Content marketing isn’t rocket surgery, but it does have a lot of moving parts. If you do something — anything — every day, eventually, you fall into autopilot, and you’re no longer really thinking things through. You may forget about one of those moving parts, and that’s how you make mistakes.
But sometimes content blunders are more subtle, and rather than leading to outrage, can simply lead to missed opportunities, and fewer customers. Next time you brainstorm a content strategy, keep your wits about you so the content you create is effective, and not ineffectual.
Mentioning “Social Media” Doesn’t Make Content Shareable
So it’s no surprise that marketers would want to capitalize on social media’s popularity and power to reach the masses. And it makes perfect sense to want to create content that people will be eager to share on one or all the social networks they belong to.
But here’s the thing — simply mentioning social media in your content doesn’t make it shareable.
You could write a hundred blog posts, articles, infographics, whatever, about how people use social media to do X, the evolution of social media, how social media has changed the marketing landscape, or how social media has affected social media. You could mention social media in every other sentence, or just in the title. It doesn’t matter.
What matters is — are you ready? — the quality of your content. I know, you’ve heard that one before, right? But I think some of us may have lost sight of what the quality part of quality content really means. It’s not just about correct grammar and spelling, although I’m a big believer in both. It’s writing things that people find interesting, surprising, infuriating, amusing, educational, or just fun. It’s making your readers feel something.
That is how you get people to share your content on Twitter, Facebook, and Digg (you know, when you can actually find it).
And have you heard this before too? Yes. I’ve even said it here before. But no matter how many times it’s repeated, there are still marketers out there trying to force sharing by tacking the words “social media” onto every piece of content they create. It may work a time or two, but readers will quickly get wise to the tactic, and then good luck getting anyone to take your content seriously.
Forget the shortcuts. Do the work. Create good content, and the shares will follow. Social media is important, but it’s not everything.
Targeting the Wrong Audience is Easy — And All Too Common
I’ve noticed a lot of advice posts will tell you that you should be doing something, but they don’t tell you how to do it. When people write about creating content, they tell you to gear your content toward your audience. Again, I’ve said the same thing myself. Sometimes you can learn how to do something by acknowledging what not to do. And when it comes to targeting your audience, what you don’t want to do is assign the wrong persona to your reader.
For example, say you’re creating content for a client who sells cars. Their goal, then, is to sell cars, and to get potential buyers interested in the cars they sell.
Before you begin creating that content, you must ask yourself, what does that potential buyer want to know?
If you don’t put yourself in the audience’s shoes, you run the risk of completely missing the mark with your content. The success of the client’s last social media campaign may be interesting to you as a marketer, and it’ll probably be interesting to other marketers, and maybe to other businesses who also sell cars and want to know how they can reach more people.
But to the potential car buyer? Not so much.
Think about it — when you’ve bought a car in the past, did you care about the car manufacturer’s latest ad campaign? Sure, a commercial might have gotten you into the dealership, but it was most likely because it mentioned things like mileage, features, and dealer incentives. Those are the things car buyers care about.
The number of people who saw an ad, or retweeted it, or shared it on Facebook is immaterial to the decision to buy a car. That doesn’t get you better mileage, a lower APR on your loan, or any kind of reduction in price.
So don’t create that content as a marketer — create it as a consumer. What helps you decide to buy a car, or whatever product or service your client provides? What’s important to you when making that decision? That’s what your content needs to cover. Leave the marketing case studies for your corporate blogs and conference presentations.
Creating Just Another Ad Can Backfire
Make no mistake — content marketing is a form of advertising. But content marketing is very different from traditional advertising, not only in format, but in engagement and results.
The biggest content marketing blunder you can make is to forget your medium and create just another ad.
Traditional marketing and advertising have always been a one-way street. Television commercials, newspapers ads, or mailbox circulars only allow for outbound communication, and there is no definitive way for businesses to gauge the success — or failure — of their campaigns.
I get a lot of those flyers in my mailbox. I gotta be honest with you, most of them end up in the recycling bin. And I don’t know about you, but when I do watch TV (which isn’t very often), I mute it during commercials because, for the most part, they’re just annoying.
Advertisers have no way of knowing these things. They keep airing commercials and sending out circulars, hoping that their end-of-year sales figures will make all that time and expense worthwhile.
A huge advantage to content marketing is the immediacy of it. Want to know how many people your content reached? Take a look at your analytics to see how many page views it got. Check your social metrics to see how many Likes/shares/tweets it garnered. Check your social media monitoring tools to count up the retweets. Read the comments people left on the piece (and don’t forget to respond to them). Then you can check all those things against your sales and revenue to calculate, or at least estimate, the return on your content marketing investment.
Just don’t forget that in between all those metrics and formulae are the most essential part of your content marketing campaign: people.
If you want people to click your links, like your content, and buy your stuff, then you’d better be giving them some good content. Throw a traditional ad at them, and the comments you get will likely be less than complimentary.
And there’s the key. You want to build good will with your audience by giving them something of value, something they want to share. Try posting an ad on your Facebook wall, and watch the negative comments pile up. Your audience may share it, but it will probably be to point out how obtuse you are, or how you’re just trying to make a buck off them. Despite what you may have heard, bad publicity is just that — bad. Don’t create an online reputation management problem for yourself when you can just as easily create content people can use or will like, and earn their business organically.
Like many things, a lot of content marketing really comes down to common sense. But sometimes, we get so caught up in trying to do so many things, we can lose sight of the simplicity of what works.
And the simplest tactic of all, before you read hundreds of blog posts, spend a lot of money on research, and delve into complex analytics is to ask your audience what they want. The information is there for the taking. You just have to be willing to listen.