If you take some time to review your assets and find that you have a pretty good content, your numbers should be following. If not, it’s most probably because you’re just simply publishing content. It might be that you’re missing a call to action. Or your content might be too high level which makes it purposeful to no one. Or it doesn’t relate to your target audience or the problem they are facing in that buying cycle stage you are targeting. In any case, it’s almost always due to lack of a content stategy.
According to reports published by MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute , nearly half of all B2B marketers have no content strategy. More than half of all B2C marketers lack a strategy for content marketing.
Developing a digital content strategy should always turn out worth the time investment. Without a strategy, differentiation is temporary, metrics are lacking and tactical, and there’s difficulty with the accountability your executive team demands. Saying that means that if you take time to develop a content strategy, you’re building a strong brand and you will have an advantage over your competition.
A great way to start developing a digital content strategy is to ask yourself a series of questions. Jeremy Porter‘s steps below can guide you through a self-interview.
1. How long is this going to take? – one of the final steps in mapping our your digital content strategy is to set the timetable for execution. I recommend taking the timeline as far out in the future as you need to, while focusing on a rolling 90-day cycle for the closest view of priorities. For each stage on your timeline, be clear on goals and timing – it helps to have a good project manager for this type of effort, but that really depends on the scale of the organization. You should be able to map out exactly how long it’s going to take to execute core components of your program (such as when to launch a new platform), while also setting the pace of ongoing publishing through your daily/weekly/monthly workflows.
2. How will you know if it’s working? – I talked about the importance of setting goals, and developing a set of KPIs to help your team (or just you) evaluate the ongoing performance of your digital content. How are you going to do this? Unfortunately, there isn’t a single free tool that pulls all of this stuff together for you. In my experience working with dozens of large organizations, and many more smaller ones, you’re going to have to be creative with how you measure performance. If you can’t measure performance against your goals and KPIs, you need to adjust them. The most-common ways to measure the performance of your digital content is to use tools like Google Analytics, native analytics built into social networks (e.g. Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics), and third-party tools like Simply Measured or Iconosquare (Instagram analytics) that do the heavy lifting for you. That said, you should have a set of tools that shows not only how you are doing growing your audience and expanding your reach, but also how that audience is engaging, sharing and ultimately acting on the content you publish.
3. What platforms perform best? – I like to look at platforms in one of three categories: Strategic, Emerging or Experimental. Strategic platforms are channels you must use today. Facebook falls into this category, as audiences expect you to be on Facebook and it’s the largest social network in the world. Emerging platforms are those that have a large concentration of your target audience, and that those audience use to seek out information on your brand. While not quite a requirement yet, they merit testing and exploring further as you decide whether or not to go all-in. Some of the same goes for Experimental – this is the risk category, where organizations need to decide if they are in a gambling mood. Vine, Snapchat and Meerkat fall into this category. If your audience is there, you should be monitoring developments and how other brands are using the platform to decide the right time to test things out there. I use the word “test,” because you should view Experimental platforms as just that – an experiment. Outline your platform thoughts in a grid in the strategy to communicate across your organization where you’ve prioritized the channels you’ll use to reach audiences.
4. What is the audience journey? – how does each audience first discover you? What happens next? How does their relationship evolve with your organization over time? Where do you tend to lose them in their journey? Where do they evolve from a casual fan to a brand advocate? What emotional ups and downs does your audience encounter along the way? What information do they want from you at each stage of their journey? For B2C companies, this might be entertaining content that makes fans want to engage more and share their experiences with you. For B2B companies, this may be information related to the criteria they are using to decide whether to go with you or a competitor.
5. Why do you want to interact with them? – You must get to the heart of why you CARE about communicating with your audiences. A key for generating awareness and engagement among your audiences is to show you care about them – by actually caring about them. This can be as simple as listening to what they have to say on social media and in the comments section of your blog, and responding to their questions and comments with a genuine response. Map out clear communications goals for your organization.
6. Who do you need to communicate with? – You have to communicate with all your audiences – and that communication is now a micro, one-to-one, two-way conversation. Your digital content strategy must define all of your target audiences, but it must also prioritize those audiences based on their importance to your business. Customers and people that influence them will always rank high on your list of target audiences. Break down your most important target audiences and provide a clear description for each group you plan to communicate with. Some people find that breaking down audience groups into personas – similar characteristics found among subsets of your audience – helps to further define the audience you plan to interact with.
7. How does each audience consume content? – there may be a dozen or so different variants here, but you most likely have different sub-groups that define how each audience seeks, consumes and shares content in different ways. For each audience subgroup, you must understand how they consume content. This may not be obvious at first, but if you develop a clear hypothesis, and put a system in place to testing how different messages work with each audience, you’ll quickly develop a formula that works for them.
8. What content performs best? – once you know who you want to communicate with and how and where they consume content, you need to consider what type of content will perform best across each touchpoint. If your audience consists of heavy users of visual social platforms like Pinterest, Instagram, Vine or Snapchat, you’ll need to have a different approach than audiences that required downloadable PDF guides and how-tos or want to participate in webinars or offline events. Rather than doing all things across channels, prioritize your efforts and produce higher-quality content built for the native characteristics of each medium, as well as tailored to the consumption behaviors and preferences of the end user. And don’t forget, the most-effective content for your audience might not be content you produce. User generated content or influencer marketing-generated content may be more valuable. That’s the point of this step – KNOW what content should perform best.
9. How will you produce all of this content? – the biggest challenge for most organizations is figuring out how to produce all the content they know they need to be creating. Some of it will be developed in house, some will get kicked over to the agencies, and some will be created through mobilizing influencer networks and users to create content. And then there’s the aggregation or curation component – what content will you seek out and share with your audience that isn’t produced by you? This is a great option for developing your community, as you both serve the information needs of your audiences, while creating value for the owner of the content you share. For this step of the digital content strategy, it’s important to define the priorities for content development (you can’t do it all at once), and get into a workflow for producing content for the highest-priority audiences and engagement 1q qopportunities. I suggest everyone that produces content be linked through a central workflow management system – whether its an enterprise software platform or a shared Google Spreadsheet. You want PR, social, marketing, customer service and sales (yes, sales) at a minimum to be involved in the content workflow. You’ll want to have an editorial calendar that maps out all content production across all these groups, which will help you avoid conflicts, capitalize on some economies of scale and avoid duplication of effort. Don’t overlook the importance of deciding where all this content will live inside your building. You need a central repository for all documents, images, videos and such – this will save an incredible amount of time over the course of your program execution. As a final thought on this point, you need to include visual content specialists in this process as well – the people in your organization (or partner organizations) that can help tell your stories in visual ways. This is where your best-performing content will come from.
10. How will you use this data? – what are you going to do with the information you gather from analytics tools? I recommend you have a plan in place for regularly reviewing all of this information (monthly is a good cadence – but daily may be necessary for some organizations). Somebody on your team should serve as your analyst, highlighting trends in the data and providing recommendations for improvements. This may also include the development of hypotheses that you want to test in future content planning. The bottom line is that you need to understand what’s working and what’s not, so you can do more of the stuff that’s working.
11. How much is this going to cost? – no program is complete without a budget. What investments will you need to make to successfully execute this program – taking into consideration the things you’ve prioritized for “now” versus “later” on your timeline. Do you need to hire staff to execute the program? Retain an agency partner to assist? Is there a paid media component to your strategy? And once you have that total figure estimated to execute the strategy, is it realistic? And finally, how will you generate value that far exceeds that investment? The main factors contributing to your budget should be the cost of people to produce your content – whether internal or external. This includes the management of your program, as well as the ongoing production, posting, measurement and analysis of content performance. You’ll also need to budget for the tools you need to manage your workflow, edit images, schedule posts, measure performance and possibly research topics or monitor online conversations (social listening). You might not be able to afford everything you’d want to have to support your program, so prioritize your investments based on the “must have” versus “nice to have” criteria. You can always expand your investment as you start to show a meaningful return on the improved content you are publishing for your most important audiences.
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