Content. It’s a word that gets thrown around more than a baseball at spring training. But as marketers, do we know what it entails for our work? Or better yet, do we have any clue of how to use it effectively?
What is Content?
Content involves all the interesting and engaging things that your brand does to promote itself and to provide value for your audience. Any sort of information, blog posts, videos, images, infographics or podcasts that your organization posts on social media or other platforms is content.
Who’s Creating Content? And Why?
Why are they doing all of this?
For one thing, there’s the introduction of ad blockers. Blockers prevent some of the “annoying” types of advertising like pop-ups and banner ads from appearing on a consumer’s screen.
For another, the age of the Internet has provided consumers with access to more information than they ever dreamed possible– all at the click of a finger. This has led consumers to expect that they can find any type of information that they want.
Here is where content marketing comes in. If brands can be the ones to provide useful, interesting content for consumers, what do you think that does for the brand? The brand gains equity with consumers and can build a relationship built on service, not on pop-ups.
There are six primary ways that content can help your organization:
- Community building
- Public relations
- Market research
- Customer service
- Lead generation
Content creates a two-way street that allows brands to easily communicate with their audience by providing them with something that they want. If a user likes your content, they are a lot more likely to appreciate you and have a favorable opinion of your brand as a whole.
How Effective is Content Marketing?
In many ways, content marketing seems like the holy grail that can propel a brand into the favorable view of their audience. And in fact, according to the Content Marketing Institute, 78% of B2C marketers agree that they can demonstrate, with metrics, how content marketing has increased audience engagement. However, this sort of success is only achievable if you are able to leverage a thorough and effective content marketing strategy.
The Content Marketing Institute reports that 23% of B2C marketers feel that their content efforts have stagnated over the last year. The main reasons that they cite are not enough strategy and not enough time being put into their content marketing. It is often important to remember to think of content as the 401K of your marketing efforts. It will take some time to accumulate a following, but the investment will pay dividends over time. Always take these factors into account when planning your content strategy.
Another reason some don’t find success in the content game is the sheer volume of competitors out there. Everyone has tried to grab a piece of the pie, so oftentimes the market is flooded with content. What we end up seeing is a bunch of brands yelling into a room and hoping that you’ll choose to pay attention to their content. This strategy is ineffective, and without a solid plan or mission, your brand could get lost in the noise.
Stand Out in the Content Crowd
Here are a few tips when planning your content marketing strategy to ensure that you are creating the best content and are most effectively speaking to your audience.
Leave your name out
The first lesson you should learn about content marketing is this: your content is not about your brand.
Anything that you write or produce for your organization as branded content should not be “branded.” Your content should be based on your value statement and most importantly, how your company can help your audience before they buy into your brand.
Many Millennials and Gen Zers have grown up in a world that is proliferated by advertising. They have seen hours upon hours of ads sprinkled across websites, billboards and apps. They’ve reached the point of saturation, and many of these younger audiences are now too savvy to be reached by simple shout-outs and product placements.
Younger users want to see content posted by their friends and trust those they know personally much more than brands, so you want to try to build a more personal connection with your audience. Instead of resorting to more traditional advertising techniques, think of your content as a conversation starter.
So if you’re not talking about your brand, then what are you going to talk about? Here, it’s important to go high-level and to think about what your company has to offer beyond a specific product. Identify your core brand values and topics that can solve the problems that your audience is experiencing.
Find Your Process
When thinking about creating your content, it’s best to think of yourself as a publisher. The top newspaper and magazine editors don’t create the highest quality content in the world by accident. And it’s not just because they have the most creative people or the most money. So much of what goes into creating quality content is the process behind it.
Great publishing has two main hallmarks, consistency and surprise. The surprise part is the easy, you and your team can come up with all sorts of creative and out of the box ideas every day. The hard part is consistency and delivering this creativity in a logical and orderly fashion so that you can continue to wow your audience.
Here are a few strategies that you can use to help find your process and streamline it for you and your team:
- Define team roles – Make sure that everyone on the team knows their job and their set of responsibilities. By setting the expectations for people’s jobs early on, you will reduce confusion and team members will know exactly what they need to do and adapt next to move the product towards completion.
- Content creation structure – Your team should know the process needed to put out a piece of content on all of your social channels. Having an established structure also helps to reduce confusion among the team.
- Establish communication – Find the appropriate channel for your team to speak without it getting too overused. Meet often with your team members to facilitate cohesion.
- Content calendar – A content calendar allows your team to plan out when content is going to be posted so it can effectively reach your audience. This will also help to make sure you are being most effective and are taking advantage of content opportunities.
Without processes for procuring ideas, vetting, creating, and editing, your content could turn into a free for all and your message can easily get lost in translation. Trying to form a cohesive message can be like trying to build an entire car from junkyard scraps.
Start Creating Content
Now that you’ve figured out why you’re creating content and how you’re going to do it, it’s time to talk about what the result will look like.
When you are brainstorming and trying to create ideas, it’s important to remember that you’re not going to create perfect content right out of the gate. But, don’t let this discourage you.
Just give your ideas room to grow into something more beautiful. Allow time in your process for discussion and editing to find the cream of the crop. It is also essential to build off of these ideas and keep making them better to stay ahead of the competition.
Find Your Easy Content
Sometimes it can be hard to start creating content. And so often, that “great idea” seems just out of reach. But if you’re looking for a few quick, quality posts, then quotes and statistics that put your organization into a good light are always easy and engaging.
Something uplifting that is easily palatable and interesting to your audience is a great way to go while showcasing an issue that your organization can help to solve. Also, holidays are a great opportunity to easily plan your content (you know which dates they are going to occur) and fill in any gaps in your scheduling.
Try Something New
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your ideas. Let your unique qualities shine and put your brand out there. One of the best things about content is that there is so much that your worst efforts won’t garner much attention. So, feel free to push the envelope and try something new to get people talking. If it doesn’t go well, that piece of content will soon be buried by your other fantastic pieces.
Start With the Idea, Not the Medium
Finally, make sure that you aren’t reverse-engineering your content ideas. Something I see most often is that people will say “oh, let’s make an infographic” or “hey, let’s make a two-minute video.”
If you start there and try to find an idea to fit that platform, the idea will probably fall flat. Start with your good idea and adapt it to the medium that works best. Better yet, come up with a great idea and adapt it into multiple forms.
Once you’ve finally posted, remember that the content game doesn’t stop there. Make sure to continue to communicate with your audience and keep up the conversation.
Track Your Progress
Pay attention to how your audience is responding to your content through metrics and behavior. You can track what sort of impact your content is making by using programs like Google Analytics (check out some of our other blogs for more info). Keep an ear out for what your audience is saying about what you are doing, and you’ll find which content works best for you.
If you can get your consumers invested in the story behind your content rather than just tooting your own horn, you are bound to make a great first impression.
Good luck out there!