I remember when I thought content and writing were synonymous. As long as you’re writing, you’re producing content, right?
Yes and no.
It may be content, but it isn’t necessarily content marketing. Content marketing requires a lot more than words on a screen, no matter how amazing and creative those words are.
Content marketing has many marketers around the globe, singing its praises as a tool for growing brand leadership, awareness, and loyalty. Of course, for driving the always sought after leads and conversions. According to HubSpot, 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing.
In the Caribbean, however, content marketing is still finding its feet but our marketers understand the value it has to offer.
What exactly is content marketing?
Content is the foundation of the Internet. If there wasn’t content out there that entertained or answered our questions, search engines wouldn’t have anything search through and recommend.
While a lot falls under the content umbrella, not all of it is content marketing.
Content marketing is a strategic approach to producing and sharing relevant content that educates, entertains, builds trust, and forms a connection with a particular audience. It utilises content in different forms − blog posts, videos, infographics, podcasts, etc. − to build a stronger relationship with that audience, to capture their attention, get them to engage, and improve recall and perception of your brand.
Content allows your brand to showcase expertise and personality. When customers read, watch or listen to the content you share, they develop an opinion about your company. If they find your content valuable and engaging, they’ll think the same about your brand. The long-term goal is for those who are brought into the funnel by your content to eventually become paying customers.
There are some great benefits to content marketing:
- Improved SEO − consistent content creation helps your website get indexed for more pages.
- Strong brand awareness.
- Increased site traffic − research shows that businesses that create consistent content generate over seven times more website traffic than those who don’t use content.
- Creating an audience that will be with you for the long-term.
- Building trust with your audience − in research conducted by the Content Marketing Institute, 81% of B2B marketers in 2020 said that building trust was a goal, up from 68% two years ago.
- Where your ads may be blocked because of adblockers, good content can still reach your audience.
- Data collection. Content such as webinars or downloadable templates that require users to submit some information to access can help you grow a list of potential leads.
Something that’s important to remember when it comes to B2B content marketing: the effects are not instantaneous.
Good things take time! Think of content marketing as a long-haul flight, it’s not a quick trip, but it’s worth it as a way to create enduring visibility of your brand in the digital space.
Moz refers to content marketing as an example of flywheel marketing. It’s hard to get the wheel rolling right off the bat, but eventually, it turns on its own with less effort and continues to generate results
Now that you have a better understanding of content marketing and what it can do for your business, we need to get into the nitty-gritty of how to get started.
So, what do you need?
1. A plan
This goes without saying, right?
Successful content marketing starts with a plan and clearly defined goals.
Let’s not even get into metrics like website traffic or engagement rate on social yet. We’re talking about macro goals.
Your content marketing doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It should be tied to the overall goals of your marketing department, which come down from the top-line company goals.
Think about the ways the content you’re aiming to create can help your business.
Your content marketing goals could be to increase brand awareness, to build company thought-leadership, or to improve your website ranking. Knowing your goals enables you to better plan the types of content you’re going to produce and promote.
The production and promotion of your content also require planning. You should be strategic in the topics you choose, the types of assets you produce, and where and how you promote.
Blogs and videos are two of the most common content types that businesses produce.
Websites with blogs get an average of 55% more traffic than those without.
Video is an extremely effective form of content and is the most popularly consumed type on social media. Consider this: across social media, video generates 1200% more shares than both text and image content. It’s no wonder marketers love videos. What’s also great is that you don’t necessarily have to fork out tons on hefty production fees. There’s an increasing trend showing consumer preference for authenticity over immaculate production value.
Aside from video and blogs, there are many different types of content that you can create:
- White papers
- Case studies
As you build your content strategy, take into account the channels you intend to use, the kinds of content you plan to produce, and the resources you’ll need to execute consistently.
For example, will you be starting a blog? If so, how many blog posts will you be sharing per week or per month? Do you have a writer on staff to handle the creation of these posts from research to publishing or will you be outsourcing?
In 2020, virtual events such as webinars really gained ground as the COVID-19 pandemic forced marketers everywhere to pivot. Are webinars something you would like to implement? If so, then you’ll need to look at the human resources and digital tools you’ll need to pull them off.
Having a plan doesn’t mean that you build yourself a stiff wooden box that you can’t get out of. Content marketing, digital marketing on a whole, is a beast that requires agility. Be open to testing and experimentation, look at your data and see what’s working, what’s not, and tweak accordingly.
Internal factors aren’t the only thing to take into consideration. Think about what’s happening in the outside world. COVID-19 meant that marketers had to shift in unprecedented ways.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, in a survey, more than half the marketers polled changed their messaging strategy, and 70% adjusted their editorial calendars, because of the pandemic.
