“Content is the new Ad, #Hashtag is the new Tagline.”
The above quotation has been rightly said by Philip Kotler, considered the father of modern marketing.
Marketers agree that content marketing is here to stay and for a long time. So for businesses at any stage, content marketing can help lure customers to their brands.
Today, almost all businesses are in the world of creating, distributing, promoting, and evaluating content. Customers have also responded in kind by interacting with such content.
This blog post will help you guide to the entire process of content marketing: how to start, what are the available content formats, topics to write about, mediums of promoting content, and tools to track and measure content marketing campaigns.
1. What is content marketing?
The most widely accepted definition of content marketing comes from the Content Marketing Institute. According to the Content Marketing Institute:
“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
If we break down the definition for clarity, we can understand the definition of content marketing more properly:
- Valuable, relevant, and consistent content: The content that you will produce for your target audience will not be any promotional flyer or text ad. The content will be a source of information that will educate, empower, or entertain the audience. The content topic is timely (hence relevant) and speaks of your brand (hence consistency).
- Attract and retain…..- and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action: The aim of content marketing is to first build a relationship with your target audience. Through publishing valuable content, you will guide the audience along the various stages of the marketing funnel (more on this later) that will ultimately lead to sales.
- Strategic marketing approach: Content Marketing is a long term strategy. In most cases, the content will not be to make sales. Rather as mentioned before, you will use content to build a relationship with your audience through educating, empowering, or entertaining them and move them along the stages of the marketing funnel to make sales.
2. Why do you need content marketing?
People are constantly searching for information. There are 63,000 searches on Google per second. This translates into 5.6 billion searches per day! This constant search for information reveals that people are looking for knowledge, news, or facts every day and in a huge volume.
By providing content that meets your target audience’s search needs, you can become a trusted source to them. And by building trust, you can build a relationship with them that may ultimately result in sales for your business!
Another reason why you should go for content marketing is that people are increasingly finding advertisements unappealing. Brands’ self-promotions are being seen as untrustworthy and irritating. Even you, as a customer, will testify that you have skipped ads most of the time!
Instead of advertising- where you provide information about your products and services for selling, try content marketing- where you provide information about something your target market really cares about. And as told before, people are searching for information and in a huge number. So content marketing can help you reach your target audience with material they really care about.
3. Why should you focus on content quality in 2020?
More and more companies are engaging in content marketing. And the ones that are doing it are increasing their spend on creating content.
As more and more competition arises in the content marketing world, your content needs to stand out from the rest. A great quality content post will help you rank on top of Google searches and influence your audience to interact and share the content with others.
Therefore, you need to focus on content quality in 2020. Here are some basics of creating quality content:
- A clearer picture of what the target audience wants from search results
- Better writing customized for your audience keeping the tone and style consistent with your brand image
- Better research for creating the content with data and statistics from reputable sources
- An in-depth exploration of content topics
- High-quality imagery including own photos, infographics, and brand images.
4. Creating engaging content
The aim of content marketing is to build a relationship with your audience. And building a relationship is no one-way street. As much as you interact with your audience, your audience will also need to interact with your content to build a relationship.
That’s why you need to create engaging content. When you create content that is engaging, your audience will take desirable actions either by liking, commenting, sharing, or subscribing to your post. This paves the way for further relationship building.
To create engaging content, start with a story. Studies have shown that when people read a story, engagement increases. So start your content with a story- the more personal and relatable, the better.
Continue creating your content in a high-quality manner. Use the basics of creating quality content as mentioned above when doing this.
In the end, create a call-to-action. This call-to-action can be a request to sign-up to your newsletter or downloading a report. Whatever the call-to-action may be, good engaging content will definitely lead people to act on the call-to-action.
Stuff that improve the quality of your content
There is no end to improving the quality of your content. With so much competition out there, it is imperative that you continuously improve the quality of your content.
In addition to the basics, you can carry out further steps to improve the quality of your content:
- Back up with data: When you put forward a claim on your content, it is best to back it up with data from a reputable source. This raises the authority of your content.
- Keep it short and simple: Be exact to the point in your content. Do not divert away from what you intend to say. Long but irrelevant content can make your audience feel frustrated with your content.
