Whether you’re running a business with an online presence or trying to grow your personal brand, you’re going to need original content to get attention. It’s the offering of value (whether it’s entertainment or information) that must precede its receipt: internet users have so many ways to spend their internet time that they’re not going to just hand it to you for nothing.
Most entrepreneurial types now acknowledge this and commit to the production of content, but there’s a major problem: they don’t know what to make, how to make it, or how to maximize its impact when it’s done. In short, they lack strategy. As a result, they compose pieces of content haphazardly, throw them out there, then conclude that content marketing doesn’t work.
You can do better for your brand, and in this post we’re going to help you do just that. Here are five tips for creating a strong content strategy from scratch:
Figure out your brand identity
Every brand needs a unique assortment of elements encompassing everything from its logo and slogan to its tone and editorial style. In short, it needs a set of brand guidelines, as those guidelines will drive every piece of content it creates. So, if you’re going to get anywhere with your content, you need to frame all your content identically.
Think about what could make your brand stand out. Can it be funny and informal? Steadfastly professional? Entertaining? Informative? You could go heavily down the social media route or build everything around your blog. You’ll get to experiment with different types of content (we’ll get to that), but you should decide what you’re going to focus on before you continue.
Clearly define your target audience
Your content won’t get anywhere without relevant people to read, watch or listen to it, so you need to decide which audience you’re going to target and then create a content strategy around them. You can create exceptional content but get absolutely nowhere if you distribute it to people who aren’t interested or don’t have the means or determination to return any value.
A great way to make some fast headway here is to look at what comparable brands are doing and determine which of their customers could potentially be yours as well. Targeting existing communities is one of the most popular ways for retailers to expand their customer bases, so it makes a lot of sense when you’re looking for people who may be receptive to your content.
Select the most suitable formats
As noted earlier, you get to experiment with different content formats, so it’s important to remember that and not just continue to use one variety. That said, you won’t have the time, resources or energy to use every type of content, so think about which ones are going to be most suited to your brand (and which are likely to prove most effective).
If you’re trying to establish your brand’s expertise, then guides will be very potent. You can record footage to camera, create written instructions, or release a step-by-step podcast: the method (or methods) of delivery you pick should depend on what your targeted audience is going to be most interested in.
Take inspiration from other brands
We touched upon the tactic of looking at the selected audiences of other brands, but that’s not the only area in which you should take inspiration. At this point, you should look at every element: what topics they cover, how they structure their content, when they release it, how they publicize it (do they use advertising, or cross-promotion, or just social media updates?).
You’ll need to go your own way in the end when it comes to the content strategy you create, but first putting in the time to learn how other companies are succeeding (or failing) will give you a great jumping-off point. You can even use the skyscraper technique of finding an exceptional industry-leading piece of content and resolving to narrowly improve upon it in the hope of supplanting it (tough, but possibly).
Make a realistic target-led commitment
“Let’s release regular content” isn’t a worthwhile statement because it’s vague. What counts as regular? When you use something like that to underpin your work, it not only allows you to get slower with your production, but it also makes it next to impossible to tell what effect (if any) it’s having. A content strategy must be rigorous and regimented. Consistency is vital.
A better commitment, then, would be “Let’s produce and release eight 500-word blog posts each month and promote each one with four social media posts” — it’s firm and unambiguous. And by setting out a trackable target too (something like achieving a 20% uptick in conversions after six months), you can know when you need to adjust your content commitment.
The content strategy you create doesn’t need to be incredibly complicated: it’s really all about knowing how you want your brand to come across, having an audience lined up, choosing the formats that you think will prove effective, working out how you can fit into a crowded content market, and committing to a schedule that’s steady.
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