Consumers today are smart. They have shorter attention spans, and they are fed up with ‘in-your-face’ advertising.
They don’t just want to know what you have to sell, they also want to know why you’re selling and how you can help them.
And that is where content marketing can help.
According to various studies, content marketing produces 3 times more leads per dollar spent.
Not only it is more effective, but it also costs 62% cheaper than any other outbound marketing channel.
Most importantly, unlike paid advertisements, consumers love them. 70% of consumers prefer knowing a company through content than through ads.
With a high ROI and low cost, it’s no wonder that even the old giants like Nike and Coca-Cola have their own blogs.
So what is content marketing?
“Content marketing is a technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience- with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
This means that you as a business needs to start considering putting content out to connect with your market.
And if you are already publishing content, you need to care about the quality of content that you are putting out.
Part 1: What is Content?
In content marketing, any kind of media (both online or offline) can be considered as content.
Content can be found in the pages of a book or a short video from YouTube.
When we think of content, do we mean books, newspapers, magazine articles, blog posts, and reports?
Not exactly. You see, thanks to the internet our content is no longer just words on paper or images on the screen.
Nowadays, not only do we have content in the form of images, graphs, infographics, and charts. We now also have videos, podcasts, and apps that are interactive for the consumer.
Social media posts on Facebook and Instagram, tweets on Twitter are also content. Any kind of media distributed digitally on the Internet is content.
Unlike traditional marketing materials (billboards, print ads, TV spots), content is not promotional.
This right here is the underlying key difference between both forms of marketing. And it’s crucial to understand this difference if you want to succeed in content marketing.
Content marketing is so effective in today’s world because it doesn’t bombard the consumer’s senses like an overplayed TV ad or radio jingle.
Your content should inform, entertain, help and engage your customers and/or answer all your customer's questions.
The long-term game plan is to forge a long lasting relationship with your customer.
So that when the customers need what you are offering they will remember your content, and they will automatically think of you first.
Powerful benefits of Content Marketing
It is cheap and easy to create
Content marketing can work within any budget.
For any small start-up, creating a compelling blog and publishing blog posts is an easy and affordable job that can cost little to no money.
And if you’re a large megacorporation with millions of dollars, you can invest more into content marketing along with SMO (Social Media Optimisation) to create a genuinely formidable online presence.
The lower overheads to run a content marketing campaign means that content marketing is very scalable and complements well with your other marketing efforts.
The variable cost of content marketing is just one example of how flexible content marketing is.
There’s just so many different ways you can use content marketing to reach your audience.
And let’s not forget the number of ways you can leverage these content for your business’ benefit too.
Not only can content marketing generating sales, but it can also be an invaluable tool for generating future leads, fostering trust and even for opening a dialog for other purposes (such as gathering feedback or seeking funding).
It Focuses on Relationships and Narrative
If you really want to reach an audience and encourage them to take action, then you need to appeal to them on an emotional level.
And this is where the magic of content marketing really shines!
Furthermore, content builds trust, it creates relationships, and it gives your business a personality.
You can design your reputation from the ground up, creating a 'voice' for your business and ultimately convey a much more powerful message.
Now, you’re not just a faceless entity, but a human organisation run by people just like everybody.
This is a fantastic strategy for those with their eye on the long-term aiming to build long-term relationships with their customers and clients.
It's Not Showing Signs of Slowing Down
Content marketing is highly popular right now, but it's only going to gain momentum in the coming years.
The number of people carrying smart devices 24/7 is growing day to day. Today we have over 2 billion smartphone owners.
Also, new social platforms are continuously providing new opportunities for marketers to capitalise.
With popular new chat apps like Dischord and Snapchat gaining traction, it’s easy to produce new types of kind of content that conveys real value for users.
Creating your Content Brand
The content brand is simply put, the face of your content.
The core of your content marketing strategy is your content brand.
It’s all about telling your story and bringing this story in front of your audience.
But why a story? It’s simple - Your story creates a narrative that people can relate to and follow.
And just like traditional branding, your content brand helps people view your content and view you as a content publisher.
But unlike regular branding, content branding is a more customer-centered approach.
Rather than sending your brand to reach every corner of your market, in content branding, your sole mission is to provide the content your audience wants.
