What is content marketing?
According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is defined as
“A marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
By creating and distributing relevant and valuable content you bring potential customers to you. This blog series itself is an example of content marketing.
Why has content become so important?
A few years ago people were bandying about the saying “content is king” and brands that used content marketing were excelling. Fast forward to 2020 and if you aren’t doing content marketing in some form or another you’re going to struggle to see any success on social media.
A big driver of this is that social media algorithms love quality, relevant content and it’s one of the best tactics to work with the algorithms for 2020. Content also is a big reason people are on social media in the first place. If you are providing quality content, then it's a win-win and you’re bound to increase both your engagement and followers.
Great content gets people to trust you. Research shows 80% of people prefer to get company information from articles rather than from adverts. Then there is the all important traffic to your website, not to mention your search engine rankings.
While content marketing is wider than social media marketing, in today’s modern world, social media is one of the most popular platforms for distributing content.
Social media marketing should fit within wider marketing efforts. So, if a business or charity has an existing content marketing strategy, then any efforts with content on social media should fit within this. However, it’s for small businesses and for many charities it’s rare for a robust content marketing to exist. If this is the case it’s possible to do a great job of content marketing on social alone.
How to craft a content strategy for your brand
There is a lot to think about when it comes to crafting a successful content strategy. We will go through them here but if you are a small business, don’t worry, we’ll share our top tips on content marketing on a shoestring at the end.
Planning and practicalities
It’s tempting to jump straight into the creative side of things, I mean who didn’t love getting the crayons out as a kid, but there are some important logistical considerations to think about first before you do anything.
1. Budget and resources
How much cash budget is there to pay content creators such as photographers, videographers or graphic designers? If the answer is not very much, then think about how much time you or a team members might have instead. But if this is the case, you’re also going to have to factor in the skills available. There’s no point building a content strategy around video if you don’t have anyone on the team with these skills. And you will have to factor in some budget for content creation software.
2. Governance and planning
Governance is a boring one but important. Develop a clear governance structure if you have multiple team members involved, or if you’re outsourcing content creation. Who needs to sign off drafts and also the final edit? Knowing this can save you time and money.
It also really helps to have a content planner. We love Trello for this as it’s really easy to set up an editorial workflow.
Where is your content going to live? If you’re going to use video is it going to be native (native content lives on the platform itself so you’d upload a video file directly to your Facebook post for example) or is it going to be housed somewhere like Vimeo/YouTube. Native video often performs better and can help maximise engagement and reach.
You also need to factor in which platforms you are using to distribute your content because each platform has different requirements for size of photos/graphics or video length.
Strategy and ideas
Once you’ve answered some of the above questions the answers can help guide you into the next phase when you can come up with some clear ideas based on what you know about your strategy so far. There are some important considerations here.
1. Your audience
Your personas should always sit at the heart of any content strategy. Ask yourself:
- What insights can you go on from your user personas?
- What do you know about their routines and habits?
- What content do they seem to respond to on social?
- What content are influencers sharing?
- What content are their favourite brands sharing?
- What content is trending?
2. Your sociable brand
If you haven’t already check out our “building a sociable brand” blog in this series here to understand this in more detail.
You should share content that fits with your sociable brand and your sociable brand pie chart. Here your segments and segment sizes guide your content subjects. Digital Mums offer career focused training. Our pie chart includes topics such as career advice, flexible working and gender equality in the workplace. So we share content in these areas.
3. Type of content
In this blog, we have focused up until now, predominantly on created content that your brand would make from scratch. However, curated content also plays an important role particularly if you’re a small business. Curated content is value-add content that has been produced by someone else. For example, an article from a newspaper, a blog from an influential blogger, or a video from a thought leader in your space.
Sharing curated content is essential if you don’t have a big budget. A lot of businesses/charities don’t understand why they would share other people’s content but it’s a key component of any good content strategy. According to the Content Marketing Institute 82% of marketers embrace sharing a mix of their own and other people’s content on their social channels. Just don’t share content from your competitors!
4. Content purpose and format
The more you know about your audiences the more you should understand what content they want to see in terms of format, but also purpose.
Content generally either educates, entertains, informs or inspires. Help people to do something or learn something, entertain them in some way, help them have their finger on the pulse, or inspire them.
Purpose goes hand in hand with content format. There are various content formats:
- There is text-based content in the form of blogs, articles, quizzes.
- There is image-based content in the form of photos
- There is design-based content in the form of quotes, infographics, graphics
- There is video-based content in the form of video, live video, GIFs
- There is audio-based content in the form of radio shows, podcasts and live audio
It’s important to try and understand which your audiences will respond to but also which formats work best for your purpose. For example, some educational content supporting customers to use a product could work well as a video.
