It was amazing how few hands went up yesterday at the Online Marketing Summit when moderator Joe Pulizzi asked how many people in a room full of marketers have a content strategy in place. Attendees scribbled madly as his expert panel laid out a plan:
- Start with a needs assessment. Mike Stelzner of SocialMediaExaminer.com suggested starting out by asking who your ideal reader is. You need to be able to visualize that person and focus clearly on his or her persona to create content that resonates with that audience, he said.
- Get a sense for the competitive landscape. Where does your desired audience get information? Determine if there is a need that isn’t being filled and if you can own that gap, advised Content Rich author Joe Wuebben. Lawrence Coburn of RateItAll mentioned Seed.com as an example of a data-oriented service that can tell you what your market is searching for. (After you become a contributor, you have access to loads of user metrics.)
- Find out what stories people are telling about your brand. Listen to what your desired customers are saying. Survey them, if possible, and integrate what you learn into your plan.
- Choose your corporate voice. Simon Kelly of Story Worldwide suggests creating a “story platform” that will help define your voice. Make sure your voice is congruent with your core corporate values and consistent across channels. Your corporate voice will be defined by your audience demographics and company goals. It shouldn’t be confusing to your audience in any way.
- Know your core keywords. There are relatively inexpensive ways to find out the best keywords to target on your site. Coburn mentioned Wordtracker and Keyword Discovery as places to start.
- Commit to your blog. In Arnie Keunn’s business, Vertical Measures, 25% of his Web traffic comes from its blog. The blog should be the hub for your marketing activities, with platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Linked as the spokes. Your blog is real estate you own, and you can control 100% how your content is presented.
- Make content educational, not promotional. Tell stories about problems your customers have, don’t just pitch your product. Consider asking for registration/further engagement with your audience at the end of your content — once readers are hooked — rather than at the beginning. Shoot for 200 to 400 words, which is the sweet spot for blog-post length, and don’t forget to augment your content with video whenever possible.
- Integrate your content with the other social-media channels. Embed social media into your content — even if your content is PDFs of case studies, e-books or white papers. Give readers the opportunity to engage in your content and share it with their networks. Lightweight ways to encourage reader engagement include adding a “like” button to your content, plugging in Facebook Connect and including discussion threads for blog comments.
- Create a content calendar. Build the calendar at least three months out. Make sure it includes season- and industry-related events and is accessible companywide.
- Tend to reader comments. Last, but definitely not least, leave no reader comment unattended.
Image credit, Eoseye, via iStock