That means creating and publishing content by putting the audience first, and through this content, you establish the brand.
Needless to say, a content brand strategy makes all the difference between a successful and a mediocre campaign.
So, let's dive right in and look at the 5 critical steps to build your content brand:
1. Understand your customers
This is undoubtedly the foundation of any marketing strategy, and it’s still just as important in content marketing.
Before you publish any content, you have to know what sort of content your customer likes. There are many ways you can find out their demographics and tastes, such as through Facebook groups, Reddit subforums, or even Quora.
2. Serve Your Customers’ Needs
Publishers with good content brand always put the customers’ needs before their own.
They put out content that is helpful or enjoyable to the customer, rather than selling their product or service.
If you can continuously meet the customers’ needs, you can reap the benefits of customer loyalty and top-of-mind positioning.
3. Staying consistent
Just like your regular brand, your content brand needs to be consistent. All your content has to deliver the same message to your customers.
That includes keeping a pulse on the sentiments of your customers, as well as their opinions.
4. Build Authority
The almighty authority – one of the key pillars of SEO success, plays a crucial role in content marketing as well.
You need to establish yourself as the go-to authority for any information that is relevant to your niche.
In other words, you need to become the expert in your customers’ eyes. Not just an expert in knowledge, but a leader of your product or service.
To maintain quality and consistency, your brand has to be always producing content that is high calibre. More importantly, they must be fresh.
If you can produce content ahead of your competition, you’ll attract more eyeballs to your brand.
Putting your Content Strategy Together
Your content brand strategy includes everything from your initial brand concept to your content ideas list.
It is a good idea to put your strategy in writing or in a word document so that you can share it with employees and your content producers.
While they don't need a deep dive into your customers’ persona, but they need a good, solid idea of your audience's likes, dislikes, tastes, and problems so that they can produce content that’s in line with those things.
Topic Ideas And Guidelines
Besides the key information about your audience, your content strategy needs to include topic ideas and guidelines.
Links to the previous content or the types of content you're aiming helps to give an idea to your content producers.
Your guidelines are the rules for creating content. They include the nuts and bolts information, such as article length and composition, as well as editorial guidelines such as the tone of voice, writing style, as well as what words or phrases to avoid.
Content Creation Process
Outline the content creation process that goes from the idea brainstorming phase to the publishing of content.
It should include a publishing schedule and where you'll post content. Be as detailed as possible.
If you're creating content yourself, decide when you'll do it. You can either set aside time on a regular basis, such as once a week. Find a way to implement it into your daily routine.
Or, if you are outsourcing your content, work with the content creator so that their creation schedule fits your posting schedule. Get into a flow so that there are no gaps.
Monitoring Your Content
Once content is published, you’ll need to follow the content, such as for comments on social media or on your blog.
Responding to comments and replies promptly encourages engagement with your readers. Comments are also an excellent source of feedback from your audience. Feedback is great for improving your content so that your audience will enjoy them more.
Remember, your content strategy should be firm but flexible. Over the course of creating and publishing content, you may need to make changes in order to meet your audience's needs better.
Part 2: Types of Content
Now we come to the meat of the article – the types of content you can utilise in your content marketing.
Chances are you’re probably already using one or more of these type of content to promote your business.
There are six types of content to produce and create. There are advantages and disadvantages to every kind of content medium.
The key is to mix things up and provide a variety of these six types of content, to keep things fresh for your audience.
Text content is arguably the most common type of content you’ll find, such as articles and blog posts.
Why? Because they are cheap to produce and they carry info that is targeted at helping the audience solve their problems.
Thankfully, consumers no longer need to endure the pain of reading through walls of text.
Most online articles are usually short and easy to read, with short sentences and only take a few minutes to read through.
Here are some types of articles you can produce:
Since most articles are of the how-to variety, they often lead the reader through a series of steps, like a short how-to guide.
Take something your audience has difficulty doing and slowly walk them through the process. An article may cover how to bake a cake, how to change a tire, or how to set up a home Wi-Fi network
Many of the articles you find online offer tips.
Tips are little tidbits of info from your expertise or research that make doing something more accessible, like changing car engine oil, tips on setting up a Facebook fan page, or even tips on getting your kids to eat vegetables.
Some articles offer essential information to inform people or to help them make the right purchasing decisions.
