Content marketing is a strategy focusing on creating, publishing, and distributing relevant and valuable marketing and brand content, designed to engage your target market. The aim is to connect with your audience and build relationships, instead of simply informing about new products and promotions. This week, I talk about what content marketing is and why your business needs to be doing it, as well as ten popular types of content marketing you can use to grow your brand.

What is Content Marketing?

Content marketing typically focuses on social media networks, using content such as video to start conversations, engaging your audience, creating brand awareness, increasing loyalty and driving leads. The aim is to add value for customers independently of any products sold, a value that will one day be reciprocated in sales results. The long-term goal is sales, but the short-term goal is engagement.

Brands share stories to make the audience more familiar with them. Content is relevant, compelling and aims to engage customers at the right point in their buying consideration process.

“Many long-term benefits such as building brand loyalty by engaging with the target audience with valuable content without employing promotional techniques” (Pulizzi 2012b)

For more about Content Marketing, including a 15 minute video, see 50 Weeks of Marketing.

The Rise of Content Marketing

Over the past ten years, social media communities have become more prominent, and the popularity of businesses using content marketing has exploded as a branding tool. The digital world is saturated with assorted brands, so to remain relevant businesses must start conversations with potential customers in the multiple ranges of social media communities.

Content marketing is so attractive because of the typical high return on investment compared to other forms of traditional advertising. On average, businesses using content marketing gain more than twice as many leads as those who do not.

“Content marketing has become a leading marketing technique in digital marketing communication and uses the point of view of consumers to build relationships by creating and sharing engaging content in social media that enhance their daily lives.”

Your Content Strategy

You should have some sort of plan or goal with your content creation strategy. Know what your goal is. Your content needs to align with the tone of your brand and how you want to promote your content. Who is your content designed to reach? Why will they benefit from your message? Consider you are speaking to (your target market), What is the best way to communicate to them, and where the best place to reach these people is. If you are focusing on the gaming community, you would focus on YouTube rather than LinkedIn for example.

Ten ways you can use content marketing

When you first start producing content, it is important to focus your time and energy on what you are good at and what type of content your target audience would most like to consume. What type of content are you good at creating? Are you good on camera? Graphic design skills?

It would make sense to utilise your skills and use that primarily. Use formats that your audience already uses. Does your audience like watching long-form tutorial videos such as on YouTube? Or do they prefer a vivid photo on Instagram or an Infographic on Pinterest?

Blogging

For many businesses, blogs are central to their content marketing strategy. The advantages of a blog are you can sit down and write it in a couple of hours, or even 20 minutes. The length can be under 1000 words. They are also great for SEO, which means Google finds them easily. Blogs also drive engagement and shares. Some studies suggest that around 60 per cent of online purchases are made because of a customer reading a blog and posting four blogs a week can increase your website traffic by more than three times those posting less than once a week.

Tips for writing your own blog:

· Supply value and expertise. This builds a stronger relationship with current customers and builds credibility with prospective customers.

· Build a relationship with your readers with consistent and high-quality posts drives great traffic to your site. Some tips for writing a blog:

· Post at least once a week. Leave it too long and you can lose any following you started. Consistency is key. Update old posts and those that have done well.

· Link to other content. You can link to external social media or other pages on your site such as free tools or similar blog posts.

· Call to action. Have one of these at the start and end of a blog. You want people to keep going further with you. The end goal is to leads or a sale. Some of the posts can be aimed at how you supply a solution to people or centred around your brand.

· Optimise your blog for keywords. This will help people find your blog, and help customers find you. Find out what people are searching for when they are looking for product/service like yours and create topic around the content they might be looking for.

Video

Videos are a great form of content to grab your audience’s attention and engage them quickly. People share videos more on social media than other forms of content. Video content is becoming increasingly popular in the age of the smartphone. A third of the time spent online is by people watching video content and four times more people would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. These could be a product review or a how-to video. Brands that use video can expect to see more than twice as much traffic from search engines and improve the average time spent on their web pages by just over double, and landing pages with video content has a higher conversion rate, garnering up to 80% increase.

To use videos in your content, you can post is straight to the platform, or host it on YouTube. When it is on YouTube, it is easy to embed the videos into blog posts. All videos should offer value, and at the end of every video, you should include a call to action to send them further along the sales funnel. Send them to your website or landing page for a product.

Such as this video on Community from last week’s blog.

Social Media Posts

Posting on social media is by far the most popular form of content marketing. Many businesses post on Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn daily, to help reach their audience and nurture relationships. Social media is so popular because it is easy to reach potential customers, without them having to go look for you. While they scroll through the platform feed, amongst posts from friends and colleagues, your post can come up.

The ability to reach new audiences is also a powerful advantage of using social media. Social media content can be used to drive sales, but social media should be used to start a conversation with consumers and engage your target audience. Make sure that you have a mix of promotional and informational content across your social media channels.

