Content marketing, done right, can establish brand awareness, improve SEO, and develop a trusting relationship with current and prospective clients. Content can mean different things for different companies in different fields of business, but when it comes to producing content to market your business, good content and good approaches will have some key elements in common.
When it comes to content marketing best practice, there are some features that successful campaigns will have in common. Whether you’re in the midst of navigating a content marketing campaign, or are thinking about embarking on one, keep these best practices at the top of mind to make sure your campaign is on track.
Before You Begin
I. Gain Stakeholder Support
Content marketing is a long-game approach to marketing. It’s not as simple as creating a slogan, designing a print ad, and buying space for said ad. It’s multifaceted, involves many platforms, requires curating and creating content, and fostering that content so that it is seen and shared and makes an impact on your target audience.
If this is the case, support or even permission from stakeholders in your company is crucial. They need to understand that your campaign will take time and is a more holistic approach to marketing. Some executives without a marketing background might need the benefits of a content marketing campaign explained to them.
If you’re part of a smaller marketing team or are a small business owner looking to run your own content marketing campaign, it is more about making sure that everyone is on the same page and is committed to seeing the campaign through.
II. Create a Strategy
The time invested in a high quality content marketing campaign is really the biggest resource needed. With some creativity and a clever approach you needn’t spend too much money on it. Due to the multi-platform nature of a strong content marketing campaign, it is best practice to develop a clearly thought out strategy.
This strategy should be informed by asking yourself some of the bigger questions:
- What is your budget?
- Who are your audience?
- What are you trying to achieve with this campaign? (i.e. create brand identity, reach new customers, drive sales…)
When you have a firm picture in your mind of what you are trying to achieve, who you are trying to reach, and with what means, you can start to sketch out and idea for your campaign.
III. Use an Editorial Calendar
As you embark on your campaign, it’s time to start documenting. An editorial calendar is one of the most important tools for keeping your campaign on track, your team accountable, and your content posted at the right times on the right platforms. A recent survey by the Content Marketing Institute found that the marketers with a documented plan were more successful than those without. When it comes to content marketing best practices, having a documented plan is up there with the most important.
Content marketing usually involves at least a blog and a Facebook page. On top of that, depending on the company and field of business, there will probably be LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, and/or Google+ accounts to juggle. Keeping track of each of these and managing what content is being posted where and when can be a nightmare. Editorial calendars are the answer.
Creating, posting and sharing content can be time consuming, especially when it needs to be regular and consistent. Creating content when it suits you and scheduling it to be posted by your editorial calendar is the easiest way to ensure that you’re consistently and regularly releasing content. It’ll always be on time and you can schedule according to the optimum engagement times of your audience.
Now, for the Content…
So, you’ve got support from the bosses, your team is on board and ready to commit, you’ve got your strategy and your documented plan… Now it’s time to talk about content marketing best practices in terms of the actual content. Here are the things to keep in mind when creating content to maximize impact and success.
I. Less Push, More Pull
The whole ethos of content marketing is to provide something of worth to the consumer – whether that be advice, entertainment, or information – to gain their admiration and trust. Content marketing works through consumers viewing your brand positively and greater awareness of your brand putting your company top-of-mind with potential customers. The increased sales are a goal of the long-game of content marketing. The holistic approach of spreading awareness and developing brand identity are the instant impact of the content.
Your content should reflect this. Remember that you’re not trying to push customers to your website or your store with “BUY THIS NOW” traditional advertising messages. You’re trying to draw them to your site and your social media pages by giving them something. It needs to be a gift – something purely for them. Not like the pair of golf clubs you bought your wife for her last birthday.
II. User Generated Content
The discovery of the power of user generated content was like discovering content gold for the marketing industry. User generated content (UGC), that is content which is generated by a user, can be up to 90 percent effective. The social proof garnered from a third party saying how much they like your product or service is astronomical.
There are some superb examples of entire campaigns based on UGC, but for the small business owner or one-man-marketing team, it can be as simple as maintaining a section on your site for testimonials. Across your social media platforms you could share case studies, produce customer videos, or post glowing feedback from your clients.
III. Promote Content Across Multiple Platforms
Part of understanding your audience means understanding what content they enjoy and how they like to consume it. Posting the content on the channels where you audience will see it is the baseline for a good content marketing campaign. But to take your campaign to the next level and to get some new eyes on your content and your company, testing out your content on new platforms can open up whole new worlds of possibilities to expand your audience.
Create a video version of a how-to blog. Do a Q&A session about one of your more debated posts. Share a picture on Instagram of the customer whose profile you just published.
There is a “Rule of Five” in content marketing that suggests that each piece of content should be re-purposed five different ways to get the most mileage out of it. It’s an arbitrary number and depending on the content may be too low or too high, but the point is an important one: redistribute each piece of content in a different format and on a different platform to get the most out of it.
IV. ‘More’ Content is Not Always Best Practice
“More content!” is what the world of content marketing always seems to cry. But it’s not necessarily true. If you are churning out huge amounts of content that is falling on deaf ears and is not being seen by any of your target audience, you are wasting time and energy for no reward. This comes back to knowing your audience and the over-arching importance of using analytics.
Study your analytics, see where you are going right, see where you are going wrong, and create content accordingly. This doesn’t always mean more content, it might just mean different content, or jazzing up old content.
V. Curate as well as Create
Content marketing best practice includes curating relevant, interesting content as well as creating it. Share images, tweets, videos and articles from reputable sources and sources which reinforce the image you are trying to portray for your brand. This will establish credibility and drive home your brand identity.
At the end of the day, developing and executing a successful content marketing campaign takes time and strategy, but it needn’t cost the Earth or be as complex as rocket science. The way we consume advertising is changing – now, you get out what you put in. And giving your consumers interesting and entertaining content is the best way to cultivate lasting, loyal relationships with new and old customers, promote your brand identity, and secure your top-of-mind position for your company within your industry.
Adhering to best practice guidelines for your next content marketing campaign, or fine-tuning the one you are already running will allow your content to cut through to your audience and drive real results.