Content Marketing: The New Royal Family

In 1996, Bill Gates wrote and published an article titled, “Content is King.”

“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the internet, just as it was in broadcasting,” wrote Gates. Well, Bill, as per usual, you, sir, were ahead of your time. Today, the ability to produce valuable content is not only a desirable skill; it’s an essential one.

But what does this mean for us as marketers? Well, if content is king then marketing is its queen. It’s a happy marriage but with her keen eye for strategy, marketing rules the roost. So how do these two work so well together? What is this content marketing you’ve been hearing so much about? We’re glad you asked!

Simply put, content marketing is the creation and distribution of content for a targeted audience with the goal of attracting new customers and reaching business goals. It is the use of blog posts, eBooks, slide decks and videos to compete in the new buyer-driven market. Thanks to TiVo and shortening attention spans, gone are they days when intrusive advertisements were effective. Now, it’s up to marketers to meet the consumers right where they are – online.

On top of generating leads, content marketing can help you increase visibility for your organization, aid in SEO, optimize your website or blog with long-tail keywords and create backlinks to your site. With that being said, for content marketing to be successful, the content most be valuable.

To be valuable, content must be three things: relevant, informative and consistent. The goal is never to produce collateral that sells your product or service but instead craft an article that provides applicable knowledge to the reader. Ideally, if you present yourself as a knowledgeable source and continue to deliver this type of content, the prospective customer will reward you with their business. Think of it as a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” agreement.

All of this work will be for naught, however, if you fail to create a solid distribution strategy. Your distribution strategy should not be treated as an after thought but instead be an integral step during your planning phase. Haphazard distribution will only serve to garner less than adequate results. Choosing the appropriate channel to distribute your content is crucial to its success.

The three main categories of channels include:

Owned media: Any channel owned and operated by your organization including social media pages, websites, blogs, email lists and more. This is your bread and butter. The majority of your time and resources will be spent here.

Earned media: Includes any pick up your content gets by media channels, influencers or your social audience. This can also include guest blogging for an influential site in your market. While highly valuable, this is the hardest channel to access.

Paid media: Promoting your content with paid social ads on Twitter and Facebook. This will account for a smaller percentage of your time and resources.

By now you must be wondering how you turn readers into leads. For that, we’ll need to discuss un-gated and gated content. Un-gated content includes any content that you give to your customers and prospects, no-strings-attached. This usually includes your blog and other information on your website pages. This is where you show your expertise and present your self as a knowledgeable and trustworthy source. It gets your readers going down the road towards your gated content.

Gated content is where you can finally gather these leads. Gated content includes anything from videos to white papers. In order to access this higher value content, prospects must provide you with information about themselves – voila, leads! While you should always, at least, require their name and email address, the higher the value of the content, the more information you can ask the prospect to divulge. The more information you have about them, the more you will be able to target your content and nurture your leads thus inching them along in the buying process. Once the lead becomes a customer, you can return to providing them un-gated content to help engage, reaffirm and possibly pave the way to an upsell.

If you have already implemented a content marketing strategy, take some time to evaluate the elements. Is your content providing valuable, insightful information or is it often full of fluff and sales jargon? Are you using the correct legs to disseminate information? Are you giving away valuable content for free? When implemented with strategtic thinking and clear goals, content marketing can be a highly effective tool for your organization. After all, content is king and who wouldn’t want royalty in their corner?

How to Create a Social Media Plan

In 1989, Kevin Costner walked across a cornfield to the sound of a voice whispering, “If you build it, he will come.” Today, many businesses have this same Field of Dreams mentality about their social media presence. If we just promote ourselves on social media, they think, prospective customers are bound to find us. This simply isn’t the case. Like any business tool, building a strong social media presence takes time and careful planning.

When harnessed effectively, social media has the power to create strong relationships between companies and their target audiences. However, failing to create a comprehensive plan with clear objectives can result in a bunch of noise with very little return. This blog explores five questions every organization needs to ask when creating a social media plan.

What are your goals?

Start with the end in mind. Social can help you achieve a large range of business goals but it’s best to set a narrow focus early on. Are you primarily using social to raise awareness? Increase sales? Retain top customers? Without a goal in mind, brands often spread themselves too thin and see very little return for their efforts. Setting a clear, measurable objective will help steer your entire strategy.

Who are you trying to reach?

Create buyer personas. Who is your target audience? What is their industry and job title? How old are they? What is their yearly income? Make your personas as detailed as possible. Remember its possible to target more than one group with tailored messaging so creating a couple, specific personas is always best. Knowing who you are trying to reach will help you down the road when determining what networks you should engage on and what kind of content you should share.

What do you want to say?

Find your voice. Decide on the high level, key concepts that you want to get across in your messaging. Often there will be many employees involved in the social media process, so starting with top level messaging can help keep everyone on track. Remember that this is your time to engage. Be creative. Social media gives you freedoms that other, more structured mediums do not. Use a mix of content and graphics. It’s never a bad idea to take a look at your competitors. This can give you a good idea of how customers in your industry respond to certain messaging.

What channels work best for your message?

Don’t just jump on every social network possible. Brands often establish a strong presence on multiple networks in hopes of reaching consumers a variety of ways. However, not every channel fits with every brand. For example, a B2B company might see the most value in LinkedIn and have little use for Instagram.

Study the demographic of the network. Check out where your customers, competitors and influencers are. Who’s most engaged on each channel? What is the style of content on each channel? Does your message fit? Will you be able to effectively display your message? It can be tempting to jump in head first, but it’s important to take time to grow your presence methodically and organically. If you’re just starting your venture into social, begin with a blog and build from there.

How will you measure success?

Set metrics. These should tie directly to your business goals. Make sure the metrics are clear, relevant and achievable. Choose a time frame in which you will measure your success. For example, if your goal is to increase sales, set a goal of generating 80 leads from social over the period of one month. There are a variety of tools to help you track, obtain and analyze this data, many of which are built directly into the network itself. Keeping a close eye on this type of information will help you determine what messaging is working best, who is most engaging and whom you still need to reach. The real-time nature of these tools can also help you adjust your content plan as you move along.

Social media is a fluid medium that requires close attention. There is often a lot of room for change, creativity and personality. However, creating a strong social media plan on the front end will save you from muddied messaging and wasted time.