Content Marketing Series

content marketing

Content Marketing – Here is a step-by-step plan to drive successful content marketing for your brand.

A few years ago, I was contracted by an influencer platform to write a content marketing plan for their blog.  That platform has been acquired and the plan is no longer available on the web.  Thus, I am sharing the content marketing plan with you on my blog.

The following articles provide a step-by-step methodology for content marketing to yield great results:

 

Content 101: Content Marketing Goals and Objectives

Content 102: Determining your Target Audience for Content

Content 103: Leveraging Your Brand Position to Produce Compelling Content

Content 104: Social Audits to Drive Content Marketing

Content 105: Messaging Strategy Before Content Strategy

Content 106: Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

Content 107: How Do You Know Your Content Will Pay Dividends

Content 108: Content Marketing Metrics

Content 109: The Power of Orchestrated UGC – (User Generated Content)

Content 110: Earned Media – Finding Influencers to Distribute your Content

Content 111: What Does It Mean to Produce Data Driven Content?

Content 112: How to Determine Which Content is Driving Success for Your Brand

 

Make It Happen!
Social Steve

 

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Content 101: Content Marketing Goals and Objectives

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Nike was wrong … you shouldn’t “Just Do It.”  At least that is the case when it comes to business decisions.  More often than not, people just jump into the latest business trend without having set, defined goals and objectives.

In the past year, 57% of marketers reported custom content was their top marketing priority for 2014 (Altimeter Group, 2014) and at the same time 70% of marketers said they lacked a consistent or integrated content strategy. (Altimeter Group, 2014).  Just look at the abundance of poor content marketing you see on any given day as you get your daily dose of digital media.

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The goal of content marketing is simple … it is to gain awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy for your product or service.  The content marketing goal is complicated by the fact that most consumers and business clients are turned off by blatant advertorial like media interruptions pushed upon them in a form of content.  (This is not to say that your audience won’t appreciate ads that give them a discount or something of value – just don’t trick them by advertorial content doing so, but intermittently provide ads in your social channels.) Thus, the objective of content marketing is to accomplish the goal, but do so in a subtle way that does not feel like your brand is pushing your drug.

There are two forms of content that people appreciate to the point that it is so compelling that they may actually share it with their own family, friends, and/or colleagues.  The first type is entertaining content whether in the form of a nicely written story, amazing picture, or enjoyable video.  Brands need to think more like an author, photojournalist, or producer as opposed to an advertiser.  The marketing department needs to evolve to be part media department, writing and producing pleasurable content.  This content can have soft brand undertones, but should really aim for entertaining the audience.  Let the content be associated to your brand, not specifically about your brand.

The second form of content that will be compelling to your audience is informational and helpful.  Have you identified problems your audience has?  Areas you can provide guidance and help?  Be a continuous helping hand to your audience.  They will value your content.  They will develop brand preference and loyalty because you are adding to an overall user experience they find useful.  Thus you become worthy of their business.  The information content works like a whitepaper in some sense.  It recognizes or states a problem and then provides a solution.  The brand can be subtly mentioned and hinted to be part of the solution.  But once again, subtleness is key.

Your content execution must be driven by a strategy that answers content marketing goals and objectives.  Know what success will look like ahead of time.  Then measure results to determine if you are successful.

I will explain all the steps to deliver a winning content marketing program for your brand in this series on Content Marketing.  While creating content is an art, defining the topics of coverage, distribution points, and potential partners for the content is a science.  You just need the right tools.  Equal parts of art and science yield excellence.

 

Make It Happen!

Social Steve

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Content 102: Determining your Target Audience for Content

cm102.pngBefore you start your content marketing efforts (or adjust if you are already producing content) you need to explicitly define whom you are talking to and engaging with.  Hopefully you have identified the brand target audience as part of your overall marketing strategy and plan.  But that is not necessarily the same audience for your content marketing.

Your content marketing target audience is likely a subset of your brand target audience.  There are two key criteria.  First off, your entire brand target audience may not participate in the platforms and networks where content is or can be distributed.  Make sure you understand the digital behaviors of the entire brand audience and segment demographics with relationship to their digital activity.

