How do you decide what to write about? Does your blog have a content plan? Do your social media posts have some structure and relationship to your blog posts or your other marketing programs? If your answer to any of these questions is “no,” you are likely missing opportunities to extend the reach of your marketing, to reinforce other promotions and activities, and to encourage your audience to make connections to your website, your blog, and other content you are producing. Effective social media marketing strategies need a powerful content plan.
Whether you have an established audience or you are trying to build and attract an audience, the people who read your posts will be more likely to respond your calls to action if there is a clear connection between compelling and helpful content and the action you want them to take. In addition, your loyal audience is more likely to share your content with other people if you demonstrate cohesion in your content across multiple platforms and formats.
Many small to mid-sized business owners find it easy to agree to these statements in principle. Following a plan day after day becomes difficult for many. Yet whether they find it easy or difficult to follow a content plan, a great many people (marketers, business owners, social media managers) find it difficult to conceive of a content plan that extends beyond the blog or the blog and major content pieces, such as white papers, reports, case studies, e-books, etc.
The best way to leverage and optimize powerful content is to create and follow a comprehensive, consistent content plan. An added bonus of a comprehensive content plan is that you can work from the beginning to create shorter pieces of content you can refine in light of audience comments and eventually combine into larger content formats. This is not to say you cannot deviate from the plan to build more interest by discussing a trending topic or a timely issue. However, if the majority of your content follows a comprehensive plan, each piece of content can support, reinforce, and extend the reach of every other piece of content.
You might develop your content plan this way.
1. Define your audience and the needs of your audience (or target audience) that might bring them to you for products or services that help them solve a problem or meet a need. Your subject area will typically be fairly broad and might cover several audience needs or problems. Let’s call this “the main subject.”
2. Break “the main subject” into smaller topics. There will likely be many smaller topics within the main subject. You might define these as needs or problems you strive to meet with various products and/or services. You might define them in terms of questions customers ask when they are gathering information prior to a purchase. There might also be related topics that arise in conversations with customers and prospects.
3. You might just ask your audience what kind of content they would like you to provide for them. What worries them? What problems can you help them solve? What can you help them do better? How can you make their lives easier?
4. Analyze audience response to your existing content. Use your analytics applications and any other tools at your disposal to determine
a) What is your most popular content?
b) Who reads that content?
c) Why do those audience members gravitate to that kind of content (topic, style, platform)?
d) Why is this topic interesting?
e) How does it help your readers?
5. Make a chart of the topics you have identified. Indicate on the chart who will read content about the topic,
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where they will most likely read it, and what they want from your content. Then expand your chart into a grid with every topic, audience segment, and audience need identified for each piece of potential content. Then, using the other axis of the grid, list the communication platforms, formats, etc. you use (or plan to use) to communicate with your audience (e-book, blog, case study, LinkedIn post, Facebook post, etc.).
6. Identify and fill all gaps in topics, platforms, formats, etc. Ensure you have included every possible topic, message, call to action, and opportunity to communicate with your target audience.
7. Did you include communication media other than text? If not, go back and add columns to you grid for video, audio, images, PowerPoint presentations, webinar recordings, slide shows, etc. Add SEO and indicate who will write each piece of content.
8. Fill in all of the spaces in the grid. Decide how you will communicate with your audience about each topic. Consider all options. Will you start with a major content piece (e-book, whitepaper, etc.), or with an array of shorter pieces of content (social media comments, for example)? Which content types will you use to drive traffic to each piece of content? Which platforms should you use to promote your best topical posts? Get all of the connections and calls to action in the spaces of the grid.
9. Put the grid away, out of sight, for at least 24 hours. After that time away, review the entire grid with care. Review the connections, the messages, and the formats. Have you organized everything to achieve maximum impact? Finally, add a schedule.
10. Start implementing your content plan. The plan will provide the topics and the calls to action for every post on every platform. Follow your plan for at least 30 days. Then analyze the effectiveness of what you have done. Refine the plan accordingly. Implement again.
This ten-step approach to developing and following a comprehensive content plan will unify your blog, major content pieces, and social media posts for maximum impact. It will extend the reach of your blog and the marketing of major content pieces. It will create the visibility you need to attract new people to your audience – people who are interested in the help and insight you can provide, and who are potential customers for your business.
Social media marketing organized strategically around a powerful content plan will be effective. The reason much social media marketing fails to deliver on expectations is that it is disjointed, inconsistent, and even contradictory. Try the ten steps we use to create our content grids. You can ramp up your social media marketing strategy with a powerful content plan.