In other words, it's the marketing of a business or brand through the sharing of educational, entertaining, or insightful information that will ultimately help readers improve their lives.
This may be in the form of a change in personal behavior or, as most marketers hope, it could be in the form of a purchase decision.
It's not about forcing a sales pitch at people, but helping them move towards the best course of action (that just may be buying from you).
Content marketing is also defined 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."
"Content marketing’s purpose is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating and curating relevant and valuable content with the intention of changing or enhancing consumer behavior. It is an ongoing process that is best integrated into your overall marketing strategy, and it focuses on owning media, not renting it."
In 2016, few businesses doubt the power of content marketing, but sadly, only a few companies are executing it with the skill and expertise truly needed to make an impact.
This guide will show you how to successfully promote your brand, attract more qualified leads, and nurture customer relationships through content marketing.
If you've read any of our content, you've probably heard us throw around the term "inbound marketing." Content and inbound are often used interchangeably, but for the sake of minimizing confusion I will explain the difference.
Want to use LinkedIn’s vibrant community to boost qualified traffic, generate leads, and meet your target personas? Find out how in our free guide.
The difference between inbound marketing and content marketing depends on who you ask. In fact, a HubSpot survey found that most marketers agree that content marketing is a subset of inbound marketing.
More specifically, however, content marketing refers to the act of sharing knowledge, advice, or entertainment in a consumable format that may include:
Social media marketing
Inbound marketing, however, is more focused on using tactics like content marketing to generate and nurture leads towards a sale. Inbound includes all aspects of digital marketing and sales.
Another distinction between content marketing and inbound marketing is how they target their marketing. Content marketing focuses on a broad "target audience" and inbound focuses on specific "buyer personas."
Blogging is the Foundation of Content Marketing
Blog articles pioneered content marketing. Blogs have become commonplace in the business world, as well as society in general. It allows for people to access high-quality information for free.
When informative content is shared through a business blog, you inevitably come across as an industry expert, which will not only keep visitors returning to your blog, but can also turn these readers into potential buyers.
When you freely share content, it allows for your business to build trust with its readers. After all, you’re providing them with industry tips and information -- for free.
eBooks, Videos, and Email
Blogs are just a gateway for other mediums of content marketing. While blogs articles are often on the shorter side, quickly but thoroughly addressing industry topics, these other forms of content marketing act as a more detailed vehicle to share information and convert customers.
eBooks, for example, allow for an extensive amount of information to be shared regarding some aspect of your business. These usually focus on the most frequently asked about part of a business, and go to great lengths to explain and point readers in the right direction — to you!
Videos are oftentimes a nice change of pace and are more engaging to your buyer personas. Have fun with it, as the great ones have a tendency to go viral, which can bring all kinds of traffic and attention to your brand.
Most of what is done through the advent of content marketing is done in hope that businesses can obtain the reader's contact information. Whether the readers are subscribing to your newsletter, or simply filling out forms to access eBooks or other helpful tools, they are granting you future contact with them by giving you their personal email address.
Having email subscribers allows your brand to share more content, nurture leads, and eventually close those leads into sales through various email campaigns.
Why Content Marketing?
After asking "What is content marketing?" the next question should be "why?"
"First you need to understand the four steps of the typical buying cycle:
Traditional advertising and marketing is great when it comes to the second two steps, but after that it tends to trail off. Content marketing taps into the first two stages of the buying process by raising awareness of solutions and educating consumers about a product they may have never considered before....
The return on investment for content marketing can be phenomenal....It provides additional content for social media marketing and contributes to SEO efforts by generating natural inbound links and building up good content on your website that gets found in search engines.
In fact, for many companies the bulk of their SEO efforts should be focused on content marketing."
How Long Does Content Marketing Take to Work?
The Benefits of Content Marketing on SEO
There are many tasks you can do to improve SEO, but as John explains, nothing comes close to the impact of content marketing on your website's SEO power.
And it makes perfect sense. Content, simply put, is just information.
Google aims to match the highest quality, most relevant information with the search queries of their users -- but if you're not creating content sharing this information, you have no chance of ranking and getting found for it.
If you think creating content is solely for attracting prospects, you're gravely mistaken. A good content marketing strategy also includes resources for your existing customers such as:
Tutorials -- These help them get the most of your product/service by showing them how.
FAQs -- Frequently asked questions are great content topics because you can spend the time to answer the question thoroughly, then when a customer asks you have a great resource to send them. Plus, FAQs can also generate a lot of organic traffic.
Community Updates -- Sharing testimonials or simply giving a shout out to your customers/clients helps build a sense of community, while also promoting your brand in an authentic way at the same time.
Content Marketing in Public Relations
The internet has shattered barriers that once prevented businesses from reaching their target customers.
In the past, getting featured on TV was difficult or expensive -- now you can upload a video to YouTube or Facebook and reach millions of people for free.
The same thing goes for making an announcement. You don't need a publicist to communicate with your customers and fans.
Blog posts have replaced press releases. Facebook Live has replaced the traditional press conference. Everything you need for PR is right at your finger tips, and it's mostly free!
Content Marketing is an Industry Standard
If all of the other benefits of content marketing don't convince you of why your business should use it, you might consider the fact that content marketing is essential to building a brand in 2017 and beyond.
We're past the point where doing content marketing gives your business a big advantage over the competition and transistioning to a phase where not doing content marketing puts your business at a tremendous disadvantage.
All markets and demographics are consuming information online and quite simply, content marketing is marketing by today's standards.
The Worst Content Marketing Mistakes You Can Make
The effectiveness of your content marketing can make or break your business. Here are the worst content marketing mistakes you could be making:
1. Not Knowing Your Audience (Buyer Personas)
Not understanding your buyer personas is one of the biggest mistakes in regards to content marketing. By not taking the time to research and understand your audience, how can you know what topics grab their attention?
There's a chance you have no idea.
A great way to learn more about your audience is by not only developing buyer personas, but also reader personas. Not all of your readers are going to be your buyers.
