Content Creation Is Not Content Marketing: The 6 Steps To Take Before And After Content Is Created

Before you break out the pitchforks and the torches and demand I hand over my license as a content marketer, let me clarify what I mean by the title. Content creation is part of content marketing, but not the whole package.

All too often I see and hear about businesses struggling to gain views and attention to their blogs and content. When I investigate, I find that their efforts are of the ‘publish and pray’ variety. They create content, they post that content, and then they pray for views and traffic.

That’s plain content creation, not content marketing.

It’s a good start, but it’s just that – a start. If you want your content to be successful, there’s a lot more to the process than simply sitting down at the keyboard and sandwiching some thoughts between an introduction and a conclusion.

In this discussion, we’ll look at how to promote your content to get more views.

Step 1: Have A Measurable Plan

A surprising number of businesses have little or no plan, when it comes to their content strategy, which a big reason that the publish and pray approach is so prolific. A wealth of businesses generating blog content are just doing it for the sake of creating content and without any clear understanding of what they are hoping to accomplish, who they want to reach, why they want to reach that audience and so on.

By the numbers, there are 76% of B2C companies creating content, but only 37% of those businesses have an actual strategy behind their content efforts. B2B companies witness a similar trend.

Before your fingertips hit the keys, you should aim to answer these key questions about your audience and purpose behind your content.

  • How often you’ll publish content
  • What types of content
  • What time of the day you’ll post content
  • Which influencers you’ll leverage

The more scripted your content marketing efforts are, the easier it will be to measure what’s working and what needs to change.

When you’re creating your plan, you also need to take a look at where your content efforts are now. For example, Google Analytics can give you a quick snapshot of your website and its traffic over the course of the last three months, year or another time frame.

This allows you to see three key metrics about your content:

  1. How many people are coming to the site total
  2. How many of those visitors are viewing the content you produce
  3. How long they are engaging with that content (how long they are staying on the page)

With this baseline reading, it will be much easier to track the effectiveness of your new strategies and see how your content marketing has improved (or declined).

Step 2: Know Your Audience

A major component of your content plan is your audience. If you want to create effective content, written or otherwise, you have to know who your audience is. After all, how can you promote content if you don’t know who you’re promoting it to?

Knowing your audience means finding out what they want, where they gather online and when.

To find the answers to these questions, you have to conduct research across the channels that you’re planning to post to and engage your audiences on. Luckily, just about every social media platform has built-in analytics dashboards that allow you see key metrics into your audiences and their behaviors.

Social media analytics allows you to determine things like:

  • The ROI of your content marketing efforts
  • Trends and questions that audiences have, which can help sculpt future content
  • The success of each post and what content is worth sharing again in the future
  • How your engagement, follower count and traffic are growing and how that growth relates to content

Again, these types of readings can be invaluable when it comes time to measure the impact of your latest strategies.

Alternatively, you can take a more active approach to getting to know your audience by directly asking them what concerns or questions they have, with regards to your business and industry. This is great inspiration for content topics and helps ensure that what you are posting is relevant and valuable to your audience.

The more information you can gather on your audiences, the better you’ll be able to optimize your content promotion efforts.

Once you’ve established and grown your audience, the job still isn’t done. You have to nurture, notice and recognize them, especially the ones that routinely share and engage with your content, beyond just tapping the ‘Like’ button.

These are the people that genuinely care about your brand and the content that you provide; they are the members of your audience that would seek out your content, even if it wasn’t placed right in front of them.

Step 3: Develop Influencer Networks

The old adage of, “You have to spend money to make money,” works for content promotion too. If you want your content to be promoted and picked up by others, you have to do a little promoting yourself.

The content marketplace, especially on social media channels, is a community that demands some give and take. Participation in that community and this process is practically mandatory.

Developing an influencer network means looking for the people that are creating successful content similar to yours. These are people that have already established themselves as experts in the industry (and the blog/content community), and creating relationships with through sharing, engaging with and promoting their content.

