That good old adage ‘Content is King’ is somewhat outdated now; content has evolved past being just king, it’s much more than that these days, as long as it’s good quality. Content marketing is nothing new of course, but due to the infamous Google updates, 2014 is its year.
So assuming that you’re producing great content, with plenty of multimedia, the odd nice infographic and web video, perhaps some PDFs and so on, how do you go about promoting this content? Social media is of course the obvious choice and we’ll get to that later, but what other content distribution methods are there that you can use?
Before you even begin working on your content, you should have a strong strategy in place. This is something that begins early on, in the design stage of the site if at all possible (if it’s a new site) and something that should be an ongoing project.
Remember too that buyer personas are an important aspect to the development of your content, as these dictate the type of content that you’ll be producing. I’ve said it plenty of times before, but it always bears repeating: know your audience thoroughly, or you will fail. Know what social media sites they prefer, their habits, dislikes and likes – know them better than you know yourself.
According to Facebook’s Jon Colman, content is not just writing, or video, it’s an overall experience for the user that transcends the written. User experience isn’t just about the coding of the site, the design, the colors – it’s about the content too and all of that together delivers the experience – again, we come back to taking a holistic view of the entire project.
Take a look at this video from Jon, it’s long, but it’s worth the bother, as he describes how copywriters especially can be placed into a box in which what they can deliver as a strategist is seriously muted (there’s a little comedy too at the beginning, as he can’t get the slides to work).
So creating a core brand value that appeals to the emotions of your audience is vital in the first instance, if you want your content to engage.
So you want to think about the big picture and to help you do this, workflows, standards and governance are important and so is creating an editorial calendar.
How to Create an Editorial Calendar
If you’re going to produce a lot of content then it’s highly likely that you will need an editorial calendar to manage workflows. Firstly, you have to make the decision as to how long you’re going to plan ahead for. Editorial calendars can work on a three, six month or yearly basis – how, I hear you ask? Surely it’s impossible to know what will be current, educational and exciting for a whole year.
Well, sure. You can’t perhaps plan every bit of content as some will naturally be time sensitive, but you can include such things as:
- Product/services launch
- Industry events such as conferences, award ceremonies etc.
- Sporting events such as the World Cup
- Holiday periods
- Seasonal content
For example, if your company is planning to attend a conference or awards show, then you can plan a live tweeting session whilst you’re there. And sport or other well-known events may not be in your niche, but that doesn’t stop the big brands tweeting or using creatively when it comes to social media, so why should it you?
Workflows and Responsibilities
The other great thing about an editorial calendar is that it allows a company to assign tasks in such a way that everyone knows what they are responsible for getting done and when. Deadlines are essential to employees, it doesn’t pay to be too relaxed when it comes to your content.
You can create an editorial calendar using something as simple as an Excel document, or you can use a WordPress plugin (above), Trello or software such as Gather Content. There are lots of resources, both paid-for and free that can help you to get – and stay – organised.
Social is now one of the primary ways of distributing content across the web and this isn’t limited to Twitter, Facebook, G+ and all of the other usual suspects. Consider using niche social networks that are specific to your industry, you’re just as likely (if not more) to be successful on a niche network, as you already have an audience that’s interested in your content.
Also consider paper.li as a means to curate content as well as publishing your own. It’s better if you go for the pro version of this as it allows you to fully brand your ‘magazine’ with your own logo etc. I’m not going to go too in depth with social, as there’s a lot of ground to cover for each network, but do remember not to push out the same content across all platforms. Yes, use it for blog posts, but make sure that you attempt to have conversations, which help to cement your brand reputation and build a loyal fan base.
One last thing about social is that you should get your employees involved. Get them talking on LinkedIn discussion groups, allow them to boost the conversation and visibility by asking different questions that are relevant to your brand – get them involved, even if it means paying them to do it during working hours – it’s worth it.
Don’t Discount Email Marketing
If you do, then do so at your peril with regard to email marketing. A study carried out at the end of last year by analytics company Custora found that email accounts for around 7% of customer acquisitions. Further to that, this has quadrupled in the last four years and it’s thought to be more effective than social.
As you can see on the graphic below, organic search performed the best, so it’s also vital that your SEO is spotless in order to ensure your content’s visibility.
With regard to email, it was also found that customers that arrived at a site via an email campaign were 11% more valuable than the average visitor. Organic search visitors were a huge 50% more valuable, whilst Facebook visitors were found to be ‘average’ and Twitter 23% less valuable.
“Email will always deal with the reputation that it’s passe,” Simms Jenkins, author of The New Inbox: Why Email Marketing Is the Digital Marketing Hub in a Social & Mobile World told Forbes. “It’s not a sexy tool like Pinterest or Instagram or Vine. But the pendulum has really swung back in the last few years, spurred in part by the recession. People want things that generate revenue, not just bright shiny objects.”
Whilst he went on to acknowledge that social is valuable, he added: “If you have just one bullet left in your gun to sell something, then email should always be that bullet.”
So email is definitely not to be sniffed at; it remains a valuable tool in any marketer’s arsenal and getting that list filled with prospects is something that should be an important part of your content strategy. Remember too, that personalising email for every customer is an excellent driver of traffic and revenue – think Amazon and how they ‘suggest’ products based on what you’ve bought before.
Building a Mailing List
Of course, you can’t carry out email marketing without a mailing list and this is an area where content can help too. Valuable content that’s downloadable is popular and many people don’t mind filling in a short form in order to access something they feel may be valuable. Downloadable content can take many forms, such as:
- White papers
- Cheat Sheets
Of course, you will also have the standard ‘sign up to our newsletter’ box on your site, but many people need more incentive these days, so give it to them.
- Run competitions across social media
- Run special offers and discounts
- Use a newsletter pop-up with an incentive for signing up
There are plenty of ways to build an email list; don’t buy one though, as this is just a waste of your money – always think organic and don’t attempt to take shortcuts that won’t work. It’s highly unlikely that bought lists will be targeted towards your audience and it’s akin to buying social media followers – another terrible idea that’s at best a waste of your money and at worst, damaging to your brand. It’s easy to spot when someone has bought followers, especially on Twitter.
Press Releases and Making a Splash
Whilst it’s not ‘the done thing’ to be overtly promotional on channels such as social media, when something newsy happens to the company then shout about it. This can be anything, from an exciting new product, to taking on new staff. Obviously you shouldn’t overdo it and produce a press release every time the office cat reappears from his travels, but when done well, you can get picked up by bloggers, news sites and social ‘evangelists’ who will help you spread the word.
Whilst we all now know that guest posting is not to be used as an SEO tactic, producers of quality content should always seek to forge good relationships with editors in order to show off great content on another, well-respected site.
In fact, all of your content marketing efforts should be about building relationships; with your clients, prospective customers, followers on social media and so on. This is the key to success. Nobody likes to see content and little else pushed at them, they want to interact and see the brand personality, they want to get personal, to feel like a human being, preferably a special one that’s appreciated by the company they’re buying from.
Finally, only ever produce excellent content and you will get noticed. Don’t pay some poor writer in India £2.50 a blog, it’s just not going to cut it. Content requires a team; one with the proper processes in place to ensure that quality is high at every stage of production. Without this, unless you’re a freelancer working alone (and even many of those have editors), it’s difficult to retain a keen eye on the standard of the content you output.