The idea of content marketing is nothing new, it’s been ‘the next big thing’ for some years now but despite that particular label, it’s firmly entrenched in many businesses as the way forward when it comes to internet visibility. In 2014, there are a few areas that many of the big brands are looking at when it comes to ratcheting up their content marketing efforts.
This a great step forward for content publishers and businesses alike, but it does pay to get it right. This year’s big trends seem to be concentrating on remarketing and of course, mobile and how content can be adapted to suit different devices.
However, if you’re just starting out in content marketing, there are a few things that can go wrong if you’re not sure of the rules, so let’s take a look at some of the most fatal.
Winging it Entirely
Many companies agree that content management is a good thing, then don’t put any measures in place to ensure that it’s managed consistently. You need an editorial schedule, evergreen content that is ready to go and one eye on your industry news to ensure you don’t ignore breaking news.
You also need a chain of command, with one person responsible for the overall look and feel. If your content plan is to wait and see what the person in marketing comes up with and then give it a quick edit, it’s not likely to work. To help with this, it’s a very good idea to use an editorial calendar and some form of CMS such as Trello, to make sure that everyone knows what’s expected and when.
Quantity not Quality
All content should be approached with a keen eye on quality over quantity, not the other way round. So don’t churn out useless, short-form content just because you think that as a publisher, it gives your site more worth for having fresh content. If it’s not highly useful to your audience, then why on earth would they come back for more?
Think of content that interests you, know your customer and write for them. The aim is to gain engagement and encourage people to share the content, not simply glance at it and move on. Offer education, offer insight, offer a humorous treatment, offer whatever you want, but do it well.
Inconsistent tone of voice
It pays to write a house style guide before you even begin. It should match your brand persona with regards to tone, writing style and formatting in order to maintain consistency across platforms. Decide what your company’s ‘personality’ is before you start to write blog posts, case studies, presentations and social media initiatives.
Give your content marketing material a central character, a personality and even a branded name if that works for your company (think about personal branding and mascots, that sort of thing). Ideally ensure that your content speaks to your average customer on a level that they can fully relate to. You should really know already who your audience is and what they like through creating marketing plans and buyer personas. Then you can ask yourself if the latest blog post stays true to the ethos? Would your ‘character’ say it like that – always ask yourself this question, especially in the early days whilst you’re still testing the water.
It’s up to you if you want to become immersed in your content marketing strategy and head towards corporate storytelling, but it certainly helps to choose if you want to be an entertainer or a voice of authority right from the off. Consistency is key, so ensure that all content creators have a copy of the style guide and drive the point home that it has to be followed religiously.
Keeping the reader at arm’s length
Content marketing is about building a relationship with the reader, but some companies are nervous about revealing too much personality and end up with a bland blog. A voice of authority is one thing, but a quiet and timid voice that doesn’t say anything at all is quite another.
The reader wants to bond with you, but you have to let them by revealing a little about you, the people in your company and potentially what’s happening behind the scenes. Don’t just rehash the same turgid industry news releases and expect it to work. Social media has been a great enabler of this and many companies now ‘get it’, but there are still many stuffy, corporate voices out there that are failing to connect with their audience, just because they use the wrong language.
Failing to integrate
It’s easy to focus on one part of your content marketing strategy at a time and get obsessed with Facebook one week then forget about it the next when Twitter trends take over your life. Don’t, be consistent.
Broaden the editorial schedule to cover all social media. Of course, you’re allowed a little flexibility, but use the schedule to make sure you’ve covered all your bases and one of your social media accounts isn’t quietly rotting the rest of your efforts away.
Tools like HootSuite and Buffer can also help your cause here and ensure that a single post is shared across all mediums, as well as helping to schedule them for maximum impact. Hootsuite also allows teams to work together and collaborate, so it’s useful for the smallest business up to medium-sized enterprises. However, if your SME is large enough to have a fully-fledged intranet, you should also bear in mind that it’s possible to have a social intranet, where collaboration can be even more effective, especially with regard to tone etc.
Not following up
Once you’ve posted content, you need to be ready to engage with your followers. If people comment then you have to follow up and talk to them on their level. Unanswered comments are a death knell, because they won’t bother next time. Commenting systems do get spam, that’s a given, but this is easily weeded out with an approval system and these days, comments are invaluable for building a community that’s based around the content you produce.
Making it all about you
Of course, this is your company’s content, but if you just use it as a poorly concealed sales pitch then you’ll lose people’s interest in no time flat. The point is to create a community, so comment on relevant news, write features that will interest, inform and entertain. Promotional posts can be used occasionally, such as when you launch a new product or competition, but too much and the reader will look elsewhere for more engaging content that doesn’t shove products down their throat.
Solve problems for the reader, offer loosely connected information that matters to them and encourage them to share. Make your content relevant and your customers will do a lot of the marketing for you.
Don’t forget your call to action
This might seem confusing coming directly after explicit instructions not to sell at every stage. But with a careful plan, links and further reading you can draw the reader through a relatively innocuous chain of stories to a point where you can sell. This is the ultimate goal of content marketing; at the end of the day, you want your content to generate interest in your content and therefore, your company.
You can develop a system of pacing and leading, as it is known in sales psychology. If you provide interesting information that leads to other stories, a white paper and, eventually, a sales pitch, you can exploit your content marketing efforts to the full.
Failing to use different media
While written content should form the backbone of your Content Marketing strategy, don’t forget the power of images, presentations and videos too.
Video is a powerful tool, which brings in massive audiences, and almost every form of content can be repurposed and deployed in another channel. A whitepaper can become a series of articles, which can become a series of video lessons or webcasts.
Don’t discount SlideShare either, it’s overtaking white papers as the primary form of content marketing.
Today’s content consumers want:
- Excellent quality, whatever the form
- Bite-sized chunks of information which can be taken in easily
- Well formatted blogs/articles that contain images and sub headers and can be easily scanned
- Information presented in images and video
- Useful, educational, or fun content that appeals on an emotional level
The latter doesn’t have to be you stood in front of a camera giving a talk, web videos can be graphical and actually work very well. You can script them out much in the same way as you would an infographic, giving relevant points in graphical, fun forms.
Content marketing relies on your company giving your target audience what they need. They may not know they need it, but it’s your job to identify that need and address it if you’re going to have any success with content marketing.