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CW Bulletin is the e-newsletter supplement to CW magazine. Sent each month to all members, every issue of CW Bulletin presents articles, case studies and additional resources on timely topics in communication.


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Creating an Effective Content Strategy

by Sarah Worsham

Tweets, pictures, posts and likes are all you need to have a successful social media content strategy, right? That may be true for a personal social media account, but organizations need to make a profit, and social media can help. Creating effective social media content is more than using the right keywords for search engine optimization. Content needs to be interesting and useful to the target audience. Not only will enticing content be more likely to be shared and talked about, it will be more likely to rank higher in search results, since search engines are increasingly taking social cues into account in their algorithms.

Getting started
Before setting out on a campaign to distribute content as widely as possible, it’s important to identify the objectives of your content strategy. Think about what sort of business outcomes the strategy should address. Is your organization building awareness for a new product, or are there specific products that need a sales boost? Setting up end goals, as well as key performance indicators (KPIs) beforehand will help drive your content strategy in the right direction for your organization.

Addressing needs and interests
Great content fulfills a need or solves a problem. When setting up a content strategy, it is important to consider your target audience and what’s important to them. What types of problems or needs do they have? Think about how content can address these needs. Questions that customers ask are a great source of content ideas, as are topics that are covered during a sales call.

Sometimes the best content isn’t directly related to the product, but is relevant because it’s important to the target audience. For example, Mango Languages is a language learning software developer. They’ve found that people decide to learn a language for many reasons, but often the reason is related to upcoming travel. Besides content related to learning languages and how to say phrases in different languages, Mango also creates content related to travel. While this content is not directly about their product, it is relevant, interesting and valuable to their target audience.



A customer making a purchase is just the start of your organization’s relationship with that person. After a purchase, aside from helping a customer with any concerns or questions they have about your product, you also want them to purchase from you again, and to recommend your brand to others. Potential customers are more likely to trust what others in their social networks say than what a company says. Content that helps customers become evangelists of your products can be vital to winning new customers. Better content leads to shorter sales cycles, better customer relationships and increased word of mouth marketing.

Search is intimately linked to social
While customers typically start their purchase process from a search engine, they also ask their friends and family for advice, look at reviews and research their options. Content can come into play in any part of the buying process. Because Google’s mission is to provide the most relevant results, it has started to incorporate these other types of content into the search results. Search engine optimization has gone beyond keywords, meta tags and backlinks, to producing content that solves problems or needs.

As an example of the connection between social and search, searching for “restaurants in royal oak” gives the following results, personalized for me, which show that one of my friends has checked in at the Royal Oak Brewery. I can even read the review he left. Visiting a place that someone I know has experienced and liked is much more appealing than choosing from general descriptions or from the reviews of strangers.



Content planning
Content doesn’t create itself. Besides figuring out what content to create, it’s also vital to figure out who is going to create it. An editorial calendar can be useful for identifying who will be posting on specific days, along with what sorts of topics should be covered. Identify desired business outcomes and then decide what types of content and topics help achieve those goals.

Extend the life of content; it need not only have one purpose. A marketing brochure or white paper can be broken up into multiple articles or can lead to ideas for videos or podcasts. Look for content inside the organization that can be re-purposed into other types of content. Once content is produced, look for ways to reuse it in different types of content or repurpose it for different channels or customers.

Promoting and engaging
Promoting content and getting people to engage with it are integral to the success of any content strategy. Planned promotion of content to a target audience and brand influencers will help expose brand messages to new and relevant audiences. Promote and share content where relevant audiences already interact online.

Social media are many-to-many networks, not just distribution channels. Engagement and conversation are key to building relationships with existing and potential customers. Listening to your audiences and answering questions, as well as researching new concerns and ideas, will also provide you with additional sources of fresh content.

Measuring for improvement
No content strategy will be perfect right out of the gate. Measuring to determine what works and what doesn’t will help fine-tune content for the target audience. Measurement of key performance indicators will help shape the content strategy to achieve business objectives.

 

Sarah Worsham is CEO and web strategist at Sazbean Consulting. She helps companies grow online by creating digital strategies based on customized analysis and achievement of business goals. You can find her online at Sazbean, or on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn, where she shares insights and tips on Internet and social media marketing.