We hear it every day from brands: “Our plan is to walk, then run.”
When you’re embarking on a content marketing journey, this can be a great approach. However, it’s imperative to understand what “walk” really means if you want to be successful. To bring it back to a childhood analogy, sometimes when a marketing team shows us their content strategy and says, “our plan is to walk first,” what they’ve really described is barely sitting up.
In other words, if you are missing a few key pieces to the puzzle, no matter what speed you go, you’ll likely miss the mark. In this blog post, I’d like to define what are these core elements of every successful content marketing program, even at the “walk” stage, and what running really looks like
Walking to success in content marketing
1) Have one main platform.
If you do not have a place where your content will live (a blog, a microsite, your corporate site), you should not pass go. This is a critical factor for success. If you are publishing content to ten different places for no reason, that’s a collateral creation strategy, not a content marketing strategy. At the walk stage, focus on one main platform, and make that great.
2) Focus on one content type.
It can be tempting to jump into a program and develop high-quality videos, in-depth infographics, Vines, GIFs, blog posts, white papers, and webinars all at once. But if you’re not ready to keep up with that cadence and maintain quality, it’s better to focus on one type of content at a time.
To determine which to focus on, look at your area of expertise. Are you great at long-form thought leadership? Is your content really visual? Does this format make sense to answer your customers’ questions? Start from there.
3) Deliver content on a consistent basis.
Major media brands publish every day on multiple content pillars. However, if you can’t keep up with that cadence from day one, don’t despair. The important thing is to pay attention to when content performs best for you and then be consistent in sticking to that time. For First Round Capital’s content hub “First Round Review,” its editor Camille Rickets found that Tuesdays and Thursdays worked best for their audience, so they stick to those two days to publish new content.
4) Share it!
As KissMetrics put it: “The golden rule to content marketing is ‘provide value.’ Many people don’t realize this is just the first part of a two-part rule. The second part is ‘deliver your content to the people who will find it valuable.’” In other words, you could have the greatest content in the world, but if it’s just sitting there, you’re missing a huge opportunity to build and nurture your audience.
In the ‘walk’ stage, take on only what you feel you can execute. It’s better to do a great job on a few channels than do a poor job on every channel. There are a lot of different options for distribution channels, so focus on figuring out where your audience spends their time and then share your content there.
5) Give it time.
Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Like any great relationship, it takes time to build trust and rapport with your audience. It’s important to give your program at least 12 months (9 months at the bare minimum) before jumping to any conclusions on whether it was successful or not.
Time to run yet?
Once you’ve mastered these items, here are some thought starters for accelerating to a ‘jog’ as you become more sophisticated in your content marketing.
1) Experiment with multiple content formats.
Have you mastered the art of the blog post? Consider creating videos or hosting a weekly podcast. You could also produce original photography or illustrations to pair with your content to really bring a concept to life in a unique way. The possibilities are endless.
2) Increase your publishing cadence.
Now that you’ve gotten to your set schedule, see what happens when you increase your publishing cadence. Research shows that organic traffic increases with each new article posted.
3) Hone your editorial skills.
Get sophisticated in how you tell your stories. Pay attention to the language and words you’re using and what is resonating with your audience. For example, experiment with A/B testing headlines. Share an article on Twitter with one headline, on Facebook with another, and on your homepage with a third. Which one performs best? Go with that one for the article moving forward.
4) Expand to new channels.
First, if you’re not doing email, you’re missing a huge opportunity and should be your first step as you pick up the pace. Email is a great way to communicate with and grow your audience. If you’re already doing email, consider a channel where you could reach a new audience within your target demographic. For example, are you reaching millennials on Facebook? Consider adding Instagram – a complementary, but new audience.
5) Listen to what people are responding to.
Now that you’ve been publishing content for a while (hopefully!), pay attention to your analytics, as well as social signals. What content is performing well on which channel? What are your top referral sources? What influencers are sharing your content? Use these insights to hone and craft your content strategy.
Caitlin Domke is Director of Brand Strategy at NewsCred