There are a number of challenges facing content marketers as we enter 2016 – notably the changes that our ‘main’ social media platforms are undergoing in the race to remain relevant and to attract new users, as well as the emergence of live streaming.
Because content marketing is an integral part of our marketing efforts online, it’s important that we’re able to scale it sustainably in order to remain competitive. This doesn’t necessarily mean increasing the budget and producing more pieces of content for the sake of more. Here are 5 ways that you can scale your efforts through:
1) Make data your friend:
For me one of the most important aspects of content marketing (if not all marketing) is the ability to track performance through metrics, and then take this data and use it to influence future actions and resource allocation. However, in many organisations data is often a misunderstood concept.
Understanding your data will enable you compare yourself to benchmarks, whether these determined by yourself, based on your competitors or set by the industry.
Regardless of which platforms you share your content too, they all pretty much offer their own in house analytics and insights dashboards. Getting familiar with these dashboards in the long run could help you save time and money, you may also be able to identify trends and which content types work best with your audience and increase your reach.
In order to make a real difference to your content marketing efforts, you need to get into some good habits and look at your data regularly. How regularly depends on what you hope to see:
- Daily: Speaking from experience, if you check your analytics daily it can become a little like clock watching – the more you look, the less you see. You should only check on a daily basis if you’ve launched a special piece of content or you’ve noticed a spike in engagement.
- Monthly: Checking your social analytics at the start of each month and taking learnings from the previous month should definitely be something that you devote your time too.
2) Fail to prepare, prepare to fail:
Building on the first point of learning how to use data to your advantage, you also need to develop a content plan, even if it’s jotting down events on a calendar so you have foresight of upcoming events. This might sound like a very simple thing to do, but you’d be surprised at the number of brands who don’t have anything like this. I’ve also heard the excuse before that content plans and schedules are only for big companies, it’s really not.
For instance, Cyplon, a London based travel company gained some great coverage with a Star Wars infographic. By planning ahead and pre-empting a large event that they could relate to their brand (they do holidays to Tunisia, a lot of Star Wars episodes 1-6 was filmed in Tunisia), they were able to produce a timely piece of content that was featured in the Daily Mail and Business Insider, as well as getting a lot of love on Tumblr. Cyplon aren’t a household name with T.V. adverts and marketing budgets like Thomas Cook and OnTheBeach, but with good planning and foresight they were able to gain some amazing exposure. You can see the full infographic here (if like me, you love Star Wars).
So how do you go about producing an efficient social media content calendar? You need to make it as user friendly as possible.
The calendar needs to be easy to read, without the need for a key, containing all the necessary information to be able to start planning and drawing up ideas without the need to immediately research further details.
When putting the calendar together, the easiest way to keep it organised is to break up each month using a different tab in Excel or page in Word, with events and activities broken down further by week and day, depending on how regularly you intend to produce content. If you have more than one person in the business responsible for producing your content, your calendar should have a RACI chart element to it highlighting responsibilities. If you have a number of social platforms you intend to publish to, break these down using different colours or icons. Getting the basics right is often overlooked and is more important than how fancy your calendar’s layout is.
3) Not all new content has to be brand new:
In September 2015, Moz published a case study, asking the question ‘Can you fake blog post freshness?‘ and the study found that you can gain some results updated a posts published dates, if the post was already ‘good’ and had an organic presence. However recycling your content is more than just changing the published date, there are ways that you can reuse and repurpose your existing content, for example you can:
- Take large pieces of content and split them up into smaller, more focused blog posts.
- Produce a blog post around a specific section of an infographic or video.
- Produce a content series – for example, rather than writing a piece looking at ‘Best Things To Do in Vancouver’, break this down and write a series looking at ‘Best Things To Do in January, February, March…’.
- If you’ve written a how to guide or a tips blog post, turn it into a downloadable PDF.
By doing this you’ll be able to exploit a topic fully, as well as find content to produce during creative dry spells.
4) Involve the wider team, at all times:
Usually marketing departments tend to start asking other departments if they have any ideas during times of creative hardship. Only rarely does this end well, by putting people on the spot when you’re out of ideas puts pressure on them, and not everybody ‘thinks like a marketer’ and sees the same opportunities or relevancy in things (like who would have thought you could tie in Star Wars with a company that does holidays to Tunisia?). Because of this you end up with ‘ok’ ideas that are the only ones you have, so you run with them.
You should involve the wider team at all times, not only to increase the ‘one team’ feeling, but to increase the variety of minds in the room. By inviting the whole team into regular editorial meetings, you can utilise the collective depth and breadth of everyday awareness and thought. In these sessions you should:
- Have a free speech thought shower, just let people contribute events they know are coming up as well as other ideas they may have.
- Evaluate existing pieces of content, ask for honest feedback and take these learnings into future pieces.
- Discuss industry news and wider news, such as tech and culture.
Then take all the ideas and notes, and without bias pass each one through a conversation discussing it’s strengths and values. By doing this the wider team can focus on one topic and assess different angles. These sessions are also a great reminder that content marketing isn’t about your brand, but about your customers.
Once all the ideas have been considered with equal merit, they should be prioritised based on whether or not they are time sensitive and their importance.
5) Develop a content production process:
Building on the previous 4 points, you need to have a content product process that is feasible and agile enough to ensure all your content is produced to a high standard and on time (if time sensitive). The reason I use the word agile, is because often in organisations there are sign-offs required from members of the business, for whom reading a blog article or checking over an infographic may not be a high priority.
Having an agile sign off process enabled Oreo to produce one of the most memorable Super Bowl (advertising) moments of all time:
Power out? No problem. pic.twitter.com/dnQ7pOgC
— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
As 108-million Americans tuned in to watch the Baltimore Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers in the New Orleans’ Superdome, there was a power cut, plunging the 76,000 capacity stadium into a blackout. An event no-one could have predicted, but thanks to quick thinking and the correct processes in place – Oreo were able to become the unlikely hero of the Superbowl and ‘won Twitter’ with a great ‘you can still dunk in the dark’ message.
While not every brand can have an Oreo moment, everyone can aspire to have one. Being agile enough to seize opportunities could yield great, unplanned results.
All members of your team should have access to the content calendar, working drafts and any Gantt/RACI charts that are in play. Time spent trying to find the latest version of a project file, or if a piece of content has been finalised and scheduled is all time wasted and adds up over the year. Using a Trello board and having a Dropbox/Google Docs setup will benefit your team.
[Featured image: Shutterstock]