- Shortest goals: Make sure your content is crafted in a way that meets your goals (more on this in the next section).
- Emotional storytelling: The way to connect with your audience is through stories. So try to tell a story through your content.
5. Creating a content marketing strategy
To get started with content marketing, create a content marketing strategy.
Most of us tend to think that content marketing is only about producing and publishing content.
However, there are other steps to go before and after the production and publication stage. You need to do planning prior to producing your content and you need to distribute it through the right channels and see the results.
To create a content marketing strategy, follow these seven steps:
1. Goal Setting
If you do not set any goals for your content marketing efforts, you might get derailed. This can result in inconsistent content that goes against your business objectives.
Therefore, you need to set goals that will be in line with your company’s goals and objectives. Doing this can help you achieve your company goals through content marketing.
Goals for content marketing can be divided into two categories:
- Brand related goals: Brand awareness, brand engagement, brand loyalty/advocacy
- Sales related goals: Lead generation and conversions
Usually, brands have one or two goals set within one category.
By setting the goal, you can then decide on the publication medium and evaluation metrics that will be found in the later steps.
2. Audience Mapping
The next step is to define your audience. Defining your audience is important as it will help you find the right topics for content and the right medium for distribution.
You can use the classical marketing segmentation categories to define your audience- geographic, demographic, psychographic, and behavioral. Usually, the behavioral segmentation will result in defining your target audience.
After segmenting your audience, create an audience profile that describes their personality. An audience profile will help you find the pain points of your audience that you can solve through your content.
3. Content Ideation & Planning
The third step is to make a content plan. In this stage, you need to set an overall plan for your content marketing campaign.
When ideating and planning your content, you need to consider the following three things:
- Theme: The theme of your content should be relevant to your customer’s needs and pain points. It must provide a solution to their needs and pains. At the same time, the theme of the content should reflect your brand as well.
- Format: Decide on the format: article, newsletter, reports, videos, infographics, presentations, and even films and books. See the next section for popular content formats.
- Narrative: Tell a story through your content that will take your customers from one stage to the next stage of the marketing funnel. Make the content a series of episodes highlighting your story.
4. Content Creation
This is the most important step. In the content creation step, you create high-quality, original, and relevant content that educates, empowers, or entertains your audience.
Content creation requires a huge amount of commitment. A lot of below quality content is out there. In order to shine, you need to create high-quality content that requires a huge commitment.
You can create content on your own for your own website. Or you can outsource the work to organizations specializing in content marketing.
You can also ask your audience for the content. User-generated content (UGC), as they are known, have been proven to be popular and more trustworthy than branded content.
5. Content Distribution
There is no use of a high-quality content if it does not reach its intended audience. In a world of ever-increasing content publication, your high-quality content can get lost from the audience’s attention. Therefore, you need to distribute your content in the right medium.
When we think about content distribution, the first thing that comes to our mind is online media. But it is not always the case. Content can be distributed in the old offline formats as well- as books, as print media, or at in-person events.
The idea is to select a distribution channel mix that will ensure maximum viewership and where your goals will most likely succeed. The section “Places where you can distribute content” will show you the major distribution channels available for your content.
6. Content Promotion
Even if you distribute your content in the right channel, you still need to exert a bit more effort to make the content catch the attention of your audience. Therefore, content promotion is necessary.
A popular way of promoting content is through influencers. Influencers are social media personalities who have a huge follower base. These influencers often determine the behavior of their followers.
Finding the right influencer can help your content reach a great number of your target audience. And the power of the influencer can also help you gain better brand awareness.
Besides influencer marketing, you also need to engage with your audience while they interact with your content. If they leave a comment, reply back- even with a thanks.
7. Content Marketing Evaluation
The last step of your content marketing strategy is to evaluate your performance. Monitor the various metrics of your content marketing campaigns and then make improvements.
Most of the metrics you decide to use will be based on the goals you set back in Step-1. Besides, you can also use metrics based on the different stages of the customer journey:
- Visibility metrics: Impressions and unique viewers
- Relatability metrics: Pageviews per visitors and time on site
- Search related metrics: Search engine position and referrals
- Action metrics: Click-through-rates and call-to-action conversions
- Share metrics: Share ratio and engagement rates
Social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter have their own Analytics tool to help you measure the metrics. For a total view of your content marketing campaign on various media, you can use third party analytics tools like Hubspot, Hootsuite, etc.
