“Content marketing is not a new phenomenon. Yet, in the context of social media marketing and engagement, it has conjoined elements of communication in ways that (to most) came unforeseen. Here, experienced content marketers share bits of their creation, production, optimization, and distribution experience to help light the way.”
The best content marketers in our current social business landscape are a little bit like the first kid to have a lemonade stand on that busy street corner. It was easy to doubt the “lemonade entrepreneur’s” initial investment in the cost of production, and the time it would take to make a sale, but in the end weren’t we amazed at how that kid’s money always went further than the other kids who blew their allowances on idle purchases?
In a similar fashion, great marketers today have tapped into this same type of potential, but on the street corners within social media and other online markets (mobile too). They have accepted the fact that the investment in the production of high-quality content is worth the cost – for their business, clients and customers – and in return they have received much higher (and lucrative) engagement than if they would have stayed put on the curb.
These content marketers have propelled the essential elements of a strong content marketing strategy, acknowledging that audiences want to follow a narrative, be exposed to the history of a company, be incorporated in the story of a brand, and to receive information of utility that can be used in their personal and business lives. In short, great content marketers understand people want value.
Below are some content marketing “best practice” tips from a few of the best, some that have stood out in my study and implementation of SEO and content marketing through various interview series I have run. From quality, to strategy, to optimization, to engagement, these marketers get the value in managing a content marketing strategy – and can help you be more like that loaded, entrepreneurial lemonade kid.
1. “Content is the engine that drives the whole machine. Content is the catalyst, or even the glue, that brings people together and binds us there. It is the stories we tell that allow us to begin relationships the have the potential to deliver real value to both parties.” – Michael Brenner, SAP Business Innovation and Business2Community (Full interview.)
Michael says it simply: stories spark initial interest and allow us formulate lasting relationships because of the value provided on either end. Don’t just create content. Produce material that reveals something about your motivations and desires. The more genuine your content, the more value in your response – and thus – more potential you have for your target audience to respond and follow you all the way through your buying cycle.
2. “Be transparent (but not confessional), positive (but not giddy), human (but not frivolous), supportive (but not pondering), and most of all, patient (but not lazy). The primary advantage of content marketing, whether the technique is used for a corporate or personal brand, is trust. By providing informative, entertaining or engaging content that doesn’t overtly push a sale, the marketer establishes herself as a trust source. And trust is a marketer’s most precious asset.” – Joe Chernov, Kinvey (Full interview.)
There are two takeaways from Joe’s advice. One, be trustworthy. Two, earn trust by walking the fine line between providing valuable information to your readers and compromising your professional integrity (by overdoing it). Balance is a key element in establishing the kind of content marketing strategy that it takes to inspire enough trust to produce a transaction.
3. “Content marketing isn’t just about adding more content; it’s about creating information for a targeted audience that has a particular purpose and an intended outcome…Modern day marketers should focus on understanding their customers, what topics are relevant to guide sales and leverage keyword research into an editorial plan and social media engagement program. Remove any technical barriers to search engines crawling and indexing a site efficiently, and promote content to attract links and shares.” – Lee Odden, Top Rank Marketing (Full interview.)
Great content marketing isn’t just about production: strategy and technical oversight are essential to maximize results. Start with researching and defining your target audience. Learn everything you can about their behaviors, buying patterns and desires. Go to where they are and give them precisely what they want – in a way that makes you stand out through a combination of quality and optimization. Then make sure you have the technical support to back your strategic plan.
4. “You cannot be successful without content and SEO combined. There are those that get to the top of the page with crappy content, but then have nothing in place for conversion and/or maintaining a solid audience. Even if you get to #1, without the right content, you’ll fail anyway.” – Melissa Fach, SEO Aware (Full interview.)
Melissa speaks to one of the hardest truths of content marketing: the production of high-quality content means little if it cannot be found. Research ways to optimize your content to ensure your target audience is exposed to you in the first place. Once they are aware you exist, you will already have a foundation of strong content that can inspire dialogue and convert.
5. “If there isn’t a clear strategy behind it, content is just content. Instead of aiming for vague ‘high quality,’ I would think in terms of relevant, creative and timely content. Once the content is there, it will work in a cycle: SEO will help you get that content in front of the right eyes, and working with good content will make building links easier.” – Gisele Navarro Méndez, Upstream Connections (Full interview.)
While recent Google updates have altered elements of SEO, content marketing and SEO are still in a state of symbioses. Because of such updates, content made solely for the purpose of “SEO” has a short life. Yet, high-quality content that is optimized to maximize visibility within search engines creates a positive cycle where it can be found and shared (and shared and found). The important thing to remember is to strategize how to both optimize content and how to make this content highly “shareable” regardless of its optimization.
6. “Complaining your industry isn’t glamorous tells me two things about you: 1) you don’t fully understand your customers need/pain points/ wants and 2) you are boring. The opportunity to create high-quality content is there, regardless of what industry you serve…. Just because your topic is toilets (or insurance, or telecom, or stained-glass windows), doesn’t mean your topic has to be 100-percent toilet focused. Find those interesting periphery topics, or the topics your customers are passionate about, and create content around them.” – Lisa Barone, Overit (Full interview.)
Lisa puts it best: don’t complain – create. While you are busy whining about the inability to produce compelling stories for your brand, others will quickly take over your niche. As Lisa says, it’s not about the toilets; it’s about the story surrounding their new home and the topics that matter to the potential toilet buyer.
7. “The blog was always the last thing I did during the day – or should I say, night – and the first place where I tried new ideas in digital marketing, studying the results for potential use. It’s the place where I took all the risks, every day. But writing on the blog was only part of the equation. Commenting on other blogs, extending discussions, helping others with research and content via interviews, and writing for other sites with higher visibility…made it all work.” – Valeria Maltoni, The Conversation Agent (Full interview.)
Valeria’s advice comes from her personal initiation to content marketing. While focusing on audience needs is number one, there is something else to be gained from this aspect of content marketing: the opportunity to detect how best to advance your future strategy. Content marketing, in fact, relies on measuring and re-assessing the results of your content. Taking risks (along with engaging in active and visible communities) allows you to hone in on the exact needs of your target readership to better analyze and configure how best to move forward.
Good luck with your lemonade stands out there!
Photo credit: Marketing maestro – courtesy © Yuri Arcurs – Fotolia.com