What’s one thing that all of your content marketing heroes have in common? Above all else, they consistently deliver amazing content to their audiences.
If only it were as simple as it sounds.
For so many brands trying to succeed with content marketing, the pressure to create and deliver that content falls on one person’s shoulders. And while that might work for a while, you’ll eventually hit a wall. Whether it’s unexpected time off, a lack of quality ideas, or general burnout, content creation is too important to leave to one person.
The gut reaction for anyone experiencing problems with one-person content creation is to take advantage of the rising gig economy. When the internal resources are exhausted, we fill the gaps with freelance writers and forge ahead.
Except hiring freelancers isn’t a magic solution to your content creation problems. Not the way they’re managed today, anyway.
When freelancers are hired for volume alone, they’re often treated as disposable pieces of the content marketing team. They’re disconnected from the brand story. They work with their own software, systems, and processes. And they never fully integrate with your overarching content marketing strategy.
Successful content marketing requires a modern content creation team—one that makes the most of the gig economy, leverages internal talent, and creates an engine for delivering value to your audience at scale.
The solution to this challenge? Build a content community.
What Is a Content Community?
Your content community is a mix of in-house talent, freelance writers, and industry influencers who all come together to advance your content marketing efforts.
With this team of contributors in place, content marketing managers (and other content leaders) can elevate their responsibilities to a more business-oriented role—a brand editor in chief.
As editor-in-chief of your content marketing efforts, you can spend time coordinating content community contributors around the brand story. And most importantly, you can focus your management resources on ensuring published content delivers real value to your target audience.
When you’re the sole contributor of content, your attention is divided. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to ideate, write, and distribute great content on top of organizing the strategy behind it all.
For a while, content marketers thought that the key to solving this problem was to mimic the structure of major media publishers. But this “brand as publisher” mindset can be intimidating and seem near-impossible to achieve. It often leads content marketing leaders to resort to low-quality content mills to meet quantity-focused publishing demands.
Content communities are more focused on meeting the needs of unique content marketing strategies. Regardless of your specific needs, you can build a content community that perfectly balances quantity and quality while driving toward specific business goals.
Look at the Content Marketing Institute blog as an example. While they take advantage of internal talent (and industry influencers) like Robert Rose, Joe Pulizzi, and Carla Johnson, they meet a daily publishing schedule with the help of many contributors. Here’s what they have to say about their approach:
“The magic behind the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) is our talented contributors. No one has all of the answers about content marketing, so we have partnered with the brightest people in in the industry. Our team is in the field every day, answering questions and finding solutions about everything related to content marketing. And, they span the globe to give you an international perspective. At CMI they share their insights with you to make your job easier.”
CMI’s content community relies on internal editors to ensure every piece of content both delivers value to the audience and contributes to the overall brand story.
Regardless of your industry, company size, budget, and objectives, you can modify CMI’s approach to fit your own needs. Build your own content community of freelancers, influencers, and in-house contributors and drive content marketing success—no matter what that means for your organization.
3 Reasons to Build Your Content Community
At first glance, the role of a content community may seem purely focused on scalability. One person can only create so much content. So, when you hit the wall, you start to build out a list of contributors.
But this isn’t simply an answer to burnout for sole contributors. More than anything, it’s an approach to structuring content creation teams to rise above the noise in any industry.
Just about every brand is publishing content these days. It’s not enough to hit publish on an average article and expect massive business results. Your content needs to deliver so much value that you stand out from all of the competitors targeting your same audience.
A content community helps you deliver this value in three specific ways:
- Eliminating Stale Content: Even if you’re a pro at keeping your creative bank full, the constant pressure to publish can cause problems. At some point, many brands start publishing repetitive ideas just for the sake of filling the editorial calendar. Content communities ensure you always have a rotation of fresh ideas filling your calendar.
- Diversifying Labor: What happens when a sole contributor leaves a company? Suddenly the publishing cadence grinds to a halt while the company hunts for a new content marketing manager. Content communities diversify labor to protect the brand and ensure the story continues to grow as the workforce evolves.
- Keeping Content Fatigue at Bay: It’s important to make industry influencers part of your content community. But it’s not just about putting their industry expertise to work. Sometimes you just need to give your internal contributors room to breathe to avoid burnout. Content communities create balance between internal talent and external contributors. This ensures everyone creates content at peak performance rather than forming peaks and valleys in content quality.
