Seventy-six percent of B2C marketers report using content marketing, yet only 37% say their strategy is actually effective. Blindly pursuing content marketing and hoping it works isn’t a useful strategy. In the early days of social media, a single tweet could be heard around the world. Brands just had to show up and chat, post a few coupons, engage with whatever audience happened to be hanging around, and their content would practically share itself. Today’s consumers are savvier and more discerning about what they pay attention to. Content fatigue overwhelms the masses, and it’s tough to attract the attention of your audience, let alone convert customers.
It’s not a revolutionary concept that you need a content strategy to succeed in marketing. But what does that actually look like? With rapid shifts in marketing trends, and the availability of new technology to track engagement and automate communication, it’s more important than ever to figure out how your content marketing plan works. Here’s how to get started.
One thing remains consistent in the content marketing world despite game-changing trends: document your strategy. The Content Marketing Institute’s annual research found that those who document their content marketing strategies are more likely to consider themselves effective, feel less challenged by every aspect of it, and were able to justify spending more of their budget on it.
There’s no end to how far you can take your documentation, but focus on a core outline and actionable steps. Start by building your case for using content marketing with an outline of channels to approach, content you want to produce, and end goals. Back up your efforts by meeting regularly with your marketing team to reassess your strategy and make adjustments as needed.
Develop an Audience Persona
You have probably already developed and rely on several customer avatars to better identify exactly who your target market is and how to market to them. But you also need an audience persona to effectively execute your content marketing strategy.
Identify exactly who your audience is across your social media channels, blog readers, YouTube viewers, and anywhere else you plan to host your content. Go beyond just jotting down who this audience is and what they want, and develop an actual persona that covers what their pain points are and how they interact with different types of content.
For example, a cosmetics brand might develop a YouTube audience persona who is looking for eye makeup tutorials and asking questions about specific techniques in the comments field. That audience may also click on interactive video elements to upload a selfie and see how the product works on their own face, then share it via Facebook or Twitter.
Match Your Best Ideas to the Best Channels
Your most profound content ever produced will largely fall on deaf ears when used on the wrong channel. Instead, chart out your ideas and narrow them down until you find a handful that best match your brand’s voice. Now where should you share your article, video, or infographic and kick off the content cycle? A lengthy blog post on business innovation that mentions some of your key LinkedIn followers works better directly on that platform than on every social media channel you can find. Then, if you want to cross-promote your content on Twitter, just pull out the best quotes and statistics to share with that audience.
Remember that finding success with your content on the right channels can be hit or miss. However, there is a science to figuring it out a little more strategically than simply throwing everything out there and seeing what sticks. Study what’s trending on various channels and pay attention to the most clicked-on headlines and buzzwords. What type of content earns the most engagement? Emulate those successes by incorporating similar content and finding relevant influencers on those channels to share it.
These days, content marketers are all talking about big, epic content complete with content upgrades and stand-alone content sites. The strategy certainly works well and can revolutionize your content marketing efforts. But it can also fall flat if you’re not looking at how it’s optimized for mobile, whether your audience is using a tablet or other mobile device.
In a world where mobile is now the leader in search and is the future of marketing, it’s crucial to focus on how users are finding our content and what they’re actually doing with it. Are they sharing it? Clicking on it? Uploading it to Instagram? Don’t wait to figure it out; start tracking engagement and shares in careful detail now. Google sent marketers scrambling when they started penalizing websites who weren’t optimized for mobile search. But they also announced that apps allowing Google to index their content would rank better in mobile search than those who don’t.
Incorporate the User Experience
Without a solid user experience, your content efforts will be largely dismissed and never see a continued content cycle leading to a sale. Creating high-end content is only the first step in your content marketing strategy. Next, ensure that users can easily engage with your content, whether they’re on a desktop or mobile device.
Pick up every mobile device you can get your hands on and check to see that calls to action can be quickly filled out and submitted with the push of a button. Is your primary content above the fold? Do users know what to do once they get to your mobile site? Examine how fast your pages load and how quickly icons respond to a click. Use a heat map from Crazy Egg to figure out where your users are hanging out the most on your site.
Embrace Social Media as a Channel
Daniel Newman explored how marketers will finally embrace social media as a channel and not just a strategy in 2016. Limiting your efforts to only Twitter, or even the entire menu of social media options, can ultimately tank your content marketing efforts. Instead, incorporate social media as just one of many channels that fully support your content marketing campaign.
Think of social media as just one part of your audience’s omni-channel content marketing campaign. How will you integrate it from one channel to the next Your channels need all of the pieces of your content to work together seamlessly and offer the same quality, optimization, and personalization regardless of where they land. Will you be ready when they do?
It’s easy to forget that content marketing should also work as seamlessly offline as online. Overlooking what your customers are doing outside the realms of social media is a missed opportunity for further engagement and brand awareness. And failing to identify what type of content works offline, how it intersects with your online content marketing, and creating a cross-promotional opportunity, is an exercise in lost revenue.
For example, Honest Tea writes words of wisdom right inside its bottle caps to complement what they’re doing online. The surprising and quirky little messages inspire their customers to take snapshots and selfies of the bottle caps and share them through their social networks. This simple process helps share the experience and nudge along the sales cycle while retaining a cohesive experience.
What does your 2016 content marketing strategy look like? Leave a comment and let me know below.
I originally published this post on Forbes.