Secondly, your content may need not aim at all digital participants.  Maybe your strategy and supporting plan is focused on brand category influencers.  Maybe it is prudent for others to spread the word and call attention to your brand.  Make sure you have clearly defined goals and objectives (link to content 101) and that your content is aimed at an appropriate audience to yield successful results.

Evaluate your content target market in groupings starting with the ideal customer (or influencer) and then branch out.

customer audience

You want your position, message, and content to appeal to that ideal customer, but at the same time you want to attract a large enough audience to meet the required scale for business profitability.  If we use the archery target as a metaphor, how far off the center circle do you need to address to win the right number of customers/clients/influencers while not watering down your content such that it is not compelling to the ideal group?  You need to balance a desire to capture a large audience and at the same time remain most compelling to the bull’s eye limited audience.

Once you have identified your content strategy based upon your goals and objectives, and have defined your content target audience then you can define the subjects and topics that will attract the most attention.  There are hundreds of issues and dozens of angles you can take with every new blog post, white paper, or webinar.  Choosing what to write about is a big investment of time and energy, and (in some cases) promotional dollars too.

You can drive great results in your content marketing efforts if you go about it the right way.  Step 1 – define your goals and objectives.  Step 2 – make sure you have clearly defined whom you want to speak to and engage with.  In the next blog post, we will discuss “How to Leverage (and not to) your Brand Position and Value Proposition with your Content Marketing.”

 

Make It Happen!

Social Steve

 

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Content 103: Leveraging Your Brand Position to Produce Compelling Content

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Before you start to distribute your next piece of content ask yourself, “Is this media supporting your brand position?”  What is the purpose of content if it does not reinforce what you stand for?

Content marketing is one function within the marketing department.  All marketers in the organization should understand their brand’s position.  Consider the following positioning template:

  • For …………….………… [target customer]
  • Who ……………….……. [key qualifier – form]
  • Our product is a ….. [product category]
  • That provides ………. [key benefit]
  • Unlike ………………….. [main competitor]
  • Our product ……….… [key point of differentiation]

The purpose of the positioning statement is 1) to know exactly who you are, 2) to do a gut check on your knowledge of your target customer and validation that you really deliver them value, and 3) to make sure you have distinct differentiation relative to your competition.  It is not something you specifically communicate.  Establishing a positioning statement validates you have something truly compelling.  The late Peter Drucker once stated, “In most American companies, Marketing still means no more than systematic selling rather than its true meaning: Knowing what is VALUE for the customer!”

But wait.  We are not finished.  If you simply produce content that is all about pushing your position, it might not be compelling to your audience.  In Content 102, we talked about determining the target audience for your content.  Your content must address interests of that audience.

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Content generation that yields best results moves your audience to consideration and loyalty for your product/service AND resonates with your audience.  Thus winning content is the intersection of what the brand stands for and what the audience values.

If you really want to leverage your brand, position, and content marketing, lets go just a bit deeper and consider the importance of social sharing and advocacy.  The relationship between brand content and social marketing is captured in the diagram below:

brand content

Brand

The brand is at the core of it all.  A brand is the “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers” according to the American Marketing Association dictionary.

 

Content

As previously noted, winning content is the intersection of what the brand stands for and what the audience values.  Brand content should address specific areas of interest for the target market and not necessarily talk about the brand or product/service.  The topics covered should be tangentially related to brand offerings.  Compelling content provides a reason for people to share some aspect of the brand.

 

Sharing

Content sharing is part of everyday life and if the content that is shared is associated with the brand, that increases brand awareness and word of mouth marketing.  Do not under estimate the importance of content as part of the marketing and social media strategies and plans.

When you have compelling content it makes it easier to engage with your audience.  You can mention references to your content as similar topics come up in conversation.  This starts the sharing momentum.

From a tactical perspective, make sure the content is easy to share. Consider social buttons and widgets incorporated on all communication and content.

 

Advocates

As you start to see content getting shared, you will find specific people that actively share brand content pieces on a regular basis.  These people represent potential brand advocates.  Make sure you reached out to them … it may be as simple as saying thanks.  Engage with them one on one.  Learn more about the issues and topics that matter to them. Advocates are not only the greatest ambassadors of brands, but they also help shape the brand such that it is stronger and of greater value for your target audience.

