Content marketing, huh, yeah. What is it good for? Absolutely everything!
From debunking some myths about your products through to simply driving more traffic to your website, content marketing has proved to be a tool that brands can’t afford to ignore.
It’s a versatile beast, giving brands the opportunity to communicate with their audience in an unobtrusive way, which gives it an immediate leg-up on more traditional marketing methods.
Falling by the wayside are those irritating spam emails, alongside click-baiting banner ads, and in their place comes something wholly more productive for the customer.
The hard sell rarely hits the mark in this day and age, with customers with device in hand ready to see if your claims measure up to reality. Enter content marketing, with its more subtle approach giving your audience the impression you are writing not to simply tell them what they want to hear, but because they have a need for the information.
We should clarify, however, you should not just give the impression that your content is helpful – that’s exactly what it should be if it’s shares that you’re after. People just aren’t going to distribute content which at its heart shouts “Buy me! – leave that for the more explicit means of advertising.
That idea forms the first pointer of our content marketing guide, in which we draw upon some of the most successful practices that are being used today, alongside re-examining the advice imparted at the beginning of the content marketing journey.
Perhaps you’ve yet to delve into the world of content? If that’s you, consider this your starter pack:
Identify your audience’s needs
Over the last decade, people have been increasingly turning to the internet to solve their day-to-day problems, as well as to find an answer to more complicated issues. Content marketing gives brands a chance to be a “lifesaver”, providing the answers to questions posed by their target audience.
How can they do that, exactly? Like so many things, it all comes down to listening. A notable development since we entered the industry many moons ago is the creation of social media listening tools; and second up (and always to be relied upon) is Google´s Keyword Planner.
Listening with social tools
Social media monitoring comes in various forms: it can be simply the process of identifying and assessing what is being said about a company, individual, product or brand on the internet, or it can be a little more insightful -helping brands get an understanding of which concerns and information needs its customers have.
To facilitate this, there are dozens of social media listening tools available at your disposal. Some websites will see fit to tell you about every single one of them, but that can prove pretty overwhelming for brands that are just starting out. How about five to get you going?
- Google Alerts: Although not comprehensive, Google Alerts is a simple way to get an idea of when websites are posting about you. However, it doesn’t cover social media or blog sites.
- Hootsuite/TweetDeck: Both these tools offer you a way to keep abreast of when someone tweets about you on Twitter, as it´s often not a case of just searching for your hashtag or Twitter handle.
- Icerocket: Specialises in blog searches, but also comes with a “big buzz” option which captures activity on Facebook, Twitter, and image sites such as Flickr too.
- Social Mention: Does what it says on the tin – you´ll see results from Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Photobucket, etc.
- Topsy: Similar to the others listed, but it places an onus on social media.
Of course, there are other means of discovering your audience’s problem points – namely through surveys and feedback sections on your website, but people are often at their most honest on social media.
Even if you’re a little apprehensive as to what you will find – about your brand/products, for instance – don´t bury your head in the sand.
Tell your story
Alongside trying to satisfy the needs of your customers, don’t be scared to get a little personal once in a while. Telling your story presents your target customers with a clear idea about the principles your firm stands for; your long-term objectives; and how your business can add value to their lives.
You’ll first need to first make sure your story is one worth telling, but it’s rare to come across a business that doesn’t have something interesting going on in its backstory.
It’s not called the “art” of storytelling for no reason, though, so you´ll need to make sure you´re writing with enough flair to engage your readers from the off. If the thought of writing creatively makes you quiver a little, here are a few tips to keep your audience engaged, provided in part by Adweek:
1. Make it personal
Whether it is at the cinema or in a book, most of us go in search of a story that we can connect with. It´s impossible to accumulate your readers’ memories, of course, but there are certain things that resonate with nearly all of us. How about a coming-of-age story, for starters? That might just tug on the heartstrings of customers accordingly.
2. Don´t be afraid to be different
From a young age we’re told to embrace the unique parts of a personality – so apply some of those distinctive qualities here. All brands are working towards the same objectives, but you don’t want your customers to spot a marketing tool from a mile off, so it´s crucial that you´re able to bring something new to the table.
3. Forget your products for a minute
Of course you want the campaign to draw attention to your products, but you can´t allow this to detract from the story you are trying to tell. It doesn’t hurt to leave the product pages alone for one article a month. Consider this: a reader apathetic to your brand might still feel implored to share a good story even if what you’re offering is of no interest to them. It’s unlikely to draw a similar reaction if you go in for the hard sell.
4. Invite your customers to share their story
As you bring your story to a close, ask customers to respond with a similar experience they have encountered. Not only will this incite engagement, it may just provide you with a tale that you can then go on re-tell to the rest of your followers. Don’t just tell a story for the sake of it, though -make sure it aligns with your brand values and principles.
Promote your content with social media
This brings us on nicely to the third pillar of a content marketing campaign: social media. You can pour hours into the writing of a magnificent piece of content, but it can all be in vain if it then sits on your website whistling to itself.
Social media comes into its own when it comes to exposure and engagement, but again, there are ways and means of ensuring your methods of promotion are most effective. Your approach will naturally become more sophisticated the longer you spend on the platform, but there are tactics you should be implementing from the start.
Content curation online marketing software, Curata, offers-up a pretty comprehensive rundown of the most effective ways to utilise social media to see your content take off. Here´s some of the methods we´ve found work best:
1. Write eye-catching headlines
A really good headline can spike your traffic by 500%, according to viral content website Upworthy. It’s little surprise really, given the sheer amount of content that fills your customers’ timelines.
It’s a statistic that will likely dishearten the writers out there, but it’s hard to argue with figures, so giving headlines their due attention is a must. Quick Sprout says short and sweet titles rarely miss the mark. It even goes as far as to suggest the perfect length for a headline (six words), whilst advising that throwing a number into the mix (“Top Ten Best…”) should do the trick.
2. Share at the optimum times
Bear in mind that different social media platforms may not have the same peak times. For example, according to an infographic from Bridg, Facebook has its strongest engagement on weekdays, whereas Twitter engagement goes up 30% on the weekends.
Be careful not to take these sorts of findings as read, though – you’re much better off finding out for yourself when your followers are at their most active. Sure, it’ll mean a period of trial and error, but the outcome will be far better.
3. Continue to share successful content
There are numerous data studies that suggest you can be more effective by promoting the same content multiple times in social media. We’d argue that you should save this tactic for your most read content, however – perhaps through a weekly “Our most popular piece of content this week” post.
It´s a chance for your followers to catch up on any content they´ve missed, too, as the unfortunate fact is that social media users don´t see most of your social media posts.
4. Ask questions
What do you think the benefits of doing so are? A question almost forces readers to offer their opinions on the discussion at hand; chances are a handful of them will want to make their thoughts known. Whilst being a good way to generate engagement, a question is also a smart way of receiving some feedback from customers.
We´re a bit sad to say it, but it isn’t all about the written word these days. Instagram, which now boasts 300 million active users, is as good proof as any that we´re fast becoming an image-orientated species.
As we detailed in a previous blog, image optimisation is a whole guide-worthy area within itself, but there´s little point in tuning up your images if you don´t pick the right ones in the first place. Forbes´ Jayson DeMers says there are several good ways to use images in your content strategy. Here´s what he suggests:
- Blog images. Located in the header or spaced throughout the text, blog images paint a picture of what the reader can expect to see in the main body of the text, whilst showcasing the blog on social media channels, too. If the image is funny, pretty, or surprising in some way, all the better.
- Product images. Need we explain why this is necessary? Just make sure each image is high-quality, to really show off the glorious object that is your product.
- Infographics. They take some serious time and effort (not to mention skill), but the end result could make it more than worthwhile. Infographics spread like wild fire, as they can be published without much in the way of an introduction – a publisher’s dream!
That concludes our content marketing starter pack. I know, we’ve failed to mention content measuring tools, SEO, evergreen articles, mobile compatibility, videos… the list goes on. Who´s to say that a more comprehensive guide isn´t in the offing? In the meantime, check out the rest of our blog for more in the way of content marketing tips.