How strictly should you stick to a content calendar?

When it comes to content marketing, a calendar is essential—but how often should you stick to it, and when should you stray?

There are certain events in business that are predictable and, as such, ideal for a content calendar. For example, accounting firms know that RRSP deadlines, income tax filing deadlines and tax refunds are going occur year-in, year-out. Mark them down, write the articles in advance, schedule them into your blogging software and you’re set. Read more

Do you need a content brand? (The short answer: No)

As content marketing continues to rise in popularity so, too, does the concept of the “content brand.”

What exactly is a content brand? In a nutshell, it’s exactly what it sounds like—a strategy that governs how your organization plans to position itself as a valuable content provider. The thinking is that, by gradually building a content brand, you can churn out more focused content and achieve better results.

This doesn’t sit well with me. Here’s why: in my experience, companies already spend considerable time, effort and money creating a corporate brand that truly reflects their vision, values and differentiators. The core messages articulated by that brand are the ones that, in my mind, should govern your content marketing efforts because, in essence, they already speak to the differentiated value you offer your customers, in a tone that already reflects your voice and manner.

Instead of over-complicating the concept of content marketing by creating a whole other brand—which, let’s face it, is the last thing this emerging marketing form needs—why not focus on the basics? Pull from your corporate brand to determine your content’s mission, vision, values, differentiators and ultimate goals. Everything you need to position your content should already be written. Why reinvent the wheel?

My two cents anyway. I’m open to opposition :)

Quick content marketing fixes

If your content marketing efforts are falling short of your goals, don’t head back to the drawing board just yet. Chances are a simple tweak may, in fact, be all you need.

In a recent webinar held by Forrester Research and ideo, Ryan Skinner, a senior analyst at Forrester, offered an interesting approach to fixing underperforming content. The secret lies in measuring not only the number of views you get for the piece, but the audience’s reaction to it as well. To help illustrate his point, he presented a graphic similar to this one:

AR Com, blog image, action vs views

Any content that generates a high audience response—even if it has low views—would generally be considered highly effective. Conversely, content that generates a lot of downloads but very few actions likely indicates that something needs to be fixed.

If your content isn’t evoking the type of response you’d like, the problem may either lie with how you distribute it or how it’s written. For example, if a lot of people download an ebook you’ve developed, but you’re not getting much follow-up response, you may want to test at what point you’re losing reader attention. By testing various alternative headlines, calls to action, body copy, landing page copy, images and offers, you can begin to assess which resonate more strongly with your audience, and which may be falling flat. You can also experiment with different channels and different posting times, to determine where (and when) your most responsive audience congregates.

If you’re on the other end of the spectrum—receiving a lot of views and actions for a certain piece of content—consider ways to reuse it. Devise a different angle, explore an aspect of the topic in more detail or provide an updated post on the topic in a few months.

Have you ever turned underperforming content around? How did you do it?

 

Mary Meeker’s 2014 Internet Trends Report – An Annual Must Read

If this is not on your reading list already, it should be.  It is insightful, well written, and considered by many as the State of the Union Address for all things Internet.

Here are some highlights:
•    Internet user growth has slowed below 10%; smartphone growth is still strong but slowing. But mobile data traffic is accelerating—up 81% year-over-year—thanks to video, where mobile is now 22% of consumption.
•    Only 30% of the world’s 5.2 billion mobile users have smartphones—still room for growth.
•    There are still more global TV users (5.5 billion) than mobile phone users (5.2 billion).
•    97% of smartphones share OS “made in USA” vs. 5% in pre-iPhone era.
•    Mobile advertising is still underperforming vs. time spent on mobile devices, whereas print is still significantly over performing.
•    About 5 million Bitcoin wallets exist, up 8 times year-over-year.
•    Tinder users “swipe” 800 million times per day, up 21 times year-over-year.
•    66% of U.S. tablet owners are surfing the web while watching TV. 44% are shopping.
•    52% of ESPN’s digital users access only on smartphones and tablets, representing 48% of time spent.
•    China’s mobile Internet users now ~80% of total China Internet users. More critical mass for mobile web than anywhere, and leading mobile commerce revolution.
•    Six of top 10 Internet properties “made in USA”—down from 9 of top 10 last year—with more than 86% of their users outside America. “China rising fast.”