However, the topics within your blog should depend on the goals you want to achieve. For most companies, they see their blog as an opportunity to educate and nurture prospects and hopefully pushing them down the sales funnel.
The primary goal of content marketing is providing your readers and leads with quality information. To keep your content fresh and maintain readership, it's important to publish frequently and consistently.
When you don't post blog articles for a significant amount of time, readers will stop coming to your site. Post as often as you can, while ensuring you are publishing quality content.
If you can only post once a week, it's ok. Focus on quality over quantity. When you start putting out junk, you start losing readers, leads, and ultimately customers.
Also, with Google's search algorithm, ever-evolving, creating quality content is the only reliable way to get found and rank.
3. Not Proofreading or Editing
For all of you grammar nuts out there, this is probably one of your biggest pet peeves.
How often do you read a blog article and the person or company doesn't even know the difference between your and you're?
Little mistakes like this tend to send readers running for the hills. Something you should always do before publishing your content is to proofread it and make any necessary changes. Make use of your spellcheck, Grammar.ly, and have a peer read through it as well. Better safe than sorry.
4. Failing to Reuse and Repurpose
If your company has been creating content for a while, you've likely published a ton of content that covers a wide variety of topics. The best part about all of that content, is that you can use it over and over again.
Ideas for reusing and repurposing content:
If you have a report, it can be broken up into several blog articles
Create a video or slide presentation out of your how-to articles
Have your audio and video materials transcribed into written format
Build on existing content by expanding certain points, introducing new ideas, etc.
Share older, popular content with new members of your audience
No one wants to reinvent the wheel by creating new content every time. A great way to promote your eBooks is by providing your readers with an excerpt in one of your blog articles. Just don't forget to add a call to action at the bottom of the blog article telling your readers to download the full eBook.
Don't let your hard work just fade away. Keep your content working for you instead by repurposing it.
5. Missing a Call-to-Action
When it comes to content marketing, many marketers forget to add calls-to-action (CTA) to various places across their marketing channels. There is no better way to guide people to other parts of your site than through clear, distinct CTAs.
If you don't tell your visitors or prospects about your services or products, how are they going to know you offer them? They most likely won't. Which is why you should add CTAs that send them to those pages or information.
Each piece of content should have a purpose and a CTA. Whether it’s to get a quote for your IT services or an opportunity to get a free checklist, it doesn’t matter.
Consider placing a CTA:
On your blog
In your email messages
On your Facebook page
On every page of your website
Within your eBooks and webinars
Within your email signature
Need more insight into how to choose the right CTA for your next post? This article can help.
Our former content marketing Manager, Carly Stec, once shared 4 more content mistakes that may be costing your business valuable opportunities.
How is it that one of your blog articles can see hundreds of views, while another one just sits on the shelf collecting dust?
The truth is, there are a ton of factors that contribute to both the success and demise of the content you serve up.
Just because something you wrote seemed to really catch on, it doesn't guarantee everything you produce from there on out will follow in its footsteps. If your content is failing to support the type of engagement necessary to advance the buying process, you're doing it wrong.
In order to get your content creation strategy on track, we've outlined 4 content mistakes that could be costing your business valuable opportunities.
1. Lackluster Titles
The title of your content often serves as the first line of communication between a customer and your brand.
If you're looking for a way to format your titles to ensure they receive the attention they deserve, consider revisiting your website's analytics. By looking back on titles that performed well in the past, you will uncover information that can be used to form future titles.
Additionally, social analytics will help you pick out the titles that were well-received by your audience on social media platforms. A social share is valuable in terms of content distribution, as it opens up a new path for your content to reach an untapped audience.
2. No Social Sharing
While it may seem like a real #firstworldproblem, asking your readers to manually copy, paste, and share your content can often be asking for too much.
Think about the way you consume content.
Often times you find yourself reading an article, you see the value in it, you go to find the social share button so that you can spread the word to your followers.. and then it's nowhere to be found. Talk about a let down.
You want to make it as easy as humanly possible for readers to share your content. If you fail to create a quick and easy way for them to share your content right on the page, you run the risk that they will open up a new window, log into their social media account, and get lost in their newsfeed before they post it.
Social share buttons not only improve the user experience, but they ultimately contribute to your brand's level of exposure. All it takes is one social share to open your content up to a new reader, who may then share it with their following, who could then tweet it out to their audience, who.. well, you get the point.
3. Speaking to the Wrong Crowd
When creating content, many marketers are plagued by the idea that they have to please everyone. They recognize that compelling and consistent content creation has the ability to attract, convert, close, and delight customers — which is why they are afraid of alienating prospects.
The trouble with this approach to content creation is that you simply can't please everyone, and do it well. Write about what you know, what you understand, and what you feel strongly about.
If you try to wear too many hats, you'll find it is difficult to attract a loyal audience, as your content will be all over the place, rather than focused on the interests and needs of a particular group.
In order to create truly resourceful content, you must know what motivates your buyer personas. If you are well-versed in their consumer behaviors and business/personal goals, you will find it is much easier to create and deliver content that they will enjoy and share.
4. Selfishly Selling
There's nothing worse than a party guest who only wants to talk about themselves. They'll chew your ear for hours and wont let you get a word in, while you're left standing there, eyes glazing over, nodding in agreement at everything they say.
Often times you walk away from the conversation with a bad taste in your mouth, as you are unable to comprehend how someone could be so egotistical. Well, the same applies to content creation.
Nobody wants to get stuck reading a blog article written by a self-serving writer, so avoid creating content that is all about you, you, you.
Instead, focus on guiding your content around the needs of your audience. Think of your blog posts as an opportunity to provide prospects with a valuable resource, not a sales pitch.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when creating new content is that it must speak to the needs of the intended audience, not yours."
Content Marketing Best Practices
So you're familiar with content marketing and its importance in an effective inbound marketing campaign, but are you doing them correctly? As mentioned in our intro, this is usually the area that most marketers struggle with, but thankfully, by following a few basic best practices, we can help you in your quest to get started in creating quality, relevant content.