 

Don’t just write content.  Make sure it is a reflection of your brand.  Make sure it will be compelling to your target audience.  Research topics that are trending and resonate with your audience.

 

Make It Happen.

Social Steve

 

 

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Content 104: Social Audits to Drive Content Marketing

cm104.pngIf you want your content to yield positive marketing and business results, you need to make sure the topics you write about resonate with your audience.  If you really want to drive positive results, you need to do some pre-work audits to determine 1) memes your audience is interested in and 2) topics your competition is covering.

But it is not just about the actual content you produce that guarantees success.  You need to make sure your content gets distributed in the right places to maximize brand exposure.  This also requires an audit.

There are three types of audits to be performed to help to produce optimal content as well as audience engagement with the content.  Lets look at these three areas:

 

Social Meme Audit

A meme is the key themes and topics that drive the relevant conversations for a brand’s business.  A Social Meme Audit identifies the themes and topics.  Focus on themes and topics that are consistently repeated and shared.  The Appinions platform helps you search for these memes by adding your brand name and product/service brand category to a query.

Research the number of times topics and entities (brands, countries, applications, etc.) are mentioned, as well as the top individual conversationalists and hashtags used.  The insights gleaned from the Social Meme Audit are combined with an understanding of the brand and marketing objectives to yield input into your content strategy.

 

Social Channel Audit

The Social Channel Audit identifies the specific channels on which the conversations relevant to the brand’s business are taking place.  It also determines which channels are attracting the most engagement from the brand’s target audience segments.  Moreover, it specifies where the conversations relevant to the brand’s business are occurring.

But you can even take it one step further and see who are the influencers of the topics whether they are individuals or organizations.

The outcome of this part of the audit is used to determine where your content should be distributed.  It also helps you identify the people and organization that influence your audience buying decisions.  This should help in your PR and influence marketing engagement strategies.

 

Competitor Audit

The Competitor Audit analyzes how competitive brands are involved in the conversations relevant to your company’s business.  Identify which brands are participating in relevant conversations, how users perceive them and why.  Look at competitors’ messaging, channel and content strategies and use the intelligence gathered to inform the Media Channel Plan, and Messaging and Content Strategies.

 

The three audits recommended arm you with data driven rationalization for your content strategy and plan.  It takes the guesswork out of content marketing efforts.  If you spend the upfront time evaluating a content plan driven by audience preferences, distribution channels to be used, and competitive analysis, you are sure to drive successful results.

 

Make It Happen!

Social Steve

 

 

 

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Content 105: Messaging Strategy Before Content Strategy

cm105.pngWhat is the difference between a messaging strategy and a content strategy?  How should each be used?

A messaging strategy defines what you want your readers to feel and takeaway after reading your content.  It also defines how you will engage with your audience.  A content strategy is what you will write about, how and where you will distribute the content.  It also defines the types (original, curated, UGC-user generated content) that will be used.  You need to define a messaging strategy before you start a content strategy (or dare I say just dive into content development).

When you develop content for your brand, do you a have picture in your head of what your brand looks like?  If your brand were a person, what would they look like?  If you think about these questions, you are starting to get a picture of what a messaging strategy addresses.

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Let’s focus on developing a messaging strategy here, and take on the content strategy in the next content post.

Each brand should have a distinct identity called the brand identity.  Think of a brand from a personal perspective.  Take it a step further.  Define a persona of your brand.  Start by defining the core values of the brand.  Once you have the core values documented, define the personality that supports those values and shall be used to represent your brand.  Define a voice of the brand whether that voice is authoritative, nurturing, professional, comedic, or any attribute you believe is representative of your brand position and resonates with your audience.

Once you have the brand identity and personality defined, you need to make sure you have a brand style guide defined.  Style guides have been used for numerous years.  They are typically governed by the marketing communication organization.  In today’s world, brand voices should come from many different subject matter experts in the organization.  Independent of who is producing content, conversing, or engaging with the brand’s audience, the brand personality should sound, look, and feel the same.

