With the growing momentum of content marketing, a lot of companies get hung up on making investments in quality articles, white papers, videos and other media only to find they’re not getting much traction. I’ve heard it time and time again at conferences in discussions with brand marketers where they’ve invested in creating great content and digital assets but are frustrated at the lack of reach.
Over the past 6 1/2 years of blogging, followed by contributing articles, posting videos, photos, PowerPoint slides, reports in PDF format and other types of content publishing for our own agency and for clients, here are a few guidelines that stand out for helping content get better reach.
1. Purpose: What do you expect this content to accomplish?
The purpose for a content object can be complex and multi dimensional or it can be as simple as getting readers to click and visit a web page. Either way, some real thought should be put into being specific about primary and possibly secondary objectives.
2. Message: Compelling, Unique, Inspiring, Actionable
One of the biggest issues with content companies publish is that it tends not to be customer centric. SEOs use keyword research to inspire their content recommendations. Keywords are a reflection of demand for topics customers are interested in. Same goes for social keyword research and using personas to guide editorial.
The message is obviously tied to the purpose for the content, so the degree to which it’s unique, inspiring or actionable will vary. You should be able to boil down the essence of the content into a single or two sentence summary. Think elevator pitch. It should also be crystal clear what you want the reader (or watcher) to do after consuming it.
3. Packaging: Quality, Creativity, Usability & Design, Sharability
It used to be that typos, mis-spellings and lack of design were the norm with blogs but these days business blogs need to be as professional, albeit conversational, as company web sites. In today’s short attention span world, crap content with snappy packaging will often win over quality content and normal appearance.
This doesn’t mean you need to adopt tabloid tactics, but it does mean that there should be a very strong motivation to employ creative resources to design a great experience for consumers. Readers should be able to tell quickly what the top level concept is (as well as search engines), it should be easy to consume or scan and it should definitely be easy to share/save/post to social news and bookmarking sites.
Essentially, if the actual content is interesting then make sure the design is interesting too.
4. Distribution & Promotion – Push / Pull, Syndication
This is where I get to use the “Build it and they will come.” quote from Field of Dreams because this is the source of frustration for many marketers publishing new content with frustration over the effect. First, make sure the publishing system offers automated distribution such as through Email subscription or RSS. Cross posting updated content to a news roll on the home page or newsroom is also helpful
Building social channels is key for the “pop on the social web” part of this post. Develop social networks on the channels where conversations are happening relevant to the people and companies you’re trying to reach. If they’re on Facebook for example, you might find it makes sense for your Fan page to accept posts from the blog and that the blog also posts to Twitter. Then have Twitter post to LinkedIn.
Pushing out content automatically must be designed carefully to avoid duplication and especially avoid a high ratio of self promotion.
“Pull” in this case means optimizing content with keywords people search for relevant to the content you are publishing. Make SEO part of the publishing process so content creators have keyword lists they can draw from and guidelines to follow when writing new text content or creating other types of media.
5. Call to Action
Give readers something to do next, whether it’s share, subscribe, join or even buy. The call to action is tied to the purpose of the content. Not all content needs to have an explicit outcome, but if you don’t ask or even tell readers what to do, it’s pretty much a certainty they won’t do what you want. The story of the content should guide the reader to a conclusion that involves a next step. This might be as passive as reading the next article in a series or proactively soliciting a visit to a landing page.
It’s also perfectly fine in many cases to offer more than one thing to do next. The additional options can be part of the design of the web page (White paper, Webinar, Newsletter, Consultation) or included in the copy of the article/blog post/video or whatever the content format is. However, the call to action should never distract from the key message.
6. Monitor, Measure, Analyze & Act
Make sure you have some kind of goals in place along with tools and processes for measuring performance, both in the short and long term. Whether you use Google Alerts, social media monitoring tools, web analytics, clipping services or something else like PostRank, make sure you track the reach of the content you’re promoting. Analyze where you’re getting traction and document what appears to be working or not.
Be free to test and understand that not everything you post and share, no matter how well-written, packaged or promoted, will gain traction. Pay attention to time of day, headlines, link sources, traffic sources, citations without links and anything else that could affect reach and outcomes.
Be strategic and opportunistic. Plan content out, use overriding themes and metaphors to tie the message and call to action together. Understand that developing and promoting content to achieve a desired outcome is a very different thing on the social web vs. direct marketing/response. Also be aware that opportunities might arise and you should be prepared to create and promote content on demand in order to take advantage. Responding to breaking news or trending social topics for example.
Bonus tip: Give recognition! People will work for money but die for recognition. Give deserving kudos to commenters, those that share and help promote. Also give recognition internally to those that help create content. Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool for shaping desirable behavior.
I hope you’ve found these tips helpful. If you have any content creation, packaging, promotion or analysis tips, please share them in the comments.