Simply put, blogging is the fastest way to create a platform for sharing and turn your brand into a content generating machine.
"1. Give your audience a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your company.
...Even “boring” businesses can leverage the power of talking to employees to make a product come to life. Find those members of your team who are passionate about your product, regardless of what their roles are within your organization. It’s these internal evangelists who can really bring your brand to life.
2. Special content: Provide exclusive information that your audience won’t find elsewhere. It’s useful for getting people to visit your other content and social media locations, and you can utilize a wide range of content formats, such as checklists, videos, how-to articles, and worksheets....
3. Interviews: While many media companies use interviews as the core of their content offerings, take a page from Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart, who specifically extends his on-air interviews to be used as unique web-only content....Consider talking to key people related to the topic. For many businesses, this means your employees, as well as outside experts.
4. Q&As: Extend the value of your content by answering questions that have been posed to you by your audience, or your industry colleagues and peers...Once again, this content can be developed through the use of video, audio, and/or text...
5. Outtakes: Learn from the movie industry, which often packages its DVDs with special extra scenes. No movie promotion is complete these days without additional content that entices the audience into developing a deeper relationship with your business...
6. Content curation: The goal here is to offer related resources for your audience that underscores your insight and expertise in the field...Rather than just producing a collection of links, add commentary to existing content to help your audience better understand the issues involved...
7. Background: Don’t assume that your audience will be familiar with all the ins and outs of your chosen topic. Create content that delivers the information they need to better understand the issues you discuss in your content offerings —without talking down to them.
Sharing Through Social Media
Social media websites are among the most valuable resources a business can have. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are chock full of members of your niche audience and other potential customers waiting to be found — so be sure to share your content with them! It can even help answer many of their questions while simultaneously establishing your credibility.
You’ve spent the time to create quality blogs, so sharing these through social media sites will maximize the potential of each individual blog post and expand your reach through shares and discussion among your followers.
B2B marketers often get hung up on how to use social media, because they fear social media doesn't work as naturally for B2B brands.
Fortunately, this couldn't be further from the truth. The following are 8 best practices for B2B marketers to integrate content marketing and social media, provided by Kapost:
1. Make the Case Internally
Before marketers can gain the budget and resources necessary to see results from the combined power of social media and content, the strategy needs to be marketed internally. If people don't buy into the idea of inbound marketing and support it fully, it won't succeed.
2. Establish Goals
Before beginning to plan content, marketers must first understand the larger initiatives planned for the quarter and year. This clarifies what messaging needs to be pushed, which content types make the most sense to support those initiatives across networks, and when those pieces of content should be completed....
3. Maximize Popular Networks
Identify where target audiences are spending their time online, and where relevant conversations are already taking place. For retail companies, maybe it’s Instagram and Pinterest. For B2B, it might be Twitter and LinkedIn. Instead of wasting time and resources on social media that won’t deliver, focus on the right channels with the biggest payoffs...
4. Use an Editorial Calendar
Between internal collaborators and external agencies, it’s key to have one place where everything from the higher-level campaigns to the specific tweets and blog posts can be organized and planned. That’s where an editorial calendar comes in handy....Without one, planning ahead will be a lot more difficult than it needs to be.
5. Share Content Around Popular Topics
Timely and popular topics tap into the buzz of already active conversations. Sharing content around these topics keeps brands relevant, and helps them establish a reputation as a go-to resource for information.
6. Don’t Forget About Content with Long-Term Relevance
Trending topics are important, but it’s also critical to focus on content that will remain relevant beyond a day or week. This kind of content can be recycled across channels and continues to provide value and engagement long after the publish date.
7. Analyze Data to Discover Which Content Works
Understanding what works and what doesn’t is key to the continued success of a social and content marketing strategy. Track and measure key metrics and KPIs that align with the goals of the team, department, and organization and adjust your actions accordingly.
8. Evolve Your Content and Social Strategy
After reviewing the data and evaluating content performance across social networks, marketers need to revisit and reevaluate the original strategy. Determine what worked and why, then replicate those elements in upcoming campaigns. If something didn’t work, learn from those pieces and avoid making the same mistakes.
Most importantly, stay in tune with updates and changes to the networks and channels where content lives.
Create Content Worth Reading
As we discussed above, potential customers have questions or problems that you should take aim at through your content. However, a good way to drive away these potential customers is by boring them to tears with poorly constructed content.
61% of consumers say they feel better about a company that delivers custom content, they are also more likely to buy from that company. (Source: Custom Content Council)
Blogs give websites 434% more indexed pages and 97% more indexed links. (Source: Kapost)
Interesting content is a top 3 reason people follow brands on social media. (Source: Content+)
Why? Well, people are constantly seeking out new information, and articles that are formatted to answer questions are incredibly valuable.
Not only do people respond well to them, but they help to establish your business as credible. If you can provide answers to the questions your buyer personas have, it is likely that they will return to you in the future for more information.
The more you can help people or give them something of true benefit, the more favorable they will view your brand -- and the more likely they are to tell others about you!
Urgency is powerful because it gets people to take action. You want to inspire urgency with your content.
Do your best to crerate content that require's your audience to sweat a bit. Work towards seeking out new, relevant information that is time sensitive, yet of great value.
Detailing industry trends is effective because it gives your audience the inside scoop, and it also encourages them to take action, and implement the tactics themselves.
If you know of a time-limited opportunity, share it with them as quickly as possible.
Anything that gets your readers to take action is good for you because it will most likely benefit them quicker and it will encourage them to take action on future content you produce (as well as your CTAs).
Back it Up
The fact of the matter is, people love facts.
While you may have a lot to say yourself, it doesn't hurt to pepper in a bit of support every once and a while.
Using data to back up your point is an easy, effective way to bulk up your content, and bring your concepts full circle.
Whether it be statistics, or visual examples, utilizing additional resources within your content will ensure that people take you seriously, and it simplifies the reading process a bit.
