What’s content marketing and why is it important?
You’re all set to go with a shiny new social media page or website – the big question is “what content should I share?”
Content marketing is engaging potential and current customers by speaking about what matters to them. It’s not a ‘hard sell’, but genuinely winning their interest – consistently sharing valuable content helps build a long-lasting relationship with your audience based on continually showing that you value their time and attention. Relevant and engaging content also helps optimise your website for search engines too.
Your content can include any articles, blogs, newsletters, pictures or video you share, and should always put your audience first, support your business strategy and be planned out in advance – while making room for spontaneity on social media, where being spontaneous and human can be a real winner.
Successful content marketing is:
Valuable – aim for ‘news you can use’ and make sure it’s worth your audience’s time to read or watch your content.
Relevant – content that’s targeted to your audience’s interests.
Regular – follows a consistent timetable that sets and meets customer expectations, whether it’s every day, week or month, without “over-communicating”.
- Ask “What’s in this for my audience?” for everything you share. If it’s not clear or compelling, re-work it until it feels right.
- Define a clear outcome for each piece of content – is the goal to engage with your audience, build your brand or drive sales?
Tailoring content to build your audience
Traditional “one-way broadcast out” marketing has changed – “inbound marketing” is about attracting qualified prospects to your brand via Search Engine Optimisation (making your content easy to find through Google and other search engines), content marketing and social media marketing.
A Nielsen survey showed the most trusted form of advertising for 83% of consumers is recommendations from friends. If your audience likes and trusts your content enough to share it to their own Facebook page, hit retweet or post it to their LinkedIn page, this “digital word of mouth” is invaluable for your marketing campaign. So aim to tailor your content to your audience’s needs, help solve their problems and offer information they can use.
- Use the keywords that your audience is searching for on Google. Including these words and phrases naturally in your content makes it easier for them to find you and is the first step in SEO – your website’s Google Analytics and Facebook Insights offer valuable data and feedback on what your audience is looking for and how you can help.
- What are the most common words or phrases your audience would use to search for you? Use tools like SEMrush to do some research on keywords.
Promoting your content
Creating great content is just the first step – make it work harder and smarter by promoting it in the right places:
- Your own website, social media sites or newsletter are your home base, and should always be up to date – telling a consistent story across all your channels is crucial.
- You can dramatically increase your reach for very little investment with social media ads. Get underway and experiment with what works for your audience.
- Partner up – inviting an industry figure or well-known customer to write a guest blog benefits your guest, your business and your audience. You can also pitch your content to local or industry publications to maximise your reach across broader audiences.
Grow your audience
Steadily building your audience through Facebook likes, Instagram followers, LinkedIn and Twitter connections or newsletter sign ups is the start of very valuable relationships for your business. By hitting ‘like’ or sharing their email address, your audience has indicated they value what you’re saying enough to share their personal data with you, and are keen to receive more in the future.
Best practice is to treat your audience’s attention with care and respect by only sharing content that’s relevant and valuable – you’ll know you’ve reached marketing nirvana when they start sharing your content with their own networks.
- Reward your audience with ‘fan only’ discounts or offers.
- Make it easy for your audience to sign up with clear like and follow buttons for your social media accounts or newsletter sign up buttons on your website. Look for opportunities to capture customers’ data without appearing needy or shouting.
- Send a welcome email to new newsletter subscribers to say thanks and make them feel good about signing up.
Join the social media conversation
You’ve posted a great piece of content, the next step is joining a two way conversation. Social media is where customers expect to be able to speak with businesses directly – if you’re not part of the online conversation you’re leaving potential customers hanging.
- ‘Two ears and one mouth' is a great ratio for social media – set aside time to listen to the conversation and get a feel for what’s important to your audience before speaking, it’s all invaluable data and context.
- Check your social media pages frequently, and set up alerts for comments and likes. There’s nothing worse than an answered question on your page. If you are busy, you can use an instant message to let customers know you will get back to them soon and to thank them for contacting you.
- Have some fun – social media is literally social, so don’t be afraid to show a human side and connect with your audience person to person.
Where to start with content marketing?
With all the different options out there, it can be overwhelming trying to decide where to begin. The best approach is to simply get underway – pick the social media platforms you are comfortable with (Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn are excellent places to kick off with), put a toe in the water and start building your audience.
- Plan out a simple content calendar to make sure you clearly showcase your business’s unique selling points and key messages. This doesn’t have to be all in one go, but you should cover all your bases over time.
- Regular features like “App of the week”, “Top five lists”, Tips or sharing customer content gives you repeatable formats, so you don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time.
- Aim for content that your audience will want to share. In a study by Ipsos, 61% of respondents said they primarily share ‘interesting things’ with others.
- Keep it real – Share the personalities behind your brand. With so many businesses online, authenticity and originality will stand you apart.
- Learn as you go – Keep an eye on likes, shares, bounce rates and other metrics to understand how your content performs. Look at what businesses like yours are doing too, you may be able to do it better.
Story based marketing can drive results for your business
It’s clear new digital and social media platforms offer marketers and small business owners a completely new tool kit for reaching customers. Once you get underway, keep an eye on how well your content performs. Measure your website visits, conversion from email, subscriber list growth or social media sharing. Digital marketing is infinitely measurable. Decide on some key performance indicators and use these to keep you on track with effective content marketing.
BOMA brings all your communication channels together and automatically reformats your content for email, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, making it easy for you to spend your time where it’s most valuable: developing your story, and taking your first steps to building your audience through content marketing.
About the Author: Richard Irvine is a writer and communication consultant at richardirvine.com, based in Tauranga, New Zealand.