cm2014Are you struggling with developing your 2014 content marketing strategy?  Are you re-evaluating your 2013 content marketing plan and wondering where you can make improvements?  Designing and implementing an effective content strategy will help marketers get more from their content marketing efforts.   Marketers will successfully expand their read and broadcast their brand’s content through numerous digital channels.  The following tips will help content marketers develop a 2014 content marketing plan that will plug all those holes in last year’s strategy.

Generate Content Your Customers Care About  

Creating content your customers actually care about is the key to driving engagement with that content.  To increase engagement with your content, marketers must learn more about their customers:  who they are, what they want and why they buy products and services from your company.  The more you know about your customers, the more effective your marketing message becomes. Tools like Compete and Quantcast help marketers research consumer behavior, and Appinions helps marketers “identify prominent themes and influencer opinions that inform and define content.”  With these tools, marketers can gather valuable data that will prove extremely useful for developing an effective content marketing strategy.

To increase the effectiveness of your content marketing, perform research designed to determine the type of content your customers find engaging.  This type of research can be done by simply evaluating content engagement on your brand’s current social networks.  In addition to evaluating your own social networks, you’ll also want to monitor your top 5 competitors’ social networks to determine the types of content their audience engages with the most.  Carma, a paid social media monitoring tool, helps brands evaluate their areas of strengths and weaknesses in addition to evaluating the brand’s competitive positioning and message penetration.  Carma also provides a wealth of data that will help content marketers develop great content that resonates with their audience.

Tracking and monitoring keywords and hashtags related to your industry is another great way to determine the types of content your customers care about.  Tools like SproutSocial and Social Monitor help marketers improve on their social listening so they can track, in real time, what social media users are saying about any topic.

Perform a Content Audit

The backbone of any successful content strategy is a content audit.  Before developing any new content, marketers should perform a qualitative analysis of their current content.   Performing a content audit means marketers determine if their current content is as effective as they would like for it to be.  Marketers will learn: (1) which content is the most successful (2) the type of content that doesn’t speak to your brand’s audience, and  (3) where there are holes in your current content strategy.

Collecting data related to the performance of your current content can be a bit tedious; however, a thorough content audit is a necessary if marketers want to avoid repeating yesterday’s failures.  Tools like Simply Measured and Social Bakers generate robust social analytics reports that will help marketers track important data.   Your content audit should answer the following questions:

  1. What content does our brand already have?
  2. Where is this content coming from?
  3. Can our customers find our content?
  4. How is our content performing?
  5. Does this content accurately reflect our brand’s promise?
  6. Does this content need to be updated?

While performing a content audit, pay close attention to the tone of your content.  You’ll also want to note any missed opportunities you have discovered, like: missing calls-to-action, missing share buttons or broken links in blog posts.

Analyzing content metrics is an important step in a content audit.  Tracking various metrics will help content marketers build a comprehensive audit that will assist them in developing an effective content strategy.  Tracking social metrics like shares, likes, engagement, inbound links, conversions, and search engine placements will help marketers determine how, if at all, their brand’s content resonates with the brand’s customers.

Find Fresh Content Ideas

Generating fresh content day after day can be quite taxing.  Content marketers often find themselves staring at a blank monitor, their mind completely void of any content worth posting.  Being prepared, in advance, with content will keep this stalemate from happening.

If generating new content ideas is your job, you should make social listening tools your new best friend.  Meltwater is a social listening tool that helps marketers track popular topics and the influencers who drive those conversations. By tracking popular conversations about your competitors, content marketers can develop content that piggybacks off those topics, effectively pulling traffic from your competitors’ social networks to your brand’s online community.

Brainstorming sessions with members of your marketing team is also a great way to generate fresh content ideas.  Recruiting coworkers from sales, IT and even Human Resources to participate in these brainstorming sessions will help generate content ideas you probably never even thought about.  Using a tool like Evernote to record these brainstorming sessions, then sharing your notes with the entire company, can help generate even more content ideas. A collaborative approach to content development often leads to a wealth of content ideas that marketers can build on week after week.

Promote Your Content

You’ve performed your content audit, researched content ideas, optimized your content for search, and developed content you believe your brand’s audience will enjoy.  Now what?  Establishing a content distribution plan will help marketers drive traffic and content engagement.

Social media publishing tools like Post Planner, Zapier and will help content marketers automate repetitive content marketing tasks, making marketers more productive and efficient.  Publishing tools save time and help marketers deliver content consistently and efficiently.  Post Planner allows marketers to target their posts based on gender, age and level of education.

Using channels other that social media to drive content sharing is another effective strategy for promoting your brand’s content.  Email marketing is a great content distribution tool.  A weekly e-newsletter promoting “can’t miss” content is an effective way to generate interest in your brand’s recently published blog posts, videos, Infographics and podcasts.