6. Popular Content Marketing Types
In the Content Ideation and Planning phase, you need to decide on the type of your content. The type is chosen keeping in mind about the target audience.
Usually, marketers choose a combination of formats for their content marketing campaign. This brings diversity and can appeal to a broad range of the audience base.
Here are some of the most popular content marketing types:
Videos are the most viewed content among the audience. It is also the most engaging. Therefore, a lot of brands are going for video content nowadays.
Although videos are engaging, they need to be of short duration as well. The short duration helps people in not being distracted. The shortness also helps build excitement among the audience.
Videos on your products are received well with viewers. Product launches, product demos, and reviews are some areas where you can make videos about.
Use a high quality camera and editing tools when you use videos.
As the saying goes, “A picture speaks a thousand words.” Images are thus popular and more well received than just simple text.
Images can be a photo, an infographic, a screenshot, a meme, or a presentation slide deck. The options are many.
If you want to post original images, make sure you use a high quality camera. Use editing tools to perfect your images.
3. Blog Articles
Blog articles are the most popular of all content types, especially among small sized businesses. This is because blogs help marketers rank their website higher on search engine results.
You can have a blog section on your company’s website. If you don’t have a self-hosted blog, you can use services like WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, etc.
While blogging, you must remember that the topic for the blog must be relevant to your product and market. Use relevant keywords so that the page can rank high on Google.
Podcasts are audio content that has seen an increased growth in the recent years. It is helpful in bringing in an audience who might be interested in your brand. It is also a favorable medium for customers as they can listen to the podcasts according to their convenience.
Most podcasts focus on interviews with key industrial experts. You can also air in-depth guides on topics using podcasts.
Webinars are video content that are mainly informative. Webinars consist of experts who share their knowledge through the interview or using presentation slides.
Webinars are a great tool for attracting leads. And hosting one has also become easy with tools like Zoom and Facebook Live allowing live webinars to take place.
A report content mainly consists of a whitepaper or a case study usually in a pdf format. It is well received by audiences who are looking for a great amount of information in one place.
You can also create reports based on surveys or any data collection you have conducted. As the data and the insights are unique, they will be much sought after for. This feature makes reports a great way to generate leads.
You can live broadcast your physical events online. Using social media tools like Facebook Live or Youtube Live, you can provide videos of your events to world viewers as it happens.
You can also record the event and then upload it as a webinar.
Infographics are visuals containing a lot of information. It is a cost effective and a simple content type but has a high level of engagement.
An infographic mainly uses information aided with imagery. It is best used for communicating statistics and processes.
You can easily create infographics. Using free tools like Canva can help you create your first infographic.
Memes are increasingly becoming a popular content format as it is entertaining. Memes can be text or images with humor in them.
Although the use of memes can be appealing, you need to time the posting properly. The content of the meme also needs to be appropriate and not sentiment hurting.
If the use of meme does not go with your brand personality, it is better not to use them.
7. Popular Content Topics
Content topics should be relevant to your target audience. The topics should be something your audience are interested in knowing about.
If you are confused about what topic to write about, here are some popular topics you can pick for arousing the interest out of your audience:
How-To Posts are some of the most searched content on the internet. It is an effective form of content.
How-to posts are in-depth content detailing out a procedure. They are also specific and to the point.
You can make blogs, infographics, or videos of how-to posts.
Best of Post
If you have a collection of blog articles on a particular topic, a best-of post can be effective for you. Best-of posts lists out the best blogs under a particular topic or category.
You can also create a best-of blog posts at the end of each year that highlights the best blogs of your website.
Case Study Post
Case study posts are lengthy text based content that details a particular company situation. It is best for B2B marketers to show testimony of their work by giving an example of a work with a client.
A case study usually contains an executive summary, a description of the problem faced by the client, the work done by the company to solve the problem, the results and the implications.
A case study post can help your brand establish itself as a thought leader in its category. And since the case is unique to your own company, case study posts get a lot of share.
