Content is King
Have you ever come across a video on YouTube or Instagram that just makes you go, “Man, I want that”?
Take Buzzfeed’s “Tasty” brand videos for example. The mouthwatering channel that turned the traditional recipe format on its head by showing viewers exactly how to create delicious dishes through bite-sized, shareable videos.
A recently announced a partnership with Walmart introduced the massively engaged Tasty audience to its own brand of cookware — an affordable and accessible way for home cooks to make the recipes from their favorite videos. Say you’re watching a video on how to make an awesome pot roast, and, oh hey, looks like Tasty is releasing a new Instant Pot that’s perfect for the job. Maybe you’ll go pick one up next time you’re at Walmart to try your hand at that recipe over the weekend. That’s the beauty of content marketing.
And video is just one part of it. Blogs, podcasts, infographics, photography, e-books, and newsletters all fall under the content marketing umbrella. Chances are that you’ve done some online shopping in the last few years and stumbled upon some content marketing from big-name brands like Lowe’s, Etsy, and Forever 21, which have all introduced blog sections to their websites that are meant to inspire you and, let’s be honest, get you to buy more stuff.
The goal of all these forms of content is to create meaningful and lasting connections between consumers and your brand with the ultimate goal of generating interest and driving traffic to your site. Content marketing helps to not only sell consumers on a specific product, but also on the company itself — its ethics, lifestyle, and expertise.
With the growing popularity of content marketing, however, producing content doesn’t seem so novel or impressive anymore. The internet is flooded with bad content that ignores the original goal of genuinely connecting with consumers.
It’s not enough to just create content for the sake of saying you have a content marketing strategy.
The Tyranny of Content
With so much content to choose from online, most of it dies a quick death with few mourners. Most of what’s written on the internet gets a few views then fades into the deep recesses of digital memory, never to be seen again.
People are pouring more and more money into a (hopefully) successful content marketing strategy. After all, good copy doesn’t come cheap, and while content marketing can be an awesome part of an overall marketing strategy, not enough attention is paid to quality writing and focused promotion efforts. If you’re creating content just for the heck of it, you aren’t going to get a good return on investment for all your time and effort.
Creating Content that Dominates
You know the saying, “All publicity is good publicity?” Well, it seems that people have started applying that mantra to content marketing, and it simply isn’t true.
You know the saying, “All publicity is good publicity?” Well, it seems that people have started applying that mantra to content marketing, and it simply isn’t true. #MichaelsWilder #contentmarketing Click To Tweet
All content is NOT good content, and bad content can negatively affect your brand’s reputation. Do you want to be associated with sloppy and poorly-researched work? Of course not!
Let’s be perfectly honest here, most content sucks. It’s low-effort and manipulative. It hides the answer to the viewer’s question behind layers of fluff. Its sole purpose is to drive sales. If you want truly great content, you need to break yourself out of this mindset. Your main objective in creating content should be to provide value. (This will be a phrase you’ll read a lot in this article, so start taking notes.)
So, how do you do that? First off, make it something that you actually want to write. If you’re bored, chances are that your audience will be as well.
In the interest of combating boring copy, here are some of the ways you can make your content more valuable and interesting to others (and yourself):
1. Provide Answers to Real Questions
Your followers have questions? You have answers!
Keep a list of questions that pop up on your blog, on social media, even ones that arise in face-to-face conversations. These are a gold mine for future pieces of content because you know that your answers will actually provide value to real people.
2. Ruffle a Few Feathers
Obviously, I’m not telling you to purposefully offend anyone, but it doesn’t hurt to inject a little controversy into your content.
Try to spark some discussion by sharing an opinion and asking your audience to chime in. The best outcome you could have after publishing a piece is seeing people comment and engage with what you’ve written. Sure, it feels nice to see the comments that say, “Wow, totally agree. You’re wonderful. Don’t stop being you!” But that’s not interesting. It’s not going to prompt other commenters to jump into the conversation.
3. Tell Stories
People connect with stories, not products, so don’t be afraid to get personal.
You could try taking your audience on a behind-the-scenes adventure or sharing your business journey. Be authentic about your ups and downs, and bring your readers along for the ride.
On that note, this also means that you should adopt a more conversational tone and let your personality really shine through. I’ve seen too many good pieces ruined because the writer was more worried about writing with perfect grammar than about writing with personality.
Ascending to the Throne
So, you’ve written/recorded some awesome content — great!
Well, you could be churning out content that rivals the works of David Foster Wallace, but the internet is a big place. It’s not enough to simply hit publish and wait for the upvotes/claps/likes to start pouring in.
The key to getting your content noticed is content promotion. This is the step that most content creators will fail to do, and it’s what you need for your content to rise above the fray.
Content promotion is the process of increasing the visibility for your writing by strategically sharing it across different platforms and effectively positioning it to potential consumers.
Technically, a more targeted approach to content promotion is known as content distribution, but, for the purposes of this introductory piece, we’ll just use the umbrella term of “content promotion.”
