If you want to succeed in business, you need to have a plan. There are too many obstacles and pitfalls that will derail your company if you decide to operate by the seat of your pants. The same rule is true for your content strategy.
What is "content strategy"? Quite simply, it's creating content (e.g. a tweet, blog post, or whitepaper) and delivering it to a specific audience via channels they choose for gathering information and engaging with the sender (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, a community website). Your content strategy is how you connect with customers, potential customers, vendors, influencers, and any other person or group that can help you in business. You need a content strategy in place because the Web and social media have fundamentally changed the way businesses communicate.
In addition to using content to engage with target audiences, you want them to take action after reading your content. They might visit a website, call an 800 number, or take a survey. Twenty years ago, you placed ads in local newspapers or on television to entice people to take these steps. Today, you tweet to them, post an article on Facebook, or put up a new board on Pinterest.
By creating a carefully constructed content program, you increase your odds for success. Here are six simple, but critical, steps to help you win the content strategy and execution game.
1. Define your audience. Who do you want to read, watch, or listen to your content? Most strategies target one or more of five online groups: Customers, potential customers, influencers, media, and/or partners. Which groups do you plan to target? Does your content connect with the right groups? Does it answer their questions? Will they take action after reading your blog post or watching your video? These are very important questions.
2. Create content that rocks. Once you define your audience, put together original content for them that includes a call to action. It’s the easiest way you can effectively evaluate the success of your content. Make your readers and followers do something that shows they’ve not only read your masterpiece blog post, but they did something as a direct result of reading it. They can share it (via a share bar), click on a link, order something, call an 800 number, leave a comment, or place a vote. One of my clients created a series of informative white papers for customers. Through social media, the client asked them, "What other topics would you like us to cover?" The responses they received were eye-opening, in that they didn't realize how important certain topics were to their customers.
3. Create solid distribution channels. If your content is posted in the woods and no one reads it, maybe you should stop posting it in the woods! In order to achieve your goals of having readers, listeners, or viewers take action, you need to have access to them. Are you “fishing where the fish are"? Do you have the right distribution channels in place? The simplest approach to validating your choice of channels is to ask your best customers how they would like to receive information from you. Do they want a phone call, text message, or email, or do they want to see it on your website with other information? If you don't build strong distribution channels, your content campaign will fall short.
4. Send the same (or similar) messages several times. This is a key area where most content campaigns break down. A company creates stellar content and has solid distribution channels, but it only sends out a tweet or Facebook posting once for fear of spamming the audience. The assumption is that everyone will drop everything they are doing to see what you’ve posted on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, or the blog on your website. Unfortunately, the world does not revolve around your content campaign—you must send social media support messages more than once if you expect your target audience to be wowed by your genius.
As part of your social-media strategy, plan on delivering content on a consistent basis over a period of time until people see your content and take action on it. If you think your content can help people in business or their personal lives, then how can it be spamming? I view it as a good gesture on your part.
5. Measure your performance. Are you building brand awareness with your content strategy? Are you hoping to generate new leads? Deepening your relationship with existing customers? It makes no sense to market your business and not have specific, measurable goals to gauge your performance. Include a call to action in your campaign (e.g. a 10 percent Twitter discount or free shipping by mentioning a certain online code). You can also use the suggestions listed in the first step to help you measure the success of your content.
6. Make adjustments and test some more. Find out what resonates with your target audience and give them more of the same. If one of your distribution channels isn't working, scrap it and move onto the next one. For example, if your content and call to action bring in twice as many responses as expected from your Facebook page, then stay with Facebook. If Twitter doesn’t give you the response you anticipated, examine what went wrong. Did you not have the right frequency for your messages? How strong was your call to action? If you have trouble finding people in your target group on Twitter, then consider not using that platform as part of your overall strategy.
Content, distributed properly through social media, is a means to an end. Use the tools to help you achieve your specific objectives and you will find yourself in possession of a winning content strategy.
And there's no better time to start than now. Questions? Tweet me @BrianMoran.
As the founder and CEO of Brian Moran & Associates, Brian helps entrepreneurs run better businesses. He was formerly the executive director at The Wall Street Journal, overseeing the financial and small-business markets across the WSJ franchise. From 2002 to 2010, Brian ran Veracle Media and Moran Media Group, content companies in the SMB market.
Photos: Shutterstock (top, bottom)