For example, you might write an article on the different varieties of red wine, the basics of a golf swing, or how a hybrid engine works.
A listicle is an article that is also a list (List + article = listicle).
People love listicles, and they are easy to produce, which makes them an ideal choice for text content.
In fact, listicles are so popular that there are entire websites that produce only listicles, such as Listverse.
Listicles are easy to create. Make a numbered list, or a countdown list and include a short paragraph for each item.
A listicle can be top running shoes made by Adidas, six things you should never say or do on a date, or 24 uses for duct tape.
You can write short news articles that cover a current event related to your customers and your brand.
To make it easy, you can just share a story and write up a short summary, together with your opinion about the item in the list.
Case Studies and Testimonials
Case studies are in-depth articles about how your product or service has helped a client in the past.
A testimonial presents one customer's point of view on your product, service, or brand.
Both of them make great content because they increase your brand’s position by offering social proof, which makes them a definite must-have for any type of business.
Picking the brain of an expert is a great way to create compelling content.
Create an interview with somebody relevant to your business (industry expert, client, celebrity) and transcribe the interview into text, and you’ve got a piece of text content.
Alternatively, you can offer to be interviewed by somebody else on another platform or blog, then share it on your own blog. This is also another way to gain visibility and social proof.
eBooks and Reports
Sometimes, certain subjects are too massive to be fully covered in a single article.
For example, if you look at Copyblogger’s articles on content marketing, you will find over 100 articles on this topic alone.
When you have several articles, you can bundle them together and create an eBook or report.
This is a PDF with a cover that includes text content. You can use it as a free giveaway as an incentive for signing up for your email newsletter, or you can sell it.
You know the saying “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
Think about how you still remember the picture of Armstrong standing on the moon, or the World Trade Centre towers engulfed in flames, even though it happened decades ago.
Visual content is great for making a huge and long-lasting impact on your audience.
They are also the ideal medium for sharing on social media, where everybody’s attention span is fleeting.
When using visual content, always choose those that are relevant to your audience. They should ideally be easily understood at a glance.
You can also use visual content as a summary of your text or video content, so your audience knows what they are getting into before they decide to click on your content.
You should stay away from using offensive, inappropriate, and click-bait images. They will devalue your content brand.
Now let’s look at some of the most common visual content.
You can get photographs from your own camera. Or you can get them from stock photo websites.
Most stock photo websites require a paid subscription, but there are also free options out there such as Pixabay.
Photos are great for gallery style contents, or even listicles.
When you can’t capture the image with a camera, draw them out instead. Illustrations can be used to depict scenes and imagery that are vague or abstract.
Despite what most people think, you don’t have to be an artist to do illustrations.
The Kopywriting blog uses simple ‘stick man’ style illustrations created from MS Paint, and they work just as effective.
Charts, graphs, and tables all fall under this category. They allow your audience to understand statistical facts at a glance.
Infographics are useful when your text content is too technical or dry for your readers to comprehend. Having a visual representation makes your content easier to digest.
Comics are an underrated form of visual content. They can convey ideas and be entertaining to your audience at the same time.
Like infographics, you can use comics to make difficult-to-understand ideas easier to comprehend. If you can infuse some form of humour (think Gilbert), your content will definitely make a lasting impression.
Audio content is getting a lot of traction in the past few years. People are too busy with work and life, and there is simply too much media to consume.
This is where audio content comes into play. They allow consumers to listen during their downtime, such as during driving, morning jog, or even before they fall asleep.
It is a form of content that requires low commitment from the audience, and they are easy to produce.
In fact, nearly every written content that you have can easily be turned into audio content. Let’s take a look at two of the most popular audio content.
Podcasts are gaining a popularity resurgence as of late. Many businesses are dabbling with podcasts to stay ahead of their competitors.
Podcasts let you build up a loyal following of podcast listeners who tune in to your audio content regularly.
Unlike conventional the SEO space, the podcast scene is relatively less competitive, so most businesses are looking into podcasts to establish themselves as authority.
Like eBooks, if you have a ton of audio content on a particular subject, you can bundle them together to create an audiobook which you can offer to your audience for free, or sell it online.
Some people prefer audiobooks because they retain information better listening than reading. There are also some people with visual impairment, such as elderly folks. So you should consider offering an audiobook if they are in your target market.
