I have previously said you needed to blog for your business. Yesterday, I reminded you that you already have tons of marketing content. Today, I’m offering up a process for how to share that content, because why would you sit your story and not share it with your audiences? First, I’ll tell you how not to do it. Don’t wake up on a Tuesday morning and ask yourself, “therefore, self, what shallest thou bloggest about this fine morn?” Please. Make a plan, because, just like all your marketing, content marketing is a process.
Below is a simple outline for doing just that. I started with the Moz “Content Marketing and Social Process” outline and broke it down to be more specific to the startup or small business who is really just getting started and may not have engaged in brand blogging or content marketing before.
Set Goals and Metrics
SEO, industry influence, customer promotion, referrals, expertise, etc.
- Why are you engaging in content marketing? Try to answer that in less than 30 seconds to make sure that you really do understand what you’re doing and why. In a recent conversation with a small business that totally “gets it”, their goal was simple: to be known and recognized as the technical leader in their space. How do they do that? By sharing how they solve big problems to make their customers very happy.
- What are your expectations for results? I don’t mean what are your hard core goals here, but what do you really expect to happen?
- Set reasonable, achievable goals based on your current web traffic, transactions, readers, subscribers, etc. We call these KPIs. What metrics will indicate that your content marketing is a success?
- Remember: if you don’t measure it, you cannot change it. Set your goals and measure them religiously.
Gather the Content and Tell the Story
Whether you believe it or not, you have something of value to someone. You will be surprised at how much value you can provide.
- Have short, weekly content dump sessions, because your outlook changes, it takes time, you’ll burn out, and cool things happen all the time.
- These sessions should literally be story-telling time. Whether it’s you as the founder or the engineers sharing how they destroyed a technical obstacle or how your second largest customer used your stuff to become your largest customer. Get the facts from the source. Build stories from these facts.
- Still don’t know what to share? Here’s a fantastic guide that will give you super clarity.
Choose a Platform
Google Drive or DropBox, WordPress, Blogger, etc.
- This choice of what software to use for actual blogging will be a personal preference and a technical decision. Personally, I find Blogger far easier and cleaner than WordPress, but WordPress has many more features. I’ve never tried Tumblr or Medium, but you should look at them all to see which one will fit your needs best, both from a user and a web site integration perspective.
- I mentioned Google Drive because if you’re outsourcing your content marketing (62% of content marketers do), Google Drive allows you to collaborate real time in the document with anyone who has edit access to it. And you never have to email a file back and forth.
- If you are going to be exchanging files, setup a shared DropBox folder so everything stays in sync. I highly discourage using MS Word documents to be shared and edited via group email and then posted to a blog. Just a matter of time before that blows up in your face.
You should know who they are and what they want
- Who are you talking to? That answer should come from your goals, because different goals will drive conversations with different audiences
- Your audiences will also determine the voice, length, format, technical detail, and imagery used in each post
- You may target different audiences with each post. That’s ok.
Calendar & Cadence
How often, when, and for how long
- Consistency wins here. You don’t have to push out a new post every day, but it is vital to be consistent in your content marketing, whether you do it once a month, once a week, once a day, have a schedule, and stick to it.
- Decide how often you want to post, consistent with your goals, and stick to it. Yes, I’m saying this again, because it’s very important.
- Create and maintain an editorial calendar. I use Google Calendar, with reminders for deadlines for my clients. Use whatever works for you, and make sure everyone who needs to see it in your organization has access to it. Even if it’s a white board in your office. Whatever works.
Types of Posts
Story, business model, successes, problems solved, etc.
- Decide first what kinds of content you want to share. You can change this tactic later on, once you discover what works and what doesn’t, meaning what helps you achieve your goals.
- Each type of post will likely appeal to a different audience, require a slightly different voice, and get shared through different social channels, or at least with different headlines and images.
Length of posts: short, medium, or long form
- Again, who’s your audience? Deep technical blog posts will most likely appeal only to your most technical audience, and that’s fine, but aim it at them.
- Short, informative posts have a different goal and value to the reader. You can use any length, but decide now on a plan (you can change this later, too. Remember, experiment!) and start there.
- This post, for example, is over 1,600 words. That’s a very long form post. Rule of thumb for SEO is 500 words or more.
Imagery (or not)
Do you have eye candy to share? Remember Garagistry from my earlier post. Their content is sweet classic cars. Very visual. Compare that to ArrayFire, who does not use images in their posts (of course, the day I say this, the CEO uses an image). Decide yay or nay on imagery, and go with it.
- Note: if you use Twitter to push your content out to your audience, remember that tweets with images get a 30%+ boost in engagement.
Call to Action
No matter what kind of post it is, you should always have a call to action. What do you want your audience to do?
- Buy your stuff? Ultimately, yes, but you don’t want to be a TV used car ad. The 20-to-1 rule from this article is a good rule of thumb for how often you want to be heavily promoting your product or service through your blog.
- Subscribe? This one is a softer sell, and is aimed at increasing your audience. Email marketing is the most effective digital marketing tool available today, so if you’re offering value to your readers, you’ll get no push back asking them to opt-in.
- Share? Use this by default. If someone loves your content, they will want to share it with their network. Make sure it’s dirt simple for them to do so on every piece of content you share.
- Download something? Don’t make it harder than it should be. If you’re offering a download, it’s common form to ask for someone’s email address in exchange for the value you are providing, but make it simple. More than 3 clicks and you lose that visitor. You should be able to offer a download and get an email address in 2 clicks.
Choose Your Channels
Outlets / channels and their appropriately optimized headlines, visuals, and call to action:
- LinkedIn is the number 1 channel to distribute content. That doesn’t mean it’ll be the best for your business, but you won’t know until you experiment with it. Generally, if you have B2B content, LinkedIn is your top spot.
- For content that is by nature social, Facebook will likely be the right place. Here’s a good article on content marketing on Facebook.
- Email marketing is still the killer app and the most effective means of sharing content; however, you don’t want to be a spammer. If you blog every day, you should consider creating an opt-in email list just for blog posts, like David Cummings does for his blog through WordPress. This email should be separate from your regular email newsletter, if you have one, and we recommend that you do. Mailchimp offers a variety of very simple ways to grow your email list and send high quality email newsletters.
Engagement can be measured subjectively and objectively.
- Objectively, Twitter offers decent analytics that very clearly show you which of your tweets has garnered the most engagement. Again, every tweet is not going to win a pulitzer. Look at the trend. What is your engagement rate over time? Work to improve this number.
- Subjectively, how many of your blog posts are generating comments, and what kind of comments are they? Are you stimulating conversation? It’s easy to measure how many comments you’re getting in any blogging platform, but you must also engage with your readers. If you don’t, over time, your readers will diminish.
I saved this one for last, because it’s the most important one. Anyone can blog about what flower they saw on a walk today, which is really what turned a lot of people off of Facebook and Twitter in the early days. You should avoid this type of verbal diarrhea. Sorry for that description, but it’s appropriate here. Your content has value, and you should align that value with your brand. When you offer your audiences something of value – teaching, facts, statistics, analysis, success stories – they will repay you by returning, engaging, and ultimately becoming a valuable part of your community. You must offer something of value in every piece of content you share.
Just like building your startup, content marketing will be an iterative process (aka an experiment) to find the right cadence, platform, social channels, post types, imagery, and voice. Also, not every post is going to win a Pulitzer Prize for Blogging. It’s about consistently sharing your content, your brand, your story, your success, your customers, and your progress. You’ll have to try to keep yourself away from Google Analytics on every single post, and look at the trends and the spikes.
Start the process.