Content marketing works. But it’s not an instant fix. It’s something that takes time, needs nurturing and continual tending to. Many companies embark on content marketing, only to abandon it months down the line as they perceive it to be “not working”. Those that persist are rewarded. They have greater brand recognition, have an engaged community and tend to have more loyal customers too.
Fresh for 2017, we’ve highlighted some of the key traits of successful content marketing, for those who are prepared to stick with it.
1. Understand your audience
To engage with an audience, you need to understand them. It is one of the prime tenets of journalism, to know the reader. To be successful, you need to encourage your audience to participate in your content creation process either at the beginning, during or after the process. If you know your audience, you can determine their needs, and understand what they’re looking for from you. This way you can then create content that meets their expectations, and help them to get to where they need to go.
2. Create relevant, useful and informative content
If you’re going to create content, it must be highly creative, customised, and more importantly, of high quality. You need to respect the fact that people only have so much time, so you need to make your content worth engaging with. The content must have utility, and give the end user something for free – be it entertainment, education or information.
3. Take a mobile-first approach
Everyone is on a smartphone. The stats say 87% of millennials have one, which they check multiple times a day, and Generation Z has their mobiles attached to them, permanently. But mobile users aren’t reading long-form content or articles. More, they are using them for messaging, checking social and email, or accessing news or real-time information (like timetables) and you'll need to think how to design content grabbing user's attention on mobile.
4. Tailor content for each channel
Your budget will dictate how far you can do social-first publishing and tailor one piece of content for multiple channels. Perhaps you’ll take the hero image and use it for Instagram, or create a video on Facebook, all the while remembering the content you publish should be guiding your audience and meeting their needs.
5. Use data as a guide, and don’t be dictated by it
The content you publish should be framed around your understanding of your audience, their needs and your belief about the type of content you think your audience will respond well to. Analytics, data and metrics can help guide and shape your content creation, but it should not dictate it. Content creation is a creative business. If you want to inspire your audience; you need to have new ideas, thoughts and innovations. Metrics are useful to help to test a new idea. If you see engagement, then you can scale and grow it.
6. Create content that’s part of the conversation
Content should not exist in a vacuum or silo. It should not be self-serving, nor should it talk about your brand. It needs to be part of a conversation with the audience you’re targeting; it shouldn’t just talk at them. Your articles/videos/social needs to demonstrate that you understand your audience’s challenges, their needs and why they are reading/engaging with your content.
7. Recruit subject matter experts to create content
Your content marketing efforts can be boosted by hiring subject matter experts and influencers to write articles or asking them to produce content in social channels mentioning your branded hashtag. These people bring with them an established persona and reputation that can bring credibility to a brand. Plus, they will bring their audience too. Another bonus is those subject matter experts know the topics they’re writing about inside out, and they’re not starting from scratch. It means they can create more sophisticated content than say, a pure marketer can.
8. Be prepared to put some money into paid media
A few years ago, your content could be discovered organically, but that’s not the case these days, as the internet is awash with information. Putting some money into a paid media campaign or native advertising allows you to get your message to the right audience, and to a much larger one as well.