When was the last time someone you know shared—online or offline—a banner ad, a 30-second radio spot, or a 1-800 number he saw on TV?
Can’t remember? That’s because it never happened—ever.
What does that tell you? People don’t trade traditional advertising in the social space. While there are exceptions—like Superbowl ads , which are actually entertainment—most people trade content.
If you want people to see your content in search and trade it on social media, you need to make sure your digital marketing strategy, whether it has traditional advertising or not, includes a content strategy at its core.
It’s easy to say you need to have a content strategy. The question is where do you start, and what must you consider as you build your strategy? Here are some of my thoughts, plus some I culled from a discussion on Quora.
1. Know the breadth of your audience.
Your audience is composed of potential customers, knowledge leaders, those who see you as a thought leader and pass your wisdom along (advocates), and to some degree, your detractors.
You want to speak to the needs of that entire audience because they all have potential to help you in their own unique ways:
- Potential customers bring in revenue.
- Advocates are a word-of-mouth marketing force.
- Knowledge leaders are sources of more content.
- Detractors can become advocates.
2. Fill the knowledge gap.
Your audience requires information to move forward. The question is, what is that information?
“[It] rests in the gap between what they do not know, what they conceptualize but wish to understand, and what they understand but want to hone and refine,” says Bonnie Nadri.
3. Use content to build relationships.
“It is said that content is king. I say instead that conversation is king. Content gives people something to talk about. Remember that media is not social, people are,” says Jon Yoffie.
Nathan Ketsdever, a social media and education researcher, echoes Yoffie’s comment saying, “Without content you don’t have any sort of relationship development with a potential customer.”
Years ago I asked popular blogger Chris Brogan why some of his posts get dozens, if not hundreds, of comments and others only get a few. He said the posts with more conversation are not finished. He purposely leaves them open ended to invite conversation. The posts with smaller responses often point readers to content somewhere else and send people off his site.
4. Hit the street to find content sources.
The people at the highest levels of your organization are often the worst people to ask about your audience’s top concerns.
Charlotte Ulvros, CMO at Mynewsdesk advises, “Check with customer support, your experts in R&D etc and maybe even your internal communicators for ideas. They have so much knowledge about the product, the customers and the internal happenings but are often forgotten.”
5. Resist the urge to talk at your audience.
To deliver a successful content strategy, you have to lose the marketing attitude that all corporate communication is about delivering your “message.” No one, absolutely no one, cares about your message. People care about themselves. To reach your audience, lose the broadcast attitude and step into a conversational one.
Nadri echoes this belief. “Most business drivers seek to tie strategy to desired outcomes and this often either bypasses or obliterates the mutually beneficial exchange that most digital seekers crave,” she says. “Anyone can talk AT them, some can talk TO them, but the core of a solid digital marketing strategy is to find the path to engagement and interaction—to talk WITH them.”
6. Extend your knowledge.
You can’t know everything, but if you do, you garner that intelligence through others. Always seek value from others. As I mentioned earlier, look within your organization, but then look to your partners, experts, customers, advocates and even detractors.
7. Consider SEO.
Pushing out content with no editorial plan is the equivalent of flapping your wings and standing in place. You’re doing something, but it’s not bringing you toward an end goal. Know what your voice and content will be, and work with an SEO team to help you determine what keywords and phrases will attract the most traffic over time.
8. Deliver content when people need it.
“Content strategy is not about pushing content into channels—there’s no shortage of content out there—it’s about anticipating needs and delivering relevant information that supports your business objectives,” said Derek Phillips, content director at Critical Mass.
Advertisers obsess over making messages timely, and content creators should too. There are simple things you can do to create content when people need it (e.g. last minute tax tips in early April). You can also curate information feeds—Twitter, Facebook, blogs—to see what people are talking about right now.
9. Support your sales cycle.
Content can feed all five stages of the purchase cycle:
5. Additional purchase
“Relevant content needs to be mapped to the journey the buyer takes from stage 1: uninterested and unaware in your firm to the final stage: loyal customer. Mapping what content is relevant at each stage and how you plan to deliver that content is the issue,” explained B2B marketer Chris Fell. For details on how that works, read my whitepaper.
“Regardless of what business you’re in, you’re really in the content business.”