just content marketing for shits and giggles.
Why is it becoming so popular? Well, traditional marketing techniques aren’t nearly as effective as they used to be. Consumers are getting smarter; they own DVRs to skip TV advertising, ignore magazine ads and are now so good at surfing the web that they’re able to read and process information without noticing banners or buttons. The solution to this? Create content that consumers want to notice, view, read and share. Good content marketing makes a person stop, read, think and behave differently.
Sound a little less intimidating? Good news: it’s not hard to practice content marketing in your own business, and the return is often greater than generalized advertising. We’ve created O.I.C.D.E.M., an acronym that makes no sense but correctly defines the simple six-step process to start your content market strategy. Curious? Excited? Procrastinating a project at the office and have already refreshed your Facebook feed 10+ times in the last 5 minutes? Read on to have your mind blown.
The million-dollar question: what do you want to accomplish? Do you want to educate your customers? Develop greater brand awareness/loyalty? Engage with customers? In order to determine what your goal is, you need to discuss business goals with your bosses and higher-ups in order to ensure that the content marketing goals are consistent with those of the business.
Remember making S.M.A.R.T. goals in high school? Well, it’s time to use them again. You need to ensure that your goals are:
- Specific- what exactly do you want to accomplish?
- Measurable- utilize a numeric value to measure and track your success (dollars, percentages, etc.)
- Attainable- there is a difference between being bold and being naïve; don’t confuse the two.
- Realistic- sorry, but “going viral” isn’t a realistic goal.
- Timely- in what time period do you want to accomplish this?
If you can’t develop a solid answer for every piece, then go back to the drawing board.
Joshua Black asked this question perfectly: “How do you find out what your customers want so that you can sell it to them, make a big pile of money, and then go live in Fiji under a palm tree the rest of your life?” Read his witty post on this very topic.
But seriously though, how do you define your target market? Marketing Donut was kind enough to put this process into six easy steps:
- Understand the problems that you solve- what can you offer to the customer?
- Paint a picture of the customer- list all the different types of customers that suffer from the problems you solve.
- Who will gain from the value in your offer? If you can demonstrate that the cost of not sorting out the problems is greater than the cost of dealing with them, then your case becomes compelling.
- Think about your market- begin to segment based on demographics, psychographics, geography, etc.
- Look internally at your company- how can you make your business the most attractive option?
- What else is available? Evaluate the completion and determine what is (or what could be) your edge.
Not only do you need to identify your target market, but you need to actually understand them. Do your research. Get to know them on a personal level. Make time for face-to-face communication as often as possible. Provide superior customer service and actually review the customer feedback (learn from it). Still not getting it? Take a minute to look at this fantastic infographic that discusses how to effectively connect with your customers.
Ever heard of a buyer persona? It’s “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers” (thanks, Hubspot). Confused about how to integrate it into your content strategy? You need to look at this.
Don’t just create content, curate it. This needs to be top-notch, relevant, best-of content that your consumers will see value in. Don’t focus on creating something with the goal of going viral, because the chances of that happening are very slim, and it may not get your message to your targeted consumers.
What type of content do you want to use? Make sure that your content is directly related back to your goal. For example, popular content types for the goal of increasing brand awareness can include video tutorials, client success stories or case studies, culture-jacking social media content with mass appeal or practitioner blog content. Is your goal to drive traffic back to your website? Try using targeted social media ads, SEO-optimized blog content, guest posts on popular industry blogs and email newsletters.
Now that you have your content type, you need to figure out the best method to schedule and distribute your content. Check out these tools, templates and tips for content calendars and consider utilizing tools like Hootsuite, Buffer and Crowd Booster, all of which are popular scheduling programs. Not happy with just three options? Here’s 15 more.
With so many different content outlets in our 21st century, digital world, what is the best way in which to distribute your content? What channels are best not only for your company and brand, but for your target audience? Of course, there are the most common ones, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest and LinkedIn (check out this article at The Next Web for facts about using each one of these) but there is a plethora of other options that members of your audience may be interested in. This Forbes article has a list of nine outlets with descriptions and audiences for each platform. Want lesser-known platforms? Here’s a list of 25 social media channels you’re probably not (but should be) using.
Engagement is an absolutely necessity, but luckily for you, it isn’t rocket science. Respond to people. Retweet and favorite them. Discuss topics that they’re interested in. Ask questions and keep updated with trending topics. Hand out tips and advice like it’s Halloween candy. Join and create groups/forums for your customers. Implement contests, games and giveaways. Host Twitter chats or Q&A sessions. Make it easy for people to engage and make them want to engage with you. Be visual; share videos, memes, gifs and photos. Science says that content with images gets 94% more views than content without images.
One of the most important things to do is listen to your customer’s comments, complaints and concerns and respond quickly and thoroughly. According to Twitter, “60% of consumers expect brands to respond to their customer service requests within one hour.” Time’s a-ticking.
Most importantly, let your personality shine through. Some of the best brands on social media do so well because they are sincere and personable. Want inspiration to engage effectively? Social Times made a list of companies who are doing wonderfully on social media, and Hubspot has a blog post with funny posts from real brands.
Finally, after you’ve tweeted a few customers, reeled in likes on your Instagram photo and are receiving compliments around the office for your newest blog post, it’s time to measure your success (dun dun duuun). Measurement isn’t easy, it isn’t fun, but it’s necessary in order to prove the success (or the failure) of your strategy. Thankfully, there are a multitude of tools that can help you out in this area. Some of our favorites include Google Analytics, Hootsuite Analytics and Twitter Analytics. Also, The Content Marketing Institute provided information on what you should measure, how other companies measure and some templates/checklists to make the whole measuring process a little less scary.
Want different suggestions for tools by which you can track content performance? Here’s a list of 50 tools that you can use for social media monitoring, analytics and management. You’re welcome.
That’s all, folks. Hopefully you’re on your way to developing your own superior content marketing strategy. If not, and you’re still confused (or still procrastinating), we recommend you look at this not-so-brief 652 step guide to creating a content strategy. Good luck.