Videos are the new king of content, especially for the modern internet generation.
The stats are staggering, but one thing is clear. Millennials love video marketing.
As a highly engaging and compelling form of content, any business looking to build their brand should invest in video content.
While it is true that video content can be the most complicated and expensive to produce compared to the rest of the content types, there are a ton of video creation tools and services available to create high-quality videos.
In fact, if you have a smartphone with a camera, or your computer is capable of capturing screen video, you can already create video content.
How do you produce video content? Start off by defining the purpose of your video.
Should it make a sale or just generate an inbound lead? Is its purpose to spread brand awareness or to educate your market?
A video can demonstrate a new product or service. Some videos simply entertain. Define the purpose first, and this will help you make other decisions about your video.
No matter what the purpose, your video should have a story.
While there’s no need to become the next Spielberg, but your video to have the essential story elements.
That means it has to move along a plotline, even if that plot is learning how to tie a necktie.
Think like a storyteller when writing your script. Your videos should be short and only focus on a single thing.
If you're offering a tutorial, for example, show how the activity is done and wrap it up.
Don't try to cover too much. If the video goes longer than about five minutes, break it up into two.
Now, these are some types of video content you can create.
These are video versions of your step-by-step articles that show your audience how to get things done. They are short in nature, so they are easy to produce.
Before consumers make their purchase, they want to understand how your product works.
Uploading a video of your product in action lets them see for themselves how useful your product can be.
Just be careful not to tread into any hard-selling territory like those late-night infomercials you see on TV.
Reviews and Testimonials
Like demos, reviews allow consumers to know if what they are planning to buy is worth their money.
If you don’t wish to produce any video content by yourself, this type of content is great.
You’ll just need to seek out past clients or customers, offer free products for them, in exchange for them to create and upload a video review.
Webinars and Presentations
Another easy to produce video content is to record yourself giving a presentation. If you are camera shy, you don’t even have to appear on the screen.
Simply record your voice and a video of your screen as you click through slides in your slideshow, and you’ve got yourself a video presentation.
Webinars work the same way, except they are usually conducted live and involves interaction with the audience, such as answering questions.
Video blogging (or vlogs) are great for quick, easy to digest content for your audience. They can be done quickly with a smartphone camera, and they are great for sharing on social media.
If you have a strong personality, you should use vlogs to inject your persona to your content brand.
Audiences prefer to watch a face they know and love, than just hearing a familiar voice. This makes your brand much more relatable.
Producing video content isn’t for everyone. If you're overwhelmed by the process of video production, or you don’t have the time, you can always hire a video producer.
A professional who is more experienced and savvy with video may be able to knock out videos for you much faster than you could by yourself.
These are the types of content that primarily offers interaction for the audience. It can be anything from a question tagged onto the end of a blog post to encourage discussion to an app your customers can use.
Interactive content gets your fans engaged directly with your brand, which is excellent for branding.
As technology progresses, the way we interact with media changes as well.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but they are the most commonly used forms of interactive content for businesses.
Give your customers online surveys and ask them for their feedback. People love to give their opinions and an added benefit for you is the data you receive.
This way, you can get feedback while also engaging your audience. Also, when your audience sees you implement the changes they’ve suggested, they feel appreciated.
Contests and Sweepstakes
Organise an online contest with a valuable prize, such as a gift card or a free product. Online contests are fun and allow your audience to gain more exposure to your brand.
You can also use a contest as part of your survey to incentivise users to participate.
Apps and Games
Nowadays, almost anyone owns a smartphone. Having an app that pushes fresh content to your audience is a great way to engage them.
The app also comes with an added benefit of tracking usage and demographics of your audience.
Games can both entertain and engage users for extended periods of time. Place in-game rewards that your audience can earn, such as discount coupons or free trials that they can use for their next purchase.
Part 3: Content Marketing Tactics
1. How to Viral Content for Social Media
With millions of people on Facebook and Twitter, social media is the best way to engage your audience in today’s world.
It's designed to be engaging and allows people to connect with their favourite brands which weren’t possible 20 years ago.
Social media offers a great way to build brand loyalty.
Is Your Audience On Social Media?
