When you spend a lot of time in the content marketing space, you start to see a lot of trends – as companies implement various techniques and initiatives. Sometimes that stuff just isn’t working. And sometimes, it’s because the companies are overlooking some painfully obvious content marketing strategies.
This article took me a couple hours to write. From a broader perspective, it took me a few years to write. The information that I’ve collected and shared in this post is a result of spending a long time looking at a lot of content marketing efforts from a lot of companies.
Most companies today are “doing content marketing” – 86% of B2Bs and 77% of B2Cs. Those statistics reflect companies who, according to CMI’s definition, use “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.”
Often, however, their strategy erodes under the daily pressures of deadlines, turnover, crises, interruptions, and life. It’s understandable (and a bit unfortunate) that many companies are overlooking some of the obvious features that lie at the core of a content marketing strategy.
Let me share five of those ignored attributes:
1. Tap into the vitality of great visuals
Let me show you the content marketing approach of a typical company. I’ve blurred out the content to protect the identity of the guilty party.
Why am I calling out this one? Just adding an image to an article doesn’t mean that the content will have higher engagement. An image in an article does not mean “visual content.” The picture with a dollar sign and “save customers money” text is, unfortunately, bland and generic. It doesn’t add value to the article and warrants little more than a passing glance because of its cliché nature.
Let me share a few points of visual content that do enhance engagement:
Infographics aren’t as powerful as they used to be, but they still can take a blog from bland to awesome. Plus, you can easily double your traffic with infographics.
Charts, graphs, and relevant images
Throwing a stock image at the top of a blog doesn’t cut it. You should add relevant images throughout the article. Try to keep the user’s engagement high through the whole piece of content, not just the introduction.
ConversionXL and the Buffer blog do a great job at this. Here’s an excerpt from an article at ConversionXL:
If budget is an issue, you can use any of these free image/graphic resources.
Visual content isn’t merely the stuff you incorporate in your blog. It also includes content on places like YouTube, Instagram, and SlideShare.
I point specifically to SlideShare because it is one of the pre-eminent visual-sharing platforms. And, you guessed it, it’s woefully underutilized by companies.
If you have any familiarity with making slides in PowerPoint, then you’re ready to use SlideShare. Prepare to be visual.
2. Create content that is readable, shareable, hilarious — you know, really well-written
Want to know why some articles go viral? BuzzSumo analyzed 100 million articles and came up with some of the attributes of articles that go viral:
- Longer length – 3,000 to 10,000 words
- Includes images
- Appeals to emotions
- Is a how-to article, a list, or infographic
- Perceived as trustworthy
- Shared by at least one influencer
- Promoted several days, weeks, and months after it was originally written
When I compare this list with typical corporate B2C blogs, I have to shake my head in disbelief. It’s as if they are deliberately breaking all the rules of viral-prone articles.
Content like this simply won’t get a lot of traction – even in a niche community that would normally be interested in a topic like vibration-control noise:
Compare the above blog with the content marketing approach of HubSpot:
Night-and-day difference, right?
A few easy takeaways will kick your content out of the boring rut really fast:
- Stop using third-person corporate gibberish. Which is more interesting?
- “CorpCorp has recently been selected by AmericCorp’s best practice board to be the recipient of an annual merit award.”
- “Woot! Guess what, guys! Get this: We just won a prize – a big one!”
You don’t have to sound like a cubicle automaton. You can write like a human.
- Write long stuff. Long is not boring. Long is trustworthy, shareable, engaging, and valuable. If you’ve never written a 2,000-word article, I challenge you to give it a try.
- Send your article to the industry’s leading influencer and ask him or her for feedback. If it’s good enough, maybe she’ll even share it on her social network.
3. Find that audience — and engage
I worked with one business that was producing content for the longest time and getting zilch engagement. I poked around its niche and starting asking some rather obvious questions:
“Where do people in your niche spend time online?” The response was a blank and uncomprehending stare.
“Where are people connecting online?” More unblinking, disbelieving gazes.
As it turns out, this company was simply putting content on its blog, without comprehending where its audience was interacting.
As it turns out, a thriving beehive of people buzzing around LinkedIn matched the customer profile perfectly. The audience loved LinkedIn, formed groups on LinkedIn, argued on LinkedIn, connected on LinkedIn, bought on LinkedIn, sold on LinkedIn, and did business on LinkedIn.
Once the company grasped that simple concept – where its customers were hanging out – it changed everything. It still maintains a blog, but it also has a thriving and active lead generation and content marketing strategy on LinkedIn.
It’s not so novel. If you want to meet skateboarders, go to a skate park. If you want to meet swimmers, go to a pool. If you want to meet New Yorkers, go to New York. Go where your audience is.
Many times, it’s going to be organic search, in which a blog is an appropriate strategy. Other times, it’s going to be something else entirely. Figure it out, and aim your content marketing strategy in that direction.
4. Don’t put all your eggs in a blog basket
Blogging has become an entry barrier for content marketing. Instead of being an appropriate entry point, it’s now a distraction that can keep a business from publishing content where it truly matters.
Why do I say this? Let me explain how some businesses view blogging:
- OK, we need to do content marketing.
- All right, let’s start a blog.
- Keep blogging …
- Keep blogging …
- Keep blogging, and, by the way, why isn’t this working?
- OK, stop blogging. (No ROI)
“Content marketing” in the minds of such businesses begins (and ends) with a blog. If, and when they realize that the blog is useless, they either give up or keep plodding on, throwing content into the lonely abyss of wasted online content.
Stop blogging for just a second, and think about the issue strategically. Blogging is not a strategy. Blogging is but one method in an arsenal of content marketing methods. But, before you ever settle in on blogging as the primary method of choice, you must first determine whether or not blogging is the best strategy.
Content doesn’t mean “blog.” Content is just content. Where you post and promote this content is the key feature of a successful content marketing strategy. Spend time thinking about that question before you ever start a blog.
5. (You learned this in grade school) Share it!
Here’s the next face-palm problem that I encounter when I consult with companies on content marketing. Scenario: A business starts a blog and starts producing content. So far so good.
But they don’t share it. Why aren’t they sharing it?! “Well, we’re focusing on organic traffic … you know, search traffic.”
This is a problem. Creating content is only the first part of a two-step process in content marketing. What is that two-step process? It goes like this:
- Create content.
- Share content.
Sharing is the next and necessary step after creation. Just creating content won’t get you anywhere. It only puts more content on the web, which isn’t what your brand needs. Sure, it might generate some marginal organic traffic to the content, but that’s not going to cut it.
It’s time for you to blast out a sharing strategy. In an earlier section, I shared BuzzSumo’s features of viral articles. Let me point out two of those again:
- The article is shared by at least one influencer.
- The article is promoted several days, weeks, and months after it was originally written.
Viral articles don’t go viral just because they’re there. Viral articles go viral because they’re shared.
Sharing is neither easy nor quick. In fact, you should probably spend more time sharing your content than you do creating it. It’s that important.
Keep in mind that sharing content isn’t just tossing it out on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. That’s good, but only a small start.
Content marketing best practices might be considered standard, but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to make yours successful.
These tips seem obvious, but for some businesses caught in the content marketing hamster wheel, they could completely change things:
- Go visual with your content.
- Stop creating boring stuff, and make your content eminently shareable, readable, and engaging.
- Figure out where your customers are.
- Think outside the blog. Maybe there’s a better way to do content.
- Share your content.
Need help finding the content marketing tactics that can help your strategy succeed? Check out our guide to Building the Perfect Content Marketing Mix: Execution Tactics.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute