The latest buzzword in the marketing universe is “content marketing.” It seems that everyone with an interest in internet marketing wants to get into the “content marketing” game.
The effect of this savage fight is that the corporate communications executive or marcoms professional is being bombarded by numerous messages from many very excitable people with an ax to grind about their particular brand of content.
Each of these people has a vested interest in explaining how their particular style of content is the most fabulous way to get the corporate message across and drive prospects 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 (again) of SEO is overblown, ad agencies positioning a new wave of ‘native advertising’ and then there are the staunch advocates 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 some 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 began 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 just have 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 potential customers and keeping existing ones happy. By leveraging quality content, an organization can reach the right audience when, where, and how they want to be reached.
3) The world is getting smaller and needs bigger ideas: The rise of ever smaller mobile devices does not 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 engage with your content.
4) Take it day by day: Content should be delivered according to a schedule that supports the business strategy and timeline for launching new initiatives. Your organization should post to your social media platforms according to your business model and some platform-specific guidelines.
5) Great content comes from great ideas – Thinking about what your target audience values when it comes to 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 vacuums 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 your opinion on something they care about. This can be how to optimize your operations or an analysis of business trends. If it can add immediate value to your business, great.
If it makes them think or is a good topic for a business dinner and positions them as experts, 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 could be hitting a home run when it comes to fueling that sales funnel).
B) Mix it up a bit: The idea of posting mixed content has been accepted for so long that it has gray hair on its 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 is appropriate for the platform. So there are 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 must also be appropriate for the channel. It’s no good writing a 400 word comment on Facebook, your reader won’t venture any further unless you give them a very good reason.
This is why headlines are so important. Aside from SEO concerns, a good headline draws the reader in and reinforces the visual content. When in doubt, consult an expert social media copywriter/content provider. They’ll be able to track trends, analyze readers’ areas of interest, 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 issues 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 isn’t a “nice to have” component, it’s a critical requirement.
There are a few ways to ensure 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. It is best 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 to be opinion formers or breakers. Either that, or they’re looking to ride the same trending wave as you. Either way, those blogs are a good place to start looking for content that will get your mental gears spinning.
Where else can you find these leaders and mine their insights for great content?
Aside from blogs, the other social media platforms are great sources of new information. Use Facebook graph search or use Google+ to search for others in your niche and see what they are talking about. By the way, if your business isn’t on Google+, I’d 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, we’ll talk more about 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 everything will revolve around Google+. You want another good reason to be on Google+, local search, and reviews. By simply 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 kind 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) Take advantage of the right space on social networks: 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 associations and even clients, join and join to plumb the depths of industry opinion and get a sense of the kinds of questions being asked. Base your blog articles on these areas of interest.
All of the above are great starting points to establish your business in the social media ecosystem and get 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 the decision is made to outsource social media tasks to a junior member of staff. This rarely, if ever, ends well.
A deep understanding of a business strategy and target market is needed to make the most of social media, and one misstep can seriously damage an organization’s reputation. Senior management will not be able to shoulder the burden, as someone must be at the helm and ensure the revenue machine keeps running.
Whether you like it or loathe it, the solution is extremely simple. If you want to take advantage of the possibilities of fueling 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 missing out on a potential benefit due to the fact that another (often more strategic/urgent/profitable) decision must be made.
These are choices that must be made by small and medium-sized 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 attached to 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. Most likely, they are not completely in sync with your business strategy and the granularity of your targeting, so they will not maximize your opportunities on social media. If you make mistakes on social media, your competition is likely to take advantage.
So find a trusted advisor. Many of them are expert copywriters and even SEO specialists, they are content marketers. Some have great creative marketing and social media skills. Others may be up to date in managing a variety of different channels and supplying 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.