Again, a good content marketer takes notice when a member of the audience is routinely and actively engaging in content and conversations. So, you should already have a good idea of who these people are.

Once you’ve established a rapport with an influencer and you’ve demonstrated your value to them by promoting their content, it makes it much easier for them to want to reciprocate the act with your content.

That said, you’ll still have to perform some outreach and get in contact with that influencer; you can’t just expect that they’ll return the favor on their own. But, promoting influencers’ content and building these relationships will make your outreach much more successful and will help build a broader network of influencers to pull from.

When conducting influencer outreach, there are three things to keep in mind:

  1. Be Specific: You don’t want to just target any influencer you come across that operates in the same space as your business. Instead, focus on the influencers that you feel provide the best fit for the specific content that you’re creating. This will ensure that your contents resonates with a large percentage of the influencer’s audience and creates a more valuable experience/relationship for both you and the influencer, which will make future outreach even easier. Also, be specific with how you want them to share and promote your content. A lot of influencers are active across many different channels; they may even have more than one website that they operate. If you want them to share a link to your content on their Twitter profile specifically, then tell them that.
  2. Get Personal: Boilerplated outreach messages are easier to spot than an elephant on a prairie and they send a clear message to the recipient that you’re not really interested in building a relationship or networking, you just want fast, easy shares. If an influencer is in high demand, they receive a lot of outreach emails asking for a share or mention. You need to distinguish yourself from these other contact attempts by personalizing your message. If you’ve followed step one, then there is a very specific reason you are reaching out to this individual. Tell them what that reason is. For example, “I read your blog ‘6 Reasons Why Jean Shorts Are The Best Summer Wear,’ and it inspired me to write my own piece, ‘Why My Summer Closet Is 100% Jean Shorts.’ I even quoted your piece. Maybe your followers would find my take on the topic of jean shorts interesting too?”
  3. Track Results To Stay Organized: The last step towards developing a proper influencer outreach program is to create a way to track your outreach efforts and measure their success. This strategy has a number of different benefits. First, it will make sure that you don’t become a bothersome pest. There’s no better way to ruin a possible connection than repeatedly pelting the same person with outreach messages. If an individual doesn’t respond to your first message or two, it’s best to leave them be for awhile. Second, when you properly track your outreach you gain a clearer idea of who your main promoters are, who should be re-engaged at a later date and who is simply not interested. This makes your targeting of potential promoters much easier. A tool like BuzzStream is great for tracking outreach. Not only does it organize influencers you’re interested in and displays their contact information, but BuzzStream also automatically gathers data about that influencer, like the size of their reach, the ranking of their website and other key info. Thus, you can more strategically target influencers with large followings.

The power of influencer marketing is notable. In fact, 81% of digital marketers have found it to be an effective strategy and many of these individuals report stronger engagements because the content comes across as more trustworthy when shared by an established influencer.

Step 4: Content Design Is Key

The average attention span of users on the Internet is abysmally low. You may have heard that goldfish have notoriously low attention spans.

Well, your audience’s ability to stay engaged for long is even worse. Arguably, our lack of focus is because we have more to focus on than ever before. We are exposed to more advertisements, more messages and, well, more content than our brains can even comprehend.

Your average professional receives 304 emails a week and spends 28 hours responding to those messages. When they aren’t responding to emails, they are checking their smartphones roughly 150 times a day.

When it comes time for these individuals to engage with content, they can only dedicate a few minutes, at best. So, you want to structure your content in ways that make this devotion of time seem as bare-minimum as possible.

If your readers see a massive wall of text with no end in sight, they’ll run to the hills faster than a goldfish can swim to either end of its bowl. Some websites include an estimated read time at the top of the page, which is a good way to showcase exactly how much of an investment of time you’re expecting of your audience.

You can also include some bulleted summary points at the top of the page; this helps indicate to readers exactly what information and insights you’ll be discussing. Then, they can immediately decide if its relevant to them or not.

Images are also a big help to improving your content design and makes it easier to promote on social media channels. They help break up the monotonous pace of pure text. When it comes to written content, 71% of marketers rely on visuals to enhance the text and increase the effectiveness of their content marketing.