After all, you want people to trust your brand as an authority, so backing up your claims with evidence only makes your content stronger.
Your audience is looking for information that makes their life easier, and provides solutions to their problems.
Take advantage of this.
Do your best to implement headlines that people simply cannot avoid. This means you really have to start thinking out of the box.
Not only should you aim to solve their problems, but you should also do your best to find a way to keep it interesting. It's easy to answer a question that you are knowledgable about, but it is more effective to present the information in a new, creative format.
This is also where it helps to be honest with your opinions, as long as you let your readers know that they are your opinions.
As an expert on your industry or subject matter, people genuinely care about what you really think -- not just what you're supposed to say. Feed their curiosity and give them the truth.
Curiosity is the same reason that personal branding is so effective with content marketing. People are curious about the faces behind the brands they shop.
Tap Into Emotion
While you don't want to create all of your content around it, information that evokes emotion can be extremely effective.
Emotion acts as a major motivator when it comes to the buying process, however it is important to appeal to emotion without making people feel like they are being manipulated.
However, a touch of emotion will help you create content that is powerful, and it will also increase the chances that your audience will share the content in order to justify their emotional reaction with others.
Tapping into emotion doesn't mean you're always trying to make your readers cry or feel scared -- create content for every emotion.
Jeff Bullas shared a case study on using humor in content marketing, which you can read about below:
"Because the research from Wharton showed that most people want some fun and that humor and jokes were consistently shared, using humor in content marketing is extremely effective. Large companies do it all the time, in order to keep their brand name “out there”.
They know that humor does the following things:
It grabs and holds attention
It results in an emotional response – not just positivity but a connection to you and your brand
It shows you are just “one of them” after all
You are remembered and shared. And if you use humor on all of your social media pages, you will continue to increase your number of followers."
Below is an example of how Virgin Airlines used humor to wish their audience a Happy Thanksgiving -- an employee guiding a plane on the runway with turkey drumsticks, instead of lights.
One thing to keep in mind is that your humor should relevant and appropriate to your audience.
Not only do you want to avoid offending them, you also want them to actually think the content is funny or entertaining.
Create Content That Converts
With a strong content marketing strategy in place, businesses have found that they are able to improve their customer acquisition by providing tailored content that meets their needs at each stage of the buying process.
While traditional marketers used to question the ability of content marketing, they are now becoming less focused on if it works and more focused on how it is working
However, the trouble with content marketing is that the content has to be remarkable in order for things to run smoothly. Weak content will crumble and shed a negative light upon one’s credibility before it can bring home a conversion.
Will your content stand out in the crowd? Will it turn a profit?
Who are the people that are most likely to become customers?
The goal is to start put forth content that they actually want to consume; content that doesn't quite feel like marketing.
Start by asking yourself questions like:
What role does my ideal customers have in the work place?
What are their interests/challenges?
Where do they most commonly “hang out” online?
What are their demographics?
By defining questions like this, you are able to uncover information about your potential customers that will simplify the way in which you go about creating content for them. Specifics like these seek to improve your targeting efforts by supplying you with enough information to personalize content and move personas closer to a positive purchasing decision.
Hone in on Their Pain Points
This is where you really get your hands dirty.
Your sales team or account managers are likely to know the ins-and-outs of your prospects pain points better than anyone else. Perhaps it’s time for you to schedule some one-on-one time with them to dig for a little insight.
In order to guide your customers down the sales funnel efficiently, you must become fluent in their language. What is it about your product or service that will attract them to you? What problem does it aim to solve?
The reason why pain point identification is so critical to the success of your marketing efforts is that it has the ability to differentiate ordinary customers from the right customers.
Why is this so important? Well, happy customers has certainly never hurt a business’ reputation.
Become a Solutionist
You want to create content that can speak for you when you aren’t present. Standalone resources that are strong enough to quickly and simply provide answers to their questions.
You want to use your content to paint a picture of the strategic solutions they need to put in place in order to alleviate their pain points.
By thinking and acting like a solutionist, you are able to bring a unforeseen level of value to your relationship with potential customers. Not only does it serve as a way to separate yourself from the competition, but it allows you to position yourself in the most favorable light possible.
Choose the right channel. Some content is perfect for Facebook, some for Twitter, and some is great for both. You should know your audience well enough to have an idea of what they want to see where. If not, experiment.
Post at the right times. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all have some built in analytics. And if you're using social media management tools like Sprout Social,Hootsuite, or Buffer, you should also have access to information about what days and what times of day your audience is most active. Use that to your advantage.
Use hashtags (prudently). Although hashtags are easy to overdo, they're also a way to get new eyes on the content you're posting on social. Research what hashtags are relevant for your industry and go (but not more than two at a time, please).
Create an Editorial Calendar
An important content marketing best practice that gets overlooked too often is the use of a content calendar or editorial calendar. This article from IMPACT Marketing Coordinator, Karisa Egan will help create a basic, but effective editorial calendar for your team.
Don't Break These 7 Content Creation Rules
In the world of content marketing, only the truly awesome posts survive.
I mean, it really is a dog eat dog world out here.
So what's a content marketer to do?
With the demand for more quality content on the rise, and the amount of hours in the day remaining the same, creating truly awesome posts can feel like an uphill battle.
To help ease the process, we've come up with 7 rules that will help you come into view and start driving traffic back to your website with your content.
1. Know Who You're Writing For
Before you write a single word, it's critical that you are fully aware of who it is that you are writing for.
Who are you trying to reach? What type of language do they use? What type of structure do they prefer? What are their pain points?
All of these questions will help you to focus your message and ensure that you put forth a piece of content that has the elements necessary to resonate and inspire action.
Often times content creators get wrapped up in writing pieces that they may find interesting, or they think people in their industry may enjoy, however, they disregard who they are actually trying to attract. Don't be that guy (or girl.)
2. Have an Opinion
Don't be afraid to take a stand on something. Your unique perspective is what will set you apart from the rest of the noise.
