When consumers need help solving a problem, they turn to their friends and to the internet. Smart businesses will be right there with appetizing content. The Digital Marketer gives you the recipe for an effective content strategy.
As both social media and search engines change the way consumers make buying decisions, content has emerged as the essential ingredient in any digital marketing strategy. If you plan to invest in content marketing - and you should! - take the time to create a well-designed content strategy. You'll have an easier time with execution, and your efforts will be more effective.
Brands that produce and curate a fire hose of content will attract more website visitors and be more likely to convert them to customers. But let's be candid. Creating enough content to fill the content machine can be hard.
Let's take a moment to understand why content is so important to digital marketing. More than 85% of American adults use the internet, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Of these, 78% look for information about a service or product that they’re interesting in buying. But even more impressively, 91% use a search engine to find information.
That means most consumers start with search to support all stages of the buying cycle, from gathering information to solving a problem to researching purchase options. In addition, they also look to friends and family for recommendations, which is made vastly easier by social networks. In fact, 81% of consumers said posts from friends directly influenced their purchase decisions, according to a survey by Market Force.
Increasingly, in order to compete, businesses must be seen as authoritative sources or experts in their industries and fields. Thought-leaders create and share a high-volume of content that answers consumer questions, solves problems, and keeps customers and potential buyers informed of trends and news.
This is not an easy thing to do, and I’ll warn you: It takes time. But it’s why having a rock-solid content strategy is so important, perhaps even more important than your sales or advertising strategy.
Developing a great content strategy will require some research on your part, but you’ll probably have most of this information at your fingertips already. It does require a new mindset: You’re now a publisher, so you'll have to start thinking like one.
5 Essential Ingredients for Effective Content Strategy
- Know your audience. Your goal is to solve the reader’s problem, so the first step is defining your buyer in great detail. The more you know about the audience and their biggest challenges, the easier it will be to create highly relevant content. Remember: It’s about them, not you.
- Editorial focus. Identify your area of expertise, and articulate your unique point of view or angle. As the publisher of a new magazine, define who you are. Are you a Sports Illustrated, with a focus on sports news? Or are you a Vogue, in which haute couture is your milieu?
- Content creation. Now consider what type of original content you’ll produce. This isn’t an option. All businesses must now produce their news, features, checklists, images, graphics, and more. Search engines favor high-quality, fresh, and unique content, so simply syndicating or commenting on news produced by others will not be enough. And, you’ll need to create a lot of it, not simply blog posts or downloadable tip sheets, but also Facebook status updates, pithy image quotes, and poll questions. Be sure to list all of the topics you’ll cover under your editorial focus, and determine what formats (blog posts, videos, podcasts) fit your brand and budget best. Finally, consider frequency. Will you produce new content hourly, daily or weekly?
- Content curation. There’s no escaping it. The content machine is very, very hungry, and it’s impossible to feed it with original content alone. You’ll need a plan for curating a fair amount of content each day. Spend some time researching (if you don’t know already) others who are producing content around the same theme. Curation will help build your reputation as a thought-leader. Like a news editor, be selective. You’re making careful choices about the most valuable and authoritative content that's worth your audience's attention.
- Distribution strategy. There are thousands of websites and social networks, but your content should only travel on those that reach your audience. Identify the places where your readers and viewers meet and share, and don’t be tempted to be on the most popular networks, simply because they are popular. It makes no sense to distribute content through Facebook when your audience lives on LinkedIn. Know where they go, who they talk to, and what words they use to search.
These are the 5 basic ingredients that every content strategy should have. You’ll find that a strategic plan will streamline your content marketing efforts. Soon, you’ll be publishing like the pros.