Our top tips for content on a shoestring
If you’re a small business or charity you may be feeling overwhelmed right now. But don’t worry. It’s possible to do a good job on a shoestring budget. Here are our top tips for managing a content strategy on a shoestring budget.
1. Audit what you already have
Make a list of all the created content you currently have first. This means you won’t duplicate effort and there may be content you can repurpose.
2. Only create ever-green content
Evergreen content is content that has a long shelf-life meaning it doesn’t date. Avoid creating anything that will date quickly. If you need to share content on breaking news or trends that will date then use curated content for this.
3. Recycle your content
When you do have evergreen content recycle it – share it multiple times, particularly on Twitter, but pull out a different point/quote each time to mix it up. A tiny percentage of your audience will see each tweet so don’t worry about doing this. You can share the same content in the same week on Twitter but avoid doing this on Facebook and LinkedIn and leave a longer gap between sharing. You shouldn’t ever share the same piece of content more than once on your Instagram feed, however, you can repurpose content for your Stories if you do it sparingly and mix up how you share it. For example, if you have a great photo for Stories share it with a quiz sticker over the top one week and later in the month use it in a completely different way by sharing it with different gifs and emojis.
4. Repurpose content
Brainstorm ideas around existing content, can some of it be consolidated into something meatier or could a meaty white paper be distilled into a blog series? Or could existing written content be turned into different formats – for example could you use a blog post to create a simple podcast?
We invested in our Locked out of Learning report but we also turned this into 6 blogs where we repurposed the content from the report around 6 key themes.
5. Blend curated and created
If you’re short of resources but really want to host content on your website to drive traffic then try creating content from curated sources. No we don’t mean plagiarise! Try creating a blog post that pulls together links and a summary of great podcasts in your industry for example.
6. Try Stories formats
The great thing about Stories is that they are designed to be low-fi and fun. Some brands have even found that their super polished Stories don’t perform as well as the Stories they do off the cuff. This means they are cheap, you are only limited by your imagination. However, if you are planning on doing video Stories do check out top tip number 10.
7. Create templates
For visual content invest some time in creating simple templates for things like:
- Product images
It’s time consuming upfront but then it makes it really easy to create consistent visual content throughout the year.
8. Trial some top tools
Our top digital tool recommendation is Canva. You can use it to create simple graphics and there are hundreds of designs to choose from. It works really well to create your templates. They also size everything for the platform you will use it for.
Animoto is a great and popular video editing tool but we recommend getting to grips with something like iMovie if you’re planning on working with videos that you need to edit regularly.
There are some really useful sites out there that have content you can use for free or have freemium options:
- Stock photos | While we don’t advocate using too many stock images Unsplash does have some great photos that you can use to work with if stuck. These can work well if you’re working with simple text over photo graphic visuals.
- Illustrations | Pixabay also has photos but it’s not as good for photos, it’s actually great for some basic vector/graphic images.
- Icons | The Noun Project has thousands of useful icons to use in your graphics (as do Canva but with Canva most of the best ones come with a charge).
9. Invest in some basic equipment
Having a tripod and a lapel mic can be a gamechanger for your video content. And you don’t have to spend a fortune. People just won’t watch a video that has bad sound and it will just drag your brand down.
We recommend investing £100 on a ring LED light like this one and a basic lapel mic for around £30 (there are loads in this price range). The light also functions as a tripod and is brilliant if the natural light isn’t great.
If you follow these top tips, even if you’re a small charity or business just getting off the ground you’ll be able to get a content strategy off the ground.
10. Get friendly with your analytics
The smaller your budget and resources the more you need to be concerned that you are investing in the right way. You will need to make sure you are tracking how your content performs so you can build key insights over time into which content your audiences respond to.
It’s a great idea to share only curated content for the first few weeks and to track which tweets/posts perform best and which come out bottom. These insights can help guide your created content strategy so you get the most bang for your buck.
Thankfully our next blog in the series is going to look at tracking the success of your social media strategy using the data provided by the platforms. Why not download “Success on social media” to get all this content packaged up in an easy to access white paper.
For more useful social media stuff check out our free social media taster lessons, courses and podcasts here or why not sign up to find out more about our next Foundation in Social Media Marketing course here. If you feel ready to outsource your social media then we have over 1,500 trained graduates that have undertaken 350 hours of learning to become leading social media experts. You can find them via the That Works For Me platform here.