Television advertising has been struggling since the advent of DVRs and video-streaming services like Netflix, and print magazine ads are equally troubled as more and more people turn to content they can find for free online. In the last few years, it’s become clear that online content marketing is one of the major new routes for businesses to bring people to their products and services.
There are a lot of great advantages that content marketing has over other traditional forms of advertising. For one thing, it’s relatively inexpensive—starting a business blog, for example, costs time but not money, provided you use a free blogging platform like WordPress. It also gives businesses a great way to directly connect with customers through social media.
The thing that makes content marketing difficult to master, though, is the fact that there’s an endless stream of other online content competing for your customer’s interest. In order to grab (and hold onto) your audience’s attention, you need to be producing dynamic content that they want to read and can’t find elsewhere, and you have to make sure you’re regularly adding new content. By investing some time and creativity into your company’s content marketing plan, though, you can come up with a successful strategy that has staying power. Here are 5 things to try.
Put Together a Plan…and a Schedule
According to a 2013 report by the Content Marketing Institute, less than half of all B2Bs and B2Cs have a documented content marketing plan, and that’s hurting their business. You can’t just have random bouts of content marketing output whenever you’re feeling creative. In order to truly succeed in the world of content marketing, you need to have a plan and schedule new content on a regular basis. For example, you might want to aim to update your blog or a video series once a week and to update your social media at least once a day.
This can be a lot for one person to handle, so consider putting together a content marketing team if you haven’t already. You don’t all need to be in the same room together; you can use collaborative tools like Basecamp, Toodledo, and Dropbox to communicate, share documents, post assignments, and set deadlines. If you’re trying to put together a plan for social media updates, you can also use HootSuite to schedule updates across all your social media channels.
Speak to Your Customers, Not Your Industry
Keep in mind who you’re trying to appeal to with your content marketing. If you’re a B2B, there may be some situations where it’s appropriate to use the kind of industry vocabulary that the people you work with would find familiar, but for the most part, aim to be accessible to a wider audience. Avoid industry jargon, break large chunks of text up into shorter paragraphs or bullets, and keep your tone casual. You also shouldn’t be afraid to use single-clause sentences. Your audience isn’t going to stick with you if all your sentences are long and rambling. Don’t think of this as dumbing down your content (your audience is savvy and hates condescension), think of it as the way you would communicate if you were having an in-person conversation.
Incorporate Images and Videos
For a lot of people, the words “content marketing” are inherently linked to written copy, but content marketing is by no means limited to the written word. Images and videos are extremely popular with Internet users and can go a long way towards supplementing your written material. Infographics are one great way to do this; I’ve already written a lot about how to create and promote them for under $90, and there are plenty of sites like Visual.ly that will let you use templates to design infographics for free.
In addition to infographics, you can also share images on the popular visual social media site Pinterest and upload videos to your company’s Youtube channel. You might even experiment with some other popular video and image apps, like Instagram and Vine.
Know Where to Find Your Audience
No matter how exciting and innovating your content marketing efforts are, they aren’t going to last if your target audience never sees them. In order to get the most out of your content marketing, promote it using the social media platforms that most appeal to the customers you want to attract. You probably already have a presence on mass-appeal sites like Facebook and Twitter, but what about niche interest sites like Reddit? I’ve covered a wide range of different social media site types in the Ultimate Guide to Social Media series on my blog, and you can use that as a starting point to figure out what platforms will be best for your company’s content marketing.
Give Subscribers a Reason to Stay
“Should I stay or should I go now” is more than just the refrain of a song by The Clash – it’s the question Internet users are constantly asking about the things they’ve subscribed to. When they subscribed, they likely did so because they had some kind of incentive—they enjoyed a post you had up and wanted to read more content like it, they rely on you for a particular type of news, or they want to see how a video series you’re working on turns out. If they lose their motivation for following you, they can easily unsubscribe with just the click of a button.
That’s why part of your content marketing strategy needs to be figuring out how to get current subscribers to stick around. As with business leads, it’s easier to hold onto someone you already have a working relationship with than it is to attract new people, so make sure you’re producing content that your loyal subscribers will appreciate. Consider creating an ongoing video or blog series, tease upcoming product releases or live events that your subscribers might be interested in, and give subscribers the opportunity to comment on your content and give you feedback. Not only are you making them part of the process, you’re getting ideas for how to make future content even better.