You take pride in your work, and you want to get it right. You’ve seen the stats; you know content marketing works and that it’s poised to continue driving engagement and ROI throughout 2018 and beyond.
We’re writing this post to help you ramp up your strategy (or start one if you’re new to this) in a way that sets you up for maximum success. There are pitfalls to avoid, and we’re here to guide you gently (or roughly in some cases) and point you to directions that have been proven to work.
We don’t like to say “best practices” because that’s a buzzword (or buzzphrase?), and as marketers, we’re always testing and we’re always learning. But… these are pretty much best practices, so listen up. And if you disagree or know of some additional tactics that work better? Hit the comments, and let us know! We need to work together in this wildly expanding industry, so we can deliver quality content to our audiences.
#1 Get the definition right (or at least in the right ballpark).
Content gets defined, sliced, and diced into endless iterations. In corporations, content marketing is often bundled as a cross-departmental resource. Corporate communications, public relations, and human resources — not to mention the actual marketing department — all frequently take credit for content marketing.
This gives the content marketer gravitas and empowers them to help all of these departments with writing and editing. But a post, an internal memo, an email, or digital ads are not necessarily examples of content marketing. Writing something and publishing it does not automatically place it in the content marketing bucket.
In this article, Michelle Linn, Chief Strategy Officer and Co-Founder of Mantis Research, defines content marketing as being educational, not promotional. Its aim, she writes, is to “attract and engage audiences.” And then it sells.
The Content Marketing Institute dives in a step further, defining content marketing as…
A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Understand that this definition quickly gets fuzzy and that you’ll likely need to educate your clients, your managers, and your grandma. And that’s okay. Just be sure that if you’re in the business of content marketing, you know how to define it!
#2 Use analytics. Always.
Please, please do not guess. We repeat: DO NOT GUESS! Writers and bloggers already have a bad rep. We wear pajamas and hang out with cats. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but let’s step it up!
We have the opportunity to provide metrics on everything we publish online, be it a blog, social media post, digital ad, or email sent. This means we get to validify every action we take and every test we want to try, and we can improve our process as we make truly data-driven decisions. Use data to take an educated and informed approach to the content you create.
Collect your website audience data from the likes of Google Analytics (which is free!), and get your social media audience data from Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics, which are also mostly free.
#3 Don’t use internal language. Just say no to buzz words!
If you’re a content marketer at a corporation, you’re part of the system. No offense and no judgment, we promise. You just need to be extra careful that you’re not loading your content up with language that makes perfect sense to internal stakeholders and leaves your audience completely in the dark.
For example, I recently worked at a very cool tech company that happened to be big on Net Promoter Score (NPS). We often bragged about our high NPS score with our customers, but then we realized… they have no flipping idea what that means. Also, while it’s great for us, it doesn’t really mean anything to our audience.
Also, be cautious of using your own corporate acronyms or typical marketing language. Quick examples might include disruptive, thought leadership, influencers, or the worst — content! This used to mean whatever was contained inside something else or a calm and peaceful feeling. Now it’s a catchall term to describe…well, just about anything!
There are always outliers, and brands must speak in the way their audience prefers. Our general rule of them: talk to your audience like you’re talking to a friend over a beer or a cup of tea. Lose the pretentious language, and be human.
Key Takeaways for 2018
Content marketing might be best described as thriving in a flirtatious, almost magnetic dance with sales. There’s a little bit of push and pull, but when done right, content marketing gives audiences when they want by educating and building brand loyalty and ultimately makes the sale.
Use data to back up your decisions. Don’t make things up, and don’t let others dictate what you should be working on — you know what’s right because you’re diligent about metrics.
Be honest. Be yourself. Tell your story or your brand’s story in a way you might share with your family or friends, and you’ll win.
Editor’s note: This post is by nDash community member Melanie LoBue. Melanie is a freelance writer, editor, and digital marketing consultant living in Boston. She also works full-time as Director of Digital Content Marketing for a global tech company. With over 20 years of professional creative experience, Melanie focuses on helping businesses grow using the power of words. To learn more about Melanie, or to have her write for your brand, check out her nDash profile page.