Over the past few years, there has been a lot of buzz about content marketing. Blog posts touting that the key to social media is good content abound and many books have been written about it. It should be obvious that content is important to social media, or any marketing for that matter. The actual commercial that you put on the air is vital to your television strategy and the actual advertisement is vital to your print strategy. Yet, because social media is free, and because the technology creates a barrier for some, we seem to have forgotten the importance of content.
Content is vital to the success of any social media effort - what you actually talk about matters. As we have become more comfortable with the tools of social media and amassing our friend/fan/follower counts, we're now figuring out that content, or what we actually say, matters too.
Why Content Marketing?
But developing a solid content marketing strategy isn't just important as a social object to be posted in Twitter or on Facebook. It's also a strategy that can support search engine marketing and branding and positioning.
In an era of permission-based marketing, brands need to provide value in order for consumers to pay attention to them, and increasingly, that value is found in content. Providing the right content when and where your consumers want it in a format that is easy for them to digest is key to content marketing.
A content strategy can be as simple as a single execution, like the CDC Zombie Apocalypse, or a comprehensive microsite with content that is updated frequently. Regardless of what you're trying to achieve, creating a strategic plan is important to your success.
Step 1: What do you want to achieve? The first step to understanding content marketing is to define your goals and objectives. Your broad goal is probably to drive sales and grow your business, but a more specific objective for your content strategy will allow you to create more specific and meaningful content.
Define the purpose of the content as specifically as possible.
Step 2: Who do you want to reach? Defining your audience as specifically as possible is key to a solid content strategy. Know your specific goals, and define the demographics, psychographics, and behaviors of your audience.
Step 3: Identify triggers. A trigger is an event that prompts someone to seek out information online. For example, I won't wake up one day and decide to research diabetes or browse for bicycles. An event or motivation triggers the initiation of a search. Understanding the triggers for your audience will help create a content strategy that gets results.
Step 4: What is the editorial strategy? This is an area that's often overlooked or given only a cursory thought to, but is one of the biggest keys to success. Most businesses will describe their tone with a few words, but when bringing their content to life it lacks a clear personality.
Consider the tone, values, and voice of your content. What tone could best achieve your marketing objectives and speak to your audience? A clear personality or tone in content makes it more relatable and allows your audience to feel connected.
Step 5: What content should you create? The next step is to decide what content you should actually create. The content creation plan should include the themes, messages, and topics. To create a good content strategy, it's helpful to research the landscape and look to discussion forums, Twitter, search, and blogs to understand what your audience is interested in.
A recent study by Outbrain that was featured on eMarketer asked marketers what types of content they were planning to create this year. Surprisingly, video ranked first, followed by blog posts, articles, and slideshows.
Also consider the action that you want someone to take as a result of engaging with your content. Bridge the gap between brand objectives and audience desires.
Step 6: What forms should your content take? Once you know what content you want to create, the next step is to determine the format of the content. Should the content be a white paper/ebook/download, a video, photos, infographics, a slideshow, articles, blog posts, webinars, or live chats? Based on your objectives, a landscape analysis, and knowledge of your target audience, determine the most appropriate and achievable forms for your content.
Step 7: How do you make it better and more creative? This step should be added to any planning process, digital or otherwise. Once you have the basic idea - the content and the form - consider how you can creatively make it into a bigger or better idea. Brainstorm positioning, titles, partners, and execution to make your content really stand out.
Step 8: How will the content be created? This step is pretty obvious - decide who, what, and when.
Step 9: How will the content be promoted or syndicated? This final step is also often overlooked. If you build it they probably won't come. Good content needs a good syndication and promotion plan. Consider paid, earned, and owned media as options. Use social networks to spread the message, and integrate social media sharing into the design of your content, not as an afterthought.
The same study on eMarketer also shared the distribution tactics used by marketers. Again, it's interesting to note that paid, earned, and owned media outlets are a part of the mix.
Taking the time to build a strategic content plan is vital in a digital world where we're bombarded by content. Consider that an average person on Facebook has over 200 connections to people, pages, groups, and events, or that there are over 30 million blogs in the U.S. With so many things fighting for our attention, it's harder than ever for brands to stand out. Be strategic to break through the clutter and drive real results.
Meet Your Favorite ClickZ Contributors
Many of ClickZ's leading expert contributors will be at ClickZ Live, the new online and digital marketing event kicking off in New York (March 31-April 3). Hear from the likes of: Jeremy Hull, Lisa Raehsler, Andrew Goodman, Bryan Eisenberg, Mathew Sweezey, Aaron Kahlow, Stephanie Miller, Simms Jenkins, Jeanne S. Jennings, Dave Hendricks and more!
Krista Neher is the author of the bestselling Social Media Field Guide, an international speaker, and currently CEO of Boot Camp Digital, which is a leading provider of social media marketing training and consulting solutions. Krista is a social media pioneer, creating one of the first successful corporate Twitter strategies and corporate blogs - long before "social media" was even a recognized term. After spending nearly six years at Procter and Gamble working on some of the biggest and most successful product launches, Krista went on to become the vice president of marketing at an Internet start-up.
Krista started Boot Camp Digital in 2008 and has created training programs for hundreds of advertising agencies, marketing departments and small and medium business owners in social media marketing. Krista also works with a variety of educational institutions on their social media programs and is currently working on a textbook on social media marketing.
March 19, 2014