What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is generally defined as any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of different forms of media and publishing that content in order to attract, communicate with, and thus acquire customers. The content can be presented in a variety of mediums: including news, videos, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides and more and shared in the appropriate platforms (social media sites, blogs, forums, YouTube, etc.). The platform you share this content on will vary depending on your industry and where your target market is “hanging out” online.
Basically, content marketing is the art of communicating with your customers and prospects by providing a service (good, relevant information that is going to benefit them) without “selling.” This is not to say that you will not get sales form content marketing because you will, it’s just that your content will not be framed as a commercial or from the angle of a salesperson, but rather from the angle of providing something useful to your target audience.
Why engage in a content marketing strategy?
The essence of content marketing is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.
This is not a new concept. Even before the digital age of blogs and social networks, companies like John Deere were publishing customer magazines with the same marketing approach-engaging customers by providing them with content that will engage, educate and motivate. John Deeres Magazine, The Furrow launched in 1895 and has a distribution of over 1.5 million, is in 40 countries and is printed in 12 languages.
Helps you get found online
A content strategy helps your customers find YOU when searching for terms relevant to your industry or brand. Search engine optimization took a big change with the Penguin update last year and businesses and brands can no long rely on “smoke and mirrors” and “voodoo” to manipulate their ranking search engines. Google has made it clear that CONTENT IS KING and if you want to be found on Google, you better get social.
As a small business, you should be focusing on implementing a content strategy that both creates unique, original content and curates other’s relevant content as well to be shared. You don’t want to always be tooting your own horn, but rather be a resource for your customers.
Determine your content marketing strategy
Content strategy is not about covering all bases at once. You don’t need to maintain a blog, Twitter feed, and weekly newsletter if those tactics are not suited to your business. Knowing your user will tell you which channels of communication are most important. Who are your existing customers and what kind of customers would you like to attract? How do they find you (search, referral, social media)? Where are they spending time online? Once you know some things about your audience, you should devise a content strategy for your business.
Types of questions to ask yourself about what you are trying to accomplish with your content marketing strategy:
- Do you want to drive foot traffic to your shop or office?
- Do you want to increase sales or generate leads?
- Do you want to attract prospects in an area outside of your local area? Do you want to attract clients from overseas?
- Do you want to educate prospects and customers on what you do?
- Do you want to update your customers about what’s going on with your business?
- Do you want to build a brand?
Once you have a grasp on your audience and how to reach them, set goals for your content marketing and develop a schedule for publishing content. Be consistent with your schedule and make sure to monitor and analyze your traffic and conversions so you can iterate and improve over time.
Fortunately, there are many tools out there that help us sort through what is relevant to our customers or industry in real time. Make sure to check out free tools: Scoop.it, Topsy and Quora. The newest tool, and my new favorite, is Bottlenose.
What is Bottlenose?
Bottlenose is an online tool that provides live social intelligence for you by analyzing activity across all of the major social networks. They have far more advanced features for their enterprise customers, but I’ve been using their free “lite” version. It allows you to spot real-time trends in your market so you can start producing content and engaging with influencers around those trends. The articles you discover through these links can serve as inspiration for topic ideas for your own blog content or what to share on your social networks.
How to leverage Bottlenose to create relevant content for your blog and social media channels
Here is the full Bottlenose Online Tutorial from their website that helps you get started, connect your social sites and start tacking streams that will be useful to your industry or brand. You can even see who is talking about your business or brand in real-time.
I check my Bottlenose dashboard often to find out what’s trending in real time for our industry- UX, web design, user testing, social media and more. It helps me decide which topics to blog about and find good info to share on my social networks that frames me as a trusted resource for valuable information in our industry.
I find the Bottlenose dashboard much more user friendly than Hootsuite for visualizing what is trending in my networks or about a specific topic. Although, I still prefer Hootsuite for sharing content and communicating with users, Bottlenose is hands down the easier way to view and sort through content. The left side search bar lets you do a search by clicking on the magnifying glass, display an overview of your your social networks, or view a saved search or blog in the “tracked” folder. So if there are topics or keywords you check everyday, you can have Bottlenose save those searches for you.
You can set up multiple “streams” of content with criteria that you can designate using “rules”. You can also add special streams such as “news” and “tech” provided by Bottlenose. I love that there are multiple views available to display content. You can read it as a “paper”, view as images and (my favorite) for a quick and dirty arial view using the “sonar” view.
It’s so easy to view content this way. You just click on the stories that interest you and more of the story appears on the right with information about the website and author. You can also share content on Facebook LinkedIn and Twitter using Bottlenose if you have linked your accounts.
Sonar uses real-time natural language processing and analytics to detect trending concepts in streams and their interconnections. It then maps these trends so that you can quickly see what they are, what the context is, and how they are trending relative to one another. By clicking any trend in Sonar you can then zoom in on the messages that relate to it. Then you may subscribe to follow that trend in your streams dashboard.
You can quickly view a profile for a person from a stream in any view. Just click their username within a message.
Content marketing is a constantly evolving game that requires marketers to combine a combination of digital knowledge with news reporter instincts. Generating ideas is just one piece of the puzzle but it’s definitely one key opportunity that is overlooked too often.