The 10 commandments of content marketing
Content marketing has now become an official “slew” of techniques and means: Infographics, white papers, webinars, e-books, pdf downloads, videos, articles, slideshows and on and on. It’s grown like it has, because when done well (more on that in a second), it can position your business or brand as an authority on a topic, give you credibility, drive traffic to your site, keep your audience engaged with you and ultimately build business.
But, it’s a lot of work, too.
I sometimes wish the content marketing gods would summon me to the mountaintop and render unto me the 10 commandments for content marketing awesomeness. But alas, I think I’d be waiting in the valley of ignorance for a long time.
Instead, I’ve been the omnipresent observer, consumer and creator of content marketing myself… sharing, posting, blogging, reading, downloading and watching… for years now.
And, as with most things I observe, a gumbo of ideas start to simmer in the right hemisphere of my brain—chaotically swirling around until the left hemisphere kicks in and organizes it all. Hence, these 10 content marketing commandments—may they inspire you in a way that feels divine!
1. Thou shalt know thy audience. You know who your customers are, but do you know them? They have their interests and struggles, and hopefully, you have access to or can create information that will help them. Where their need and your info intersect is where content marketing magic happens. If you could use a little help with defining your audience, try creating a buyer’s persona. Here’s how.
2. Thou shalt create something of value. Think about it. You don’t waste time reading or watching things that mean nothing to you. The same is true for the people you’re creating content for. Granted, it’s impossible to develop something everyone will love, but the goal is to reach the most people possible.
So talk to your customers, look at trends in their industries, examine the big news items that affect their livelihoods—and give them information about it that’s worth their time.
3. Thou shalt keep self-promo to a minimum. It’s still hard for many marketers to get away from “push” communications. They want to sell. There’s a place for that, but not in content marketing. The goal here is to give it away… share… enlighten. Then, walk away. A quick sign off or “to learn more” is OK, but not more than that. If it smells like sales, even a little, it will flop.
4. Thou shalt know thy platforms. Pinterest is big with women. Google+ skews more male. Facebook’s demographics are getting older. These are things you need to carefully consider when reaching out to people with your content. Know the when, where and how your audience gets information, and be there for them.
5. Thou shalt create work that is native. By this, I mean getting the most out of the platform you’re on. What shows best on Pinterest and Instagram? Images, of course. Slideshare presentations should be able to stand on their own, with someone just clicking through. Sometimes, you may have to rejig your content to make it work better on a particular platform—it’s worth the time and effort, because it will more likely be consumed and shared.
6. Thou shalt measure thy efforts. A friend of mine pumps out a lot of content, posts and links for her company. When I ask her what’s working, she just shrugs. Not good.
I understand she’s crazy busy trying to get stuff out there, but if you don’t know how it’s doing, you may be seriously wasting time.
Even the basics—web traffic, number of downloads, shares, comments, likes and more—will give you an idea of the content your audience is hungry for.
7. Thou shalt listen and respond. This naturally flows from commandment six (which is probably why I made it number seven). Read what people are saying about your organization, the industry, problems, issues, the content you produced and more—and respond appropriately. That could take the form of a personal response, an answer to a comment, or even follow-up content. The key is building and nurturing that connection.
8. Thou shalt be easily found. The first 10 or so blog posts I wrote got no readers, other than a few friends and colleagues at the office. It was terrible, and I wondered if I should continue. Then, I started to learn.
I began incorporating backlinks and keywords. I started learning about SEO and that Google secretly runs the world. The staff and I promoted the blog to our clients, colleagues and prospects. And we posted it on LinkedIn, our Facebook page and Twitter.
The chipping away began to pay off, and today, our blog is consistently in the top three or four top-read pages on our website. Crafting great content is a must. But if no one knows about it or can find it, what’s the point?
9. Thou shalt give credit and use backlinks. It’s popular these days to produce what’s called “aggregate” content—that is, news about an industry from many different sources. The advantage is that your audience gets it all in one place… your content.
If you do that, or even if you paraphrase, quote or pick up an idea from someone else, just give them credit. It’s as simple as, “According to…” Remember, we’re sharing here, so put in the links where you found your info, too. Besides making your content richer and more credible, it’s just the right thing to do.
10. Thou shalt be a “predictable producer.” When I’m checking out a company that I’m considering doing business with, I’ll visit their site, like everyone else. If there’s a blog button, I click on that. And if the last blog entry was August 2012, that tells me something.
The key to both content and social media marketing success is consistency. If you’re going to blog, tweet, or post, then do it on a regular basis. Be a dependable presence in the information you share, even if that’s just once a month. Putting out consistent, good stuff will help you earn and keep an audience.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, nor will it have the staying power of the “original” 10 commandments, I fear. Technology drives a lot of this, and that changes every few seconds. But, most of these content marketing “commandments” are derived from human nature—the need to learn, connect and grow—and that will always be timeless.
– Andy Badalamenti is the creative director for CI-Group