Editor's note: Krista McComas Rowe is an MBA student at Wayne State's School of Business in Detroit, MI and has taken ISM 7505: Inbound Information Technology.
As content marketers, there is nothing more frustrating than pouring your heart and soul into launching your content program only to see it fail miserably at generating any views or driving any traffic. Getting your content found and shared organically is often a huge challenge and this post is intended to identify the major pitfalls throughout the content creation and syndication process.
Step 1: Examine the purpose of your content and make sure it is in line with your brand values and objectives.
What specific question are you trying to answer? Do consumers know who you are? Do you have a brand perception problem you need to solve before you start pushing your product? Make sure you have a clear understanding of the purpose of your content program before you go any further. Even if the content has already been created, reflect on the initial purpose and make sure distribution efforts are still in line with that purpose (and make sure you are using keywords that reflect that purpose or initial question).
Step 2: Cater to your customers’ needs by being relevant to what they are already searching.
Your content has to find the intersection of your own brand message and the stories your consumers are searching. Content storytelling is about more than showcasing your own products and your own brand story. Your audience will see you as a more credible and authentic brand if you are willing to create and share other newsworthy stories that don’t directly pushing your own products.
Seek out stories (and people) that your target will be looking for and talking about. By entering into a hot (or “buzzworthy”) conversation, you can get your own brand positively associated with that topic. Let’s say you want your consumers to know that your brand puts the latest and greatest in technology into its products. By aligning your brand with other newsworthy technology you are sending a message that your product is buzzworthy tech as well, but you're doing so in a subtle way that is also useful and valuable to the consumer.
For example, unmanned aerial vehicles (a.k.a. drones) are an increasingly hot topic in the media lately. Production crews are using them to get the best camera angles, Amazon could use them for package delivery at some point, and there’s even talk of them becoming a household technology in the very near future. GMC capitalized on this trend by telling the story of a couple of engineers and their groundbreaking new idea for a drone.
Step 3: Cater your content to its location, and avoid locations that don’t quite fit the subject matter.
If you’re creating product “how to” videos, you’ll be hard-pressed to get any views if you try to post it alongside kitten videos (or any entertainment content, for that matter). And if your videos are geared toward the tech-savvy audience, don’t put it on a mommy blog. Outside of the subject matter itself, make sure your content is the right length for the platform. Long-form video (3-5 minutes) tends to perform well on YouTube and many blog sites, while Instagram for example is built for much quicker consumption (15 seconds). See step 4 for more on this.
Step 4: Create shorter, "snackable" content for social sharing.
“Snackable content” is the name of the game for social media sharing. As most platforms are meant for quickly viewing post after post, your content needs to get to the point quickly and be very easy to share. Even if you are telling a story that warrants a longer video, it’s best to create smaller “cutdown” version of it to get the message across in a shorter way. This allows your viewer to consume the entire content piece and share in a short amount of time.
Step 5: Use a clear call to action, and make sure it ladders back up to your original strategy
You did it! You grabbed the attention of your viewer and they watched your video all the way through… now what? This is the perfect opportunity to drive them to share the video with friends or to view more of your videos. Always make sure the call to action is on your mind throughout the planning process and (*very important*) be sure that your call to action doesn’t feel disconnected from the rest of the content. For example, if your goal is to increase brand affinity with tech-savvy consumers, and you’ve decided to do this by aligning with newsworthy stories of innovation and technology, the last thing you want to do is drive directly back to the shopping part of your site. Instead, drive the viewer to their next logical step. This is a great opportunity to drive them to view more of the content you’ve created, assuming it is still relevant to what the viewer has just seen. If you don’t have a library of content of your own, link out to someone else’s. You’ll maintain much more credibility if you allow the viewer to continue with a similar experience, rather than dumping them onto a transaction page.
Step 6: Leverage influencers to tell your story for you
Acknowledge that some of your target consumer base might not even know who you are. And if they don’t know who you are they’re not going to trust you and they certainly aren’t going to search for you. You need to leverage the voice of someone they do trust to help tell your story. Incentivize these influencers to share your content on their own channels. Work with them to tell their story within your content as well (e.g. guest feature). This will not only create some variation in the content you produce for your own site, but it will get your brand exposed to new audiences as well, through the influencer’s blog and social channels.
Step 7: Don't forget to share on your OWN channels, and credit anyone else involved.
...because sharing is caring, and @mentions make everyone happy.
Although your goal may be to reach a new audience – and you’ve selected influencers and content partners to do just that – your own channels should still play a role. The more you comment on and re-share posts by your influencers and media partners, the more successful those posts will be, and the more your name will come up in search queries associated with them. Crazy, right? Here's an interesting article about that phenomenon: Should You Drive Traffic by Commenting on Other People’s Blogs?
Now... You’re ready!
Your content purpose is in line with your overall brand values. You’ve found that sweet spot intersection between your brand goals and your customers’ needs to ensure your content is relevant. You understand that not all content topics and lengths work on all platforms. Your call to action drives to a similar experience, which is not necessarily back to a purchase page. You’ve rallied some credible influencers to scale your message. You understand that the nature of social media is to share, and the more you do it yourself, the more engagement you’ll get in return. There's so much to learn on this ever-evolving topic, but this should be plenty to get you on your way to a kick-ass content campaign.