All other nine types of content listed in this article; you can link through your social media. It is an important gateway to further content that can lead to an eventual sale.

Infographics

Infographics are an image that uses information and visuals to explain how something works in a way that is visually interesting and easily digestible. An infographic aims to educate your audience by providing useful information that adds value. This increases your credibility as someone who could solve their problem.

Any information that would receive help from a visual aid would be an excellent choice for an infographic. It can help people through visualise data, for example, statistics could be summarised with visual representations, charts, and graphics. Infographics are often shared on social media, which is a useful source of backlinks (link to your website through the image. Keep your designs simple and clean with plenty of white space, and not overloaded with text. Organise it into sections if you need to make it easier to follow

This infographic from (via Domo) is a good example

Long-form Content

Long-form content is similar to a blog or eBook. Hosted on your website, Long-form is a terrific way to drive traffic and build thought leadership on a certain topic. Create a “how-to guide” or “Ultimate Guide” is a popular form of long-form content. The length is usually between five and ten thousand words, separated into chapters like eBooks. Make it free and readily available on your website. Break it down into sections – each chapter a new page on your website. Promote it heavily to drive traffic to your website.

White Papers

White papers are an information-dense form of content that offers a detailed solution or data on a specific topic. Similarly, to eBooks, White Papers are a piece of long-form content, the main difference being that white papers are more data-driven, detail-focused and information-dense. White papers should focus on a frequent problem of your target market and offer a solution. Well suited for B2B (business to business), they are a great tool to sell your business’s products or services and build your credibility as a thought leader. Again, it is a piece of gated content on your website or landing page (also called a lead magnet) requiring the “lead” to supply information about themselves to access the piece of free content. Some businesses are willing to give up more information about themselves than just an email to access a white paper.

eBook

It might feel a little overwhelming to write an eBook, but it is easier than you think, and they are great long-term lead magnets. Some people assume you must write something that is a hundred-plus page long. Well, you do not. The reality is, a lot of eBooks can range from ten to thirty pages long. Whatever the length, it must supply value. Do not feel like you must add “fluff” to something because it is not long enough. Often, focused and concise is good. Just supply useful information and your insight into your target audience about their needs and challenges.

A lot of people offer a product or a solution at the end of an eBook, which is fine. But it should not be more than 5 per cent of the content. It is not about selling to your audience, it is about building a relationship with target consumers so that they trust your brand and come to you when they are ready to make a purchase.

Example of an eBook landing page:
eBook landing page

Again, eBook can be gated from your website, so you get an email in return. Writing an eBook can take a lot of time energy but can be outsourced. Often the leads that you will generate through this piece of gated content will provide an attractive return on investment.

Case Study

Case studies examine a specific business scenario in-depth, the case usually from your own business. The aim is to show your knowledge and how you supplied successful action, supplying social proof of the value you supply you customer or clients. Instead, done in a way that is not like an advertisement. It is how you supply a solution to a problem the reader may be having. You highlight how your service or product is applied to have a favourable outcome – help people understand how your business can help them and add value to them or their business. Helps build trust with new leads.

Case studies should follow this format:

· Summary of the study

· Explain the problem

· Explain your solution

· What were the results and why they matter?

Do not make your case study a boring summary of the results, write it like a story to engage the reader on the journey. If you can get a video testimonial from a client, that is a powerful form of case study content.

Check List

Checklists are a type of worksheet that supply a list of things to do in a step-by-step process to achieve some type of the desired outcome. These are great content assets for small businesses because they are easy to create and promote, yet still supply a significant value for the target audience. Checklist downloads are great lead magnets. They supply value as they are actionable, and supply a resource that users can utilise repeatedly, and they do not cost a lot of time or money.

Checklists should have a clean organization and have a concise copy. Lots of whitespaces and include your branding down the bottom. You can promote them at the end of blog posts for example and offer them in exchange for an email subscription sign-up.

Check box content

Podcast / Interview

Interviews with industry experts, typically in the format of a podcast have grown in popularity in recent times. They are a long-form of content, and usually a discussion on a certain topic. This is a fantastic way to supply information to people who prefer to listen or watch as opposed to reading a long piece of writing. Again, they help to position your company as an expert in your industry. Podcasts have become a popular form of marketing content, which is an interview with someone interesting to say, usually 30 to 60 minutes long. Podcasts can be downloaded or streamed to a personal device for convenience.

You could utilise Facebook or LinkedIn Live, YouTube, have a transcript on your blog or you could be interviewed yourself by other podcasters or YouTubers. Make sure the material provides value for your target audience, choose interview subjects that can offer useful insight and information on the topics they care about.

That’s it from this week’s blog.

In summary, ten types of content your business should be using are:

· Blogging
· Video
· Social Media Posts
· Infographics
· White Paper
· Long-form Content
· Case Study
· eBook
· Checklist
· Podcast / Interview