Stop What You’re Doing and Get a Content Strategy Already
A hot toddy may prove a formidable opponent to the occasional scratchy throat, but when it comes to remedying what’s ailing your content strategy, it’s going to take a lot more than a few swigs of booze. (Sorry, liquid inspiration may be good for a lot of things, but building your content plan isn’t one of them.)
Oh, and before you call “Booyah!” on us, spoiler alert, hiring a slew of people from oDesk to produce content isn’t a strategy either. Elance? Nope. Freelancer.com? Guess again. Fiver? Please.
Now, don’t get us wrong. Those are all wonderful sites for outsourcing tasks, such as writing, social media posting, and the like, but to create and manage an overall strategy? Not so much.
What’s the difference between content strategy and content marketing, anyway? According to Kristina Halvorson in “The Discipline of Content Strategy,” the former is defined as “plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content… Otherwise, content strategy isn’t strategy at all: it’s just a glorified production line for content nobody really needs or wants.” In contrast, content marketing is the day-to-day application of your content strategy.
So just how do you go about developing this thing? Read on for three simple tips.
1. Recognize that Disorder Only Leads to a Hot Mess
Vowing to publish blog posts once per day and social media updates every hour is about as much a strategy as telling a basketball player to go out there and make as many baskets as possible, without telling him or her how to handle game time situations, how to gain control of the ball, whether to play defense or offense, and so on. Essentially, you’d be running around the interwebs all willy-nilly. And best believe, people will not hesitate to call foul.
We’ve all done it: We’ve hired someone to blog two to three posts per day and someone else to manage our social media updates, thinking we had this whole content marketing thing in the bag. Thing is, we didn’t even know what we wanted our bloggers and social media managers to write about, so we just assigned them sorta-related topics at the last minute. That didn’t work out so well, since the majority of those posts had no value at all beyond , well, boosting the blog’s number of posts. If that’s all you’re aiming for, then shoot, keep it movin’; but, if you’re looking to boost your readership and engagement—which you are because, duh, you’re reading this— you’ll need to set up and execute an actual plan for the creation, distribution, and promotion of your content.
Don’t worry, we won’t bore you with how to create an editorial calendar, a style guide, an audience profile, and all that, but we will say that consistency without order is a no-go. You need both. Try planning posts around themed weeks or months and participating in already-established hashtag days like #ThrowbackThursday, and you’ll be on your way to #winning in the content arena.
2. Chuck up Your “Deuces” to Stagnation
Unlike the state of that long-term relationship with your ex, your biz’s content plan should regularly progress, grow, and adjust to the market. People are finicky and lose interest very easily, so while those weekly blog posts, e-mail newsletters, and hourly Twitter updates may have helped bring in clients last year, in 2014, your audience will be expecting something new and different. If you don’t offer anything unique, they’ll move on to someone who will. Keep things fresh with guest posts to give your readers access to a new viewpoint and voice. Introduce content that’s optimized for cell phones and tablets. Hold an event where you can meet your target market face to face; content strategy doesn’t and shouldn’t be solely conducted behind an impersonal computer screen.
And when you try something that doesn’t end up working as well as you’d thought? Don’t wallow in self-pity; scrap that idea and try a new angle until you find what does work.
“Content strategy is not a single solution or deliverable. It’s a process and a mindset. If you approach your content marketing initiative knowing that it will constantly evolve, and that you’re guiding its evolution, then you’re practising content strategy,” writes Kathy Hanbury of the Content Marketing Institute.
Forget year-to-year, new advancements emerge in online business week-to-week and who best to understand and analyze your business trends than you? Research what your niche is buzzing about; test that info with subject lines, e-mail blasts, and blog and social media postings; analyze responses to the tests; set goals based on those responses; and create products that will help you achieve those goals. Then, repeat.
By including room for revision and innovation into your overall strategy, you’ll be able to consistently provide your target audience with current information that’s relevant to their own transforming businesses.
3. Remember the 80/20 Rule
Pretty much everybody knows how this rule applies to relationships—at some point, people feel that they’re only getting 80 percent of what they want out of their coupledom and are tempted to find the other 20 percent elsewhere and blah blah blah. While it may seem to spell doom for some in the dating world, in the business world, it’s vital for maintaining a content strategy that’s efficient and effective.
Also known as the Pareto principle, what this law means for you, as a business owner, is that the strategy you’re building should be focused on just 20 percent of your target audience—the 20 percent who are most likely to engage and spend money with you, accounting for 80 percent of your sales. This means getting to know what that 20 percent cares about, where they work, what they buy, why they buy it, what they worry about, what they want to know more about, and so on. Then, fill in that editorial calendar with topics that fulfill their needs and distribute and promote that content on the channels in which they hang out most frequently.
No matter how many people you hire to create different types of content, no matter how often you publish said content, and no matter how good that content is, nothing matters if there’s no sound strategy in place. You must have goal-oriented reasons for everything you publish, and it must be relevant and useful to your audience.
Before delegating jobs to bloggers, social media posters, video editors, and the like, map out a solid plan with an editorial calendar, a style guide, audience profiles, measurable objectives, and room for revision. Only then, can you be sure to have consistent guidelines for managing, publishing, and promoting within your business. Follow these tips, and that strategy of yours? Well, consider it handled.