The answer to this question is most likely yes. But it's also a matter of defining your audience, and understanding your audience’s tastes and demographics.
Your choice of social media is also dependent on what segment your audience falls under.
If your audience is made up of professionals or businesses, LinkedIn is probably a better social media site for reaching them than Instagram.
However, if your market is mostly under 25, Snapchat or Facebook would be better options.
You also need to consider your audience’s social media use. People under 21 tend to be hyperactive social media users who check in many times a day and interact a great deal on social media.
Older people are increasingly getting into sites like Facebook, but are not likely to use the site as much.
If this is the case, you need to focus more on delivering content to them from other channels, such as through email or blogs.
For each social media site you decide to use, it's important to know what type of content is popular there.
Platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are geared more toward visual content, whereas Twitter, Quora, and Reddit are more text-heavy content.
It is every marketer’s dream to have content they’ve engineered spread like wildfire.
Viral content is kind of like a holy grail for marketing because it moves through people and creates an undisputed level of social proof for your brand.
Viral content is predominantly found in social media, where it's easy to share content.
While it is the ultimate goal to create viral content as a marketer, the biggest problem here is that there is no way to really plan this beforehand.
Content creators usually produce viral content unknowingly. They put up something and the next thing you know it just starts exploding in all the social media channels.
The good news is; it is not difficult to engineer specific factors to improve your odds of going viral.
Viral content tends to be positive, uplifting and humorous – People enjoy content that makes them feel good, so they naturally want to share it with others.
All viral content evokes emotions – Negative emotions are usually much more intense than positive ones. It’s the nature of the human psyche to gravitate towards negative news.
Take a minute to think about what kind of content by others that you share on social media.
What is the sort of content that makes people go "Other people need to see this?”
One important thing to note here is that while you can produce content packed with negative emotions, be careful not to go overboard with the negativity, as people can associate bad emotions with your brand.
Look at past viral content – Sometimes, it is a good idea to look at previously viral content, such as the Dove Real Beauty Sketches video.
If one of your posts has gotten a great deal of social media interaction, try to figure out why. You can also scout the competitions and check out what videos are performing well for your competitors.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to go viral. Sometimes your content can strike viral gold when you least expected, so experiment with different types of content or subjects.
2. Telling Your Story and Providing Value
The best content is those that weave in a story and provide value to your audience. This value can be entertainment, or educational. It can even be a mix of both!
Storytelling is one of the best ways to do marketing, because it's easy to relate to a story, keeps the listeners invested. It’s no secret that everyone loves them.
In marketing, creating stories is also a great way to cut through all of the dull content on the web with something a bit more interesting.
Content Brand Storytelling
You can use storytelling in any kind of content, whether it's a blog post, a video, or even a single image.
But you also need to create a brand story for your content brand.
A good story needs to have these elements:
Setting - When and where you started, the environment in which you started, how and why your brand came into existence.
Characters – Those behind the brand and the supporters who helped it grow.
Conflict– The problem or problems your brand set out to solve and the difficulties, challenges, or setbacks you faced along the way.
Resolution– How your brand overcame the problem to reach where it is now.
Guidelines for Creating Good Stories
When telling stories, use your natural voice.
Let your personality come through in the story. People love reading stories in part because they can relate to the main character.
A good story will help your readers resonate with you. Another thing that will help your story resonate is to create likeable characters.
When a reader likes a character or feels an affinity with them, they root for them throughout the story and have a much more emotional experience reading it.
A great element for any story is a failure. We love stories about someone who failed or gave up, only to persevere and succeed in the end.
Don't be afraid to admit your failures and show a bit of vulnerability. Don't stick only to text stories. Experiment with storytelling in as many different media as possible, such as videos or apps.
Providing value to your audience
If you’re going to create any kind of blog post, YouTube video or infographic, then it needs to offer some form of value.
Otherwise, you are just wasting everyone’s time!
But what does providing value really mean?
Usually, this means that you will be offering information, entertainment, news or education. Or even a mix of one or more of these things.
Whatever the case, it is critical that you do this in a way that is creative and that offers something unique.
Uniqueness is key, and this is the one thing that many bloggers and SEOs forget.
Sharing information in a blog post is easy. You could write about how to do press ups or how to do basic SEO.
But at the end of the day, those posts won’t offer a ton of value. Why?
