9 Key Steps in Developing an Effective Content Strategy
Content helps your community and your audience relate to you - the more helpful and relatable you are, the more people want to begin a relationship with you.
Isn't that how you began most of your friendships, whether they be online or off, by relating and finding things in common with people?
Relationships deepen, you're there when friends need you, and they're there when you need them. The more you consistently put out great, helpful content, the more people learn that you're someone they can look to when they have questions, that your brand is a presence they can rely on. And that leads to trust - and for a brand, trust is the most important goal, in a marketing sense.
People buy from people they trust.
When I set out to create content - either for my own blog or on behalf of one of my clients - I always start out with three very specific questions to guide my words:
- Is this necessary?
- Is this needed?
- Is this helpful?
While it might appear that Questions 1 and 2 are the same, they're actually quite different - I look at Question 1 from a utility perspective: "do I have the opportunity to help people find information on something I haven't myself, been able to find information on?" While I look at Question 2 more from a community standpoint: "have I been listening and talking with my communities and have I found that they're asking for this type of information?"
If I can answer 'yes' to each of those three questions, I'm more confident in sitting down to write. If I can't answer 'yes' to each of them, I remind myself that I'm not writing just for my own enjoyment, I'm writing for the people in the communities I keep myself in and serve. When I'm writing for a brand, I always try to keep on top of my mind - '"this isn't about me. This is about my customers".
If I'm aiming to create more of a content marketing "strategy", there are more things to consider, and it's necessary to delve a bit deeper. Before beginning any sort of plan, you need to ensure that you know your goals and who you're creating content for.
You can break down the plan to create your social media and content marketing strategy into nine key steps.
1. Define goals/marketing objectives
Are your key goals in line with our overall company objectives? How will social media and your content marketing program help you get closer to achieving those goals?
These are key questions you need to ask in defining an effective strategy, as opposed to simply 'doing' social and content.
2. Establish current situation
Once you've chosen your goals, you need to create or align your various social media accounts.
If there are accounts already in place, conduct a social media audit to see where your business currently stands - this will help create a baseline that you can look at later to see if there's been improvement.
3. Define audience
Have you defined your audience? Do you know who'll be receiving the content you'll be providing (and how)?
Creating buyer personas and identifying the key traits of your audience is an essential element in effective planning, and cannot be overlooked.
4. Measure Demand
Have you taken the time to understand what content your audience is looking for, what questions they're asking that haven't been answered?
While you can never stop listening and talking with your community and audience, you have to start somewhere in order to guide your process.
5. Understand consumption behaviors
What format does your audience and community like to receive content marketing in? Is it infographics? Videos? Text? Blogs? Live Streams? Webinars?
What types of content are generating the most response within your niche?
6. Identify Key Platforms
Where will you distribute your content - where is your community most active right now? Where is your audience?
Where are the people you're not yet reaching but aim to?
There's no point focusing on Twitter if your audience is all on Facebook - knowing where to share is as important as what you're sharing.
7. Allocate Resources
Do you currently have the staff, resources and budget for your content marketing plan to be effective?
Once you know the answers to the previous questions, you'll have a better idea of projected scope - is this something you can feasibly maintain?
If not, where we will get more resources?
8. Establish Tracking Criteria
How will you identify, track and analyze the key metrics for your campaign? Each element has it's own measurements - sales would be click rates and conversions, awareness might be audience growth and engagement.
The only way to know if you're getting closer to realizing your strategic goals is by putting trackable, traceable data criteria in place.
9. Create with Focus
Once you've established what content your audience is seeking and where to distribute it, you're ready to create a content plan and editorial calendar. And then, begin writing.
The most important thing to remember is that although you've laid out a roadmap with your strategic plan, you always have to plan for 'the unplannable'. You'll need to be ok with the idea that your entire plan might need to be scrapped and rewritten at any time.
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