Seven Basics of Content Marketing

Guest Post by S.L. Hoffman

Ask a group of digital marketers to provide a clear definition of content marketing is, and you’ll get various answers.

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as “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.”

Digital marketing expert Neil Patel has a different definition of content marketing. He says that “content marketing is all about storytelling, and humans have told stories for as long as they could speak. Our attention will always go to those who tell great stories.”

I personally prefer Lexico’s explanation of content marketing, which gets far more specific about the type of content that needs to be created. According to Lexico, content marketing is a “type of marketing that involves the creation and sharing of online material (such as videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but is intended to stimulate interest in its products or services.”

Content marketing is far more subtle – and in much wider use now – than traditional marketing that hawks a product or service. The tricky part is figuring out what content your audience wants to see and will consider valuable. But the ultimate test of content marketing answers two questions:

  • Brand awareness: Are more people aware of your brand now?
  • Lead generation: Did your organization see a notable rise in sales?

As Neil Patel points out, your content marketing needs to tell a story. But there are other aspects to content marketing to be considered as well.

#1: Show, Don’t Tell

These days, anyone can hop on the internet and claim expertise in a certain area. But with content marketing, you can prove that expertise. You can tell a customer’s story in a video, record a podcast interview with one of your experts or take photographs that reinforce why you’re good at what you do.

#2: Remember Visual Quality

Photographs, infographics, and videos are great ways to tell your company story, but they need to be flawless. Allowing a blurry photograph or an infographic with one or two misspelled words might sound harmless, but your visible lack of professionalism could encourage your potential customers to go somewhere else.

#3: Have a Solid Strategy

Before creating or publishing content, think hard about what you want that content to accomplish. Do you want it to generate leads, raise brand awareness or make you more prominent on search engine results pages? Create a defined strategy with clear, easily measurable goals.

#4: Remember Variety

Whether you regularly publish blog articles, tell your story through Pinterest images, or have a podcast series, take the trouble to vary your content. It’s easy to discuss the topics that interest you 24/7, but bear in mind that your audience has specific needs they’d like you to address. Get out of your comfort zone – try a Facebook live stream or create a video to liven things up.

#5: Realize That Audiences Have Short Attention Spans

If it’s possible to keep your content short and still tell a coherent story, do so. According to Erik Qualman of Socialnomics, human beings now have an attention span of seven seconds. When you combine that fact with all of the content created by your business competitors, creating good, easily “digestible” content for your target audience becomes even more challenging.

Use different storytelling techniques to keep your audience coming back for more of your unique content. For instance, break up an overly long blog article into several stories.

#6: Consider Your Timing

Let’s say you’ve created amazing content that is guaranteed to attract people’s attention. Do you know when they are online? Are more people viewing that content during the day, at night, on weekdays, or on the weekends?

If not, find out what day(s) and what time of day when your audience is most likely to be online with web analytics software. Consider geographic areas as well. If you’re marketing to the residents of more than one country, you’ll want to ensure your content is easily seen by people in different time zones.

#7: Remember Search Engine Optimization

You may have created wonderful stories that are broadcast all over your social media accounts, but not everyone has social media accounts. Make sure that you use search engine optimization (SEO) techniques so your content shows up on search engine results pages over time to maximize your content’s reach.

Whatever forms of content marketing you decide to use, remember to keep your audience’s informational needs in mind. Make it clear to your audience why the content you provide will help them and avoid lapsing into business jargon that will be hard for some people to understand.

Ten Best Practices for Digital Communication

Guest Post by Susan Hoffman, Blog Editor

Digital communication such as websites, blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook have made it much easier for you to reach a global audience. But using digital communication to effectively reach your audience and motivate them to take action requires some work as well as social etiquette.

Here are 10 best practices to follow for digital communication:

  1. Double-check everything before publication.It is all too easy to accidentally make a typo or forget to check a fact before you publish. But your audience will quickly point out any errors they see, especially on social media. It is much easier (and less embarrassing) to double-check your content before it goes online.
  2. Write in a format designed for Web readers.According to a study done by user experience experts Nielson Norman Group, Web readers often skim through an article by reading in an F-shaped pattern. Your headline, sub-headers and first paragraph must quickly grab their attention.Also, break up your paragraphs into two or three sentences. Paragraphs of this length are much easier for your Web audience to read, especially on mobile devices.
  3. Learn search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to help search engines find your online content.Moz offers an excellent beginner’s guide to SEO. Remember that SEO changes over time, so keep up with the latest changes to understand how they will affect your writing.
  4. Use Google Alerts to monitor and manage your digital reputation.Set up a Google Alert so that you are quickly informed when someone writes about you or your company. It only takes a short amount of time and you’ll be able to easily see what readers say about you.
  5. Let online relationships develop before asking for favors.Take the time to get to know your audience and their needs, rather than asking for favors right after you meet them. Digital communication makes soliciting favors easy, but it’s also considered rude to do the “ask” too soon.
  6. Once you have online relationships, nurture them.I often send notes to my LinkedIn connections, just to see how they are doing or commend them on a recent achievement. Even sending a short note saying “How are you doing?” or “Congratulations!” can be very meaningful to the person receiving it.
  7. Remember that a lot of your audience may read your online content by using mobile devices.Help your mobile readers and ensure that your content is pleasing to readers’ eyes.Use a lot of blank space, break up your paragraphs at times with bulleted or numbered lists, and don’t overload your webpages with text. The Australian educational website Open2Study offers a useful free course in Writing for the Web to help you understand what Web readers prefer to see.
  8. Double-check your content after you publish.Sometimes, technical errors may occur with your online content or photos may suddenly disappear. Be sure to review any content you post after it’s live, so that readers see it in the way you intended.
  9. Use plenty of visuals.Photographs, infographics and short videos are a great way to liven up your content. They aid your readers in understanding what you’re communicating and often offer greater insight than just telling a story with words.
  10. Check for copyrights.If you quote someone else’s text, be sure to give them proper attribution. And if you’re using visuals such as photographs, it’s best to use your own or use images that are public domain. Many images on the Web are copyrighted and you could get into legal difficulties if you use them without the owner’s express permission.Digital communication is a fantastic way to make people care about issues, to teach them new information through stories or to show them the human face of a company. However, doing careful work and following proper etiquette makes digital communication much more effective.