Content and knowledge in the past was trapped on film reels, photo albums, printed books and filing cabinets.
To consume content required sitting down in front of a television, reading a book, opening a folder or finding a device plugged into a wall. It was stuck in time and space.
Creating content was also clunky and it needed big bulky movie cameras, tape decks and pen and paper. Printing presses were the expensive machines that only newspaper barons could afford. It then became digital and started to be loaded onto mainframes, personal computers and hard drives.
Laptops gave content more freedom but without the web it was still hard to move. The advent of the web gave content more distribution power but the web was slow. Modems opened up the door but the floodgates were still locked. It wasn’t until smart mobile devices and fast 4G wireless networks became mainstream that content creation and its distribution exploded.
The social mobile web took content global and made everyone publishers. This shift is new and it is rocking the business boat.
Why does business need to embrace content marketing?
People now consume most of their information online and on the move. You need to put your content where they are. This means on social media and also on the devices that attract our eyeballs. That is the ubiquitous smart phone.
Social media networks over the last 10 years have generated a lot of media attention and consumed our consciousness. But it’s not the network but the “content”it delivers that is where the real magic happens and engagement occurs. You don’t engage with Facebook but the content that you discover. Social is really just the distribution network for video, text and images that take people through the sales process.
Content marketing is not a quick fix
Content marketing is not an exercise in quick marketing success or a silver bullet. It is a strategy that needs time and persistence. It requires continuous marketing, rather than just one off campaigns to realise its full benefits.
- Growing brand awareness
- Building trust
- Create credibility
- Promote industry “thought leadership”
- Makes people share and subscribe
- Crowd sources your marketing for free
- Drives inquiries and leads
- The holy grail – Produce brand advocates
Content has some other side benefits. Google hates silence. So creating digital content on your website, blog and other online assets is essential to optimizing for search engines. If you want to appear in search engines when people type in those key words and phrases then learn the art and science of search engine optimisation.
So we have seen the opportunities. What are some of the challenges?
Understanding the digital marketing game
The marketing game has been changed forever. Many traditional tactics don’t cut it anymore. Print is dying, direct mail is too expensive and often ineffective and schmoozing at golf days is a waste unless you have more money than a sheikh with a harem of oil wells.
The digital content marketing game means understanding the growing role of digital content, mobile, search engines and social media to be (D)iscovered, (E)ngage, (F)ollow and create a loyal (T)ribe of fans that become customers – “DEFT”
Obtaining the resources
Unless you get the backing of the CEO and management to provide the resources including money, platforms and people then your success will be muted, not appreciated and ignored. You need to work out a way to get the CEO as a “believer”. The problem is that they have built their success on the old paradigms and you will have to work out a way to evangelize the people in power who will resource your efforts.
Starting without certainty
The new frontier of digital marketing often means starting the journey with little proof of future success. The more traditional the industry the bigger the opportunity but also the larger the doubt.
Creating the content
The content game is one you need to enter with your eyes open. It will need insight, endurance and persistence. It is not about doing just a post every month and expect the sales to just happen. Hubspot recently posted a blog outlining 44 types of content that need to be considered in your creation efforts.
Daunting isn’t it.
But there are some ways to create content efficiently in the new age of digital content marketing. You just need to understand the game and how it is played.
The content marketing landscape
The content marketing landscape is large. It includes almost every type of company and organisation. It includes B2C and B2B, small and large. The knowledge web demands content creation and feeding for many reasons, such as:
- Getting ranking on search engines
- Educating customers
- Driving brand awareness
Much innovation is occurring and new ideas are emerging all the time in how content can be created, optimized and distributed.
Global business to consumer brands (B2C) such as Red Bull have publishing companies as subsidiaries, Big boring B2B brands such as General Electric are using photos and mobile sites like Instagram.
Niche industries such as Real Estate are using creative content and content hustling to drive traffic and create brand awareness. One of the standouts in amplifying content is Movoto. They are using the tactics of the the fastest growing publishers and websites on the planet to produce and hustle their content. They have been called the “Buzzfeed for real estate”.
New rules and demands
Even in the the news and publishing sector content marketing is challenging the stalwarts like the New York Times, Forbes and the Guardian . Upstarts like Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Digiday, NiemanLab, Viral Nova and 9gag are throwing down the gauntlet to the old guard. They are moving the goalposts and creating new paradigms.
- Hourly news cycles instead of 24 hour news
- Publishing content without editing or proofreading
- Demanding journalists create their own brand and use the social channels for additional distribution
- Requiring social network savvy writers
- Paying journalists for clicks, sharing and traffic and not a salary
- Using technology and mobile platforms to drive article and content distribution
- Curating content and not just just unique content
The 3 types of content sourcing you will need to master
Your biggest challenges will be producing content and it’s distribution. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you don’t have to do it all yourself.
Let’s look at the content creation piece. The 3 “C’s” of content production
- Creation of unique content – Creating great original content is a time consuming challenge. You need inspiration, time and skill. This can be outsourced or done in house, either way this takes time and effort.
- Curation – Curation is finding what content works in your niche and then collecting, curating and adding your own creativity and touch to the content. It could be adding your own voice in the introduction and your take on the the original content. Curation done well can be a powerful form of content marketing. The new breed of online publishers that understand content marketing such as Buzzfeed and Upworthy are in the most part very clever curators that know how to publish and make it easy for content to be shared and go viral on social web. Traditional news publishers such as the New York Times are in a game of catch up!
