Everything we publish online, from social networks to the website, collaborates to create and spread our brand. Therefore, to maintain a clear and easily identifiable communication style, it is important not to improvise but to develop an effective content marketing strategy in line with our brand. In today’s article we delve deeper into what content marketing is, what it means to do content marketing and how to create an effective content marketing strategy.
Let’s start by giving a definition of content marketing.
Content marketing is the strategic creation of a text, image, audio or video that produces a relevant and interesting message for a specific audience, while paving the way for concrete action, such as sales.
There are three elements that make content marketing work – and that make it marketing, differentiating it from simple content creation.
First of all, content marketing must move our audience. And by audience we mean not only customers or prospects but also those who are not part of the target market for that product or service but know someone who is.
In order to provoke an emotion, however, we must first gain the attention of our public and to do this in an effective way we must become aware, as professionals, of a rather widespread corporate attitude: many companies find it difficult to remember that they are not entitled to nobody’s attention just because they have a project, a service or an advertising budget. Attention must be earned. Every founder, CEO or vice president of a company thinks that the story of their business is fascinating. The job of those who do content marketing is precisely to make this story fascinating for others, as well, fighting the attitude of entitlement that often permeates corporate environments. Moreover, there is no topic that cannot move our audience: each topic is interesting for the audience for which it is relevant. It is up to us to understand how to make it so.
Finally, the third element that content marketing cannot ignore is the spark. The main problem, in fact, is that some content is often lacking in originality. To find this spark, it is necessary to find someone within the company who shares the passion for what we want to communicate and who fully understands how important it is to communicate it. If we do not find the person capable of communicating such passion to us to be translated into content, then it is better to look for another job: it is impossible to communicate a product or a service in which one does not believe.
So, content marketing isn’t just something interesting to read on the web. It’s not, for example, the kind of content you’d find on a site like BuzzFeed, which people read to pass the time. It may look like that content but the function is quite different. The function of content marketing is to pave the way for an interested lead to make a purchase, get a referral from an existing customer, or encourage the sharing of content with other potentially interested people.
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What it means to do content marketing
Having clarified these fundamental concepts that are the basis of any good content marketing strategy, let’s now see more specifically what it is for and what competitive advantages it can bring us.
Doing content marketing means informing, inspiring and entertaining. Without at least one of these three elements, we will hardly be able to gain the attention of our audience, move them and bring them to action.
Informing means providing a useful feedback to users’ queries. It is not for nothing that we often turn to search engines to find out how to do something, why, what or where a certain thing is. Our content must be able to intercept users’ needs, giving them a clear, exhaustive and authoritative answer, which gives authority to the brand and communicates its values.
Let’s not forget that informing also means educating the public about our products and brands.
Another way to capture and keep the attention of our audience is through inspiration – for example, with quotes as well as storytelling -, which can help create a bond with our brand. To inspire often means to move and, as we saw when talking about neuromarketing, provoking emotions in the consumer is particularly important because they can lead to action, change the perception of a product or a brand, and also act as a social signal.
If it is in line with our business objectives, the personality of our brand, the tone of voice we have chosen and with the type of audience we have, we can also decide to entertain our audience. This doesn’t mean putting on a comedy show with every post, rather finding the right communication key to entertain our audience.
In fact, we don’t necessarily have to put ourselves on the same level as Ceres, Oreo or Netflix who have made irony and irreverence their distinctive trait. Entertaining also means communicating with a little more lightness, in a less formal tone or by proposing content that is not strictly product-related but that, for example, links to our values, like posts dedicated to Earth Day or other environmental and social issues.
To entertain, we can also think of initiatives aimed at actively engaging the public and which will allow us to take advantage of user-generated content – a trend that has increasingly taken hold and which has marked the success of various marketing campaigns on platforms such as Instagram or TikTok.
Choosing to entertain our audience is certainly a greater challenge than deciding to navigate the safe waters of information, strengthened by our experience and authority. However, this type of content marketing can help us humanize the brand –a value we talked about extensively on the blog – by establishing a more direct relationship with our audience.
How to make a content marketing strategy
We have seen what lies at the heart of content marketing and what it means to do it. Now is the time to set up our strategy. To do this, we need to take a few steps. Let’s see which ones.
