This beginners guide to content marketing aims to educate you a little on what content marketing is and give you some insight into how you can start putting your own content strategy together for your business. It can be a time-consuming job, but it’s without a doubt one of the most affordable and effective marketing methods of establishing yourself as an authority within your industry and becoming the go-to brand for whatever it is you do.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is a means of marketing your business or product by producing content that provides value for whoever consumes it. That value may be educational or it could just be for pure entertainment. Unlike traditional interruption based marketing, we create content that our target market enjoy engaging with, find useful and look at in their own time.
Most importantly, content marketing doesn’t put a focus on selling. Only occasionally do you directly promote the business or product; the main focus is on producing valuable content that will attract the right people or businesses and keep them engaged until they’re educated enough to purchase from you. It’s often the case that a purchase isn’t made because a person doesn’t know enough about your product or why it’s needed – it’s your content’s job to educate without selling and entertain without interrupting until the customer is ready to take some form of profitable action, such as purchasing a product, signing up to your website or newsletter, reviewing your business or product, recommending your company or sharing your content on social media or by word of mouth.
Content marketing is effective in all stages of the marketing funnel and can be utilised to attract new customers into the funnel at the top as well as generating loyal brand advocates at the bottom. A little content goes a long way!
What do you mean by content?
The blog post you’re currently reading is a form of content marketing. A blog post containing a “how to”, “beginners guide” or tutorial is an educational piece of content. It doesn’t stop with blog posts though. To become a content marketer for your business, you have to become a bit of an artist. You’ll be resident photographer, videographer, editor, writer, designer and strategist – content types are vast and include:
Blog posts are a great way to educate potential customers. Some popular blog posts include lists (6 ways to improve your content marketing strategy), how-to’s (How to create an awesome content strategy) and success stories (How we got 3,000 twitter followers in one month). Try to make your blog posts lengthy – aim for over 1,200 words. Ideally 2,000. Google favours longer articles now, so your page ranking will improve considerably if you can keep that word count up. That being said, don’t write only for Google. If you can’t make it longer than 500 words, leave it. But if you can dig deeper into a few topics, it’s well worth doing.
With attention spans getting shorter as more content is thrown at us daily through social networks, video is becoming increasingly popular in both long and short formats. In 2014, Mark Zuckerberg said “In five years most of Facebook will be video”. Vloggers will be our A-listers and businesses that utilise video as part of their marketing strategy will excel. A video can be educational or for entertainment and is a great way to show off what your company’s all about. Don’t forget to add captions to any videos you’re sharing on social networks – 85% of videos on facebook are viewed without sound!
As above, but shorter form. I’m talking vines, boomerangs and gifs here. They’re really back to basics, but they’re very sharable due to being so short.
Podcasts are audio series which can be subscribed to from a podcast app on your phone (and more recently on computers – including spotify!). They’re becoming increasingly popular year on year and I foresee them becoming equally as important as having a blog for your business. The podcast’s success has come down to the fact that it can be listened to on a morning commute, at the gym or whilst you’re cleaning the house. They don’t necessarily require 100% of the listeners attention so they’re very easily consumed. Podcast episodes vary in length from 5 minutes to hours long. They’re a great way for people to hear “the real you” and make a more personal connection with your business. Some podcasts are educational, others are just fun – find what works for you! Don’t overlook this one!
Infographics are a great way to show data in a colourful and slightly less boring way. Researchers have found that when pairing an image alongside information, 55% more is remembered three days later. Not only that but it’s considerably more shareable; in fact, infographics are shared 3 times more than any other type of content on social media.
I don’t need to tell you that a picture is worth a thousand words. Similarly to above, associating your brand with relevant imagery which reflects your brand is key to achieving high engagement and communicating effectively with your target market. Fun fact: On instagram, photos with a face in are liked 38% more than photos without faces. This speaks volumes of how we connect with people. Not brands.
eBooks are essentially just digital books. They’re usually in PDF form and are a great way to educate people on what you do. They can be given away for free or in exchange for some contact details (for building your mailing list for example). If you’re regularly blogging, take a look through some of your old posts and see if you can collate some related posts together into an eBook. Don’t forget to focus on design too – eBooks are usually very visual, so get a designer to help you out with making it look the part!
Whilst your social updates are a way of sharing the above content, they’re also pieces of mini-content in their own right. Strategically hash-tagging, mentioning, adding imagery and using the right wording makes a whole load of difference. To see what’s performing best for you, take a look over your last few months of social updates and see which ones are performing best. What do the top performers have in common? Do they include a photo? Mention another business? Try tailoring future updates around your current top performers. As with most other areas of marketing, you have to be really data-driven and test everything to refine what works for you.
How content marketing differs from traditional marketing
Traditional marketing is interruption based, where an ad is placed on television, in a newspaper or on a billboard. With traditional marketing, we have to grab a persons attention for just enough time for them to take notice of the content. In the case of the billboard, the person’s driving is interrupted and they have to take their eyes off the road for just the right amount of time to receive the message. In the case of television, we interrupt the content the person actually wanted to watch to show them the advert for our product or company. Once again, we need their attention just enough time for the message to be delivered before they change the channel, leave the room or hit that mute button. Paying for any of the above is very costly and also time limited – your ad’s there only so long as you’re paying for it.
In content marketing on the other hand, we don’t interrupt the content. We are the content. We add so much value to what we’re producing that people actually choose to view it. It’s free to publish it online and it has no expiry date. In the case of a blog post that receives 250,000 hits per year, this single piece of content can work for you for years for free. In addition, content can be recycled and re-used in many forms. Got a blog? Why not record all of them and make each post into a podcast episode? Or vice versa.
