If you’re not creating content on the web, you don’t exist on the web. A 140 character tweet is content. A 1,000 word blog post is content. A commend to a blog post is content. Your website is content.
Some content is compelling, reflects your knowledge and authority on a subject, and earns trust and respect from your customers and potential customers. Other content does little to help you grow your business, and may even hurt you.
Done right, content marketing can be a valuable marketing channel for just about any type of business. Here are 20 tips to help you create compelling, useful content that can help you to grow your business:
1. There is no silver bullet. Many people offer out-of-the-box content marketing solutions. They’ll create blog posts or tweet for you. The vast majority of that “content” is generic, poorly written, and not interesting. Create your own content if you want to do content marketing the right way and help grow your business. Test your ideas in small batches and scale your efforts when you see some success.
2. Set goals, strategies and tactics. This is important because you can waste a ton of time executing tactics without understanding your goals or strategies. I’ve talked to many business owners who decide to use Twitter for marketing, by spending hours every day tweeting about random subjects. Until you create goals and assess your strategies, tactics will be largely useless in helping you to grow your business.
3. Create an editorial calendar. It’s very tough, especially for teams, to leverage content marketing if it’s done randomly. Plan in advance and create an editorial calendar to help you and others. Calendars are not sexy, but they do help. For example, we used to post questions randomly on the crowdSPRING Facebook fan page, in an effort to better understand our fans and customers. We found that we repeated questions and didn’t do a good job creating a series of questions that built on one another. So, we created an editorial calendar that we update regularly. It has two weeks of questions, one question per day – and we’re doing a much better job today because of the calendar.
image credit: signalstation
4. Build an online home. You will market all over the web – but you should find a place where people can always find you. This can be your website, your blog, or even your Facebook page – a place where you’re always present.
5. Who are you? Have a voice and stand for something. Everyone has a story – yours is unique. Find a way to tell it – and find a way to wrap it around the things you talk and write about. For example, our friends at 37signals are passionate advocates for simple software – their musings on that topic, in their books and in their popular blog, have earned them both respect and a large audience (and customers).
6. Play to your own strengths. What do you enjoy most? Do you enjoy writing? Do you enjoy creating videos? Do you enjoy photography? Do you enjoy talking with people? Find the things you’re passionate about and focus on those things – because you’ll be more likely to do those things well than if you focus on things that bore you.
7. Think Visually. People relate better to photos and videos than to words. Find appropriate photos and videos to reinforce your key messages. According to 3M Corporation and Zabisco, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, and visuals are processed 60,000 times faster in the brain than text.
image credit: CowGummy
8. Study competitors and others focusing on a similar audience. There are always good examples of people and companies that do content marketing right. Study what they do and how they do it. For example, we’re big fans of HubSpot – they create a ton of valuable content and that content earns them both a large audience and business.
9. Overnight success takes ten years. Be wary of consultants promising overnight success with content marketing. It’s impossible. You first have to build credibility and an audience. That takes time. Even businesses that seem to be overnight successes, like Pinterest, are rarely successes overnight. Pinterest was founded in 2008 – four years ago. It didn’t start getting traction until mid-2011.
10. Be interesting AND interested. Don’t only create content. Always spend time consuming content and listening to what others have to say. You’ll get great insights, learn new things, and get inspired. People will find you interesting only if you also are interested in what others have to say.
11. Never stop listening. In fact, listen before you talk. You can easily search on Twitter, Facebook, and all other social networks. Look at what people are talking about. What problems are they running into? This is your opportunity to help and this is also where you’ll find great ideas for content.
image credit: x-ray delta one
12. Share your best ideas. Don’t hold back. You should be more worried about people listening to you than about people stealing your ideas.
13. Style matters. Use visually attractive formatting (color, bolding, bullet points). Make it look professional if you want people to think you’re a professional.
14. Speak like a human. Many people think they need to sound smart. Smart people don’t go out of their way to sound smart. Use normal language and make it easy for people to understand what you have to say.
image credit: Catherinette Rings Steampunk
15. Reuse content across channels. Write a blog post and then find ways to reuse it in other channels. Ask questions on Twitter and then drive people to the post. Invite comments on Facebook. This is important especially for small teams, becuase their ability to generate large volumes of content is limited.
16. Focus. If you write about 1000 different things, people won’t know what you’re about. Pick an area (or a few areas) and focus your efforts there. Gary Vaynerchuck built his reputation by focusing on wine, before he branched out to other areas.
When we started the crowdSPRING blog, we didn’t have a particular focus and found ourselves rudderless. We realized that we most wanted to build an audience of small business owners and entrepreneurs, and a number of years ago, decided to focus much of our effort in our blog on that audience. That decision helped us win numerous awards (among other things, the crowdSPRING Blog was an official honoree in the 16th annual Webby Awards, along with the phenomenal blogs from All Things Digital, The New York Times, and NPR, and a few others).
17. Be consistent across channels. Don’t have a different voice on Twitter than you do on Facebook. People will be confused. Find a voice and keep it consistent across channels.
18. Find opportunities to guest post. Don’t just share with your own audience. Find opportunities to post on other blogs where you can reach a bigger audience. And don’t sell there – build credibility. People will find you if they trust you and learn from you.
19. Give credit to others. It’s tough to market on your own. You want help. If you credit others when they help you discover great content, they’ll credit you too and find a way to help you. Find good opportunities to re-tweet on Twitter, for example, and always mention the person who initially shared a piece of content you’re sharing.
20. Measure your efforts. You can waste a ton of time on marketing if you don’t measure results. Are you getting visitors to your blog? Are your email and RSS subscribers increasing? Are new followers to your Twitter account bots or real people interested in what you have to say? Are your fans on Facebook actually engaging with you and your brand? Don’t just trust your instincts – measure.
image credit: young_einstein
What do you do in your own business to deliver great content that matters to your audience?
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