A checklist post contains a step-by-step list to carry out a particular task. These posts are popular for those who are seeking to carry out a task or procedure.
Like how-to posts, a checklist post can be a blog, a video, or an infographic. You need to make sure that the checklist posts consist of easy to read and worth remembering lists or steps to follow.
A freebie post is a give away. The give away can be a report or a collection of videos.
Freebie posts are also one of the great ways of generating leads. They can also work best for converting your audience into customers.
Interviews with industry experts or influencers can generate a lot of interest among your target audience. Uploading an interview post as a blog post, webinar, or a podcast can thus be beneficial for you.
You can also upload interviews with your customers who share their experience working with you. Such kinds of posts are more trusted and viewed by ordinary people.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) are a forum devoted to answering questions from your community. FAQ posts can help you optimize your webpage for higher search rankings.
FAQ queries usually concern your product or service, and could be of a technical nature. But you can extend your queries to answer some of the most-sought questions your audience may ask.
Crowdsourced posts are posts created by your audience for your brand. The post can be a blog post, a video, or images.
Crowdsourced posts allow you to engage with your audience. It also shows how loyal your customers are to your brand. And publishing a crowdsourced post shows to your audience that you care a lot about them.
In a presentation post, you share slide decks of your earlier hosted webinars or events in your blog or as images. You can also use Slideshare to share your presentation post.
Presentation posts are informative. Therefore, they can get a huge response for marketers in the B2B and consulting industry.
Product Tips Post
A product tips post can be a blog or a video post. In a product tips post, you share information on how to use your product.
If your product is complicated or requires a set-up beforehand, a product tips post can help dispel a lot of your customers’ queries. Using influencers for this kind of posts are helpful.
Product Update Post
A product update post informs users of a new upgrade. It works best for companies selling software and needs to inform users about the new updates.
A blog post can help inform users about product updates. In some cases, videos can work as well.
A story post is a testimonial of customers who have used your product and are satisfied with the usage. Story posts can be a blog or a video content.
Story posts can be created as an interview or as a crowdsourced content. These posts are more trustworthy than content created by brands themselves.
A survey post can be a great way for you to understand your audience better. You can ask your audience to complete a survey when signing up to your platform.
You can also create regular posts based on topics that interest your audience. With some catchy wording, these polls can be used to understand your audience behavior as well.
Project Showcase Post
A project showcase post exhibits your projects or portfolio. It can be a series of images or a video or a presentation slideshow.
Project showcases work best for B2Bs as they need to show a proof of their expertise in order to get clients.
8. Content Mapping according to the buyer’s journey
The buyer’s journey is a four step process that a buyer takes to carry out a purchase with a brand. Content marketers pay attention to the buyer’s journey as it helps them decide on content that will be appropriate at each stage.
Deciding on the content type at each stage of the buyer’s journey is content mapping. Each of the four stages of the journey requires different types of content so that the buyer can move to the next stage.
1. Awareness & Engagement
This is the first stage of the buyer’s journey. At this stage, a prospective buyer gets to know about your company and explores information about it.
The goal at this stage is to increase site visits and to increase audience engagement. The best types of content that can be used at this stage therefore are blogs, podcasts, images, and videos.
In this stage, the goal is to make your prospect consider buying your product or service. So, you need to attract qualified leads or subscribers.
Two types of content works best in consideration stage- reports and events.
Reports can be white papers or case studies. These reports can work as free giveaways so that prospects can share their email addresses with you.
Events can be online hosted or physically hosted. Online hosted events are webinars where you can provide educational tips to your leads. On the other hand, physical events are platforms where you can provide valuable content to the attendees who can then move to the next stage.
At this stage, your prospects think about you when it comes to buying a product or service. However, you still need to convince them that you are the best for them and that they should buy from your company and from nowhere else.
To help in the decision making process of such prospects, provide them with content like a story post, a product demonstration, or product comparison within your offerings as well as with competitors.
If you can help remove prospects’ objections at this stage, they will buy from you.
Your prospects have turned to customers and are satisfied with your brand. And you can use their satisfaction to reach other potential customers. At this loyalty stage, you do exactly that.
At the loyalty stage, you try to indoctrinate your customers to become die hard fans of your brands. When such loyalty is achieved, these customers will advocate for your brand and help you get new customers at no cost on your side.
To achieve such a level of loyalty, you can provide support documents with your product or service so that customers can use them at ease. You can use product tips and product update posts for this as well.
Ask for crowdsourced posts from your customers. Then share it with the rest of the world. And as told before, such crowdsourced posts are better received than branded content.
9. Places where you can distribute your content
In the fifth step of the content marketing strategy, you have seen why the distribution channel matters. Even if you do create a really content, there is no value if it is not seen by others. Therefore, choosing the right distribution channel is important.
Distribution channels can be both offline and online. However these days, online channels are more preferable as it helps you to reach a greater number of audience at a lower cost.
Here are some popular online distribution channels:
1. Website’s Blog
Your company’s website can have a dedicated blog section for all of your content. This also makes it easier for your audience to find any content of yours.
But to make your website’s blog section more attractive to visitors, you need to employ a set of organic and paid traffic efforts. Optimize the website section for SEO keywords and consider using paid ads on social media.
Ask for your audience to subscribe to your newsletter so that they can be updated on your new content on the website’s blog section.
2. Social Profiles
Social media boasts a huge number of audiences. So distributing your content on social media will help you reach a greater audience base.
There are plenty of social media networks out there. But instead of choosing the most popular of them, choose the ones where your target audience will likely interact with your content.
For example: If you are a B2C whose content marketing goal is to promote product offerings, it will make less sense to distribute content on LinkedIn- a site for professionals.
2.1 Facebook group
Facebook is the world’s most popular social media network. With 1 billion people, it is pretty understandable that content marketers consider Facebook their top choice for sharing content.
However, recent algorithm changes make it hard for brands to promote their content. New rules prioritize personal interactions over those of brands. So, it has become difficult for marketers to promote their content on Facebook.
There’s still a silver lining. Facebook has now prioritized actions of Groups. Posts of Groups where the users interact with the most are often displayed higher on a user’s feed.
So create a Facebook Group inviting all your fans. Share informative content for your target audience. It will not only encourage engagement, but at the same time, foster loyalty.
Distributing content on Twitter is a bit different- you can type in texts of upto 280 characters only. But you can share images, videos, and share some of your blog posts on Twitter as well.
Twitter is great for sharing your opinion, asking questions, and promoting any events.
Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media out there. The rate of engagement is also high in this platform.
Since it’s an app for photos and videos, make sure you post high-quality images and videos on Instagram. You can improve the photo quality using the various features of Instagram.
You can also utilize other features of Instagram for content distribution- Stories, Live, and IGTV. Just do not forget to add hashtags so that people can search for your content.
Tumblr is a micro blogging site where users share texts, images, videos, audios, and much more. It is a popular social media platform as uploads range from brand content to home made videos.
On the outside, Tumblr may look like any other social media site. But Tumblr has a huge user base- more than 500 million users! Moreover, competition among brands is low here. So Tumblr can provide you with a lot of great opportunities.
3. Video sharing platforms for content marketing
Videos are the most engaging form of content. They are also the most popular. Therefore, a lot of content marketers put special emphasis on video content.
Like any other content, you can share videos on any channel you want. However, you should consider the following channels if you prioritize video content as these channels are where videos are viewed the most:
Youtube is the largest video sharing platform in the world. It is also the second largest search engine after Google. These records go on to show what a huge viewer base Youtube claims for itself.
Youtube allows you to optimize content so that your content can appear higher on social media rankings. It also allows you to advertise your content.
Starting content marketing on Youtube is simple- all you need to do is create a Google account.
3.2 Facebook Videos
Videos on Facebook are the most engaging content on the social media giant. Users are more likely to stop scrolling their feed just to watch a video than for reading a text or viewing an image.
You can share video content through your Facebook page or create a video ad. Facebook also allows you to host live videos through Facebook Live where you can interact with your followers in real-time.
Read More about Facebook Marketing.
Instagram TV (IGTV) has become a popular format on Instagram for brands to share their video content. IGTV allows brands to post videos of up to 1 hour long.
