Content marketing is all the rage these days. It's the reason why you see a lot "five reasons to", "35 resources you might have missed" type of posts. I don't like them. However, I'm fond of simple writing and sharing of ideas that's digestible for those of you that read my blog. So I figured I'd put together a quick content marketing for dummies post that may or may not be useful.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a fancy word for creating content for the web and spreading it around via a variety of social networks, video sites, image sites, websites, etc. in order to influence an audience in some way shape or form.
That influence could be to get you to buy a car, refinance your home or consider the service of a PR agency like the one I work for, Schneider Associates.
If done right, content marketing programs tell stories and do so in a coordinated manner across all channels. The content creates a virtual experience, or as I call it, a surround sound experience -- multiple channels, one consistent message.
Key Ingredients to Content Marketing Programs
So now that you have an understanding of what content marketing is, you'll need to know what some of the key ingredients to a successful content marketing program are.
The first step to a successful content marketing program is editorial planning (strategy, as most will call it). You should answer:
- What's the story we want to tell?
- How do we want our story to influence our target audience?
- What value is our content going to provide our target audience?
- How far out do we want to plan out content strategy (I'd argue plan for three months, at least. However, be flexible on this)?
- What resources do we have internally and/or with agency partners do we have to put towards this effort?
Once you start to develop your editorial content and start to engage with your audience, you'll need to determine who is going to "man" your channels. Who is responsible for engaging with your target audience? What power do they have to respond in real-time if issues arise? What leeway do you have in terms of decision making while engaged with your audience?
The biggest part of community management tends to be time -- time to publish content, time to engage with the target audience, time to grow the community and time to move the proverbial business needle.
Build Your Technology Toolbox
To create your content and manage the community, you're going to need tools. There are a slew of social media management systems out there to chose from. Each have their benefits and downsides. You just have to pick one that is scalable for your size company or agency and fits within your budget parameters.
You'll also need tools to build creative assets (image and video editing tools).
Be Creative with Your Content
Speaking of creative content, be sure to weave infographics and video into your content marketing program. Creative assets help with bringing your story to life visually and, not to mention, give you an opportunity to volumize the content across a multitude of channels.
For example, a product video shouldn't be posting just to YouTube. It should be sent to other video sites. The audio from the video could be used on SoundClick and other podcast type of sites.
Basically, the rule of thumb here is "create once, use many." It's sounds harder than it is, but my suggestion is to create a content channel matrix, which will help you know exactly where content is deployed (in terms of channels) based on the type of content, i.e. blog posts, infographics, videos, product images, etc.
What Does Success Look Like?
Again, this is a basic run through for those of you that are still struggling with content marketing. The biggest question I get is how do we know it's "working"?
Well, there are four areas to which you can track success of your content marketing programs.
Leads, leads leads...that's what this is all about. Or in simpler terms, driving sales. A lead is defined by the business. In some cases a lead could be student enrollment or iPhone case sales. Regardless, a lead is a lead.
With your content marketing programs, be sure to tie your efforts to lead generation. Use an 80/20 split of marketing content vs. sales content so you're not jamming "sales speak" down the throat of your target audience. Create that experience we talked about earlier in this post, but do so in that surround sound experience manner.
Leads can be tracked through dedicated 800 numbers, landing pages and UTM parameters via Google Analytics.
As you build out your technology toolbox, be sure to have something in your arsenal that will allow you to track brand-relevant conversations. You want to make sure that you're seeding the right type of conversation around your brand, while enabling your target audience to add value to that conversation.
Tools such as Radian6 and Sysomos will allow you to track conversations across a multitude of channels.
Are you engaged with the right type of audience? Are you marketing to the 18-25 crowd and finding that you're online community is littered with 30-somethings? That might be an indication of the your content not resonating with the target audience or that you're playing in the wrong sandbox.
Use the tools mentioned above to ensure you're talking to the right type of person and that you're content resonates with them in a manner that nurtures your community, adds value to the experience and of course, drives "leads."
We, as marketers, spend so much time trying to gain Facebook Likes, Twitter followers, Pinners on Pinterest, etc. We often forget that your website is a storefront. It's your brand's homebase. Use it to funnel in leads. That's where you have the most control of over the content and the experience so as a result, you should make a coordinated effort to push your target audience there.
Using social sharing metrics as well as Google Analytics, you'll be able to leverage data to provide insights as to the experience your target audience is having on your site. You'll know how they are coming to your website; what content resonates with them the most; how long they are on your site; what entry pages that start with and what exit pages are their last touch.
The best part of swimming in this data is the fact that you learn what's working and what's not. As a result, you can do more of what is working and do less of what's not.
Hope this simple primer helps those of you out there struggling with content marketing programs. For those of you in the business and for those of you who are running successful content marketing programs, what other advice would you add to this Content Marketing for Dummies list? Throw them in the comments.