Why use content marketing
Content marketing is a very affective method for putting your business into the limelight on a tight budget. Here’s a summary of the main reasons to choose content as the primary way for marketing your business.
Content marketing is free! (mostly)
You don’t need to pay for expensive ads in newspapers, magazines or on television. What you do need to do, however, is produce the content. The only expense is the cost of creating the content – this could be 4 hours on writing a blog post, or a couple of hours putting together an infographic. Nonetheless, as the saying goes, time is money.
Content marketing isn’t interruption based
With content, we don’t need to deliver our message in a few seconds at a time when it’s least convenient. Quite the opposite. We want to attract people back to the content time and time again, in their own time, to educate them and build enough trust to lead them to some sort of profitable action.
Content lasts forever
Your newspaper ad’s only going to be there for as long as you’re paying the newspaper. Your blog post / video / podcast will be there working for you for free forever. (so long as YouTube doesn’t disappear!)
Content works at all stages of the marketing funnel
Content works in attracting new customers into your marketing funnel and also works to keep existing customers engaged with your business, creating loyal brand advocates.
Content is good for SEO
As far as Google’s concerned, the more content you have, the better. If you’re regularly writing new blog posts, Google will see that your website’s frequently updated and that you’re still an active business. You’re also more likely to be found on search terms that you’ve included in your blog posts (You may well have found this post by Googling “content marketing for beginners” or something similar)
Who uses content marketing?
Content marketing is great for new and small businesses due to it’s low costs. That’s not to say that bigger brands aren’t using it. Look at Red Bull for an example of a company that’s taken content to a new extreme.
Red Bull are producing so much content, it’s actually pretty hard to keep up with. So much so, that they created the Red Bull content pool. If Red Bull are filming sky diving from space, world records, BMX’ing and snowboarding, what kind of content can you create for your business?
Creating a content strategy
If you’re pumped and ready to get started with content marketing, let’s go over the basics of getting started and creating a content strategy for your business. Ready? Okay, let’s go…
Who’s your market?
First thing’s first, what’s your customer profile? Gender? Age? Location? Job? Interests? What media do they consume? This post isn’t to explain customer profiling in detail, but it’s important that you know who you’re targeting your content to. If they spend most of their time reading, your time is going to be better spent writing a blog than making videos. If you’re targeting 18-24 year olds for some cool new tech product, they might be more likely to engage with short video content. You get the idea. Research your target market.
What do your customers want to know?
What useful information can you give to your customers that they might not know about your business? What can you teach them that they want to know? Or how can you entertain them?
Let’s say you own a vinyard which is producing some of the best tasting wine in the world. How can you entertain or what can you teach a potential customer to engage them to the point of purchasing from you? Maybe you could follow the life of one single grape, from field to bottle showing the process from start to finish. This could be written as a blog or filmed as a short time-lapse video with a go-pro strapped to an employees head. You could talk science about the grapes you grow and how they’re essential to the making of your wine. You can make videos and blog posts for food pairings and recommend recipe ideas with your wine. You could start a wine podcast with wine connosieurs discussing tastes and reviewing 5 glasses of wine a week.
The options are endless. In my experience, when you start producing content, more ideas start to emerge about what other kinds of content you can produce. For example, since writing this blog post, I’ve thought of one more blog post I need to write – A guide to customer profiling. (I’ll update this post when that’s written and published!)
Create a Content Calendar
When you’ve got some ideas for what kind of content you want to produce, you’ll need to create a content calendar, which details what content you’re going to produce for which dates. Ours is on a spreadsheet on Google Drive so the whole team has access to it and know what needs to be worked on for next month. Plan your content in a way so that several small pieces of content can be collated to make a larger piece of content. For example, 100 blog posts about different kinds of wine, could be turned into an eBook for “100 wines to try before you die”. Or something less morbid, if you prefer. Working this way, you’ll find that over the course of a year or two, content will start creating itself.
If you do find yourself struggling for content ideas further down the line, look through some old blog posts and look at the headings to see if you can dig deeper into the specifics of that topic in a new blog post. For example, from this blog post, I could create a blog post for each individual content type and really drill down into the details. I could even write an entire blog post about creating a content calendar. If I looked hard enough, I could probably create another 20 blog posts off the back of this one alone.
Sharing your content
It’s likely that you’ll be sharing your content through some social network or another. Something to be considered when doing so is considering the lifespan of content on social networks. I recently read that a Facebook update (unless specifically searched for) will be all but forgotten about after 4 hours. Most of it’s engagement occurs in the first few hours. So where does your content go a few days after posting? It’s essentially lost.
Ideally, you should keep a hub of all of your content on your website (as Red Bull have with their content pool), so you have a full archive of everything you’ve created that can also be indexed by Google. It can also act as a reminder for which content you’d like to re-share on social media and can work in conjunction with your content calendar.
I’ll remind you again about sharing videos on social networks: add captions for people viewing on mute!
Refining your strategy
When you have a couple of months worth of content shared, it’s time to review it. Check the analytics tools on each social platform and see which pieces of content have performed best. By performing best, I mean, which content has been shared, retweeted or liked the most. Look for similarities between the top performing content and when producing your content calendar for the next month, try incorporating more of the same thing. Keep testing new content types too – it’s often a game of trial and error and sometimes the content least likely to perform comes out on top.
If you need any help with setting up a content strategy and producing some killer content for your business, leave a comment below or pop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to help.