Social movements such as Black Lives Matter required careful handling of content and auditing to determine if what was scheduled to go out made sense in the social climate.
Just remember that when you make changes to your strategy, you should also go back to your KPIs and ensure that they align.
2. A clear audience
The content you produce for your content marketing efforts shouldn’t be trying to satisfy everyone. Your content needs to be aimed at a specific target audience. You will need to craft a clear buyer persona: who do you want this content to reach, how old is your audience, what are their concerns, interests, where do they spend their time online?
Producing content without knowing who you intend to consume it is like getting dressed in the dark. Without a clear understanding of your target audience, how can you create content that they want?
I know that with this blog post, I’m trying to reach an audience of marketing professionals.
Let us imagine that the buyer persona I’m targeting is named Anna. Anna is a 29-year-old digital marketing specialist. Anna spends her time on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. She’s looking for ideas to build brand awareness for the company where she works.
Good content marketing is born out of a deep understanding of the target audience you want to reach.
Defining a target audience helps you to produce content that will resonate with them.
Knowing your audience also allows you to make better decisions regarding the channels you use to share your content, and the types you produce.
3. A purpose
When creating content, keep in mind what you want to share and be known for (which goes back to your overall goals).
Don’t put content out just for the sake of it.
Consumers have more power than ever over what they chose to read, share, like, and otherwise engage with. Let’s face it, there’s so much content out there, your audience doesn’t have to spend time looking at your posts on social media or reading your blog posts. Aim to offer real, tangible value to your target audience. Trust in advertising and consumer tolerance for interruptive content is lower than ever. Your content allows you to avoid the obvious sell and to share knowledge and insights, entertain and forge a connection with your audience.
Brands like Hubspot and Hootsuite are known for their useful marketing content.
Nike’s content often focuses on the social concerns of their audience and bringing people together through sports.
Audiences are seeking out brands that bring value and connect with them. It’s not enough to think about your brand, product, or what the company wants to say. Driving tangible value for the audience has never been more important.
Don’t forget, quality beats quantity any day of the week.
4. A promotion strategy
You have a goal, a plan, you know your audience, and you’ve started to work on your content ideas, that’s all great stuff. You have to also think about how you’re going to promote this content.
Tailor your content to the channel you’re sharing it on. We don’t interact with every platform in the same way, and content doesn’t perform the same across all channels. What people expect to see on LinkedIn and what works well on that platform is different from what works on Instagram or Twitter.
Text posts, for example, still perform very well on LinkedIn, and the LinkedIn algorithm will promote a native SlideShare post more than it will a link that takes people away from that network. This platform is a great place to share more in-depth information and have focused, professional discussions.
On Instagram, images are king. People are also expecting more laidback content, so it’s a great place to not only share tips, information, and products but to share a slice of company life.
Twitter is fast-paced with each tweet having a shelf-life of around 20 minutes. You’ll need to post more on this platform than on Facebook, for example.
All social media channels have their own personality, so be prepared to vary your approach accordingly.
You have to analyse the performance of the content you’ve created to see how well it’s meeting its goals.
With your analysis, you’ll scrutinise the metrics of your choice. Some metrics you might want to track include:
- Social referrals − which networks are sending the most traffic to your website? Knowing where your referral traffic is coming from will show you which channels are working best for your business. Use UTM parameters with your links on social so share so you can track where your traffic is coming from.
- Average time on page
- Goal completions − newsletter sign-up, ebook downloads, etc.
- Follower growth
- Engagement rate
The specific metrics you track will come down to the goals that you’ve set for your content.
If you’re aiming for brand awareness, you might be looking at metrics such as follower growth on social media. If you’re more focused on moving people down the funnel and capturing data, then you might focus on leads generated from eBook downloads, newsletter sign-ups, or contact forms for a webinar.
The insights you gather will help you to adjust your content to meet the needs of your audience better. Proper analysis of website and social media metrics can tell you who you’re reaching, what they’re engaging with and finding useful and what they’re not.
Don’t forget to be human.
Think about how you can bring your staff into the mix. Chances are that you have internal experts who really know their stuff. Leveraging their knowledge in the content creation process highlights not only the company as an industry expert but the staff as well, which only strengthens your position.
Integrating your staff in your content creation efforts helps to show the human side of your brand. The company is not longer a faceless collection of products or services, but your audience can see the talented people who work with you!
And there you go, your quick start guide to getting started with content marketing!
Stephanie Koathes is a Digital Content Production Specialist with Imagine Digital. She’s been writing up a storm since childhood. Now she’s blog writer, editor, and content organiser by day and wannabe baker by night. She can proudly quote the Lord of the Rings and has too many cats.