There’s really only one way to get results from content marketing (or inbound) activities, and that’s to have a solid content strategy in place, and implement it with consistency. For businesses big and small, that requires a certain level of organisation and commitment. But as with most business activities, the better the planning, the better the output.
Here are the 6 steps to consistency and results.
- Have a documented content strategy!
If your company’s content strategy is all in someone’s head and not documented anywhere, I’d go so far as to say that planning and consistent implementation is impossible over the long term – either because that person won’t always be available, or the wheels will fall off when other tasks need to take priority. Document early and create consistent habits while you can. If you have the budget, turn to a content marketing agency for professional help.
- Conduct a content audit
For the business that’s been publishing content for a few years without a documented content strategy in place, it’s a great idea to undertake an audit while you’re developing your strategy. A content audit can identify valuable pieces of content that can be repurposed or redistributed, as well as identifying outdated material that should be removed or updated. It will be a time consuming exercise if you have hundreds or thousands of pages of content, but if you’re able to make better use of the content you’ve already invested in creating, you’re likely to come out in front.
- Plan per quarter or year
You might not be able to plan all your pieces this far ahead, but you can identify seasons, particular months, or even specific days of the year that offer a natural opportunity or necessity to create content around particular themes, events or services. A general example of this would be an air conditioning company where the season dictates the services most likely to be called upon. Another good example is New Year – many a January purchase is made on the back of a New Year’s resolution to revamp something, whether it’s a messy back yard or our business processes. Even we receive a boost in enquiries in January, with business owners and marketing managers returning to work resolved to be more consistent with their publishing.
- Content calendars are a must
Sometimes called an editorial calendar, a content calendar is your best friend if you want to publish consistently. They are easy to create, and there are multiple ways to do it so choose what works for you: a simple spreadsheet, your Google or Outlook calendar, your automated marketing platform if you use one, or a tool like CoSchedule. For more detail read our post How to Create a a Content Marketing Calendar, where you’ll also find links to our two downloadable content calendar templates.
If you haven’t created a content calendar before, a spreadsheet can be the simplest place to start. I still use a spreadsheet for blog content, and now also make use of my Outlook calendar by adding tasks for the blog posts I need to write. (I haven’t always been that organised – it’s a work in progress!)
Your calendar will usually include proposed publishing dates, who is responsible for creating the content, working titles, publishing platforms, and keywords to be included. Depending on your content writing and social media arrangements, you might also want to have columns for distribution channels, target URLS for internal links, notes for the content writers, and a ‘stage’ column that you update as each item moves from planned to published.
- Schedule time for research and content curation
One of the best ways to build an attentive audience on your social media channels, is to share other people’s content that your target audience will find particularly relevant, interesting and/or entertaining. Many businesses take a very slap dash approach to this, sometimes sharing items without reading them first to confirm value. That is a near pointless exercise, and you risk losing audience interest by sharing mediocre material.
Share and share well. I believe the best way to do this is to schedule specific time for content curation activities, and build a list of shareable material around particular topics and themes. For the SME owner or consultant who wants to do it themselves, it isn’t as hard as you might think – chances are the topics will be of interest to you too, so if you like reading and learning, spending a couple of hours a week on this can feel like a little luxury. And you’ll reap the rewards by being able to share outstanding content with your social media audiences.
- Plan your distribution and social media activities too
Planning and scheduling is the key to consistently implementing a content strategy. If you create content, but you’re inconsistent in distributing it and updating your social media channels, you simply won’t get the results you hoped for. That will be a disheartening waste of marketing budget if you’ve been paying a content agency to create content for you!
There are now numerous tools available that can help you to organise your social media activities, from platform specific ones like TweetDeck, to those like Hootsuite as well as automated marketing platforms like HubSpot that allow you to monitor streams (and your competitors) and post on all the main social media platforms from within them (not to mention all the other bells and whistles platforms like HubSpot have).
- Plan to measure!
Once your approach is organised and consistent, measuring results will be a much more enjoyable activity – and this is something you should plan to do regularly too. Make it a habit to regularly measure the performance of published content, and the level of engagement you’re achieving on social channels. You’ll then be able to identify the topics and approaches that are catching the most attention, or gaining the most shares and helping your message to travel further.
Routine and commitment
Once you have your strategy in place and you’ve tackled the planning, it’s all about being committed to achieving results, which means getting into a routine, and making the activities a must-do rather than a might-do-if-we-have-time!
And of course, if you can’t manage every aspect in-house, you can call on us for help with content strategy documentation, planning and/or content writing services.