The tendency for corporate marketers and their agencies to chase shiny social objects seems to be manifesting as conflicting trends in the usefulness of social media for business. Companies that execute their social media marketing tactics poorly often conclude the channel doesn’t work. A good example is the “corporate blogging is dying” story which contrasts with a study that shows blogging is the second most effective B2B lead generation tactic.
I’ve always said that tools are only as good as the skills of the people using them and the moving target of social savvy customers along with a rapidly evolving social web make social media marketing skills acquisition a bit tricky. I think part of the answer to the distracted approach to social media marketing efforts like corporate blogging could be arrested by mastering these basics.
If I were only to give 5 content marketing tips to a company that wanted to get the most for and from its customers through blogging, here are the tips I’d give:
1. Customer. Problem. Solution.
Gather information related to what your target audience wants, likes and needs related to your industry, company, products and services. Develop key value propositions about what your blog will stand for and the things your blog will solve for those people the business is trying to reach.
The mistake many companies make is to either talk solely about themselves, their products and services or worse: to never talk about themselves, their own products and services. A balance is the key and the trick is to find that balance for your own situation.
The “customer” for your blog need not be limited to people who buy. Other audience considerations include the people who influence buyers but may never be buyers themselves, journalists, other bloggers, industry analysts, business and marketing partners, existing customers, current employees and potential employees. What problems will content published on a blogging platform solve for them that will also help advance your business?
2. Define the Topics.
Once you’ve decided on goals, audience and key value propospitions the blog will communicate, the next step towards constructing a great corporate blogging plan is to identify the topics. The outcome of this exercise is the start of your blog editorial plan. Some inspiration and long tail definition for topics can come from a SEO Keyword Glossary and the Social Media Topics Glossary.
In fact, any content or media produced and promoted through a business blog should be leveraging SEO best practices. Being visible through search as well as sharable through social networks is a powerful combination. Download a free XLS file for keyword glossary and editorial plan here.
As a company gets more advanced in their content marketing, an editorial approach for specific customer segments and their sales cycle can be developed as outlined in this workshop from my presentation at Fusion Marketing Experience.
3. What’s the Story? Plan the Narrative.
Storytelling is one of the things that’s most often missing in many SEO-centric efforts towards blogging. Without an underlying story that connects what the business stands for with satisfying target audience information needs, the business blogging effort becomes more mechanical than meaningful.
Planning topics for specific audiences is great, but tying them together through a themed content plan, topics and keywords is even better. That means a story expressed through text, images, audio, video, interactive applications and any other content or media that can deliver the customer/brand experience in a meaningful way.
4. Attract & Grow Your Audience.
One of the most effective models for business blogging and community development uses a hub. We like a hub and spoke model of content marketing and social network engagement which allows for a deep, topical repository of knowledge to be supported by a constellation of social networks and other channels of content sharing.
As part of the ongoing business blogging effort, it’s important to factor in time to participate on other blogs and social networks with resources and links that point back to useful information on the brand’s blog. Many online versions of business publications also publish blogs, so it’s worth monitoring for articles on relevant topics and providing useful insight in the comments or even linking back to those articles from the business blog. The combination of links and off site engagement can expose the brand’s expertise to the media as well as new audiences that are not currently aware of the brand’s blog.
5. Set Goals, Monitor Progress, Measure Results, Refine. Repeat.
With any content marketing, it’s important to engage in an adaptable cycle designed to make iterative improvements to content effectiveness. That means based on goals, monitor progress through key performance indicators like on and off blog comments, links, mentions, sentiment, referred social network traffic, referred search engine traffic and the behaviors of visitors one they arrive on the blog. Analysis of KPIs should reveal opportunities for improvement in SEO, messaging and interaction to result in more desirable business outcomes for the blog. It’s an ongoing process and like the tasks of content creation and promotion, should be expected for as long as the blog is intended to be a communications tool to attract and engage.
Business blogging is a journey, not a destination. As a communications tool, it has the ability to contribute to thought leadership, lead generation, customer service, recruiting and many other business goals. The question is, do you have a plan and are you working that plan as an ongoing, adaptable process?