One of the issues I hear a lot from clients and others is that they don't know WHAT to post on social media, write in their blogs, or send to their email list. They know they should be engaged in content marketing, but when they sit down to think about it, they get stuck.
Maybe #allthethings come to mind. Maybe nothing comes to mind. And inevitably, if you sit down for more than five minutes, there will be another fire to put out, and so posting on social media and emailing your tribe moves to the back burner...again.
But content marketing is a terrific bang for your buck over the long term. It's an investment. (Don't believe me? Check out this terrific Inc. Magazine article.) However, you have to actually start for there to be a long term, right? So, building on last month's writing advice, this month is dedicated to helping you figure out your content strategy. We'll help you navigate what to say, so that your fans have something to cheer about.
Up first is my friend Jennifer Garrett of See.Spark.Go. To kick things off, she's going to break down content marketing in general so that we're all on the same page for the rest of the series. There is some fantastic information in here, so listen up!
For years, marketers have thrown around the cliche that content is king. And in a world of fake news, a new social media channel every day, selfie videos, and the over-saturation of every news feed, good content is crucial.
But the overnight success of homemade videos or that Instagram page with unbelievable photos and no followers proves that the best content in the world does not lead to success—alone.
Content marketing is serving the right content to the right audience at the right time. It’s understanding who you are, who your audience is, and where you intersect. No longer is your competition the person down the street serving the same clientele; you compete against every other message your audience receives on any given day.
Understanding how to create and use your content—and generate content from your audience— to tell your story allows you to intersect your audience when and where they are looking for you.
What are the latest trends in content marketing?
Whether you’re swiping through the news feed of your favorite social media platform, reading a blog, or flipping through a magazine, story-driven content attracts attention and engagement. Stories provide connection, relatability, and drive action. Real people whom your organization serves or stories of those advocating for you or serving with you authenticate your message better than any infographic ever will.
Currently, the mediums that are best telling those stories are video—live in particular—and influencers. The algorithms of the major social media platforms prioritize live content (i.e., Facebook/Instagram Stories), any video, and then everything else.
Even as algorithms change and adjust, social media consistently prioritizes content from a person over a business. Which takes us to the rise of the influencer. A mom of twins with 3.9 million followers or the college student foodie getting 300,000 likes per ice cream cone is leveraging the combination of grassroots endorsements with the type of content their audience wants. An influencer doesn’t have to have thousands of followers, though. They only need to have a voice for your cause. Is there an advocate who reaches a segment of your audience (big or small; existing or potential) who would be willing to post about your organization or someone whose message and platform could be shared through your channels to bolster your message?
What is the biggest mistake you see people making in content marketing?
The hardest decision for the owner of any story to make is what’s most important. So often, we see organizations and leaders who are too close to their story and think their audience needs to know everything about them. Blasting every message, every month with slightly different language becomes white noise in a world that’s already in a shouting match.
A lack of definition of your key messages, spread out in a cohesive, strategic timeline prevents even your most engaged followers from understanding what you want them to do.
What is your best piece of advice?
Know what you want your audience to do before you determine what you want them to know. Everything feels important to you when you developed or own a story—every event, person, donation, result, and new initiative is something you want your audience to know because you care so deeply. Take the request “Tweet about this today” or “make this email really quick” out of your vocabulary.
If you understand your end goal, you can work backwards to take your audience on the right journey and filter out the confusing, extra calls to action that would take your audience away from responding to what you actually want them to do.
What is one thing readers can do this week to improve?
Create an editorial calendar. It not only allows you to streamline your messaging and tell a cohesive story across multiple channels, it allows you to do more with less. Create big rocks of quality content that can be used in long-form to move followers down a path to action, and then piecemeal the content into chunks to use across other channels (blog > email > social > text).
Anything else we should keep in mind?
Mediums constantly change, but the fundamentals of content marketing have not. Understanding who you are, who your audience is, and what you want them to do determines your content. All of the changes in social media, online platforms, print, and video simply change the presentation format.
Do you have any resources that would be helpful so people can learn more?
Listening and monitoring tools that tell you the demographics and behavior of your audience is critical. Sprout Social and other social media monitoring tools allow you to see the make-up of your audience and who is engaging with your content. This allows you to strategically write long form captions for the women who dominate your Instagram feed, for example, or add more requests for donations to your Twitter posts if that’s what’s driving results.
Quality content is still king, but it can only reign if you are delivering it to your audience where they are and in a way they want to consume it. Only data and reporting can keep you from throwing spaghetti up against the Facebook wall each month.
If that doesn't seem doable right now, the best resource I can recommend is your curiosity and engagement with content outside of your industry. Consuming podcasts, blogs, social media, and video by successful brands and organizations inspires new ideas and allows you to see different formats (long captions, subject lines, or calls to action) that could work for you. Are quote graphics, short sizzle videos, or profiles of team members what catch your eye when you're scanning social media? Or why do you open emails from certain brands?
Donald Miller's Story Brand and the How I Built This podcasts are two of my favorites, and Fast Company is not only my go-to for what businesses are up to, but I use the way they present content on social, through newsletters, and long-form in their magazine online as an example all the time.
Like this post? Stick around for the rest of our content marketing series this month! We'll be covering storytelling as a tactic, along with blog, social media, and email content marketing.
Read the other posts in this series:
- How Screenwriting Can Help You Better Communicate Your Brand's Story
- What (and Why) You Should Be Emailing Your List
- Building Better Content: How to Improve on Social Media
- How to Generate and Organize Content for Your Blog
Jennifer Garrett is Vice President of Content and Creative at See.Spark.Go, a PR agency that provides full-service marketing communications. Her deep understanding of editorial content and process brings structure and vision to SSG’s clients and team. When she isn’t maximizing SSG’s expertise, content creation and ideation, she enjoys playing soccer or tennis with friends, serving on the Refuge Coffee Company board, and gathering friends in and around her Atlanta home.
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I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing, and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.