If you're stifling your voice in order to avoid stirring up controversy, you're missing out on opportunities to challenge the norm and establish your business as a thought leader.
A few weeks ago our marketing director, John Bonini, published a controversial article in response to a video our CEO came across a anti-HubSpot video on YouTube. John's article, "Why I Despise HubSpot": The Story of an Ignorant Entrepreneur quickly became one of our most viewed posts of all time and it prompted over 20 comments.
For us, that article alone was enough to prove the value of opinion-based content.
3. Write Addicting Introductions
When it comes down to it, most of your blog subscribers aren't willing to forgive a mediocre introduction.
While we all make typos (we're only human), you want to be sure that you read and reread your work before publishing. If you're worried about missing mistakes, try sleeping on it and taking a second look at it in the morning with fresh eyes, or have another team member read through to double check.
5. Write Like You Speak
There is a lot of content out there. And by a lot, I mean, almost too much.
If you're not highlighting your unique personality, it's likely that your vanilla content is going to fade into the background.
While the level of professionalism varies based off your industry, it's important to remember that behind the suits and ties are real humans, with human problems. The more you treat people like humans, the more likely they will be to hear your message.
By writing like you speak, your content will feel less buttoned up, and more conversational, inviting, and interesting overall.
(Just be sure to edit your work! While we encourage writing like you speak, it's still important to use proper grammar.)
6. Know That Less is More
If there's one thing that content creators need to take note of, it's that consumers love short form content.
Because who really has time to read a 50 page ebook these days?
I mean, between 10 second Snapchats, 6 second vines, 140 character tweets, the demand for snack-sized content is higher than ever before.
So if you're serious about catching the attention of your audience, it's important that you not only acknowledge this shift in consumer preference, but also push to adopt a more condensed approach to content creation.
7. Don't Make Headlines an Afterthought
On average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest. (Source: Copyblogger)
Think of it as a way to set the readers expectations. The title should convey the benefit, serve as an accurate representation of what is to come, and it should be worded in a way that is highly shareable.
If you're pulling your hair out trying to come up with unique headlines on a regular basis, allow our interactive blogging tool, BlogAbout, to help. While I may be a little biased, it's pretty awesome and totally helpful.
12 Ways to Create Content That Resonates with Your Target Audience
When it comes to creating an impact with your blog and marketing content, quality and consistency mean everything.
In fact, there’s a direct correlation between how often you’re blogging, to how much traffic and leads your website is generating.
Says Pamela Vaughan, inbound marketing Blog Manager at HubSpot:
'When it comes to business blogging, there’s no doubt that consistency is important,' says Vaughan. 'Just consider the fact that companies that increase blogging from 3-5X/month to 6-8X/month almost double their leads. That being said, consistency must also be applied to the quality of your content, not just the quantity. If you pay any attention to the increased emphasis Google is placing on quality content, this comes as no surprise. Because marketers must also make a commitment to quality in all the content they create, increasing frequency alone won't get you very far. Quality and quantity must go hand in hand, and this will become even more important in 2013 and beyond.'
What to Blog About
With so much emphasis placed on consistency, many marketers and business owners face the challenge of generating fresh ideas regularly.
Where are all these ideas supposed to come from on top of everything else you should be doing?
Answer Prospects' Questions – Utilize social media to crowdsource and get to know your prospects better. Ask questions!
Blog Comments – Inspiration for more topics may be right beneath your nose! Check your comments for thoughts, questions, and challenges.
Customer Success Stories – There’s no better sales tool than highlighting people who have had success with your product/service.
Industry News – Keep your readers up-to-date on changes or news in the industry.
Google Alerts – Set up Google alerts for industry terms and monitor what’s being talked about.
Engage on LinkedIn – LinkedIn provides a platform for other professionals, therefore connecting with them can yield additional ideas.
Monitor Twitter – Simply hashtag certain terms, like #blogging, and see what others are saying. Use this for inspiration.
Monitor Facebook – See above.
Responses on other Blogs – Get in the habit of consistently reading other blogs in your industry. Not only for the topics themselves, but to monitor the comments on those as well.
YouTube – What kind of video content is out there related to your industry? Anything you can feature, comment on, or monitor?
Crowd Source from Social Media – Ask questions across your various social media platforms. Feedback from your target audience is an extremely valuable resource.
Monitor Emails/Phone Calls – What types of inquiries are coming through both channels? Check with those at your company who would know, and keep a log about what’s being asked and talked about.
How Often Should You Blog
The answer here is simple; as much as you can. Whether that works out to be three times a week, or twice a day, it’s whatever works for you.
Keep in mind however, that an inbound marketing agency is equipped to work with you in the creation and publication of marketing content. The more you blog, the quicker you’ll see results.
3 Ways to Identify Content Ideas
A blank canvas can be intimidating, even to the seasoned blogger. Sometimes you just don't know what to write about.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to identify content ideas without relying on your own creativity.
1. The Right Keyword Research
Keyword research is great for identifying content ideas, but targeting the top ranking keywords isn't going to get you anywhere if you incorporate them into your content. There's just too much competition for those keywords out there, so unless you're Apple or Nike, you're wasting your time.
The HubSpot Keywords tool or the Google Keywords tool will help you uncover some untapped, and surprisingly related, interests by running a simple keyword search. For example, you can use your keyword tool to look up keywords that are most commonly searched to find content for you site.
If you run a blog about gaming consoles and games, you may find keywords like “PS4” and “XBOX One” up there. But you may be surprised to find that other keywords, like “iPhone apps for running” or “used games Boston MA”, are being frequently used to find your content.
So what does this mean to you? Start producing content that caters to these newly discovered keywords!
However, you should still keep them relevant to your brand. Choose your angle and run with it.
2. Sales and Customer Support
The team members that regularly interact with your prospects and customers are great resources for blog post ideas. Once a week, pull your teams together and ask them:
If there were any trends in the comments or questions being asked
What challenges the leads and customers are facing
If anyone would be, or could be, willing to provide a positive review or case study
Alternatively, you can create a digital spreadsheet where members from your team can submit common questions or content ideas as they come up.
