By now I’m sure you’re well tuned to the notion of content marketing. It’s been big on the digital marketing agenda for quite some time, so this guide won’t just repeat what you already know. This is about shaking things up and creating a content strategy that is fresh and current.

Are you struggling to understand where to begin with content marketing? Maybe you’re familiar with the approach, but in need of a good refresh. The use of content marketing has increased greatly over the years, meaning there is more and more competition, so it is incredibly important to stand out. In this guide we will explain why your business needs to have a content marketing strategy in place and how to create a plan that is effective, innovative and unique.

What is a content strategy?

Okay, so just in case you need a reminder… A content strategy is an element to your overall marketing plan, that involves the planning of all tangible content across a variety of mediums; videos, downloads, social media posts, blogs, emails, ebooks and whitepapers, infographics, webinars, etc.

But you shouldn’t just be creating content for creating content’s sake. The key to a strong content strategy is to ensure that each piece includes quality, value and a purpose. When creating a piece of content, always have in mind who you are creating it for and what problem it is going to solve for your audience. Unique content will return better results, so make sure you’re not just repeating the same thing that has already been done to death, and if you are, what valuable addition are you making and what can your business do to solve the problem that another simply could not?

Bear in mind what types of content you are publishing where. Unfortunately, regurgitating the same content across all of your channels just isn’t productive or effective, so you’re going to need to invest more time and more thought into your content strategy. The content you are creating must be appropriate for the channel you plan to publish it on, for example something you tweet may be a lot more casual, fun and quirky than something you would post on Linkedin. Also, you should be aware of the lifespan of your social posts. With 9,100 tweets being made per second, the average length of time a tweet will remain visible is just 18 minutes. Always be analysing and find out the best times to tweet for you, what times get the most engagement?

This leads us on to how you should be scheduling and managing your content. It’s all about trial and error, as the timings that work for your business will be completely unique. You can’t just pluck out of the air the average best times to publish, you need to ensure you are measuring the success of your content and using this to your advantage. Consistency is key. Your audience will get to know when you are going to be publishing a new piece of content, and hopefully over time, will be eagerly awaiting it.

Why is a content strategy important?

Content marketing can help your business to drive website traffic and engage more leads. Providing solutions to your audience’s problems enables the opportunity to capture their details and further explain how you can help them. Content marketing is about focussing on your audience and not just your brand. It’s important that you are adding real value to your audience, it’s all about building trust.

If your audience gets to know your brand’s voice through the content you publish and you are consistently solving problems and effectively answering questions, you will begin to build a rapport and establish a loyal readership. This readership may eventually turn in to customers, as they begin to understand what your brand is about.

Trends for 2018

Content marketing is progressively on the rise with no sign of fizzling out. So now that we’ve covered the basics, how can you stand out and make sure what you’re doing is up to speed? These are the top trends to look out for this year to keep you ahead of the curve and make sure that you’re not just flooding your audience with irrelevant content.

Video is still relevant

Video is still set to be very big in 2018. Cisco reports that by 2019, video will claim 80% of all web traffic. Even with the recent announcement that Facebook will be changing its algorithms to account for less brand traffic, video is still looking to be the most effective form of content. Going ‘live’ is a great use of video, as you can engage your audience in the present moment, have conversations and find out what your customer wants from your business.

Social media is still relevant

Again, looking to Facebook’s decline in organic reach, you may have started to think that social media is a lost cause. We should never become too dependent on one particular network, as that network is entitled to change the way their channel works at any time. Use your social channels to build a relationship with your audience and gain direct connections, this way you will be able to personally target your audience and get your content seen through more direct means.

Don’t try to sell

The aim of implementing a content marketing strategy is not to sell in the first instance. Don’t push products or services too hard within your content as this will turn your audience off. You must be providing original content that will truly help your audience. It’s about providing knowledge, not trying to get a signature on the dotted line. This ties in to the trust element of your strategy, show your audience that you are willing to help them, no strings attached and it’s likely they will then be more willing to hand over their hard earned cash in the long term. Transforming the journey from a sales-focussed to a customer-focussed experience is important for your content marketing efforts.

Personalise your content

According to Adobe CMO, one third of marketers said that if there is one capability that will be most important to the future of marketing, it is personalisation. What does personalisation mean? Using field mergers in emails, newsletters and landing pages. Target your content to different personas. Use workflows to direct your audience to certain pieces and move them further down the funnel. Be time conscious however, don’t create when you can curate. You will already have some content that you want your audience to see, you just need to direct them to the pieces that best reflect their preferences, you can determine this by looking at their engagement history.

