As digital marketers, we know content should be generating leads, gaining search traffic and increasing our brand’s clout. And while companies have gotten fairly good at pumping out content on a weekly basis, there is more to content marketing than just getting content published faster than your competitors. Many companies’ content marketing endeavors are missing the mark, and here’s the kicker: They have no idea why!
This is a symptom of something we call “robo-blogging.” Robo-blogging is content creation with purpose but without thought. So, before we continue to mass manufacture content, let’s consider this: The most important part of any great content marketing strategy occurs before and after the content is actually created. So instead of scratching your head as to why a piece of content flopped and another piece did fantastic, let’s explore some questions to consider prior to creating and publishing content.
Who is going to read it?
This one is simple enough: Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. This requires knowing your audience members and understanding their needs. And if you don’t know who your audience is by now, then you’ve got some research to do. These are the people who are currently consuming your content and the people you want to be consuming your content (target audience). These are the decision-makers, influencers, promoters and potential clients or referrals for your business.
You’ve probably heard this once, if not a thousand times: Know your audience personae. But are you actually doing it? Knowing your target audience is critical for any content strategy to develop in the right direction and flourish. And while there are different motivators for gaining readership from a specific persona, the one thing you’ll want to be sure of is how readers will benefit from your content.
How does the reader benefit?
If your audience has something to gain from reading or participating with your content, then the results you’ve always wanted from content marketing (lead generation, shares, comments, entries, etc.) will follow.
A good exercise in determining usefulness of content is to remove your brand from the equation. This can seem difficult at first, but don’t consider your company, products or services when ideating content. Instead, focus on what the audience members need – their pain points and the solutions they are seeking. Then address these issues; this ensures the company takes credit for providing a helpful resource without being overly sales-oriented. Otherwise, the content can come off as dry or phony and, in turn, not perform as expected.
Not quite ready to throw your brand out the window? Another way to get started off on the right foot is to consider why you take the time to fully read and digest content. Is it to get advice or gain tactics to implement? To support a viewpoint? For fun? Make sure the content you are creating has an end goal and provides at least one of the following values to your audience:
How will we share this?
At first, the answer to this question seems simple: social networks. But somewhere in the content marketing timeline, brands have gotten confused about what this actually means. Remember that social networks’ primary purpose isn’t for simply sharing blog posts or other branded content. Social networks’ intention is to connect people to other people or to brands and the other things their network is interested in. Therefore, if brands utilize their social networks from a less invasive and commercial perspective, they become much more effective at engaging their audience here.
In short, use social platforms for their intended purpose: to connect. This means sharing something visually or intellectually enlightening – typically in shorthand format. Share the content you’ve created in the same manner your audience shares content on social networks, and you’ll begin to see a difference. For more ideas on this concept, see Socialmouths.com’s article “Stop Trying to Get Your Blog Posts Shared and Do This Instead.”
Would this appeal to the media?
This question can be more relevant to large-scale content (ebooks, whitepapers and the like), but this consideration can lead to quality content for big projects and weekly blog posts.
In order to get a media outlet or another blog to promote your content, it has to be “media actionable.” Similar to a reporter quoting someone on the evening news, your content should be quotable to relevant online publications. Content must be both timely and newsworthy to gain the appropriate media attention.
To find your content’s initial media appeal, tell the joke backwards to find your content’s punch line. While the little details can be important, they can also get in the way and make your content seem more complex than it really is to a media outlet. For more ideas on finding your content’s media-ready message, read Cheryl Conner’s article “Forget SEO Tactics. Put Your Audience First.”
So save yourself the head scratch and begin researching and planning out your content marketing strategy before you create content. Only once you are sure of your audience, content benefits, how to share and the content’s potential media appeal will your content marketing plan work as you’ve always intended it to.
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment below and let’s chat about it. To learn more, check out DigitalRelevance’s Content Promotion & Distribution Cheat Sheet.