For most business marketers, an effective social media strategy will involve some form of content marketing. This is driven by one basic principle: that creating and sharing useful content will attract attention, drive qualified leads and increase customer loyalty. A good content marketing plan isn’t about sales materials, however; it’s about adding value in order to benefit in a number of different ways:
- Creating a strong relationship with your community;
- Demonstrating thought leadership in your area of expertise;
- Improving your search engine rankings and driving traffic to your website;
- Increasing consideration for your products and services by educating customers;
- More opportunities to engage with prospects looking to buy.
Knowing what content to create, for whom and in what format are the three most important determinants of a successful content marketing strategy.
Who are you creating for?
It’s assumed that you already have a good idea of who your target audience is and their pain points, so this is the best place to start. In How to craft a successful social media content marketing plan, social media monitoring company Radian6 (now Salesforce Marketing Cloud) suggests using personas to represent the individuals you’ll create content for. Armed with information about their demographics, lifestyles, interests, geographic locations, education levels and values, the following questions can then be addressed:
- How do they seek information?
- How do they use social media and which social networks do they prefer?
- What are their job responsibilities and what decisions can they make?
- What challenges or problems are they trying to solve?
- What could stop them doing business with you?
- How do they measure success?
- What are they reading, watching or hearing already?
What are they interested in?
Personas can help build up a tangible picture of the people you are trying to reach, but insight about what they are interested in – and therefore the content and themes around which you may be able to engage them – can come from other sources too.
Ask your existing customers. Formal and informal research into what existing customers worry about, what sources of information they turn to and which – if any – social media channels they use can provide much-needed guidance.
Ask your sales team. Your salespeople probably spend a lot of time talking to prospective customers. They’ll know what kind of information gets asked for most often, and what competitors are doing right. They may also be able to tell you what kind of content would help build a better relationship, and this should form part of your content marketing plan.
Ask your customer service team. Like the sales team, your customer service agents are also talking to customers on a regular basis. They’ll have a handle on the common problems and issues being faced, and will know the most frequently asked questions. These provide perfect content marketing material.
Listen to customers on social platforms. Many of your existing customers may already be using social networks to engage in discussion with peers about products and services. They may be sharing content from other companies and sources. Look at what they’re saying and sharing for clues as to content your company could contribute.
Join online industry communities. Professional social networks are also good sources of content inspiration. Search for groups, discussions and questions being created on LinkedIn, for example, relevant to your industry and note what kind of content is getting shared and discussed.
Follow industry news sources. There’s a good chance you do this already, but think of them in the context of your own content marketing plan rather than just news. They may reflect issues important to customers in your industry and, with an increasing number of online news sources encouraging comment and sharing, you can see what themes are getting discussed and shared by customers.
Use search to your advantage. Chances are the success of your web presence depends a lot on search engines. Research shows that most online experiences still begin with a search, and industry benchmarks suggest that search engines refer the majority of web traffic. If you don’t already, make sure you know what people are searching for in order to reach your website and use this data to inform your content marketing.
Monitor others. It’s quick and easy – and often free – to get alerts when an industry term, service area or even company gets mentioned online. Look at how often people are talking about these issues, what terms and phrases they are using (they may not be the same as your own marketing ‘speak’) and ensure your content is optimised to reflect this.
Armed with this information, it’s a straightforward process to identify the kinds of content the audience would respond positively to, and develop a content marketing strategy following a simple five-stage cycle: