Do you remember how in the past, marketing consisted of grabbing your attention with loud colours, catchy (and then later, irritating) jingles, pretty people - and if that didn't work, huge billboards?
These days, businesses are slowly giving those campaigns up in favor of getting in touch with their customers. Pop-ups and other gimmicky ads are moving aside for tailored content - be it in print, image, or video - that a company's customers may find useful, or otherwise worth sharing.
When we think of what businesses use to speak to their audiences, the list most commonly goes like this: email newsletters, social media posts, SEO-optimized blog posts and podcasts. On a general level, the type of content businesses use depends - and should depend - on their target audience's online behavior, such as what's more likely to interest them and keep them coming back for more.
If you're looking to use content marketing to drive up your business's sales through the power of sharing, here are a few tips you might find handy:
- Get to know your community. Do you go out and make a speech about fishing when you know nothing about fishing? No. Likewise, you don't write an email to your customers and expect it to land its punches. Basic demographic information like age, gender or location of your customers can give you a good idea on how to approach them. When you factor in more specific information like their hobbies, taste in music, and social media behavior, you'll find yourself with a rich database of facts, which you can then mine for an idea of what content you should publish.
- Learn from the masters. Look at popular websites ViralNova, Upworthy and BuzzFeed. There's a reason their content gets circulated so much. Can you mimic those techniques? But Don't limit yourself to those websites alone, though. Check out other popular blogs and social media profiles of businesses similar to yours, to see what they're doing to enhance audience engagement.
- Be prepared for slow days. There'll be days when your site's content doesn't seem to generate enough traffic. It's frustrating: we know. It's also perfectly normal. Irritation aside, it'll give you an idea on what type of content doesn't get much love. Consider it a lesson you can learn from.
- Building a following starts slow. Overnight successes may seem fairly common on the internet, but they're hardly ever intentional, or created with content marketing in particular, in mind. When you're a new brand in the market, you'll have to work hard to get your followers. Building a reputation online takes a long time, and a lot of effort.We can assure you, though, that the payoff is worth it.
On the importance of blogs:
- Blogs increase traffic. When your brand's blog properly utilizes SEO, you stand a chance in making it to the top of search engines. You won't hit number one straight away. Nor will your second-ever blog post be picked up by The Age. They've got to be well-written, relevant and well-promoted in order to actually generate traffic - and all the other good things that go along with traffic.As much as possible, keep your blog posts easy to read, yet significant at the same time.
- Use different forms of content to promote your blog. A recent study on the most shared type of content on Twitter showed that "How To" and list-type articles generally get more responses. Why? God knows, but we're guessing that it's nice to have what we don't know spelt out for us succinctly.
- And while those articles are good ways to kick-start traffic, it's just as important to know what type of content your audience prefers - infographics, for example? - and which they'll then be most interested in.
- Invest in images and videos. Your brand's blog is often the only place where you have big chunks of text, but let's face it: who wants to read through a textbook? An image before the blog post and a few more to break up your words gives your readers a break from sloughing through a paragraph, and ought to reinforce what you've just said with a quick visual.On the other hand, videos can also provide your readers with a summarized and more entertaining version of your blog post. We'd say to cap any vid at 2:30 minutes or less, though: any longer and a viewer's attention starts to drift.
On improving your content:
- Complement your content. One type of content is rarely enough to get the desired attention from your audience. Why not put a quote or an idea in typography, and draw in the artistically minded? How about a game or a quiz - there's surely those who like to have a little fun with their brands. Or a good old infographic? By virtue of trying something new, you might win new followers - customers are keener to share fresh takes on content, than they are a regular blog post.
- Consider the reader's devices. With many different browsers and devices available to online readers, you've got to keep your site content updated. Note the "got to" - if your content can't be viewed from all possible devices, you'll miss out from the traffic coming from one place, or another.
- Find out what leads to conversion. Content marketing's an ongoing cycle of experimentation, evaluation and revision. By publishing different types of content, keep an eye out for which drive traffic and lead to conversion. In the future, you'll be able to revise your strategy around these findings.
- Choose quality over quantity. More words don't necessarily more information. More articles don't necessarily mean more meaningful content. Quality should be your top priority. One high-quality, well thought-post blog post per week will be more effective at generating traffic and value for your readers, over mediocre daily blog posts.
What to avoid:
- Avoid the sales pitch. We've said it before: the hard sell's out. Providing useful information that potential clients will want, is in. By continuing to create value in important, clever content, you're enticing people to be loyal to your brand.
- Don't overdo SEO. Though keywords and keyword density matters, it can't get in the way of creating meaningful and informative content. Surely you've seen the articles that are cluttered with the keyword every few sentences? Don't they look a little like spam - or worse, that they're trying too hard? A natural flow of words always needs to come before keyword-rich content. SEO works well for search engines and metrics, but it's your audience you need to impress.
Potential buyers were once wowed by sales pitches, the consistent presence of a brand, and a flashy set of tricks to get their attention. The online audience is far more fickle. What's there to stop them from ignoring your ads, by simply leaving your site?
The way to their heart is through great content. Great content, combined with enough promotion to get their attention, but the first point's the most important.
Build a relationship with your customers through meaningful content, which they'll want to read and share.
Secure their trust, loyalty, and ongoing interest that way.