Courtesy of Socialbrite
What are the ingredients of a good content marketing strategy? How can one differentiate one’s business through content marketing?
After reading and listening to a tonne of content on blogs, podcasts, and videos, I believe that successful content marketing is predicated on 6 key ingredients. Taken together, they can raise the chances of success in any content marketing endeavour.
Let us go through each of these in turn (and do check out the links to all my prior blog posts on the topic!).
1) Be Likable
The first thing pillar of content marketing is being likable. Likability isn’t just necessary for social influencers (see Who’s Your Influencer) on blogs, Facebook or Twitter. It is equally vital for businesses looking to gain traction on social media.
Being likable means being authentic and transparent, honest and trustworthy, and responsive to the needs of customers. Having a charismatic leader, warm and friendly employees, or highly accessible managers help. Most importantly, likable businesses demonstrate considerable care for their customers, often going beyond the call of duty to make their customers feel awesome.
For more on likability, do check out my book reviews on Dave Kerpen’s great books Likable Social Media and Likable Business, Chris Brogan’s The Impact Equation, Mark Schaefer’s Return on Influence, Guy Kawasaki’s Enchantment, Marsha Friendman’s Celebritize Yourself, and Can’t Buy Me Like by Bob Garfield and Doug Levy.
2) Be Helpful
While having being likable and trusted is important, being helpful and useful matters too. In fact, this is probably the most important reason for people to keep revisiting your website, blog or social media properties.
In the digital age, consumers are constantly looking for useful stuff online. Anything that helps them solve the problems they face at work or in life will be received with much gratitude. In fact, almost everybody – from students and housewives to retirees and workers – are “googling” for information or solutions.
Being helpful means that you should extend beyond your products and brands. Instead of continually preaching your brand message, seek to be the most helpful provider of solutions in your product or service category. A great example is Baby Center established by leading toiletries brand Johnson & Johnson.
Essential reading on how you can create and leverage on helpful content includes Jay Baer’s awesome Youtility, Michael Stelzner’s Launch, Gary Vaynerchuk’s The Thank You Economy, Rohit Bhargava’s Likeonomics, and Mitch Joel’s Ctrl Alt Delete.
3) Choose the Right Platforms
Beyond being likable and helpful, one needs to understand the unique and distinct attributes of different technology and social media platforms. It doesn’t mean that you need a Facebok page, Pinterest board or mobile app just because everybody else has one. Similarly, while tweeting throughout the day may work for a social media hotshot like Gary Vaynerchuk, the same may not apply for you.
Generally, Facebook works better as a platform connecting friends who know each other IRL (in real life), while Google+ works better in connecting folks with similar interests. LinkedIn has gone beyond being the hunting ground of job seekers and employers to be positioned as a B2B social and content platform. While both Instagram and Pinterest are image heavy platforms, they work quite differently.
To understand more about the different social media and digital platforms, do read my book review of Gary Vaynerchuk’s Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, Scott Stratten’s The Book of Business Awesome/Unawesome, IDA’s Technology Roadmap, and Robert Scoble and Shel Israel’s The Age of Context,
4) Build Passionate Communities
After understanding the channels and technologies to use, you need to look at building your community. These need to be both online and offline, and would cover the whole gamut of friends, fans, followers, subscribers and readers. Of special note are the ideas of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding – the ultimate acts of community goodwill.
In building communities, it pays to introduce a hierarchy of fans. Beyond generic fans who “like” you on Facebook, you may also want to identify influencers whom you can work with. You may also wish to select an inner circle of top supporters to be your brand ambassadors. Work through and with your various communities across different platforms, and strengthen and deepen relationships.
Once again, there are lots of good resources here. I’d recommend that you read Jackie Huba’s Monster Loyalty, Seth Godin’s Tribes and We Are All Weird, and Nicco Mele’s The End of Big. Lisa Gansky’s thoughts on The Mesh and Jeremiah Owyang’s views on the Collaborative Economy are also worth looking at.
5) Create Meaningful Movements
Being in the right platforms and having a great following isn’t enough. You need to create meaningful and purposeful ways to engage and activate your crowd. These entail not just organising promotions and viral campaigns to grow your communities (and customer base) but keeping existing groups warm and intimate.
A key part in triggering and sustaining customer engagement lies in telling and seeding the right stories. There are very many ways to master the art and science of storytelling. Universal themes of being relevant, having a good plot/narrative, showcasing struggle/conflict, and being interactive resonates with most.
On a longer and larger scale, buzz building is about starting movements. Businesses need to go beyond merely being a brand to representing a cause. In extreme cases, they may even want to epitomize a more spiritual and ethically sustainable way of living.
To understand how you can build buzz, do read Jonah Berger’s Contagious, Peter Guber’s Tell to Win, Lois Kelly’s Beyond Buzz, Conversational Capital by SID LEE, David Meerman Scott’s Newsjacking, and Scott Goodson’s Uprising. Do also check out why I think Thai commercials are great.
6) Convert and Monetize
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, content marketing efforts need to bring in the moolah. Without a system to monetize, the best storytellers and most engaged communities will fail to deliver value to your company.
In thinking about generating revenue and sales, there are several business models out there. Some businesses look towards selling physical products as a way to generate income. Others depend on subscription, or charge different service packages (especially Software As A Service or SAAS businesses). Yet others rely on advertising or affiliate marketing to generate revenue.
A key thing here is to consider the entire social ecosystem. Brian Solis’ seminal thoughts on Connected Customers and the Future of Commerce provide a good way to think about the loop between content, social communities, and purchase.
In thinking about generating revenue, do also consider Adam Metz’s The Social Customer, Paul Marsden and Paul Chaney’s The Social Commerce Handbook, and Ric Dragon’s Social Marketology as guides. Avinash Kaushik’s See-Think-Do framework and Doc Searl’s future oriented ideas in The Intention Economy may also be worth studying.
Are there other pillars in content marketing which I may have missed? I’d love to hear your thoughts.