At this point, content marketing has more than proven its worth. Facebook now drives 25 percent of all Internet traffic, marketers who have prioritised blogging are 13 times more likely to have a positive social media ROI than those who haven’t, and 43 percent of B2C marketers with a documented content strategy consider themselves to be effective.
Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, content marketing involves creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content in order to attract a clearly defined audience. The overall objective is, of course, to make money.
But content marketers believe that, in the digital world of today, the best way to do this is to build a large, loyal online following – since this will gain you an incredibly targeted audience to market your wares to when the time comes. But, to build a following, you need to publish content.
A necessary objective of all content marketing campaigns, then, is getting people to take notice of your content. This means having a social media presence (i.e. owning and operating relevant social media accounts), as well as creating, distributing, and promoting interesting and valuable content on those networks.
In order to generate interest, the majority of the material you publish should not attempt to sell directly to your audience. Its objective is to generate engagement, which means giving your followers content that’s valuable to them.
Content is also an integral part of establishing your online presence too, particularly via a website. For beginners, First Site Guide has lots of different resources that will help newbies start and grow their online presence. These guys have also published a free in-depth online guide to help web beginners establish their online presence, which covers content strategy in one of the chapters.
Content can take many forms. It may be a photograph, infographic, video, blog, whitepaper, etc.. Depending on who your target audience is, exactly which digital platforms you choose to publish content on will vary. As will the types of content you share.
For example, it may be essential for a cool new sports shoe company aiming at millennials to have an Instagram account where they share images that appeal to cool, young millennials. Whereas a financial services company may get much more traction by posting specially commissioned white papers and reports on LinkedIn.
Because content marketing has proven to be so effective there are many digital products that have been designed specifically to make the process easier for marketers. These use data and analytics to inform what sorts of content go down well with your audience, allow you to schedule content for publishing so as to avoid doing it manually, track when the best times to post are, and much, much more.
I’ve recently written a blog for Steamfeed – The 5 Best Social Media Management Tools in 2015 (Hint: They’re Not What You Think!) – in which I run through some of my current favourites. Indeed, these tools can often mean the difference between a successful and unsuccessful content marketing campaign. So be sure to have a read of that.
However, there is some confusion between the terms “content strategy” and “content marketing”. Both are important, but they are also quite different. Rory Natkeil recently wrote an excellent article about just how the two vary. To summarise:
- Content strategy existed prior to digital marketing. It looks at how organisations manage the production of content, and identifies what content they will produce and how they will produce it.
- Content marketing is the actual process of distributing content (usually via digital platforms).
As such, content strategy requires you to have clearly defined business goals and to align content creation with those goals. Content strategy makes sure that the content you will eventually publish is going to make an impact.
The first stage of a good content strategy is getting an understanding of what you want to achieve by publishing content. Goals could include such things as: increasing sales, increasing leads, increasing site traffic, creating a stronger brand, boosting brand awareness or authority around a particular topic, and gaining more followers.
You will also want to consider what resources you have at your disposal – since this influences what sorts of content you can produce (you may, for example, not have the budget to create a video series).
The second stage is figuring out what types of content to use. A good way to approach the second stage is to have a look at what some of your competitors are doing. A glance at some of your competitors’ twitter feeds, Pages or blogs should give you at least a superficial understanding of which types of content appear to be successful and which don’t. (Remember: look at both your most and least successful competitors, and see what differentiates the two).
If you’ve already been doing some content marketing, but have no content strategy, then you may be able to use the performance of your existing content as an indication of which types of content you should be producing more and less of, and what business impact they are or aren’t having.
The third stage is to schedule and order your content with a content calendar. I won’t go into too much depth about this stage since my previous blog, Why a Content Calendar is Vital, covers it in much greater detail than I have space for here. To summarise, a content calendar is what gives your content marketing campaign structure, which is essential when it comes to publishing content consistently and ensuring content is of the right quality.
Your content calendar should be as comprehensive as possible. Each piece of content you plan to publish should have at the very minimum:
- A title.
- The type of media it comprises of – video, text, image, etc.
- A rough idea of what it will contain.
- A date and time for posting.
- And information about who is responsible for both creating and posting the content.
Most good social media marketing tools will include a feature to make this process as easy as possible.
Once you have all of this in place, you will be in the best possible position to unroll an effective content marketing campaign. Investing time in content strategy should ensure that all of the content you publish tells a consistent and compelling story. And this means that social media users will begin to take note of what you’re saying.
At this point, your social selling and direct marketing posts will have much more of an effect since they will reach people who respect your brand and take what you say seriously.
Content strategy is, of course, a time-consuming process. But the payoff of getting it right can be astronomical. Creating content that leaves a genuine impression on your audience will not only improve your standing with your existing customers, but will improve your SEO ranking so that you can gain new ones, since one of the main metrics used in setting rankings is social media performance.
But content marketing will only work if you know why and how you’re going to do it. This is why content strategy is so important. So make sure you take it seriously, else you’ll end up pouring away time and money on creating ineffective content.
If you’d like some advice with your content strategy, we’re able to help. Comms Axis regularly advise and assist organisations of all sizes with content strategy. To find out more, click here.
Are you looking to create a content strategy? Or are you already doing so? Let me know any questions you have about content strategy or any tips you’d like to share with a comment.
Dan Purvis writes for a number of leading business, social media and marketing sites, including Smart Insights, Marketo, MarTech Advisor, Marketing Tech News, MarTech Today, MarTech Exec, and Business2Community. Dan's also ranked by Brand Republic as one of the Top 50 UK Marketing & Social Media influencers.
Dan is passionate about the philosophy behind Comms Axis: we bring content, marketing and sales together to connect businesses with their audiences.
We pride ourselves on delivering tangible business value and ROI alongside excellent customer service. We work with a broad range of clients and industries, from B2B to B2C, from technology to cosmetics, from start-ups / SoHos to pan-European and global brands.
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