MARKETING MANAGER AT ACCENTURE – FOUNDER AT THE SPARKSIDE, EX FOUNDER AT THEQ CAMERA EX ADMAN, MILLENNIAL.
Content is the big word of 2017, many say it’s the future of marketing, others say it’s dead and others have no idea what it is. My view is that content has always been there and it will always be — it just changes shape continuously. For this reason, it’s crucial for companies, startups, professionals, lawyers, designers, Instagrammers and pretty much everyone else to understand what content is.
So, what is content marketing?
I sometimes feel that the biggest issue with content marketing is the word itself: “content". Most average Joe’s don’t perceive content in the same way that companies create it. People and businesses come from two different places and sometimes they do not meet. I too had some difficulty understanding what everyone meant by “content” at the beginning of my career. As a content creator myself, I didn’t see any “content"; all I did was my creative work, and then everything else was complementary to it. But for businesses, content is a variety of things, it can take many forms and therefore the need to address that as “content” before even knowing what it will actually contain.
Content as seen by the people
Content is what non-business people call “videos on YouTube”, “Instagram feeds” “nice illustrations” or “articles on blogs” because that’s how people see things. Most people don’t perceive a content strategy, they only see the surface of it. For this reason, when they create, they do not create “content”, instead they just make videos, take pictures or write about something they find interesting. What they believe is interesting is the point and comes before everything else.
Content as seen by businesses
On the other side, businesses think of content as part of their goals, strategy, tactics and channels so the word “content" is thrown around before they even decide what it’s made of. It’s easy for businesses to lose focus on "what’s really interesting for their audience” and eventually miss the point ( e.g. great channel strategy, uninteresting content ). I believe that understanding these unique perspectives can set the ground for a better, user-centric approach in creating content.
Why content marketing?
So, should you be blogging, vlogging, taking pictures, writing articles and making art now? Yes, if you have something truly valuable and unique to share. Brands, companies and professionals can all benefit from content and people enjoy this approach because it can provide real help in their lives. For your business, a single blog post can send thousands of users to your site and all you have to do is sit and watch.
Sounds good? Yes! Is it easy? Not so much.
The secret to creating good content
The best model I have come across through my researches is a very simple diagram created by Google which perfectly embodied the most important thing when creating content. I recreated it adding what I think is the "mathematical formula" for creating good content:
Translates: "the intersection of what your company has to say" with "what your audience is interested in or what they’re looking for" = great content.
The secret is in creating value, being truly interesting or useful. That means that the goal for each piece of content is giving its audience something they find interesting, entertaining, helpful, inspiring from their own perspective and align it with your or your company’s values, propositions, promises, products. Easier said that done right? As displayed in the diagram above there are two things that need to be figured out and unfortunately, there are no tricks of the trade here, there’s only a virtual content framework to be understood and actioned upon:
Know what your audience wants
You think your audience is the people who are interested in your product, sure. However, people are interested in a number of other things and by tapping into those things outside your specific context, is how you develop a relationship. Think about it, in real life you connect well with a person when they share a number of interests with you, not just one, therefore companies and brands need to behave the same way. There are many ways you can find information on your audience, the following are some of my techniques:
Your website analytics — Google Analytics is a free tool that gives you a high-level idea of your audience attributes such as where they’re from, how old they are, where they found your site and more. It’s not enough but it gives you a great context space.
Example: You are an online briefcase shop; by looking at your analytics you find out that most people reach your website from a specific city, Copenhagen — That is a hint for a possible blog post titled "5 great vintage markets to find leather goods in Copenhagen"
Social media stalking — By looking at social media profiles from your followers or the people you have in mind, you can dig deep into what they’ve liked or what they’re sharing and talking about ( yeah you can call that stalking ). This way you’d find great clues on topics they might like and the key here is to find similarities between different users, when many of them like the same thing.
Example: You are an online briefcase shop; by looking at people’s likes who followed you on Facebook ( or followed your competitors ) you realise most of them also like the TV series “MadMen” — That is a hint for a possible blog post titled “The most stylish briefcases in MadMen"
Questions on the internet — There are so many websites where people explicitly ask what they want. Message boards like Quora, Reddit are great places to get started.
