The latest buzzwords in the marketing universe are “content marketing.” It seems that everyone with an interest in internet marketing wants to get in on the “content marketing” game.
The effect of this wild fight is that the corporate communications executive or marcoms professional is being bombarded with numerous messages from many very excitable people with an ax to grind on their particular brand of content.
Each of these people has a vested interest in explaining how their particular style of content is the greatest way to get your corporate message across and drive potential customers into engagement, which is the first step in fueling that sales funnel.
You have PR professionals promoting their products, SEO professionals loudly proclaiming that the demise of SEO (again) is overblown, ad agencies positioning a new wave of ‘native advertising’ and then there are the staunch defenders of traditional campaigns over the top. of the line.
The most logical way to deal with a feeding frenzy is to simply get out of the water onto dry land. Stepping away from the incessant calls to action around the promise of content marketing, it’s possible to come to a few simple conclusions, including:
1) What goes around comes around: The demand for quality content is nothing new. Good content has always been valuable. Ever since Ugg started marketing that new ‘wheel’, communications people have always known that delivering the right messages to the right audiences is a fundamental requirement of any marketing outreach.
2) Stick to the tried and tested – New channels don’t always mean you need to reinvent your marketing messages, you may simply need to rethink how you present them (video, images, infographics, and copy all working together to provide a rich, unique and engaging experience). Social media holds great promise for engaging with potential customers and keeping existing ones happy. By leveraging quality content, an organization can reach the right audience when, where, and how it wants to be targeted.
3) The world is getting smaller and needs bigger ideas: The rise of smaller and smaller mobile devices doesn’t mean there should be a consequent reduction in content, in fact, it means that content may simply have to adapt to take into account how mobile devices are used. People can scroll, but you need to give them a reason to interact with your content.
4) Take it day by day: Content should be delivered according to a schedule that supports business strategy and timeline for launching new initiatives. Your organization should post to your social media platforms in accordance with your business model and some platform-specific guidelines.
5) Great content comes from great ideas – Thinking about what your target audience values in terms of content is a good first step. Studies have shown that smart audiences share many of the same likes and dislikes. Interestingly, it doesn’t matter if you sell vacuum cleaners or heart valves, the general rules are the same.
A) Content may be king, but the real partner is value-add – give your target audience inside information or their opinion on something they care about. This can be how to optimize your operations or an analysis of business trends. If you can add immediate value to your business, great.
If it makes them think or makes a good topic for a business dinner and positions them as an expert, you are definitely on the right track with your content. If they share it with people in a similar demographic, then you’re in the ballpark (in fact, you might be lining up a home run when it comes to fueling that sales funnel).
B) Mix it up a bit: The idea of posting varied content has been accepted for so long that you’ve got gray in your virtual beard, but the principle remains sound. Give some thought to how your target audience will use your content and the platform where you are posting the content. Any content provider needs to think strategically, this is important.
Always choose content that will resonate with your target audience and that is appropriate for the platform. So no LOLcats for authorized accounts or financial institutions. Infographics are great, as are videos, images are fine too, but don’t ignore creative and engaging copy.
The impact of the visual elements of your content will be enhanced by adding good copy. Keep in mind that great copy should also be channel appropriate. It is not good to write a 400 word comment on Facebook, your reader will not venture further unless you give them a very good reason.
That’s why headlines are so important. In addition to SEO concerns, a good title draws the reader in and reinforces the visual content. If in doubt, consult an expert social media content provider/copywriter. They will be able to track trends, analyze reader interest areas and make strong recommendations on how your brand can extend its influence.
6) A Space of Your Own – It seems like everyone has a blog these days, a place where they can let their hair down and talk about those deeply important topics that affect their everyday lives. That’s just fabulous; everyone should have an outlet for their creative impulses.
When it comes to businesses building an online presence, a blog is not a “nice to have” component, it’s a fundamental requirement.
There are a few ways to ensure that your content is interesting and informative, and perhaps most importantly, provide your target audience with information that will keep them coming back to your blog again and again.
A) Keep monitoring the trends. Sites like technorati.com are great places to stay on top of social media trends. Find out what people are talking about and you can ride that wave with new content for your blog. The best thing is to learn to think laterally.
B) Follow the Leader – Keep an eye out for influencers in your industry. Do a search for industry blogs and take a look at what they are saying. They are most likely opinion makers or game changers. Either that, or they are looking to ride the same trend wave as you. Either way, those blogs are a good place to start looking for content that will get your mental gears turning.
Where else can you find these leaders and mine their opinions for great content?
Aside from blogs, the other social media platforms are great sources of new information. Use Facebook’s graphical search or use Google+ to search for others in your niche and see what they’re talking about. By the way, if your business is not on Google+, I would go there soon.
Google is the gorilla in the sandbox when it comes to search and your business simply has to have a presence. People who say it’s not as popular as Facebook or LinkedIn (for business owners, more on this great social media asset later) are simply not very good at spotting trends. Google is linking almost every part of the online experience, and it’s all going to revolve around Google+. Want another good reason to be on Google+, local search, and reviews. Just by raising the profile of your local business, you are increasing your chances of attracting business dramatically.
C) You have a sales team – get their input on the type of questions your customers and prospects are asking. If you can answer them on your blog, then you have an idea of great content.
7) Leverage the right space on social media – Know your target demographic. If you are a B2B business, use LinkedIn. LinkedIn gives you access to vast amounts of information. LinkedIn Groups are a fantastic source of connection, potential business partnerships, and even clients, join in and join in to plumb the depths of industry opinion and get a sense of the type of questions being asked. Base your blog articles on these areas of interest.
All of the above are great starting points for establishing your business in the social media ecosystem and getting ideas to get the creativity flowing. However, there is a fly in the ointment. Maintaining a blog is hard work and it will take up your time. That is if you don’t have a dedicated content provision and social media resource.
Very few small and medium-sized businesses can afford to have someone oversee social media full-time, unless a decision is made to turn social media tasks over to a junior staff member. This rarely, if ever, ends well.
It takes a thorough understanding of a business strategy and target market to get the most out of social media, and one misstep can seriously damage an organization’s reputation. Senior management will not be able to shoulder the load, as someone must steer the helm and ensure the revenue machine keeps running.
Like it or hate it, the solution is extremely simple. If you want to take advantage of the possibilities of feeding the sales funnel, you will have to outsource the management of your social media presence. This way you won’t fall prey to negative opportunity costs. In essence, an opportunity cost is the cost of losing a potential benefit due to the fact that another (often more strategic/urgent/profitable) decision must be made.
These are choices to be made by small and medium business owners around the world. If you are the man or woman at the top, are you more concerned with generating real income? Is your sales team pounding the pavement or with a smartphone plugged into their ears? In these highly competitive times they should be.
So who deals with social media real estate? -Don’t make it the responsibility of the lowest person on the scale of her business. Chances are, they’re not completely in step with your business strategy and the granularity of your targeting, so they won’t maximize your social media opportunities. If you make mistakes on social media, chances are your competition will take advantage.
So find a trusted adviser. Many of them are expert copywriters and even SEO specialists, they are content marketing specialists. Some have great creative marketing and social media skills. Others may be up to date on managing a variety of different channels and providing metrics and measurement data.
Heck, if you’re lucky, you’ll have a group of people who can do it all. The best news is that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.