Last week’s IABC Victoria content workshop was a fun, interactive and informative session for everyone involved.
What does it take to create and sustain a successful content strategy: one that will turn useful insights into compelling content into engaged audiences and business results?
At last week’s IABC Victoria Lunch & Learn workshop, we explored this question with three social media success stories – Trevor Young (The PR Warrior), Nicole Avery (Planning with Kids) and Ed Charles (Tomato Media).
And we discovered that a powerful content strategy is built on four foundations:
A powerful content strategy hinges on a deep understanding of the world around you – the audience, the business need and the medium itself.
Trevor Young believes a strong first step is to think of the people you’re engaging as more a village than an audience. The art is to create content that is not just relevant, but indispensable to your village’s constituents.
And that demands a clear understanding of who they are. According to Trevor, your constituents will have differing needs, but there will always be commonalities that tie them together. That’s what makes them a village.
So it’s a matter of finding these common needs and responding to them… better than anyone else. As Ed Charles stated:
“If you can give people something that is useful for them personally or in their job… something that is going to make their life easier… then you will have people who want to be part of the group/community.”
The same rule applies to the business needs you’re trying to support.
Nicole Avery raised the elephant in the room by talking about the high ROI expectations placed on social media. To deliver on these expectations, you need to clearly understand the needs of your business and how your content plans can satisfy them.
And, once you’re out there, it’s important to be patient. Overnight success stories are as rare in social media as they are in Hollywood. It’s critical that you commit to the long-term and remain persistent and consistent. It might take time, but the potential in terms of the size and quality of relationships a strong content strategy can create is enormous. Our panellists are all testament to that.
Finally, it’s important to develop a deep understanding of the media you’re working with: an environment that’s arguably more complex than any you’ve faced before.
What channels and networks do your audience members use? What are they looking for? Which of these networks will be most effective at bringing business and audience together? And what types of content work best in those networks?
The panellists all agreed that your channel scan should include not just the usual social media ‘big guns’, but the ‘old school’ opportunities, such as email, as well. Nicole, in particular, was passionate about this point, adding that email marketing is still the strongest converter and shouldn’t be ignored in any content plan. Her experience is that email is a powerful way to build relationships and trust, provided you give your subscribers useful content and remain respectful to them.
In social media, people primarily respect and follow individuals… people they can learn from and relate to.
That’s why establishing and maintaining a clear voice – one that is human, real and relevant to your audience – is critical. It’s impossible to build relationships with people if the voice of your content is weak or changes from week to week.
As Nicole Avery commented:
“It must be unique but also reflect the views of what your audience demands. Build trust in your voice by being consistent, especially when blogging.”
Trevor Young added to this with some valuable advice:
- Understand whether you want to be utility-based content (i.e provide useful tools) or thought leadership content… the strategic play… being seen as a thought leader in your space and pushing the boundaries with content.
- Bring in experts, such as bloggers and advisers relevant to your business, to create the content.
- Make sure your experts are visible… and make sure they’re creating their own content
- Put some pressure on your senior executives to add value. People want to hear from them and social media is a great way to make this happen. This is particularly the case on Linkedin’s new publishing platform.
- Curate, don’t just create. There’s an abundance of content out there on any given topic. The simple task of bringing this content together for your audience can be a very valuable service. So supplementing your own content with relevant curated content can help to build both your content and audience base. Trevor recommends that content producers focus on a 70/30 split – 70% curated and 30% original.
And, while we’re talking about ratios, Ed Charles advised that successful bloggers will spend 50% of their time on content and 50% on marketing. This underlies an important point made by the panel. ‘If you build it… they will come’ definitely doesn’t apply here.
Perhaps the most frequent advice you’ll hear from any content expert is the need to plan and prioritise. A detailed (and constantly reviewed) content calendar is the only way to make sure you maintain your inspiration and deliver a solid, consistent flow of content.
According to Trevor Young, every content marketer constantly battles with the issue of time. To win this battle, you need to make very clear priorities and stay on top of those priorities. This includes being prepared to try new things and letting go of what isn’t working.
Nicole Avery also stressed the importance of research. Everything she does is founded on research. She even surveys her audience as part of her content planning for the year ahead.
Have you ever noticed how for every issue the digital world creates (and there are many), it also creates a solution?
So it is with content and social media. There’s an abundance of services out there designed to help you produce, manage, publish, share and curate content. What’s more, many of them are free (or, at least, very reasonably priced).
One of the smartest steps any content marketer can take is to become familiar with these services and make them a part of your strategy.
There’s literally hundreds of services out there and we couldn’t begin to list them all here. However, there are three that drew special attention from our panel. They are:
- Vine: the now famous way to produce and share six second videos.
- Buffer: a powerful social media publishing tool that’s now relied on by something like 1.4m users a day.
- Feedly: an intuitive and powerful way to aggregate the news you need from all over the web.
There’s enormous opportunity out there for anyone – corporate or SOHO – wishing to take the content bull by the horns.
And, while building your ‘village’ can be challenging, the task is made a lot easier by the wealth of tools and resources that are now readily available.
Perhaps Ed Charles summed up the sentiment of the day best…
“If you need to find out about things, the resources are all there. It’s an exciting world. Arguably, you might not need to go to university anymore, as it’s all out there to learn.”