It may be a bit difficult at first, but as you continue to build up a strong content culture at your company, you'll soon find that your sales and support members may even be able to start penning their own articles and blogs for your company website.
3. Check Your Historical Data
Anyone using HubSpot software (or Google Analytics) will be able to quickly and easily pull historical data that'll show exactly what content topics have been your top performers. HubSpot's Page Performance report can export important metrics, such as:
These metrics give you a clear picture of how well any particular blog post or general topic has performed.
Promote a Healthy Marketing Environment by Utilizing Recycled Content
According to Content Marketing Institute, 64% of B2B content marketers report they are challenged with creating enough content and we've got the perfect solution.
Recycling your existent content is the simplest, most cost-effective way to pump up your content creation without compromising the quality of your resources.
You can accomplish this by finding a way to reuse your existing content to create new, thought-provoking resources.
Dissect Your eBooks
In order to get the most leverage out of your eBooks, consider breaking them down into individual blog posts of equal value. Breaking down long-form offers is an underutilized marketing technique that allows you to continue to provide value, while simply altering the medium.
While eBooks might be too comprehensive for some of your audience, a blog post that addresses a specific aspect of the bigger picture can often be easier to digest.
Each subdivision may require a little bit of re-formatting, depending upon the channel you plan to publish it on — but the benefits are unparalleled.
Bind a Series of Blog Articles
Stop racking your brain for new offer ideas and do yourself a favor: direct your attention to your blog archive.
Chances are there you have half a dozen eBook opportunities locked up in there waiting to be re-purposed and set free! Before sifting through your existing articles, check out your blog's analytics to see if any particular posts have been receiving a lot of views, or sharing.
The goal is to uncover not only an article that performed well, but also a handful of articles that are cohesive with that article's theme. If you can round up approximately 3-5 articles per topic, you're more than half way there.
While you can use articles in their original form, it's easy to take a minute and revamp what you're working with. Adding a new statistic, altering a heading, or reworking a few sentences can help bond the articles a bit.
Whichever approach you take, make sure that you implement applicable transitions between articles to ease readability. This will eliminate any inherent separation, and ensure that all of the pieces fit seamlessly.
You can then add some graphics and finishing touches and you've got a new eBook to share with your buyer personas!
Expand the Evergreen
Evergreen content is content that will remain relevant and interesting beyond the passage of time. (The article you're reading right now is a perfect example)
Evergreen content shares high-quality, timeless information. As opposed date-sensitive content, evergreen content not only provides long term value for your business, but also has the capacity to sustain the needs of your customers over time.
In a perfect world everything we produce would be evergreen, however avoiding reporting on hot topics and industry trends with a fear of their potential expiration date will leave your business vulnerable to competitor advantage.
With industry changes occurring daily, recognizing the advantages of evergreen content and harnessing it's value by finding creative ways to recycle it is key.
Rather than let this little marketing gem fall by the wayside, rework it into: social media updates, in-text blog links, eBooks, webinars, and FAQs.
Publishing and recycling evergreen content will provide your business with both industry leadership, and higher customer satisfaction rates.
Target a New Audience
The number of buyer personas you have is reflective of not only your industry, but also your specific product or service. While some businesses have only identified one single buyer persona, others are looking to reach 3 or 4 different personas.
For those of you seeking the attention of more than one buyer persona, it can be challenging to create content that speaks to all of them at once.
For this reason, some of your content may have resonated well with half of your personas, and perhaps not as well with the remainder of them.
This is where recycling content comes in. While you may have originally published an eBook that turned out to be a hit with a majority of your audience, it's likely that the long-form approach did not settle well with everyone.
Rather than leave out part of your target audience, work toward recreating the content in a format that would be better suited for the customers that may have missed it the first time.
Don't allow your customers to fall behind and keep in mind that by reaching the full potential of your audience, you are effectively creating a stronger ROI.
It's quick, it's digestible, and it's engaging —when it comes down to it, that's what the modern consumer is looking for.
People have emails to respond to, text messages to answer, and lunches to Instagram before they eat. Simply put, some people are too busy to sit down and read that text-heavy document you've been busy piecing together.
Video is on the fast track to becoming the future of content marketing, and it's critical that businesses start thinking about the role video will play in their strategy now. You can publish video content on YouTube, Facebook Live, or Periscope -- wherever your audience is most active.
When it comes to creating a video around your business' product, service, or offer, the goal is simple: tell, don't sell.
When it comes down to it, the experience surrounding the object or service will speak volumes compared to a stiff sales pitch reminiscent of a bad infomercial.
Don't miss an opportunity to appeal to your customers emotions. Create something that anyone can insert themselves into and see the value. Make it easy for them to relate and see the value.
Invite People Into Your Company Culture
With technology creeping into every nook and cranny of our daily lives, showcasing the living, breathing humans behind your business can make you that much more appealing to potential customers.
A company culture video provides businesses with an opportunity to be transparent, relatable, and super personal. It's an effective way to convey the feel of your work environment, while focusing less on what you do or sell, and more on what the journey looks like.
Enlighten Customers With a "How-To"
Think about why people love Pinterest so much. While it serves as a tried and true tool for procrastination, it also presents users with tons of "how-to" and "DIY" style content that they may have never thought of otherwise.
People love to see how things work and if you teach them how to do something it's likely they'll return to you again.
That's the beauty of instructional content, it helps businesses help customers.
Generate a Tool for Recruitment
In honor of all things inbound, consider how your business can use video as a medium to bring the right talent to your office. Rather than drop bait in the form of a newspaper advertisement, or static pitch on an online job board, a recruitment video can be used to expand your reach, while making known the type of environment applicants can expect to work in.
After all, when going through the hiring process, the goal isn't simply to fill gaps, but rather uncover brilliant minds that are looking to contribute to something much bigger than the lines of text that define their job description.
