I’ll just come out and say it: the marketing industry can be a pretty confusing place to navigate.
Especially when you’re completely new to the industry and you’re just looking for a place to get started.
Which social media platforms should I use?
What on earth is ‘web hosting’ and why do I need it?
What kind of content should my business be putting out?
To be fair, this was to be expected.
With all the explosion of social media, more and more small businesses have taken to platforms like Facebook and Twitter in an attempt to increase their exposure.
It’s like someone gave small business owners all over the world a megaphone.
Which is great! I’m all for any tool that small business owners can use to even the odds with their corporate enterprise competitors.
Except there’s just one problem. When you give everyone a megaphone, it’s almost impossible to stand out.
Which is why if you want to ensure that your business or brand actually stands a chance when it comes to digital media marketing, you’re going to have to focus on your content creation
Telling people you’re valuable is good. Proving it to them is even better.
Of course, creating content that’s compelling isn’t exactly easy. I’m sure there are some people reading this right now, wondering how we should even define compelling.
Well, there are a variety of different definitions when it comes to content marketing.
The one that I’ll settle on for today (for the sake of keeping things simple) is “when content manages to impact your audience enough to take some form of action”.
Keep in mind, that form of action isn’t always going to be a sale. There are other relevant types of conversions that your content will cause that you’ll be able to measure.
Which brings me to the first rule of content marketing: have a plan in place.
Creating a Content Strategy
Before any of you skip this rule on account of it being the typical ‘brainstorming is important’ section, let me remind you that metrics are everything when it comes to digital media marketing.
And ‘metrics’ goes way beyond sales. Sales might be how you know things are working, but there are plenty of marketing metrics that you’ll need to figure out why things aren’t working.
Things like traffic and bounce rates might not be nearly as sexy as sales, but they can play a major role in improving your marketing efforts.
Which leads me to my next point: have a content marketing strategy that tackles both short-term content production and long-term growth.
Before you create your next piece of content, sit down and analyze your process.
Who are you making this content for? What kind of value are you offering? What actionable steps can readers take after reading this? Are you providing clear CTAs for your readers?
The amount of effort you put into your content marketing strategy will directly impact how successful your content marketing efforts are.
When you’re first getting started, it’s okay to not be 100% about whether or not your approach will work.
What you should be doing is establishing some realistic, achievable, finite goals for your business and tracking those goals.
Don’t just say you want to ‘increase traffic’ or ‘reduce your bounce rate’. Those aren’t goals that you build off of.
Instead, create a goal like ‘increasing traffic by 10% in 3 months’ or ‘reducing your bounce rate by 5% in the next 6 months’.
This is what I like to call a no-lose situation.
If you achieve the goal, then great! You’ve clearly stumbled onto something that works for your business, and you should keep at it.
But even if it doesn’t work, you’ll have identified the ‘hole in the ship’, so to speak. It’s a lot easier to fix a problem when you know what it is.
When it comes to actual content creation, I tend to recommend that business owners focus on experimentation for the first 3-6 months of their content marketing campaign.
The reality of the situation is that you haven’t developed a strong rapport with your audience just yet.
You should continue to make the content that they’ve responded positively to, but you should also put a heavy emphasis on trying new things and determining what your audience really wants.
Anyone can guess at the needs of their target audience. But as a small business owner, you have an obligation to determine exactly what kind of content your audience needs from you.
Go With What You Know
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen business owners struggle with this rule.
There’s an odd thing that happens when businesses start creating marketing content.
Whether it’s blog posts, videos or photos, there’s this strange desire to fall into the traditional ‘we’re a business’ mentality and that tends to show in their content.
I have a few problems with this.
First off, everyone already knows you’re a business. If you’re trying to sell people something, there’s a good chance they noticed.
But aside from being redundant, it can legitimately get in the way of your social media marketing efforts.
One of the keys to creating compelling content is to blur the lines between the business and the individual.
It’s the reason that a well-executed personal brand can be so massively successful.
At the end of the day, consumers are human beings, and they expect you to connect with them like one.
So, if you’re really struggling with this, I’ll give you the same advice I’ve given other small business owners: go with what you know.
Let’s imagine that you’re the owner of a business that sells hiking backpacks.
Could you create a bunch of corporate ads, that state how your backpacks are superior to your competitors? Sure.
But that’s not going to do much to bridge the gap between you and the consumer.
Instead, write some content about hiking tips or the best hiking spots in the northeast.
Have a giveaway where the only cost of entry is user-generated content that ends up promoting your brand.
Post videos of you hiking on Instagram or Facebook.
The platforms you use to create the content don’t matter. What matters is that you’re telling compelling stories through your content and building your brand around that.
And do you know why that’ll work? Because…
Consumers Respond to Value
In fact, I’d argue that it’s the only thing they respond to.
There are plenty of different kinds of value that you can offer, but we’ll be focusing on three right now.
If you’re wondering how you should create educational value, I’ve got the solution.
Educational value obviously has to teach people something, no surprise there. But I’ve found that the most compelling educational content is the type that offers tangible, actionable steps.
Sure, you wrote an article on the dangers of XYZ, but did you give your readers solutions too? Steps they can take to prevent it?
Teaching the most profound lesson in the world means nothing if your audience doesn’t know what to do with that information.
When it comes to inspirational content, I actually think it has a lot more in common with educational content than people care to admit.
Sure, it can be awe-inspiring for the sake of being awe-inspiring, but the best inspirational content gives people a desire to go out and take action.
If you’re finding that your inspirational content isn’t connecting with people, it may not be an issue of the content itself being dull, but rather that people don’t have a clear next step to take.
And if you’re building entertaining content like comedy skits for your business (trust me, I’ve seen stranger things), my advice would be to balance topical humor with universal truths.
Topical humor is a great way to entertain people today, but timeless content inherently lends itself to a longer shelf life, which means more long-term value down the line.
Creating compelling content doesn’t have to be this overly complex issue. Have a plan, stick to your guns and make sure that no matter what kind of content you produce, it always offers your audience value.
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