Quality over quantity

The quality of the content you are creating and publishing is so much more important than the quantity. Don’t feel like there is a certain amount of content you must produce in order to be successful, if it takes one month to create a really good, valuable piece of content, then only publish once a month. Find out what works for your business, some need to post several times a day and others, once a week. Keep measuring your analytics and see where the spikes in engagement are, then turn this into your schedule. What topics do your audience engage with more so than others? What times of day are they using your content? And this may not remain a constant, your audience may change over time, so your strategy will need to also.

Venture Stream’s tips for creating a content strategy

What is your goal?

What is the reason you want to develop a content marketing plan? What use is your content going to have? Why are you creating content? You must be able to answer these questions before you begin planning.

Who is your audience?

Who are you going to target with your content? In order to be successful when planning, you must define your audience and keep this in mind every step of the way. Personalise your content and make it so the reader believes the piece they are engaging with was truly made for them and their needs. To understand how to do this, you’re going to need to do some research – buyer persona research. A buyer persona, for those not in the know, is “a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.” – Hubspot. You should consider all aspects of your target persona, from the standard demographics to their motivations, behaviour traits and goals. If you gain a good understanding of what makes your target audience tick, you’re better placed to create content that will be appealing to them.

Review your existing content (audit)

Performing an audit on the content you already have in place is a great way to understand where you currently are with your strategy and determine where you would like to be. Make an inventory of every piece of content you have, you can do this in a spreadsheet. Then put a plan in place to optimise it, remove it, or find where there is gaps in your strategy. Knowing what you have already, and what you can use again will help you to plan better and will also assist with your personalisation. Do this across your website pages, blogs and social channels. Now, we’re not suggesting that you look through every single tweet or Facebook post you’ve ever made, but optimise your profile by updating it regularly and posting fresh content frequently.

Creating new content

Determine which types of content will work best for your business. Find out what channels your audience most actively uses and make sure you have a presence there. By conducting the aforementioned buyer persona research, you will be able to track down your audience.

  • Brainstorm content ideas regularly. The mind needs to be exercised to be creative, so make sure you are having regular ‘brainstorming’ sessions. Write down any ideas that come to mind, it doesn’t matter whether they’re good or bad, fully formed or just small, write down everything and it may come in handy at a later date. Branch out and get everyone in your business involved in the ideation session, this way you will get a great variety of ideas to work with.
  • Aim for ‘evergreen’ content – pieces that are always going to be relevant and of use to your audience. If you create a piece that won’t become dated, and is something that your audience is frequently looking for the answer to, it’s more likely it will be picked up by online search engines. This will drive further traffic to your website and hopefully, expand your audience wider and capture some leads in the process.
  • Reuse and repurpose your existing content. As mentioned earlier in this guide, you can reuse your content by targeting specific members of your audience based on their preferences. You can also update older content to make it more relevant to now and gain a wider readership. Do you have a particular blog that performs really well? Why not expand it and turn it in to a downloadable ebook? Did one video get a lot of views? Turn it into a miniseries.  There is so much that you can do with existing content and it will really make the most of the efforts you have made, you just need to be creative.
  • Create easily scannable content that will enable fragmented reading. A reader may not need to read your entire blog post to get the answer they need. Include plenty of headings, subheadings and small paragraphs so that your audience can quickly scan through and get to the section they were looking for. This will assist with lowering your website’s bounce rate and ensure that your audience won’t be intimidated looking at a really long piece of information.
  • Keep SEO in mind when creating new content. Don’t feel that you need to cram keywords in at each and every possible point. Don’t duplicate your content in various places across your site and don’t use an abundance of links or insert links that just aren’t necessary. You can view our top tips for a successful SEO strategy in 2018 here.
  • Make the most of the free tools that are available to you. There are so many great free tools out there to help you automate your content efforts. To schedule and manage your social content, try HootSuite or Buffer. Short of designers? Try Canva or Pablo (owned by Buffer) to create beautiful visuals that don’t require any skill. For sending out bulk, targeted emails, try MailChimp. And if even after all that brainstorming you’re still struggling for content ideas, try HubSpot’s blog ideas generator. There are lots of platforms that you can use, so do your research and decide which one will work best for you.

It may take some time, but working through your content strategy and optimising it to work best for your brand will provide results. Need help to get you on your way to a better content marketing strategy? Give us a call and we would be happy to discuss your needs further! You can reach us on 0191 5800 696 or at [email protected]