Make sure not to leave all your creative energy on the editing room floor. You still need a bit of innovation and imagination when you start promoting your content. That’s because there are so many different possibilities! I’ll touch on a handful here to help get the creative juices flowing, but don’t limit yourself to just this list. Explore your options and find what works best for you.
1. Paid Promotion
I’m going to briefly address this as one topic because we’d be here for a loooong time if I went into detail about each and every avenue of paid promotion in this one post. Search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo and social media like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all give you the option to run ads. So, suffice it to say, you have some options.
The main thing to be aware of when it comes to paid promotion is reaching the right people to give you the best chance at a good ROI. Take time to fine tune your targeting strategy by researching your audience. Who are you trying to reach? What else are they interested in? How do you want them to engage with your content?
No one wants to waste money, so make sure you have a good understanding of your outreach goals and how to achieve them before you take the paid promotion route.
Quora is a dark horse in the content promotion race. It’s an incredibly valuable, yet incredibly underutilized resource.
The Q&A site is filled with knowledgeable folks who represent a huge range of different demographics, professions, and interests. Find topics that relate to your business, and start answering some questions. You can link to relevant posts in your answers to help drive traffic to your site. Just remember the #1 rule of content marketing: Add value. Make your answers substantial and interesting.
3. Social Media
With each piece of long-form content, make sure to generate a few “shareable” snippets that you can share across social media platforms, including:
- Infographics and Images
- Short Quotes
- Variations of the Article Title
- Related Statistics
These are the pieces of micro-content that you should be posting to social media. On platforms like Twitter and Instagram, it’s not enough to just say, “Hey, check out my latest post!” You need to adapt your content to fit with that audience. That’s why images and short-form content is the way to go when you promote your blog or video on social. As a bonus, it’ll also keep your followers interested in between long-form posts.
You can also try mentioning some people you know would be especially interested in a piece of content, following others with similar interests (thus getting them to check out your page), or direct messaging people who may have helped you formulate your content and getting them to share. There are tons of ways to take advantage of the more personal nature of social media to promote your content.
4. Email Lists
A tried and true tactic, email newsletters are a common way to promote content if you have a list of interested readers.
If you don’t have an email list, it’s not a bad idea to start growing one. Try a call to action that prompts users to input their information as a hello bar or email sign-up to your main website. Obviously, you should provide value to visitors that makes them actually want to sign up.
Make sure that emails are personalized, have a compelling hook, and include a call to action.
5. Guest Blogging
Share and share alike. Reach out to other content creators in your niche and work out a plan to cross-promote each other’s content through social media or maybe even a guest blog/vlog. Ideally, you’ll gain some of their followers, and they’ll gain some of yours, making this a win-win situation.
The key to this strategy, however, is not to set your sights too high. Say you have 1,000 followers on your blog. You wouldn’t reach out to Tim Ferriss and pitch him a guest spot on your blog. You’re just not on that level. Instead, focus on people with similar a following to your own, and work your way up.
Slack is a great tool to build up a content sharing community. Use your personal connections or social media to find some like-minded folks, and start a group dedicated to promoting one another’s content.
Not only can a Slack group help you to promote your content, you can also use it to bounce ideas and brainstorm.
Remember: Don’t overextend yourself. A concentrated effort to promote on one platform is better than a scattershot attempt on a whole bunch. Learn which platform would be most effective for reaching your target audience and become a pro at it.
Hopefully, you saw the recurring theme with these suggestions. As always, the goal is to provide value to others. Take the time to tailor your promotion efforts to your unique audience on each platform and make sure to give them a reason to click.
Long Live the King
Before we wrap this up, let’s touch on the two key tenants of any good content marketing strategy: quality and consistency. Making these two concepts the main pillars of your approach is your best bet at a successful content strategy.
Quality will always be more important than quantity when it comes to content marketing. It doesn’t matter if you post 5 blogs a week if they all suck.
Keep a notebook handy for your ideas, and don’t worry if they don’t necessarily materialize into a full-fledged piece right away. Just take the time to explore your ideas, and make sure to give yourself time to do so.
If you’re going to write something informative, make it the best of its kind. If you’re going to write from your experience, don’t pull your punches. And for the love of all things good, edit and revise your work before you hit “Publish.”
Your content strategy should lay out a consistent posting schedule. Your time frame for posting will likely depend on your audience’s preferences and your own writing efficiency.
If, for example, you’re writing a food blog, you might not have the time to test and tweak your recipes and write compelling narratives for 3+ articles a week. That’s okay. Just make sure that you’re consistent about when/how often you post and stick to it. It’s way too easy to start putting off posting until tomorrow, then the next day, then the next day. Generally, if you’re known for writing long in-depth pieces, you can get away with a less frequent posting schedule. Focus on what is physically possible for you to produce and what your audience expects of you. Then sprinkle in some posts on your promotional channels to keep your followers engaged between blog entries.
Sure, maybe you “only” have 10 followers, but those followers are looking forward to your post. So, you better not keep them waiting, and you better write the best darn post you can for those 10 followers.
Once you’ve got these basics down, you’ll already be doing better than 99% of content producers on the internet. The key to good content all boils down to making things that provides value and putting it in front of the right people at the right time.With those two steps in place, you’re ready to rule.