- Crowdsourced – People love to share their content, whether that is photos, images, videos or content that resonates with them.
Where do you start?
Get management on board. That is the biggest challenge. Without their backing you will be like one legged man in a kickboxing competition.
So selling the potential is paramount. Use case studies, excite and evangelize. You may also need to add a bit of fear. Highlight what the competition are doing, display how start-ups are disrupting.
So what are the key steps?
1. Map out a clear strategy
This means at a high level, understanding your target customers, deciding on what goals you want to achieve and creating and optimizing content across all your digital channels to achieve those goals.
a. Understand your target market
Demographics are a sterile form of way to start to understand your customer. On a social web their “social personas” will be be a “real” and authentic guide. Running surveys on your blog, website and Facebook will also provide insights
The other important way to gain understand is to see what content resonates with your readers. Writing content around their pain points will also allow you to find out what information they are really looking for.
Often you will be surprised
b. Get clarity on your goals
Let’s put this into a sales funnel. Do you want to achieve brand discovery, engage, build followers and subscribers and achieve sales.
You may make just one or two a priority initially. Here are the 5 key stages.
- Discovery – First you have to be discovered
- Engagement – The you will need to see what content engages with your customer. Be prepared to experiment.
- Following and subscribing – If they like what they read and view, they will follow on social networks and subscribe to your email list
- Sales – As credibility and trust is built through online content they will then inquire and become customers
- Raving fans and advocates – Building such loyal customer advocates that they line up to buy or create content about your brand
c. Select the team
Depending on the budget and resources, it maybe in house or external. Free contributors or paid.
d. Select the platform and tools
The tools will vary according to the size of your organisation. At the budget end of the spectrum you will be using a mix of cobbled together free tools that help you create, distribute and measure the success of your content marketing efforts.
- A blogger will use low cost platforms and apps such as WordPress, Mailchimp and Hootsuite. Plugins for WordPress such as Co-Schedule can provide an editorial calendar that helps you create and share your content online
- Small to mid size organisation might use Marketo, Hubspot, Infusionsoft and Ontraport. These are often CRM’s that don’t cost a fortune but allow you to scale your content marketing efforts.
- Larger organisations have a different level of content marketing “at scale” needs that will need Enterprise class platforms and these include software such as provided by Sprinklr, Adobe and Salesforce to name a few.
If you are serious you are going to need a digital marketing platform of some type or a collection of tools that work well together.
e. Map out the 12 month content marketing plan
There are two key types of content marketing plans.
- Campaigns – the one offs every quarter or month or year
- Continuous – the continuous creation of content, posts, tweets and distribution. This will also require setting up an editorial schedule
2. Produce epic content
Don’t underestimate the challenge of feeding the content marketing beast. It will need inspiration and creators.
a.What it will need to do
Content will need to consider a range of different types of engagement.
- Educate – Blog posts that educate
- Entertain – Fun videos that are just plain fun
- Inspire – Make a difference in your customers life by inspiring them to take action
- Inform – Keep them up to date with the latest industry news and trends.
- Convert – Content is a waste of time unless it leads to converting them to customers
Content needs to be created that achieves one or more of these types of engagement
b. The 4 types of media that you will need to consider
- Text – blog posts, whitepapers and ebooks
- Images – Photos, charts etc
- Videos – Youtube, vine and Instagram
- Podcasts – Apple iTunes or other platforms such as SoundCloud
c. How to create content
We mentioned this in the introduction but it can be any of these three.
- Unique content
- Curated contention
- Crowd sourced content eg. Shuttlerock
3. Optimize content for everything
Content needs to be optimized . Here are some of the optimization strategies that need to be part of the content marketing best practice.
- Reading and viewing – This includes a well optimized structure for easy and quick reading
- Search engines – Create a list of 25-50 key phrases that customers will use to find you in a Google search
- For traffic – Traffic is the first thing before engagement so you need to learn about the art of headlines writing and making it easy for people to share your content.
- Conversion – Converting traffic into an email subscriber and buyer means constant testing and experimentation.
- Mobile – If they can’t easily subscribe, read, share on a mobile you could be losing 50% of your customers
4. Market your content everywhere
Content creation is only half the solution for content marketers. You need to “hustle” your content. This means marketing it on on multiple channels.
You aim is to make it move. Pay for traffic or just plain hustle it to online awareness. This includes:
- Social – Build global content distribution by growing your social media networks.
- Email – Grow and use your email list to attract leads and traffic. This can be done with free ebooks and even Facebook.
- Search – Optimizing for search engines is a long term strategy that should start to be done from day one. Eventually it will drive more traffic than social networks to your blog and website. Some research shows that it could be as high as 300% more.
- Referral partnering with online influencers and websites – This tactic can lead to fast and accelerated traffic.
5. Keep experimenting
You will be measuring the success of your content marketing by monitoring website traffic, email subscriber rates and much more. Content marketing is a journey and not a destination.
It will require constant testing and experimentation. Coca Cola use the 70/20/10 ration with 10% of all their content being out their experimentation.
Be prepared to fail cheaply often and fast. The digital and social web allows you to do that without huge expensive investments.
What about you?
What do you need to work on? Do you have the content but no traffic. Is your traffic failing to convert to sales? Do you need to build online distribution for your content.
Look forward to hearing your stories and insights in the comments below.
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