The latest buzzword in the marketing universe is ‘content marketing’. It seems like everyone who is interested in internet marketing wants to get into the “content marketing” game.
As a result of this wild scramble, the corporate communications director or marcomms professional is bombarded with numerous messages from many very enthusiastic people who have an ax to grind about their particular brand of content.
Each of these people is interested in explaining how their specific content is the most amazing way to get your company’s message across and drive leads to engagement—the first step in fueling your sales funnel.
You have PR professionals promoting their products, SEO professionals loudly proclaiming that the loss of SEO (again) is overblown, ad agencies setting the new wave of “native advertising”, and then you have the staunch supporter of traditional upline campaigns.
The most logical way to deal with the feeding frenzy is to simply get out of the water and onto dry land. Stepping back from the incessant calls to action surrounding the promise of content marketing, it is possible to draw some simple conclusions, which include:
1) What goes around comes around – The demand for quality content is not new. Good content has always been valuable. Ever since Ugg started marketing that new “bike,” communications people have always known that delivering the right messages to the right audiences is a core requirement of all marketing.
2) Stick with the tried and tested – New channels don’t always mean you have to reinvent your marketing message, you may simply need to rethink the way you present it (video, images, infographics and copy all together to deliver a rich, unique and engaging experience). Social media holds great promise for engaging with potential customers and keeping existing ones happy. By leveraging quality content, an organization can reach the right audience when, where and how they want to be targeted.
3) The world is shrinking and you need bigger ideas – The rise of smaller and smaller mobile devices does not mean that content should shrink, it means that content may simply need to be tailored to take into account how mobile devices are used. People can scroll, but you have to give them a reason to use your content.
4) Daily – Content must be provided according to a calendar that supports the business strategy and the timeline for the introduction of new initiatives. Your organization must publish on your social media platforms according to your business model and some platform-specific guidelines.
5) Great content comes from great ideas – It is a good first step to think about what the target audience values in terms of content. Studies have shown that savvy audiences share many of the same likes and dislikes. Oddly enough, it doesn’t matter if you sell vacuum cleaners or heart valves, the general rules are the same.
A) Content may be king, but a royal partner is added value – Give your target audience insider information or your opinion on something important to them. This can be streamlining operations or analyzing business trends. If it can add immediate value to their business, that’s great.
If it gets them thinking or makes a good topic for a business dinner conversation and positions them as an expert, you’re definitely on the right track with your content. If they share it with people with a similar demographic, you’re in the ballpark (in fact, you might be lining up a home run to feed your sales funnel).
B) Mix it up a bit – The idea of publishing diverse content has been wisdom for so long that it has gray hairs in its virtual beard, but the principle remains steadfast. Think about how your target audience is going to use your content and the platform you’re publishing it on. Every content creator needs to think strategically, this is important.
Always choose content that resonates with your target audience and fits the platform. So no to LOLcats accounts or financial institutions. Infographics are great, so is video, images are great too, but don’t forget creative and engaging copy.
The impact of the visual elements of your content is enhanced by adding good copy. Note that great copy must also be appropriate for the channel. It’s no good writing a 400 word comment on Facebook, your reader won’t venture past the page unless you give them a very good reason.
That’s why headlines are so important. In addition to search engine optimization, a good title attracts the reader and strengthens the visual content. If in doubt, contact the social media content creator / copywriter. He knows how to track trends, analyze reader interests and make strong recommendations on how your brand can expand its influence.
6) A space to call your own – It seems like everyone has a blog these days, a place where they can let their hair down and talk about the deeply important things that affect their daily lives. It’s just wonderful; everyone should have an outlet for their creative urges.
When it comes to businesses building online presence, a blog isn’t a “nice to have” component, it’s a basic requirement.
There are a few ways to make sure your content is both interesting and informative, and perhaps the most important is providing your target audience with information that will keep them coming back to your blog again and again.
A) Follow trends. Sites like technorati.com are great places to track social media trends. Find out what people are talking about and you can ride this wave by adding new content to your blog. Best to learn to think laterally.
B) Follow the leader – keep an eye on influencers in your industry. Find industry blogs and see what they have to say. Chances are they are either opinion makers or opinion breakers. Either that or they want to ride the same trend wave as you. Either way, those blogs are a good place to start looking or content that gets the mental gears turning.
Where else can you find these leaders and get their opinions on great content?
In addition to blogs, other social media platforms are excellent sources of new information. Use Facebook Graph Search or use Google+ to find others in your area and see what they’re talking about. BTW, if your business isn’t on Google+, I’d go there quickly.
Google is the gorilla in the search sandbox, and your business simply needs to be present. People who say it’s not as popular as Facebook or LinkedIn (for business owners, more on this great social media asset later) are simply not very good at spotting trends. Google connects almost every part of the online experience, and it all revolves around Google+. Want another good reason to be on Google+, local search and reviews. Only by improving your local business profile will you dramatically increase your chances of attracting businesses.
C) You have a sales team – you get their opinion on the questions your customers and prospects are asking. If you can answer these on your blog, you have great content on your hands.
7) Utilize appropriate social media space – Know your target audience. If you are a B2B company, use LinkedIn. LinkedIn gives you access to vast amounts of information. LinkedIn groups are a fantastic source of connections, potential business partnerships and even clients. Sign up and join to explore industry opinion and get an idea of the different questions being asked. Base your blog articles on these areas of interest.
All of the above are great starting points to establish your business in the social media ecosystem and get your creative juices flowing. However, there is a catch. Maintaining a blog is hard work and takes up your time. If you don’t have a dedicated content offering and social media resource.
Very few small and medium-sized companies can afford to have someone monitor social media full-time, unless they decide to hire a younger employee to handle social media. This rarely, if ever, ends well.
Utilizing social media requires in-depth knowledge of business strategy and target markets, and even one mistake can seriously damage an organization’s reputation. The top management can’t carry the burden because someone has to be at the helm and make sure the revenue machinery keeps turning.
Like it or loathe it, the solution is very simple. If you want to take advantage of the possibilities of feeding your sales funnel, you need to outsource the management of your social media presence. That way, you don’t fall victim to negative opportunity costs. Basically, opportunity cost is the cost of forgoing a potential benefit due to having to make another (often more strategic / urgent / profitable) choice.
These are the choices that busy small and medium business owners around the world have to make. If you’re a man or woman at the top, are you more concerned about actual income generation? Is your sales team pacing the sidewalk or with a smartphone stuck in their ear? In these highly competitive times, they should be.
So who takes care of social media properties? – Don’t make it the responsibility of the person at the bottom of the ladder in your company. Chances are, they’re not fully aligned with your business strategy and precision of targeting, so they’re not going to maximize your social media potential. Get it wrong on social media and it’s likely that your competition will take advantage of it.
So look around for a trusted advisor. Many of them are experienced copywriters and even SEO experts, they are content marketing experts. Some have excellent creative marketing and social media skills. Others may be familiar with managing multiple channels and delivering metrics and measurement data.
Hell, if you’re lucky, you have a bunch of people who can do it all. The best news is that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.