Skyrocket Your Marketing Campaign Success With User-Generated Content
With the birth of each new channel for communication, the consumer's preferred form of brand interaction is shifting.
While an email used to suffice your customer's need to be acknowledged, new technologies are quickly paving the way for a new brand/customer relationship to blossom.
With user-generated content comes dialogue, and with dialogue comes word-of-mouth marketing, which has the potential to transform the way consumers view your brand.
The world is only going to continue to become more digital with each passing day, which is why your brand needs to recognize the value in this type of user-based input.
If your brand is looking to enhance their marketing campaigns through the use of relevant, user-generated content, we've highlighted 3 campaigns from brands who are doing it right.
Rent the Runway
Is there anything better than social proof?
Rent the Runway, a membership-based website that allows users to rent designer apparel, displays user-generated content as a way to ease purchasing decisions.
When users click into an item to take a closer look, they are presented with the opportunity to check out customer photos. This gallery showcases photos of real-life customers sporting the exact rented-ensemble that you are looking at.
By allowing their existing customers to submit this type of information, Rent the Runway is positioning their products for success. The fact of the matter is, 75% of consumer are abandoning their online shopping carts before making a purchase. (Source: Marketing Profs) Scary statistic, right?
In an attempt to close more sales, Rent the Runway's approach is designed to utilize user-generated content that serves as the purchasing decision push their potential customers may need
Preceding the 2013 Wimbledon tennis tournament, Evian's UK branch launched a clever marketing campaign rooted in user-generated content.
Employing a play on the "wiggle" tennis players do prior to receiving a serve, Evian invited their audience to take a whack at their best "Wimbledon Wiggle".
The campaign was centered around an app that they created, which made it easy for users to submit their best wiggle in an attempt to win free VIP tickets to the tournament.
*Disclaimer: The jingle is likely to get stuck in your head!
Burberry is a household name in the fashion industry. However, due to a combination of overexposure and an unstable economy, the brand found themselves in a predicament.
Looking for a way to regain their footing in the industry, Burberry turned to user-generated content.
Their "Art of the Trench' campaign introduced a separate website that encouraged users to upload personal photos of themselves sporting the classic Burberry trench coat. This approach to user-generated content was thought to gives customers their "15 minutes of fame", or "model treatment" —however you want to spin it.
In addition to posting their photos, users were invited to interact with the images through comments, likes, and shares. This aspect was particularly effective, as it created an avenue to spread the campaign onto social media sites like Facebook, and Twitter.
In order to tie the campaign back to their sales process, Burberry allowed users to sort the submissions by categories like gender of the user, color, and type to make it easy for them to hone in on what they liked. Links back to the website's product page were included, making it easy for users to purchase their favorites.
Similar to the Rent the Runway approach, presenting users with the opportunity to see the product in real-time often presented users with the reassurance they needed to complete a purchase.
Leverage These 3 Metrics for Improved Content
In a perfect world, we'd publish a piece of content and sales would close instantaneously.. like magic. However, this is the marketing industry, and contrary to popular belief, we can't pull rabbits out of our hats.
Oftentimes after we hit publish, there is a grace period we must undergo before anything of value surfaces. This is the grey area between content being published and the sale —where important marketing metrics live and flourish.
While content marketing has proven its ability to drive success time and time again, how can you be sure that you're on the right track?
If you want to keep better tabs on your content marketing execution, we've outlined 4 metrics that can be used to surface valuable insights.
Calculating an increase in traffic to the page in which a particular piece of content lives will serve as a useful indictor when determining whether or not your content is performing the way you anticipated it would.
While traffic alone shouldn't be used as the end all be all when determining the success of your content marketing efforts, it does reveal a great deal about the content's ability to resonate with a particular audience.
If you find that it's isn't engaging enough to attract a steady stream of traffic to your website, perhaps it's time to reevaluate the presentation or subject matter.
How to measure it:
If you're publishing your content directly to your own website — uncovering traffic is simple.
For HubSpot users, page views for blogs, site pages, landing pages, and emails can be found under their respective sections under the 'Content' tab.
For social media insights and referral traffic, HubSpot users can uncover the goods by visiting the 'Sources' section under the 'Reports' tab.'
For non-HubSpot users there are a lot of other free and paid tools that can be used to populate this type of information. For example, Google Analytics is an alternative reporting tool where you can analyze page views and referral traffic.
You'll want to note that things like SERP rank, size of following, timing, and presentation will all play a role in the amount of traffic you receive. If things are looking a little low, be sure that your content is optimized for not only search engines, but also your buyer personas, as small adjustments can have a big impact on traffic.
There's a difference between reading, commenting, and sharing a post —and simply visiting the page and deciding it's not for you.
The number of tweets, retweets, comments, shares, and likes a piece of content earns has a lot to do with how well it was received by the audience on that particular platform.
Having the ability to attribute success to a particular channel ultimately helps marketers determine which type of content works where, and why. It helps to narrow a business's focus by shining a light on the platforms that are delivering the greatest return.
How to measure it:
For HubSpot users, this is where Social Inbox becomes your very best friend.
The Social Publishing tool allows users to revisit posts from Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to easily uncover the number of clicks they received, as well as the number of interactions (interactions refers to likes, replies, retweets, etc.)
For a quick look, social share buttons on things like blog posts will serve as a quick overview of the level of social engagement a particular piece has received.
If you're looking for on-site engagement, blog comments are strong indicators of engagement, as they imply that visitors have read into the content enough to have formed an opinion on it, or developed a question.
Factors like bounce rate and visit duration also play into the level and quality of the engagement brought about by a particular piece of content.
Perhaps the most important kickback from your content marketing efforts is the number and quality of conversion they produce.
Conversions from leads to customers translate into revenue, therefore the more conversions a campaign produces, the more value it provides overall.
If your content contains a call-to-action, conversions indicate that the visitor understood what action it was they were supposed to take, and it also implies that they were interested enough in what you had to offer to complete that action.
