Unless you’ve been living underground for the last couple of years, you can’t fail to have noticed that content marketing is kind of a big deal. Did you know that in 2015 it was named word of the year (yes, there is such a thing) by America’s Association of National Advertisers?
Last year, $5.2bn was spent on content marketing with a 25% increase expected in 2016. So, while it may be a trendy buzzword, it’s also becoming a core part of the marketing arsenal. And despite the big numbers, the great thing about content marketing is that it is easily accessible for cash-strapped start-ups.
Gone are the days when a few powerful publishers or expensive media agencies held the keys to your target audiences. Today you can take matters into your own hands, publishing your own content and creating your own platforms - whether on your blog, social media or YouTube channel – giving you direct access to your potential customers, not to mention boosting your Google juice at the same time!
That’s not to say it’s easy. The upshot of the content boom is the sheer volume of information produced– with some estimating as many as 2 million blog posts are written per day! With so much noise and competition, you need to be smart about how you do it. Content needs to be planned, well-produced, tailored for your target audience and distributed effectively. But, get it right and you’ll be sure to reap the rewards.
Not sure where to start? Here’s our pointers on how to be a content king on a pauper’s budget:
- Know your audience – first things first, you need to have a good idea of who you’re talking to and what they’re interested in. As a start-up or small business, this should be actually be easier than for larger businesses because you’re likely to have more personal relationships with your customers. So take the time to source some insights through informal chats, or perhaps a mini client survey. Ask about their pain points, passions or areas where they need advice, as well as how they like to consume information. These will help you develop content that is relevant and tailored to their needs.
- Your strategy - Your insights should give you some inspiration for the topics your content with tackle and how, as well as the best distribution methods. Your strategy doesn’t need to be long and complex, but a one-pager will give you a structure to work from, that you can refer back to in the future. As part of this, you should also create a ‘content mission statement’ which outlines briefly what your content is trying to achieve. This will help you stay focused and avoid you going off on any tangents. Many of The Work Crowd’s freelancer community are experts in content strategy, so let us know if you need some help pulling this together.
- Striking the right balance – While it’s tempting to make your content all about you, the best content strategies strike a careful balance between topics that are relevant to your brand, while also being useful, interesting and entertaining to your target audience. Too much of your brand and your audience will switch off pretty quickly, but too far removed from what you do and it can seem forced and confusing. So focus on finding that sweet spot between the two.
- Focus on less frequent, higher quality content – don’t overstretch yourself by trying to push out too much content, as chances are the quality will suffer, along with your audience. Focus on those topics that will add real value, making sure it’s well-produced, original and consistent to cut through the noise. Freelancers can offer a cost-effective way of producing quality content, whether that’s a copywriter, designer or online video producer – giving you specialist expertise at a fraction of the cost of an agency or in-house employee.
- Maximise visuals and video – Blogs and reports work really well, but try to mix it up using plenty of visuals, video and webinar style content when you can. Big chunks of text can be intimidating for readers, but some striking imagery, infographics, or a short video can make all the difference. Research shows that Twitter posts with an image receive on average 150% more retweets than those without – so it’s worth the investment!
- Promotion, promotion, promotion – In truth, creating the content is only half the story as if you don’t promote it effectively, nobody is going to see it and you’ve wasted your time. This is where social media can be so powerful, giving you direct access to the communities you want to reach. For every piece of content, develop a plan for promoting it on all your social channels, your client newsletter and new business database. If your social followings aren’t all that impressive, Facebook and Twitter advertising or ‘promoted posts’ can be a cost-effective way of reaching the right people, enabling you to target particular audience segments with your content. If you’re not sure where to start, don’t panic - The Work Crowd community includes specialists in social media strategy and advertising, so bring in some expert help when you need it.
- Find and engage your influencers – A really effective way of improving the reach of your content is to engage with key influencers in your area of expertise. You can find the most influential people on Twitter by looking at their social scores on sites like Klout, then proactively starting conversations with them around your content. You can also approach media outlets and blogs to feature your content (so long as it is original and exclusive to them). A retweet, or link from a key influencer is worth its weight in gold.
- Involve your community – A great way of boosting your content is to let your customers do the talking for you. Once you start building up a community, you can maximise their experiences through asking them to share video case studies, guest blogs, reviews or relevant photos, perhaps starting a unique hashtag for the user contributions. This gives your content an added authenticity while raising the profile of your clients’ businesses at the same time. A great example of this the camera brand GoPro, which asks users to share their best action shots on its website.
- Automate what you can – we know, we know, all this can be time-consuming! But there are lots of free tools you can use to make life easier for yourself. Tweetdeck, for example, is a great way of scheduling content related tweets to go out in advance, while marketing automation tools like Leadsius can help with email marketing and website management.
- Track it – Last but not least, it’s crucial that you keep an eye on the effectiveness of your content, through monitoring web clicks, social shares, comments and other engagement measures. If something is working, do more of it. If it’s falling flat, try something different. This will ensure you’re using your pressure budget in the most effective way possible.
It may sound daunting but content marketing is now a must-have for any business, with the potential to help build your brand, attract new customers and add a new dimension to your business. Don’t try to run before you can walk, but by starting small, using freelance support where you need to, and slowly introducing new elements to your strategy, you’ll be challenging the big boys in no time.
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