Defining the goals
Why are we doing content marketing? What goal do we want to achieve? These are the first questions to ask ourselves when setting up a content marketing strategy. In fact, it will be on the basis of the goals we have set for ourselves that we will then measure the results obtained to understand if our strategy is effective or if it needs to be revised.
The goals that a brand can set for itself are several, including:
- Increasing brand awareness
- Improving the brand reputation
- Lead generation
- Increasing the engagement
- Converting to action
- Selling a product or service
- Increasing website traffic
- Gaining a competitive advantage over competitors
Defining the audience
Once the objectives have been defined, in order to create effective content, we need to understand who our audience is and what its needs are.
To do this, an exercise we have already talked about other times in our articles comes in handy: the creation of buyer personas.
Buyer personas are fictitious but realistic people, who could actually be a part of our target. We have to put ourselves in their shoes in order to understand their needs and desires. Based on this, we must then ask ourselves what our brand can do to respond to their needs, developing relevant messages that can engage them.
Distributing the content
We know what we want to achieve from our content marketing strategy and have perfectly outlined our audience and their needs. Now, we just have to decide which channels to exploit and start producing content that communicates what our brand can do to meet the needs that have emerged.
The channels we can use – both online and offline – are many, for example:
- Website and blog
- Social media
- Lead magnets (cheat sheets, e-books, checklists…)
- Radio and TV
- Pay-per-click advertising
Generally speaking, it is good practice to take advantage of proprietary channels (such as your own social channels and website), conquered channels (for example, the press, by sending press releases) and purchased channels (online and offline advertising).
This does not mean that we must always rely on all these channels, rather that we have the opportunity to distribute our content based on what we are promoting and the goals we have set ourselves, implementing them along the way, if necessary.
Once we have chosen the channels, we must move on to the production of content, which must be adapted to the channel they are intended for: writing for social media is not the same as writing an article for the blog, a newsletter or a press release. Even between social networks there are substantial differences that we must take into account when we are crafting content, striving, for example, for a more professional approach on LinkedIn and a more informal one on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.
Content-wise, from infographics to video storytelling, the options available to us in this regard are truly endless and we can give free rein to our creativity.
What cannot be missing in an accurate strategy is an editorial calendar that helps us keep track of the content distribution on the various channels, the focus of each post/article and their schedule, to ensure consistency.
Typically, the ideal content mix follows the rule of thirds:
- 1/3 of content must be aimed at promoting the business;
- 1/3 must come from external sources, in line with our business;
- 1/3 must aim for direct interaction with followers.
Another method on which we can organize content is the 80/20 rule, which calculates a 20% of content aimed at sales and the remaining 80% dedicated to the creation of useful content.
As anticipated when we talked about setting the goals, to understand if our content marketing strategy is effective, we must measure the results.
In addition to the so-called vanity metrics (likes, comments, shares), easily obtainable from tools such as Google Analytics or directly from social media’s analysis tools, it is also worth considering social listening, that is, the process of listening to the conversations around our brand and products, and our reference sector, in order to track user behaviour patterns and consequently set a more competitive strategy.
Social listening can also help us fill the possible lack of quantitative data generated by organic traffic, which has been declining on all major platforms for some time now. Suffice it to say that the average reach of an organic post on Facebook was 7.7% in 2018 and 5.5% in 2019. In 2020 this figure reached 5.2%, with an average engagement rate of 0.25%.
TO LEARN MORE: Social Listening: what it is and why it is important in 2021
Useful content marketing tools
There are several tools that can help us manage our content marketing campaigns, many of which have different functions. From analysis tools to content distribution ones, here is a roundup of tools that could help us:
- Tools for keywords, topics and trends research, competitor and audience analysis, content optimization: Answer The Public, Google Trends, BuzzSumo, Ubersuggest, SEOZoom, LSI Keyword generator, MarketMuse, Facebook Audience Insights
- Website creation: WordPress, Flazio, Wix
- Writing assistants: Grammarly, Hemingway, SemRush SEO Writing Assistant
- E-mail marketing: Mailchimp, MailUp
- Graphics: Canva
- Video making: Lumen5, Powtoon
- Free images and video stocks: Pexels, Unsplash
- Workflow management: Asana, Google Sheets, Trello, Airtable
- Content distribution: Hootsuite
- Analysis and listening: Google Analytics, Socialbakers, Talkwalker
What content works best for your brand? What kind of communication did you adopt? Tell us about your experience in the comments section below and contact us to learn more about our digital marketing consulting services.