Readers scrolling through the page will stop at images that engage them. This can be enough to encourage them to actually start reading, rather than just skimming. BuzzSumo found that breaking up written content with an image for every 75-100 words creates the most engagement.

When possible, you should aim to use original images over your average Shutterstock gallery. It requires a little more time, but makes your content more interesting and approachable.

When you share content across social media, images are also key. Depending on the platform, that image may be one of the only thing potential readers see. If the picture is a boring, stock photo, people aren’t going to be enticed enough to click through and experience the rest of the content.

The same BuzzSumo report discovered that Facebook posts with images receive 2.3 times better engagement. Your highlighted image needs to, to some degree, express what the larger content is about. You don’t want to just clip a photo of a graph or random image, without adding context as to how that picture pertains to the content piece as a whole.

This is why a lot of content marketing experts create their own graphics to enhance their content. Custom images provides a lot more freedom.

Step 5: Cross Promote…Carefully

Promoting content is the key to success, but it has to be done carefully, especially across various social media channels.

You have to give each channel its own due time and effort because every platform has its own rules, guidelines and accepted standards for promoting content. If you automate this process and promote content the same way on each channel, your efforts won’t be successful and you’ll run a big risk of disenchanting your audiences.

What does proper cross promotion look like? Let’s use this post as a demonstration.

Facebook: Since Facebook allows for more text than Twitter or other platforms, I’d pull a excerpt from the introduction that helps encapsulate the subject. Accompanying the post would be an engaging, headlining image.

Twitter: Statistics do really well on Twitter, so I may include the statistic about only 37% of marketers having a clear content marketing strategy as part of my Twitter promotion.

Pinterest: Because Pinterest is so image-driven, I really need to come up with a knockout graphic that showcases what this content is all about. If I chose a complex image or a graph, I’d certainly include a text overlay that alerts readers of the title or what the image is representing.

Even though I am promoting the same blog post, I’m doing it in a different way each time that utilizes the power of each platform and includes fresh information.

For followers that interact with this content across different social media sites, they’ll see a different snippet each time. Thus, there’s no risk of your content promotion efforts feeling like spam and you raise your chances of enticing the user to click.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to reshare old content, as long as it is evergreen in nature. I see a lot of businesses that post-promote once and then never introduce the same topic again. It’s okay to share old content that is still relevant.

You can also repurpose this older content and use it in a new format or revitalize it will fresher information and statistics.

Step 6: Make Sharing Easy

This step is shorter than the rest, but just as important. When the reader finishes reading your blog post, digesting your infographic, watching your video, etc., there needs to be a way for the person to share your content.

While you’d be hard pressed to find websites or a blog that doesn’t include social sharing icons, not all social sharing widgets are made the same. You may be deterring your audiences from sharing because your widget creates unnecessary steps. This makes it very difficult to extend your reach and increase engagement.

If you’ve never taken a look at your site’s social sharing icons, then I recommend taking a look right away. Pretend that you’re a first-time visitor trying to share an article for the first time. Is the process easy or tedious?

There’s a lot of different, free social sharing button widgets on the market: SumoMe, ShareThis, Shareaholic and so on. You want to find one that has all of the social media channels relevant to your audiences and offers the quickest path from click to share. The less effort required, the more likely you are to earn a share.

 

About Ashley Ward

Ashley Ward is a Corporate Speaker for SEMrush, an EPIC all-in-one tool designed to make life simpler for digital marketers. Ashley is passionate about helping businesses and individuals gain longterm ROI through teaching content marketing and social media tactics. With over 6 years in the digital marketing industry, Ashley brings first hand experience and case studies to inspire marketers around the world to better their strategies using the SEMrush platform and unique marketing tactics. She regularly speaks at workshops and conferences like Pubcon, RetailGlobal, SMS, and more. Ashley is also a contributing writer to industry blogs such as Search Engine Journal and AuthorityLabs.

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