Given the social world we now live in, we want to unleash employees to be brand advocates, but at the same time we want the brand to carry on a consistent look, feel, and voice.  Thus, a modern style guide should include direction on format, colors, fonts, and any other aesthetic attribute for content and engagement.  The use of imagery should be well defined – how and if videos, pictures and/or clip art is to be used or not.  Standard logos should be made available to all.  Editorial style and standards should be defined and internally distributed.

These elements are all part of a messaging strategy.  “Marketing is far too important to be left to the marketing department,” as David Packard said many, many years ago.  And this is more relevant today than when originally stated.  We do want to leverage more experts in a company to produce content and engage with the brand audience.  But we need a strategy and plan to punctuate and preserve the brand identity.  Thus a messaging strategy must come before a content strategy.

 

Make It Happen!

Social Steve

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Content 106: Developing a Content Marketing Strategy

cm106.pngBefore we start with a content marketing strategy, do a quick gut check … is your messaging strategy set.  You know who you are talking to – check.  You know the core values and personality of your brand – check.  You are well versed with your brand’s style guide – check.  Ok, you are ready for your content marketing strategy.

The content marketing strategy really consists of two elements – 1) the topics and stories you are going to cover, and 2) the places the content will be distributed.  Once those elements are in place, produce a detailed content plan and identify potential brand category influencers.

As discussed in “Content 103: Leveraging Your Brand Position to Produce Compelling Content,” content topics should be the intersection of what the brand stands for and what the audience values.  You can investigate the topics that resonate with your audience.

So where should your content be published?  First and foremost, your content should be published in a repository on your website – a blog.  You want to drive traffic to your home court so that interested individuals have a chance to absorb more of your brand.  But at the same time you do not want to force people to have to go to your site to get the information that is important to them.  Think of ways you can proliferate that content.

Understand the social channels where your audience goes.  Post references to your content there.  Determine the media sources that cover the topics you defined.

Now comes the part that so many find difficult to do – planning a content calendar.  But actually, this is not a burden at all if you have already defined topics and distribution points.  I like to encourage building a high-level entire year’s plan because that allows a budget and plan to be set for not only article production, but photos and videos as well.  You want to have topics well planned, but also have agility to cover unplanned content driven by current events and/or changes in the marketplace.

Once you have your content themes determined, decide on the cadence for each topic.  How many articles will you produce, photos will be taken, and videos to be made each week?  When you are considering content cadence, remember visuals work best.  Think about your audience’s attention span.  You can likely keep them interested with a number of photos, video and article per week.  Think about which theme topics lend themselves best to articles, pictures and/or videos.  Consider ways to generate UGC (user generated content) for some of your content.

I like to take the information I described and create two spreadsheets to determine a brand content calendar.  The first spreadsheet lists each theme, the cadence for production, and channels where the content will be seen, as shown in the diagram below.

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Use all channels that are appropriate for each content piece.  Notice that in some cases, the actual content will not be posted on a channel, but rather the social channel is used to reference the content piece and provide a reference link.  This is often done with blog articles and referencing them on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Once you have built out the Theme/Cadence/Channel Content Chart, add spreadsheet tabs for each channel determined to use.  On each channel tab, build a one-year calendar.  Next, go back to the Theme/Cadence/Channel Content Chart and copy a theme, look at the cadence specified, and paste that theme on the social channel chart per the cadence specified.  Do this for all themes and all social channels as shown below.

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There is one additional element of a content strategy.  That is determining who you should pitch your content to in order to win earned media. You cannot really plan when you win earned media.  It is very much at the hands of the media source that covers your topic and brand.  But you should continually deepen relationships with key influencers to gain their support.

You build relationships with other influential media sources and people by taking time to understand their needs and what the value is that they look to deliver to their audience.  Identify where and how you can help them.  Then determine which content you have produced that is applicable to their needs and audience.

Now you have a strategy and a plan for your content marketing.  You should be ready to crank out content that is compelling to your audience.  In future articles we will address content market measurement and what it means to produce data driven content.

 

Make it Happen!

Social Steve

 

 

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