Example: You are an online briefcase shop; you go on Quora.com, under the section fashion and look for questions. Many of those questions are about leather treatment — That is a hint for a possible blog post titled “How to make your leather shine and last"
Create content people will actually enjoy
Now that you understand what your target audience likes and what they’re interested in, you can start creating content with that in mind. When creating content I use this simple trick to figuring out what to write about and how: I think of someone in my target audience whom I know personally. By making this real person the flagship representative of my whole target audience I find it easier to imagine what they might like. One common mistake is thinking of yourself or anyone in your company as the target audience. This isn’t helpful, quite the contrary, simply cause we’re biased in favour of our content, company, brand. Therefore, a lot of uninteresting or irrelevant content might make sense to you when it actually doesn’t for the people out there!
In short, I follow this 2-step process:
AUDIENCE -> ANALYSIS: Spend time understanding who the people I want to reach are and what they’re looking for.
CONTENT -> CREATIVE: Think of ways I can help, entertain, inspire these people with videos, pictures, written blog posts and other formats.
Unfortunately, all of the above isn’t enough. People behave differently depending on how long they’ve known you and how interested they are, so you should create content with that "user-journey" in mind and put it on an imaginary customer timeline.
Youtube calls it hero, hub, hygiene, Hubspot has tofu, tofu and bofu and so on but essentially they all suggest segmenting your strategy into 3 categories that represent the 3 basic categories for user acquisition: Awareness, Leads and Conversions. Let me explain that in the simplest way:
The people that don’t know who you are yet: Awareness
With content created for awareness you want to find new users who have never heard about your brand / company before and let them know you exist, that’s the whole point. Therefore your products or services have very little involvement in this type of content, and it’s all about what users want to see, not about what you want to tell them ( yet ). At this stage, users are browsing social media, googling stuff and navigating the web, how can you get their attention? You promote this content everywhere you think your users are; on social media, advertising, you mom’s knitting club and see what works best.
The goal is to make new users say “I saw a cool video on YouTube"
The people who might be interested in you: Leads
Lead is another very "business-y” term to define people that showed interest in your company and might buy something if convinced. How do you identify those? They are simply the ones that visited your website, subscribed to your email newsletter, followed you on social media or showed any sign of engagement with your content. it’s no exact science but they’re definitely more interested in you than the ones that didn’t check you out anywhere, right? So, the content for this kind of people is a little more focused on yourself but still keeping the context in place. For example, how to solve a specific problem ( close to your product ), what you think of a certain topic ( in your industry ), how a customer used your product successfully to solve their problem. You reach out to these people in a slightly different way, examples include re-targeting, your own social media profiles, email newsletters.
The goal is to make the users who saw the cool video say “I like this company cause they share interesting stuff”
The people who are interested in you: Conversion
Your time to shine, some people found your content interesting, they’ve been following you on social media for a while, subscribed to your newsletter and visited more pages of your website; you can finally talk to them about yourself. Why you exist, what’s so special about your product, why your company is better than others.
The goal is to make the users that like your company say “I buy from this company cause I like them”
These types of content are then aligned differently on timelines and distribution; i.e you might create a video for awareness that the only goal is to send users to your site so you promote that video on Facebook and YouTube only, then you create a case study blog post that you share only with your followers on Facebook and ultimately you’ll create a blog post on “5 benefits of using your product” that you only share via email to your best users.
If you’re still reading, you might have realised by now that content marketing is a lot of work. It not only involves being good at creating, photographing or writing— it also requires extensive research and analysis to understand who’s going to consume it, when and how. However, it's 2017, and anyone with a camera can create great pictures and videos, social media is free and you don’t need a programmer to create a simple blog so, with a little studying, you can do it yourself.
See below some free online resources that I use to create content. I’m looking forward to reading your useful articles and look at your inspiring pictures!
DOWNLOAD THE HIGH RES .pdf of the above frameworks
AUDIENCE ANALYSIS TOOLS
Google Analytics — Understand the people navigating your website
Makemypersona — Visualise your target audience
BuzzSumo — Analyse trends for content across the globe
CONTENT CREATION TOOLS
AdWords Keyword Planner — use it to find topics similarities
VSCO — Edit pictures on your phone and put filters on, my favourite app!
Ubersuggest — input a keyword the tool suggests other topic ideas
WordPress — start a blog for free
Grammarly — Correct your grammar and typos on the go
Hemingwayapp — Write better
Semplicelabs — Add amazing design to your blog
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