Let’s face it, some of your content sucks. It’s boring, it’s frivolous, and it just sits there flat on the page collecting dust. You built it because someone told you that “content is king” and you need a ton of it in order to survive in the cutthroat modern day internet ecosystem.
Now your budgets are all but spent, your writers have put down their pencils, your CEO is looking at you and wondering why the traffic graph doesn’t look like a hockey stick, and you’re left with a heap of stale and uninteresting text on a website or on your social media channels that no one cares about. What are you going to do?
You could go into denial and pretend that everything is going to work out… eventually. Or, you could scrap the whole “content for content’s sake” concept altogether, go back to the drawing board, and produce new, compelling content that people will actually give a damn about.
It seems like every SEO on the planet is taking up the “content marketing” banner in this post-Penguin, post-Panda, algorithm-shifting world. The problem is that now you have too many authors pumping out reams of content without the slightest clue on how to develop something with any spark.
Well, fear not! If you’re struggling to come up with ideas for your new content marketing strategy, you can apply a simple four-step development process that just about guarantees someone is going to care about what you have to say. It takes the frustrating creative process and all the “will people like this?” nail biting out of the picture and just about guarantees you’ll create something shareworthy.
When you’re finished with the process, not only will you have something you already know someone will enjoy reading, but you also will have something that someone is probably going to share on their own social media channels.
Here’s what you need to do:
Step 1: Identify your targets
Your first mission, should you choose to accept it, is to identify the people with the loudest voices in your market. If you want your content to go places on the internet, you need to convince people with established audiences to share it with their followers. If you can get those people to share your stuff, chances are their audience is going to start sharing it too, creating a ripple effect.
There are a ton of ways to go about sifting through people’s social profiles, but here’s the one that’s worked for me: Followerwonk.
Followerwonk is an app owned by SEOmoz that spits out incredibly useful Twitter analytics. You can use these analytics to explore Twitter’s social graph, pinpoint potential influencers in your market, and learn about their social behavior.
Let’s walk through the process together for finding a target influencer for the “Content Marketing” niche.
- Go to Followerwonk’s “Search Twitter bios” tab: You don’t have to sign up for the full service to use most of its features, but if you do have a SEOmoz membership, all features are included.
- Search for your priority keywords: In our case, let’s type “content marketing” into the search field and hit “Do it.”
- Now you have a list of people who have some variation of “content marketing” in their Twitter bio. Sort them by the metrics you think are important to establish social reach, and pick a few of the top profiles as your targets.For our purposes, let’s just sort by “Social Authority.” It’s an easy metric that SEOmoz recently added, and it gives you a rough estimate of a profile’s influential activity on Twitter.
Pro tip: Try to find people with high social authority and a high volume of tweets. If they’re avid tweeters, they’re likely to avidly share content across their social media channels, and it will be easier to figure out what they most often talk about in the next steps.
- Select your target: You want someone who is active, has a large enough following, and ideally shares links in his tweets that aren’t just his own content.Let’s pick Brian Clark @copyblogger for this exercise. He has a high social authority score (68), likes to talk a lot (21,252 tweets), and has a massive follower count (129,909). If we can make something he’ll share, we’ll be golden.
- Rinse and repeat until you have a list of at least 10 targets.
Step 2: Figure out what they like to talk about
Okay, you’ve got your targets. Now it’s time to figure out what each one likes to talk about. To do this you’re going to have to analyze their tweets, blog, and any other social media channels they’re on. You can do this manually by following them and reading the backlogs for a while, or you can use a tool like Tweet Archivist or Foller.me.
Here’s what you’re looking for when you run your analysis of a target’s tweets:
- Who do they talk to regularly? Consider these people for future targeting.
- What websites do they share most often? Go to those websites and see what the content looks like.
- When do they usually tweet? This will come in handy later.
- What type of content do they most often tweet about? Do they go to conferences and tweet panels? Do they tweet about videos they’ve seen?
Your analysis should enable you to start developing a personality profile for your target.
Here’s what mine looks like for Brian:
He lives in Boulder, works for Copyblogger.com, and likes to talk to people like @bgardner, @monaicaledell, and @tribalblog about topics like web design, copywriting, tech conventions, and film. He’s likely to share insightful article content that helps him and his audiences learn more about how to succeed as a blogger (which is also what he blogs about). He’s also most likely to tweet between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Central.
Pro tip: Once you know your target’s likes and dislikes, strike up a conversation with them about something they’re interested in. Send out a few @mentions sharing useful stuff you’ve found on other people’s sites and ask them to check it out. Reply with good answers to any questions they may ask the twitterverse. Engage with them on any level you can while you’re creating the content because establishing a relationship early on will set you up for success after the content is created.
Step 3: Create something they’ll talk about
The trick to building something your target influencer will talk about is finding those interesting convergences in his areas of interest. For Brian, maybe an article like “How Pat Flynn Used his Blog to Get a Job in the Film Industry” or “How Bloggers Could Learn a Thing or Two about Promotion from this Year’s Oscars!” would get his attention.
Use all of your research to hone in on topics that sound like something your targets would share. If you find that your target loves to share videos but doesn’t really share articles, don’t spend your time making an article for him.
Above all, stress substance over style. Your content needs to be unique and valuable. Don’t just look at the last 10 things your target shared and copy those. Add your own insights, put your own spin on them, and make sure you’re offering something worthwhile.
Step 4: Tell them about what you created
Your shiny new piece of content has finally been built, and it’s a perfect amalgamation of everything your targets love. It’s sitting on your site, just waiting to be read and spread like a wildfire. There’s just one more step: You have to let your targets know you created something.
Chances are, your targets don’t visit your website every day (or ever). You need to make them aware of your new content.
Here’s what you can do:
Don’t just send out an @mention and expect them to reciprocate. You need to prime them. Before you even mention the content you created, you need to prove that you’re not just some selfish jerk who is only interested in self promotion. Start out by sharing other people’s content with them, sending them your own ideas about the stuff they’re interested in, and trying to strike up interesting conversations with them. In other words, try to sincerely be helpful to them.
Keep in mind that influencers are more than a microphone to amplify your content — they’re real people with their own agendas, desires, and motivations. Only after they’ve warmed up to you a little bit and you’ve gone back and forth with a handful of twitter volleys, should you reach out to share your own content with them.
Then, to help get their attention, tell them about how they inspired the creation of it, and let them know how valuable you’ve found their insight to be. Do not ask them for links; do not ask them to share it with their audience. Simply tell them you’re trying to get the word out about something you created, which was inspired by them. If they find it valuable enough, they’ll share it — without your even having to ask.
If all goes well, by the end of this process you’ll have at least one shiny new piece of content on your website that’s perfectly primed for earning valuable shares. Build all of your content this way, and not only will you have volumes of compelling content for your target audience, you’ll also be building valuable relationships for you and your business.
Furthermore, you’ll improve consumer confidence in your brand, you’ll start to be seen as an authoritative content provider in your niche, you’ll start the organic search traffic snowball rolling, and your social engagement metrics will go through the roof.
Now that’s content with a spark!
Want more tips on leveraging influential members of your social graph to give your content marketing strategy an edge? Read the CMI book, “Capturing Community” by Michael Silverman.
Cover image via Veer.com