DIY videos or videos solving a pain of the audience are the most popular content topics for IGTV videos. To get started, you need to download the IGTV app.
Vimeo is a video sharing platform for artists, musicians and filmmakers. It has a small user base compared to Youtube.
But if your target audience are artists, musicians, and filmmakers; you should definitely use Vimeo for distributing your content.
While Youtube and all other platforms mentioned above are great, here’s the catch- these platforms want videos to keep viewers hooked to their platform only. Although you can direct them to desirable actions using call-to-action links, these video platforms try their best to keep viewers in their platform for a very long time.
On the other hand, Wistia helps viewers to bring the audience to your website through your videos. Wistia’s software helps you to achieve your goals through the use of videos.
The software helps you generate leads, make conversions, and create engagement.Wistia’s built-in tools also help you rank higher on search rankings.
10. Generating traffic through your content
Any business’s goal will be to increase sales and revenue. Therefore, you will need to link your content marketing campaign with a way to increase sales and revenue for your company.
In the online world, you would preferably do that by using content to drive visitors to your website and then make sales. So it is necessary to drive people to your website.
Website traffic can be driven in two ways- organic and paid. Organic traffic methods are free of charge but you cannot control them. On the other hand, you have control over paid traffic but you need to incur cost.
Search engine optimization or SEO is the process of making your content easily searchable on search engine results. It is one of the two ways to generate organic traffic.
You must know from your search experience that no one goes to the second page of Google’s search engine results. Most of the time, searchers are satisfied with the first two-three results. This shows how important SEO is for you to generate traffic to your website.
Use keywords research tools like Ubersuggest, Ahrefs, etc. to find keywords that you can use to rank high on search engine results. Optimize your website sections and content using the keywords.
2. Social Media updates
Social Media updates are another way of driving organic traffic. Sharing your website content on social media profiles can help you drive traffic to your company’s website.
But as Facebook’s new algorithm has shown, brand contents are getting less prioritization these days over content shared by friends and family of users. So social media updates can be handy but are not that useful nowadays.
3. Paid advertisements
Paid advertising is the paid method of generating traffic. Hosting ads either through Google Ads or using social media tools can help you drive paid traffic.
Ad tools like Google Ads and Facebook Ads make you go through easy steps so that you can create your first ad campaign. The ad tools also let you target the audience based on demographics, behavior, and psychographics.
When creating ads, make sure you have calculated a budget beforehand. Otherwise, it might be pricey for you to manage them.
11. Tools to track and measure your results
After creating content, you need to track and analyze the results based on the goals and metrics you set up during the strategy phases. Tracking and analyzing will help you find what is working with your campaigns, what’s not working and how can you improve.
1. Editorial calendar
An editorial calendar is a spreadsheet/Board where you keep a track of your content posts. This helps you keep track of your content marketing campaign.
An editorial calendar can also help you schedule the publication of your content posts. It also helps you manage your content marketing team.
Ideally an editorial calendar shall contain columns for the headline of the content, keyword used, type of content, time and date of publication, and the call-to-action used.
2. Social Media Tools
If you have a business page on social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, you will get access to their social media analytics tools.
These analytics tools help you track measures of various metrics. It also helps you compare against your competitors in your field.
Most of these analytics tools are free-to-use. You can also download the results of such an analytics tool.
3. Third-party tools
If you publish content on various platforms, third-party tools can help you manage all of them together. You can also schedule the posting of contents using these tools- thus reducing the need for a manual editorial calendar.
Third-party tools like Hootsuite, Hubspot, and Sprout Social helps you manage your content on various social media platforms. The price range varies depending on how much social media accounts you are managing with these tools.
These third party tools also allow you to track various metrics and compare with competitors. You can collaborate with different members of your content marketing team with these tools as well.
In the end, what people really like to read? Like to watch? like to listen?
Content marketing is not a one-way street: you promote something, audience responds, and over. It is a two-way interaction between brands and people. Therefore, marketers need to pay attention to people’s response when the latter interact with the brand’s content.
Using tracking and measurement tools will help you find new opportunities for content. Keep an eye on the results and use it to improve your content marketing campaign.