Content strategy has become a bit of a buzz phrase in the world of digital media over the past few years but what does it mean and do you really need one?
Wikipedia describes content strategy as “…the practice of planning the content creation, delivery, and governance. A repeatable system that defines the entire editorial content development process…”
In essence, it’s about providing the right content, to the right people, at the right times, with the right intentions.
Why Do I Need a Content Strategy?
Many organisations employ a ‘batch and blast’ approach to their digital marketing, not considering who their users are or when, where and how they might want to hear what the company has to say.
Businesses frequently fail to make the impact they expect to online, because of one of the following problems:
The WRONG people: If you haven’t defined your audience, then you can’t produce the right content or target it on the right platforms. It’s all about research.
The WRONG content: If your content isn’t valuable or relevant then why would users read it, enjoy it or follow your calls to action?
The WRONG times: If you don’t understand your audiences’ behaviour and patterns online, then you don’t know when they are most open to hearing your message.
The WRONG intentions: If you haven’t defined clear business goals as intentions behind your website and social media content, then it’s likely you’re wasting time and money. It’s not all about the likes, the hits and engagement, real goals and KPIs MUST be factored in.
As the internet changes the world around us and connects people like never before, your digital channels can no longer be used as mere broadcast media and your website must be more than just a brochure. What you put out online must be truly valuable. It cannot revolve around you and your organisation. To stand out you must be user-led.
How To Develop a Content Strategy
Set your goals
When planning your content it’s advisable to have an idea of why you’re doing it and what you hope it achieves. Every single thing you publish online should have a clear intention behind it and a desired outcome. You may want to:
· Boost signups or subscribers
· Increase brand awareness
· Drive website traffic
· Generate sales leads
· Convert sales leads to customers
· Improve retention
· Drive upsell
· Encourage users to move from offline engagement towards online functions / services.
Merely chasing vanity metrics such as likes, retweets, pins or favourites is inadvisable as a long term strategy. 1,000 people may retweet your hilarious GIF of a cat getting stuck in a window, but if none of those users bought your product or visited your website, was it worth the resources? 3,000 people might ‘like and share’ your competition post when the prize is a free iPad, but if you’re a B2B consumer goods company, will they ever want to interact with you again?
Know your customer: Build customer personas and research your target audience.
I recently worked with a local charity on developing their online content strategy. Using their own existing data – which included Google Analytics reports and information pulled from Facebook and Twitter – and also some of the many free social listening tools (https://www.brandwatch.com/2013/08/top-10-free-social-media-monitoring-tools/) we researched where their current digital users were coming from, what times they were engaging with the organisation and what they were searching for. We examined gender, age range, location, which devices were most commonly used and what existing content was resonating with the audience.
From this information, we developed three different customer personas, which centered around health professionals, sector influencers and service users. The general age of these personas ranged from 30-65+. The personas were used in the planning of all online content and considering their features, we decided that it would be not be an effective use of time and budget to focus on platforms such as Snapchat and Vine, which are most popular with younger users, however LinkedIn and Facebook were identified as ideal vehicles for outreach.
Considering all this data, the next step is to plan your types of content. This will be shaped by what you already know your customers want and enjoy, but also by the skills and assets within your organisation, along with budget. Content will often include:
· Testimonials, case studies and success stories from within your organisation.
· FAQ page – A comprehensive resource which aims to answer customers’ key questions and allows them to explore products and services without experiencing a ‘hard sell.’
· SEO optimised blog posts and thought leadership articles (these can include guest blogs from other influencers).
· Product reviews
· Video tutorials, webinars and behind the scenes clips.
· Shareable / news jacked social media content
· Photo gallery
· Email newsletters / Ezines
· User generated content
· Contests and competitions
In the case of the previously mentioned charity we ascertained that regular, relevant and informative website articles along with highlighted video tutorials would add value for users, as would a prominently displayed event calendar and clear contact details across the site.
Perhaps you will find, based on your own analysis, that your users will want weekly email newsletters, a monthly competition and plenty of short and snappy social media updates. Or maybe they’ll enjoy daily recipes, a few behind the scenes videos each week and a review feature where they can engage with other customers. It will vary from business to business but as long as you take a customer led approach, you’ll be going in the right direction.
Create a content calendar
Now you know why you’re creating content, who you want it to appeal to and what format it will take, so when do you push it out? Without a clear execution strategy it is easy to fall behind, miss deadlines and fail to follow through with all the great plans you’ve made.
Decide how often you want to post on your website, update your Facebook, publish to Youtube (again bearing in mind your customers’ habits and needs), then put together a clear content calendar and share it with your team. The better the planning, the more time can be spent really focussing each piece of content so that it stands a better chance of achieving those goals you’ve already identified. It doesn’t need to be complicated. You can even use one of these free templates. https://econsultancy.com/blog/64587-eight-free-content-calendar-templates-to-help-plan-your-output/
Promoting your content
Simply creating excellent content is not enough if no one ever sees it. It’s essential that you maximise the reach of your work. The most important factor at this stage is where you choose to promote what’s been published. Determining this will bring you back to your customer research and will be led by where your users reside online.
Are they dedicated Facebook users who could be reached by pinned or boosted posts? Do they prefer searching via Google, making adwords advertising a viable option and SEO more important than ever? Could sponsored Youtube or Instagram videos reach the younger audience you’ve been targeting? Or can you convert the engaged network of an established influencer, by paying or convincing them to share your work.
Don’t forget, the promotion can also include offline channels, such as company literature, press releases and signage.
Also consider how many times you will promote a certain piece of content, how much budget you might allocate to advertising and how long you will continue with the promotion.
As mentioned before, your content strategy is only as good as the goals behind it. So measuring how you’re achieving those goals is an important part of the process.
It’s essential that you work out your metrics, what you consider a success and how this information will help influence ongoing content creation.
I worked recently with a client who was launching a new website for his training organization, where the main goals were to improve search engine visibility and ranking, boost traffic to the site and increase signups to training events. Using keyword monitoring tools we could examine how Google rank was improving as we rolled out our new content strategy, Google Analytics allowed us to track page and site traffic and EventBrite’s reporting system provided regular insights into registration numbers, repeat attendees, and revenue earned. Monthly reports from each platform allowed us to examine any emerging trends and of course determine ROI.
Remember, developing a content strategy isn’t a one off action, it’s an ongoing process and one which may take time to yield the results you’re seeking. You might not get thousands of website visitors after two weeks of launching your new strategy but if you do it right, you will see a steady improvement and growing engagement between you and your users. You engage, you refine, you rework, and you keep at it. It will pay off.
Find out more about content marketing and strategy for Northern Ireland businesses at Digital DNA 2017 coming this June 6-7 to St George’s Market Belfast. Get your pass now!