Building your content community isn’t like farming a content mill for one-off tasks, though. Each content community will look a bit different. But with the right guidance, any content marketing manager can create an effective team.
Who to Include in Your Content Community
There are no rules when it comes to forming a content community. There’s no magic number of content creators or proportions of contributors that guarantee success. The most important success factor is choosing the most appropriate contributors to fulfill your content marketing strategy.
Regardless of your strategy, though, your content community will consist of some combination of the following contributors:
- Internal Staff: One mistake that so many content marketing teams make is leaving internal talent untapped. Whether it’s your fellow marketers or subject matter experts in the product, engineering, or sales departments, your content community should include contributors from across the organization. Not only does it add new voices to your content, but it also introduces interesting new perspectives to your audience.
- Freelancers: When internal resources have run dry, freelancers can increase bandwidth to meet publishing demands. The key is to have a comprehensive strategy for onboarding new freelancers so they’re fully integrated with your team and brand story.
- Industry Influencers: Influencer marketing isn’t just a fad. It’s a valuable way to increase brand awareness. But it’s not enough to just hire influencers to promote a product or piece of content. Integrating influencers directly into your content community can boost authority in the minds of your customers.
- Guest Contributors: One of the best ways to boost content marketing success is to identify co-marketing opportunities. Publishing guest posts on relevant sites can help your link building and brand awareness. Adding guest contributors to your own content community increases diversity so you’re always bringing fresh ideas to your audience.
When you’re first starting out with content communities, don’t get caught up in the specific amounts of each type. There will be some trial-and-error involved.
Luckily, the nature of content communities lends itself to trial-and-error. You aren’t investing heavily in W2 employees to build out the team, so you don’t have to worry about the high costs of turnover. As editor in chief/content marketing manager, you can patiently assess the value of each contributor you add to the content community.
However, you aren’t choosing content creators in a vacuum. Before you solidify your content community, you need to make sure you have the right logistics in place to make it work long-term.
The Logistics of Building a Content Community
Your content community isn’t just a pie-in-the-sky concept. It’s a practical structure designed specifically to boost the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts.
That also means your content community is more than just a list of names. The tools you use to organize the content community is just as important to its overall success.
Unfortunately, this is where so many content marketing managers fall short. There are so many different tools involved in managing content from both internal and external contributors—Word, Google Docs, Dropbox, HubSpot, WordPress, and the list goes on. Simply choosing your favorite tools and forcing contributors to follow suit won’t get the job done.
Instead, you need a centralized platform that brings all of these tools together. That way, you offer flexibility to your content community without sacrificing your own needs as the operational manager.
Your centralized platform and approach to content community operations should cover 6 key areas:
- Campaign Organization: Most systems designed to connect freelancers with brands are built for one-off projects. You want your content community platform to support campaign development, too. That way, you can keep campaign-oriented content organized while helping external contributors understand the overarching goals of what they’re creating.
- Personas: If your content community doesn’t understand your target audience inside and out, you run the risk of publishing irrelevant content. Having a seamless way to share audience personas with your content community ensures contributors know just as much about your target as you do.
- Content Types: Much of your content community will be made up of writers. But not all written content is created equal. Having a platform that supports all kinds of content projects—blog posts, video scripts, eBooks, media bylines, web copy, etc.—is key to centralizing the operation.
- Ideation: One of the most valuable aspects of a content community is being able to pull new ideas from a variety of sources. Giving your content community an easy way to pitch content ideas will ensure you have a steady stream of fresh concepts to fill an editorial calendar.
- Edits: The editing process is a key part of any content community operation. When your time isn’t totally consumed by creating content, you’re free to focus more on taking content community contributions from good to great. You’ll need a way to organize the many versions of individual pieces of content.
- Delivery: When your content community is delivering pieces via email, Slack, Skype, Dropbox, and any other channel, it’s easy for something to fall through the cracks. As a content marketing manager, you’ll want to centralize the delivery process to avoid clutter.
Content communities, when managed properly, can take your strategy to another level. They create a foundation for delivering value to target audiences and customers so you can match the success of your content marketing heroes.
All that’s left is to actually build your content community.
Take the right steps today and set yourself up for content marketing success.