Two common misconceptions in content marketing are that it’s too late to capitalise on the exciting brand-building opportunities this approach offers and that it’s too complicated to implement.
Wrong and wrong again.
Everyone in the digital community may be talking about it, but a recent study by Econsultancy found that less than four in 10 companies (38%) actually have a content marketing strategy, highlighting that the concept remains, to a certain extent, in its infancy.
Part of the reason for this reluctance to put a plan in place may stem from a lack of understanding of how to get started and the basic concepts behind it.
Our experience has taught us that it’s really not rocket science. We’ve worked with an abundance of brands with varying budgets, all of which have indicated that there are 12 basic tactics that should be integral to every content marketing strategy.
Here they are:
1. Determine what you want to achieve
Plain and simple: a strategy isn’t a strategy without objectives. Do you want to increase brand awareness, increase traffic and/or conversions, generate more leads, acquire more links or a combination of these things?
If you’re trying to improve an existing content marketing strategy, discover what isn’t working for your current content and fill in the gaps. Give your work a purpose and set yourself some targets.
2. Identify your readership and document it
Don’t just create content for the sake of it – ensure that it has a purpose. Keep it relevant and give serious thought to what you want readers to do after reading a particular piece of content.
Find key influencers in your industry using tools like Follower Wonk and Circle Count and make a note of what they share and when they share it. The dissemination of content is fuelled by giving readers something they need. If you do, they could just do you a favour and help you in that process further down the line.
3. Be creative
A good content strategy is a diverse content strategy. Use images, graphics, instructographics, infographics, videos and whatever else you can to catch the attention of your target audience.
Never become over dependent on one particular content tactic – especially infographics – and instead always look for ways to develop what you’re pushing out. Tools like Storify, for example, can create content using social media.
Remember, the onus is on making content that you would actually want to read.
4. Research, research, and research some more
There are no shortcuts here. Sorry. Plenty of research is needed on everything from content topics to content titles, keyword analyses and audience assessments.
Analyse what content of yours is performing the best and worst and identify why. Carry out competitor analysis and look at what works for them. Find gaps in existing site content and think of ways to fill them.
5. Make time for a comprehensive brainstorm
The strategy behind a piece of content starts in the planning stages – and that means that it’s time for a brainstorm. Don’t rely solely on your content writers to devise ideas, get as much input from as many people internally as possible, especially if they are experts in specific fields.
The most important part of the brainstorm is to set clear performance indicators. Otherwise, how will you grade the content for the next stage of your strategy?
Ask yourself the big question, is my content genuinely useful or is it just content for content’s sake?
6. Use all available assets
Every brand – no matter in what industry they operate – has access to some assets that will be useful. Maybe it’s in the form of interesting data, existing relationships with journalists/bloggers or a team of talented designers who can bring what may seem to be dull ideas to life.
If you don’t have the assets yourself, look everywhere you can for them.
7. Create a content calendar
Organisation is crucial. Produce a content calendar that includes the key dates that are relevant to your particular industry/company and the marketing/PR calendar.
This shows exactly when a piece of content is set to go live, the thinking behind the timing of publication and can ensure clear actions can be communicated internally and externally to ensure maximum exposure.
Unorganised execution of a content marketing strategy is asking for trouble.
8. Conduct content experiments
Split-testing your content with minor lexical changes can lead to great results as you analyse how readers react to how you have presented information in a very specific manner. Add some science to your strategy.
9. Track your content
What’s working? Why is it working? What’s not working? Why is it not working?
Analyse how content is being shared, identify opportunities to improve, look at page views and unique visitors, measure traffic, links, referrals, tweets, likes and general mentions on social media and factor the findings into a thorough review.
Our Senior Web Developer Douglas Radburn has built an excellent tool to ensure that we get quick access to social shares data across all the major platforms for every piece of content that we produce.
10. Get the readers involved and get involved with the readers
Be sure to include user-generated content in a strategy and roadmap. Be willing to start conversations if you really want to build up a responsive audience and be prepared for the possibility of negative comments if your brand is at the centre of an open discussion.
Don’t just publish and run – be there to manage any reactions.
11. Be patient
Content marketing won’t deliver results overnight. It’s a long-term strategy. Keep working at it, keep an eye on the industry and keep putting content in front of the right eyes and you’ll begin to reap the benefits down the line.
Advertising is short-term; content marketing is long-term.
12. Learn from your mistakes
This is the most important part of any on-going content marketing strategy.
It’s inevitable that you’ll make mistakes with content, whether they be grammatical errors or executional errors. Accept that mistakes can and will happen, especially in the early stages, and define a structure by which lessons can and will be learnt and errors can and will be minimised.