While 92% of companies who blogged multiple times a day acquired a customer through their blog, it's more than evident that content marketing is capable of pushing conversions. (Source: State of inbound marketing, 2012)
How to measure it:
For HubSpot users, conversion rates for CTAs in blog posts, site pages, landing pages, and emails can be found in their respective sections under the 'Content' tab.
For social media insights and referral traffic, the 'Sources' section will reveal not only visit-to-contact conversion rates, but also contact-to-customer conversion rates, and visit to customer conversion rates.
When measuring the success of conversions, you'll want to look at which sources were responsible for the highest conversion rates. For example, were people more likely to convert on eBooks or webinars?
You'll also want to note the success you saw from referrals, whether it be from someone else's blog, or one of your social media channels.
Is Your Content Marketing Appealing to All Levels of the Buying Cycle?
Every visitor who comes to your website is at a different phase of the buying cycle.
Some are extremely "top-of-the-funnel," meaning they are simply in the very early stages, and may not have even established a need or an interest in what you're offering yet.
On the flip side, you'll also have prospects who visit your site who are already bottom-of-the-funnel. They know what they're needs and challenges are, and they're looking for someone to help solve them.
Many companies make the mistake of focusing their marketing content on one group of prospective buyers, essentially driving the others away.
Think of your website much like you would a physical location. Would you turn prospects away simply because they were browsing or trying to learn more? Of course not!
So why would you do this with your marketing content?
It's critical that your premium content, as well as your blog offers, feature enough content that cover all levels of the buying cycle. You should have ebooks and offers that are tailored for all prospective buyers, ensuring you can more effectively work all of them further down the sales funnel rather than a select group of them.
Marketing Content for Different Levels of the Buying Cycle
Obviously everyone that comes in contact with you, your company, or your website isn’t on the same page in terms of how ready they are to buy your product or service. However, one of the most common trouble areas that we see when we work with our clients is that their content is either:
Created for only one level of the buying cycle (the content is sales- focused and not appropriate or intended for lead generation); or
There’s different content for different levels of the buying cycle, but it’s disorganized and confusing, and so it doesn’t engage the right type of visitors and leads at the right time
Our clients often ask us how we can tell what pages are appropriate for which level of the buying cycle. Good content creation partners should be able to provide you with the best analytical tools that will allow you to see exactly what page brings in what type of people (i.e. visitors, leads, potential buyers, buyers, brand loyalists).
We can then change the CTAs/offers on that page so that the offers cater to people of a certain level of your buying cycle. As a result, you’ll gain more leads, more customers, and ultimately more sales and profits.
Being aware of the different types of prospects that come through to your site is not only critical for the visitor experience, but it’s also just as important to the success of your overall lead generation.
If your content is the standard, run-of-the-mill material with only the basic information about your company or service, don’t expect many phone calls."
How to Get More People to Share Your Content
Getting people to share your social media content can often become a cumbersome task. In fact, even Fortune 500 companies like Coca-Cola devote a significant portion of their marketing budget to creating engagement strategies on Facebook.
Although social media marketing can be a perplexing concept, just keep in mind that the fundamental goal will always be engagement. The more Facebook fans and users that engage in your company content —the larger your social media marketing returns will be.
Being Strategic About Social Plugins
In the current internet environment, having social media share icons are imperative to your website’s marketability. Marketers have become increasingly good at making things easy for online readers — meaning you also have to cater to readers' convenience if you want to compete.
You should place sharing options above and below content to increase visibility and give readers access, wherever they are on the page. If you’re company blog runs on Wordpress you can also implement auto-detection plug-ins that prompt users to share or subscribe to your content depending on the platforms they are logged into when they are viewing your content.
Time Sensitive Content Sharing
Your social media posts or tweets can actually benefit from time-sensitive posting.
In a study conducted by Buddy Media, “brands that posted outside of business hours had 20% higher engagement rates.” Take a look at the results of the study below.
Granted, not every brand will have the same peak engagement periods. However, you can implement A/B testing in your social media efforts to determine exactly when your fans or followers are most responsive. Doing so will enable you to develop a consensus on the demands of your target audience within the platform.
Measuring the Effectiveness of Shared Content
Another important consideration is the type of content you share and how you share it. For example, posting a blog update on Facebook can go one of two ways:
It’s either blah and falls flat
Or a truly genuine opportunity for your fans to participate.
Our attitudes towards what we share are not simply expressed internally. Just being excited about sharing content is not enough —you should express that excitement in your content.
When updating your fan page status, posting a link that reads “Blog Update” is blah and highly ineffective. Instead, invoke action with specificity and provoke interest by using social ad copy.
For example, you’ve written an article on Lead Generation Strategies. To post this article link you will update your status and say something about the link itself. Your status now reads, “More leads equals more sales. A critical review on 2011’s most successful lead generation strategies. Visit us today and watch powerful ideas at work.”
Now that’s much better than “Blog Update.” The point here is you want to entice your viewers, and at the same time, tell them what action you want them to take.
Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube share viral exposure characteristics that essentially multiply the effectiveness of your content marketing.
One person shares with another, and another, and so on. In order to leverage viral exposure, you should build as much momentum as possible during a specified period or campaign.
There's no better method to accomplishing this than providing an incentive to act. Examples include integrating any of the following into your posts:
Or anything else you can think of.
Motivating your buyer personas increases your engagement and puts your business in a better position for viral exposure.
I know that was a lot to take in and you might feel a bit overwhelmed at this point.
All you have to worry about for now is mastering the fundamentals of content marketing — you can always refer back to this article for guidance.
Essentially, content marketing can be successfully implemented by completing the following tasks:
Form a lose strategy with your team for how content marketing fits into your overall marketing mix
Get to know your buyer personas or target audience
Decide which types of content will best serve your market and create high-quality content on a regular basis
Promote your content through social media
Leverage content marketing at all stages of the buying cycle
Find ways to involve your customers in your content marketing with user-generated content
Measure, test, improve, repeat
The best practices in content marketing change slowly — executing on the best practices will put your brand in position to succeed now and in the long-term.