Content Strategy Essentials
A content strategy makes the most of what should be the most important marketing asset for any business. In an ideal world, the strategy will ensure all of your content will fit together, talk to each other, and work toward common goal achievement.
Blogs will speak to your social media users. Social posts will link back to blogs. Emails will direct readers to pillar pages to learn more. Podcasts will reference articles and whitepapers that are easy to find and download. And so on. To make it work and develop a content strategy, you need to be able to answer a few big questions specific to your business.
Who Are You Talking To?
One of the first things you need to sort out is who your content is directed at. That’s where buyer personas come in.
A buyer persona is a fictional person that represents your ideal customer. If you have a very big company or a very wide array of products and services, then you might need a lot of different personas, each with their own strategy associated with them, but in all likelihood, 1-3 personas are plenty.
A buyer persona should include everything you think is relevant to your business. Start with broad categories like age, gender, income level, and location. If you make women’s business clothing, you don’t need to spend any time marketing to men. If your business is local and in-person, like real estate or landscaping, don’t waste your energy marketing to people too far away to reach.
Once you’ve narrowed your list down, start to incorporate other features of your ideal buyer. What are their hobbies? What TV shows do they watch? What kind of car do they drive? How tech-savvy are they? Have they used something like your product or service before? Have they bought from your competitors? The more precise you can get, the more specifically targeted your content (and marketing) can be.
Keep in mind that your customers won’t all fit your persona, nor should they. The point is to target the perfect buyer — buyers who are close to that mold or aspire to it will come along for the ride.
Finally, think about the buyers you don’t want. There are some customers out there who, even though they’re willing to make a purchase from you, are going to be more trouble than they’re worth. Maybe they’re never going to make a repeat purchase. Maybe your product is too advanced for them — if you make photo-editing software for professionals, you don’t want to spend all your time answering basic questions for beginners. Narrow your marketing down to only the people who are going to be the best fit for your company.
Which Platforms Should You Use?
Social media is an indispensable tool for any company’s marketing efforts, but it’s not a plug-and-play solution. Every account requires time, money, and attention, and some of them won’t pay dividends.
Facebook is the only platform that you should definitely be using. It has by far the largest, broadest audience of any social platform, and its targeting tools are unrivaled — no matter who your audience is, you can find them on Facebook.
The rest are less certain. Take a good hard look at the data on each platform to see if your target audience is using it. For example, Snapchat’s audience skews heavily younger, so if you’re after an older audience, Snapchat probably isn’t worth your time. On the other hand, LinkedIn is a professional network for adults — you won’t reach many teenagers with a LinkedIn post.
Think about how the format lends itself to your company, too. Instagram, for example, is very visual — posts take the form of photos and videos, and captions are usually short. If you make software or something similar that doesn’t lend itself to a visual medium, an Instagram account probably isn’t the best way to show it off.
More Tips On Social Media
On social media, as well as everywhere else, branding is crucial. To some extent, your profiles will have to fit the format of whatever platform you’re using, but you can still make sure your logo is high-resolution, your cover photo matches your brand, and your copy fits the voice and tone you use elsewhere.
Think about how you’re going to post. Are you going to put everything up manually? Are you going to use the built-in schedulers that Facebook and X offer? Or are you going to use a third-party tool like HootSuite, Buffer, or Sprout?
How often are you going to post? Too often, and you’ll get annoying, not often enough, and people will forget about you. Each social media platform has different best practices for how to stay in the front of your followers’ minds, so you’ll need to schedule accordingly.
Finally, you need a content calendar. A content calendar helps you plan out in advance what you’re going to talk about, how you’re going to talk about it, and where you’re going to post it. It’s a great way to make sure your content hits all your social channels at the same time and with a consistent look and tone.
Opinions vary on how far in advance you should plan your content — you don’t want to be scrambling to keep up, and you want your writers and designers to have time to work ahead, but you also don’t want to miss out on timely topics and current events. It’s a good idea to work at least a month out, but probably no more than three. Exceptions can be made for major holidays and yearly promotions that you know are coming a long way off.
Be The Best Blog You Can
Blogging is one of the best ways to get traffic to your site, inform your customers, and demonstrate your authority and reliability on a topic. In today’s market, consumers do more and more research before they buy, and almost all of that research happens online. You want to be the resource they turn to.
Blogs should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 to 800 words long. Any longer, and readers will lose interest. Any shorter, and they won’t feel like you’ve covered the subject. Stick to a specific, focused topic and save the broader materials for whitepapers, ebooks, and pillar pages — like this one!
How often should you post? Maybe more than you think. A recent study by HubSpot showed that blogs with 16 or more posts a month got 3.5 times as many visitors as blogs with four or fewer posts a month. Obviously, don’t force it — putting out a ton of low-effort blogs will hurt you more than not posting enough — but in general, more is better.
Who’s writing your blogs? If you’re a small outfit, you might only have one or two writers on staff, so you know that the voice, tone, and writing style will be consistent. If you have a team of writers, it’s imperative that they’re all on the same page.
From little stuff like formatting dates, using contractions, or the Oxford comma to broader guidelines like vocabulary, paragraph length, and technical jargon, your brand should have explicit guidelines for how to write. In either case, it’s probably smart to have a single editor read everything before it goes out.
Don’t forget to use your content to promote your other content! If a blog references something you’ve covered in another blog, link to it! If you’re talking about a study you read that supports what you’re writing, link out to the study. Add links to your product pages, contact pages, whitepapers, how-to guides, demonstration videos, and anything you have that’s relevant to the article. You put the work into all this content — show it off!
Using Email Strategically
Think about your email schedule. Are you sending a monthly newsletter or twice-a-week deals? In general, the longer your emails are, the less frequent they should be. Conversely, if emails are hyper-focused on a single product or promotion, you can send them more often. Experiment with frequency and keep an eye on your open and click rates to determine what works best for you.
Put a lot of thought into your subject lines. Readers can’t click through to your site if they don’t open the email, so your primary goal is to get them to open the email. It’s a fine line — too vague, and it’ll sound like clickbait, too specific, and they won’t feel the need to read it at all. Don’t be misleading, though — readers will get sick of you and unsubscribe if the email isn’t what the subject line promised.
Again, use the content you already have! When you write a blog post, turn it into an email as well! Include links in your emails to relevant whitepapers, videos, and buyer’s guides — or even include them in the body of the email itself. The more well-built your content is, the better it will serve to guide people down the funnel to become customers.
What Other Content Should You Be Using?
Social media, blogs, and email are the big three of content publication, but they’re far from the only options out there. Think about what would best serve your brand, your product, and your company.
Do you have a lot of data to present, but you’re worried it will be boring? An infographic might spruce it up. Is your product difficult to use or set up, or are you getting a lot of the same questions from customers? Shoot a demonstration video and get ahead of it. Is there an expert in your field that could lend your brand some extra cachet? Maybe a podcast with that person will show off your expertise.
Don’t just throw yourself into every possible channel — some of them won’t be worth your time. But don’t limit yourself either. Look into all your options, narrow them down, optimize them for your audience, and then launch them.