Because your readers have most likely already heard it all before. There are countless posts out there that are very similar and are readily available.
All they have to do is just run a search on Google, and they can get thousands of search results telling them the exact same thing.
So how do you as a marketer provide something completely new and different? The easiest way is to tell the story with your own words, using your own experience.
Remember, you need to offer something valuable. What better value you can offer than your experience?
It can be a case study about working with your previous client, or how your company came up with the design of your product.
After all, the number one cardinal sin of marketing is ‘Never be boring.’ So don’t be generic. Don’t be derivative.
Offer something completely new and that way you will be able to get people excited to read your blog posts or watch your YouTube videos.
Frequency, Length and other Factors
If you want to build a following on your blog, social media page or website, then having frequency and consistency is a must.
This is an absolute priority as failure to post regularly will quickly result in your visitors losing interest and no longer looking up your site.
If they check several times and your site is the same as it was last time they looked, then this means that they will be likely to give up.
The very minimum you should be posting is once a week.
But while you can get by on one post a week, this is very much not the best strategy.
What is far preferable is that you aim to produce multiple blog posts in a single day. Failing that, you should aim for at least one blog post a day.
That might sound like a lot, but the proof is in the pudding. Think of any of the top blogs that you like to read on a regular basis: how many blog posts do they have?
In all likelihood, these guys are exercising their frequency, posting multiple times in a single day or at least a single time a day. All without missing out even weekends.
Sure, they are major blog syndicates with gigantic marketing teams working under them, but that doesn’t discount the importance of having fresh content every day, no matter the amount.
So, learn to write well and learn to produce content fast.
When it comes to length of blog posts, most SEO and marketing experts now recommend aiming for longer-form content.
Anything that’s 1,500 words and over will be able to provide much greater depth and much more insight compared with something that is just 500 words.
As such, these longer posts tend to be better at creating trust and authority, and they also tend to be shared more.
Video content should ideally be using the same rule of thumb. The average talking speed is about 75 words every 30 seconds, or 150 words in 1 minute.
That means if you are speaking throughout the entire video, you should try to aim for 10 minutes or less. Anything more may make your audience tune out and lose their attention.
The biggest obstacle for most businesses is that writing one or more posts a day at 1,500 words each is quite an impossible task.
Thus a better strategy would be to surround your 1500-word posts with several shorter posts, such as between 500 to 700 words.
Conversely, if your content varies in length, then it looks more as though you’re focussed on delivering good content for your readers without concern for how it might impact your SEO.
Likewise, it is also better for your readers as they won’t always have time to sit down and read a huge amount of text on a subject.
With shorter bite-sized information and longer posts, they can instead read at their own leisure and pick the right post for the amount of time available to them.
Scheduling for Frequent Publishing
If you’re going to be posting multiple types of content (such as videos and social media posts), then these might have to adhere to slightly different schedules.
YouTube videos, for example, will more likely be once a week (this is fairly standard for YouTube creators), while social media posts should certainly be multiple times a day.
Depending on your available time, might need to become a little more strategic in considering how you will go about your marketing.
For example, you might find that you can benefit from scheduling posts. WordPress itself and many social media platforms allow you to create posts and then set them to post at a specific time.
For those social media sites that don’t support this feature, you can use external tools like IFTTT.com or Buffer.
This way, you will be able to ensure that your site has a steady flow of new content, even on days when you don’t have the time or resource to produce new content.
Remember, if you don’t have time to write all the content yourself, then you can always use other creators to help you find the time.
You can do this either by working with partners or by using freelancing sites and webmaster forums where people will advertise their skills.
Make sure keep an eye on the quality level. It’s always better to pay more for quality and get the best content creators – than to hurt your content brand with mediocre work.
Content marketing lies heavily on identifying your audience, create a narrative for your audience to relate and deliver that content to those who will enjoy it.
If your business is not doing any content, why leave money on the table and miss out on this opportunity to increase your reach?
At the end of the day, it’s all about giving your audience the content that they care about and making your business relatable to their goals.
People will always have questions, concerns, fears, interests, problems, and challenges. Your content should speak to these while also engaging and entertaining.
Only the best content meets the needs of its audience. And if you can achieve this goal, you will see higher conversions. That's all it has to do.