Read the full report here – http://www.kpcb.com/internet-trends

The case for case studies

A lot of content marketing is based on the old adage “show, don’t tell”. People don’t want to hear about why you’re great at what you do—they want you to prove it. And there’s no better way to do this than with a case study.

Regardless of the campaign you’re running, it’s always a good idea to have a few case studies in your back pocket. They’re a great tool to follow up an initial conversation with a client, because they demonstrate you can do what you claim. Similar to testimonials, they offer a third party account of how your company used its expertise to solve a client’s particular challenge. The best case studies not only tell a good story, but they also provide proof points through a subtle third party endorsement.

If you want your case studies to truly resonate with prospects, try to use real names whenever you can. This isn’t always possible, as you need permission for it, but it adds a level of authenticity you can’t otherwise achieve.

Case studies are also more effective if you have cold, hard numbers to back them up. If productivity increased, try to find a few numbers—even percentages—to exemplify the increase. Systems were simplified? Staff was reduced? Money was saved? Find a quantitative way to measure this ROI.

Finally, case studies aren’t an exact science. In some industries, longer, more detailed case studies have the greatest impact. In others, a short one will do just fine. Take the time to find out what works in your industry, and what type of case study resonates with your client base.

Is your writing a victim of marketing speak?

The next time you have a free moment, take your latest piece of written content and cover up your company name. Without it, can you still tell that the material is written about your company? Or could it apply to any one of your competitors?

If your writing is laden with marketing speak—overused words and phrases that are devoid of meaning—you’re going to fall into the latter category. This can occur when you overhype your company’s offerings, using terms like “cutting edge”, “finest” and (gasp!) “revolutionary”, or using differentiators that do anything but differentiate. For example, boasting a great “work/life balance”, “industry-leading expertise” or “attention to detail”. This isn’t to say these phrases are verboten. In many cases, they actually do describe your strengths. If that’s the case, though, it may be better to demonstrate how you embody these traits, rather than simply saying that you do.

Another way to make your content stand out is by uncovering what really differentiates your company from every other business on the planet, and then using words that actually mean something—delivered in appropriate content vehicles—to effectively provide the information your readers require. The key is to demonstrate your knowledge without mentioning your expertise. Show your potential customers why you’re great, don’t tell them.

One of the easiest ways to do this is by using external proof points. Sometimes it’s hard to remove your marketing hat, so why not turn to other people—via testimonials, survey data, case studies, etc.—to help you convey your company’s uniqueness?

If you don’t have third-party sources to draw from, look for ways to demonstrate how your company can help potential clients overcome their challenges. The key is to inform and educate—and avoid the hard sell.

4 Social Media Secrets You Can Learn from a Billionaire

Elon Musk is one of my favorite entrepreneurs.  Not only has he hit it out of the park multiple times, the companies he built are downright cool. The two I am referring to here are Tesla and SpaceX (oh yea, he also co-founded PayPal).  On top of this he is also a savvy social media practitioner.

In a recent article in Fast Company, Musk lists 4 lessons we can all benefit from:

1. Own your executive brand – If you don’t somebody else will

2. Humanize your brand

3. Don’t show up and then fall silent

4. Use Twitter as a leadership tool

Learn more about these secrets and read the full article here.

Simple ways to add value to your writing

Information becomes content when it adds value to the customer experience. The best way to do this? Show – don’t tell. As a leader in your field, the best way to create valuable content is to showcase your talents, proprietary knowledge or expertise. Here are a few ways to do that:

1)      Offer insight

Sure, that report laden with raw data makes sense to you, but chances are it’s just a bunch of numbers to your clients. Offering context, and explaining why the data is important to your clients’ business, is a great way to illustrate the value of your expertise.

2)      Boil it down

Sometimes the most valuable content is that which breaks down a complicated topic into laymen’s terms. We’re not talking about “dumbing it down” – we’re talking about writing for your audience. Not only does this help your clients better understand the topic at hand, but it shows that you’re approachable and you know what you’re talking about.

3)      Pick a side

If you have an opinion about an industry-related topic, don’t be afraid to share it with your audience. The most share-worthy content is that which evokes some sort of emotion. If clients (or potential clients) agree with you, they’ll appreciate an article that articulates their thoughts. If they disagree, they might be motivated to leave a comment and start a discussion. Basically, as long as your opinion is factually based, you really can’t lose.

Want to learn more content-generating tips? Download our free report, Feeding the Content Beast.