Developing a 2016 digital content strategy that works
While the saying "content is king" still holds true today, content alone will not translate into results or separate your business from the competition. Content includes blogs, case studies, white papers, photos, videos, social media, infographics, memes, gifs, emojis and more. With all of these forms of content at your disposal, it's more important -- and complicated -- than ever, to have a documented digital content strategy prior to implementing your initiatives.
In fact, 36% of B2B companies with a documented content marketing strategy in place believe that they are effective in their efforts, compared to only 12% without a strategy. Having a digital content strategy in place also doubles the likelihood that a business is successfully tracking ROI.
When developing your digital content strategy, it's important to recognize that there is no one-size-fits-all template to follow. After all, if you asked 20 expert content marketers what their strategy looks like, you'll get 20 different variations. That said, for a documented strategy to be effective, it must include these three elements:
Follow the business plan model
You wouldn't start a business without having a plan in place. You shouldn't start using content without having a plan in place either.
Start by setting your content goals, outlining your key messages and developing the reasoning and tactics behind all the hard work you and your team are about to take on. Answer all (or at least the recurring) questions that will come up along the way as you start proceeding with your content marketing efforts. This will allow you to be proactive and avoid as many unwanted surprises as possible. Here's a sampling of questions to think through in this portion of your strategy:
- What are your overall content marketing goals?
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- What mediums are you going to leverage? Why?
- How often are you going to distribute content?
- What's your content marketing budget?
- What defines success?
- What are the best and worst case scenarios for your content marketing initiatives?
- Do you have the proper resources in place to be successful?
- Who's going to own the content?
- How long should you leverage a piece of content before deciding it's not working?
- How will you measure success?
Understand your target audience
If you are a medical device manufacturer, your first priority should not be to create an Instagram account and start sharing pictures of your products. Why? Because the audience you are trying to reach is most likely not using Instagram for business. A more effective use of your content marketing efforts would be to create a downloadable case study, for example, that you can host on your website about how your medical device enabled one of your clients to increase the number of medical procedures they were able to complete in a day by X percent. You should consider leveraging this case study on LinkedIn as well.
If you own a candy company and want to spread the word about your latest product, LinkedIn won't be the most effective channel for you. You'd be better suited sharing images on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and hosting a giveaway. Fortunately, there is a mix of platforms and tools for every type of company to successfully leverage. You just need to determine who you are trying to reach and how best to reach them with your content.
Creating buyer personas will help you determine exactly what your target customers look like. Whereas a target demographic identifies a particular group of people based on various factors like age, gender and income, a buyer persona provides a more accurate representation of an actual customer you are trying to attract. This semi-fictional persona is based on the data you collect through all your market research efforts. For each persona you identify, don't just create a fictional name, age, residence and so forth -- go deeper into their purchasing habits. What are their concerns as a consumer? What matters most to them when making a purchase? How do they make their purchases?
Track and measure
You have one tweet that gets 10 "retweets" and one Facebook post that gets 100 "likes" -- does that mean the Facebook post was more effective? Maybe. Maybe not. If the goal of your content marketing strategy is to drive traffic to your website and eight of the people who retweeted you also clicked on the link in your tweet, but only three of the people who liked your Facebook post clicked on the link, then the Twitter engagement was more effective. But if your goal is to increase overall engagement, then you'll be more satisfied with the Facebook post. It all comes down to the goals of your content marketing efforts, which should have been established in the earlier stages of your strategy.
Once you have your goals in place, there are ample number of both free and paid tools you can use to track and measure nearly every metric. Look into tools like HubSpot, SharedCount, Sprout Social, Google Analytics, Hootsuite and more.
It's important to recognize that your digital content strategy won't be a document that is set in stone. Instead it will serve as a living document that should be updated as you advance your content marketing initiatives. You should be regularly evaluating your campaign and identifying what's working, what's not and what areas need improvement. By continuing to evaluate your process and adjusting accordingly, you will only make your plan more effective in the long run.
Author bio: Avi Levine is the executive director of the Digital Professional Institute (DPI), a Chicago-based programming and digital marketing school setting the standard in digital skills training and education. DPI serves corporations, universities, high schools and individuals to provide the best online and mobile marketing courses and develop the next generation of digital talent. He has more than 10 years of experience growing successful businesses, including PhilterIt.