Owning Your Media: Some Content Marketing Basics

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By Sue Brady

Typewriter

Owned, Earned and Paid.

All three of these media types may play an important part in your marketing strategy. ‘Owned’ media refers to channels that you control such as your company Facebook page or blog. ‘Earned’ media is in essence word of mouth. When someone shares your content, that’s earned. ‘Bought’ is media you purchase, such as an ad or event sponsorship.

The focus of this article is content marketing for your Owned media.

What is content marketing?  Content marketing refers to published information designed to acquire, educate or engage prospects and customers. Content published in this way needs to be valuable to the reader and should be an integral part of your marketing strategy.  Content marketing is not a way to sell…at least not directly.  Rather, it’s a way to provide information that your prospects and customers will find useful.

How can you get started? First, clearly define your goals.  It’s not enough to just publish articles and blog posts. You need to understand what you hope to accomplish with your content. Is your goal to show that you are the thought leader in your field and therefore the place to go for specific types of information? Is your goal to educate your prospects about the capabilities of your products? Is it to dive into topics of interest to your target audience? Whatever you decide will drive how you go about choosing topics, writing about them, and ultimately publishing.

Your content marketing really breaks down into these main steps:

  1. Decide on a strategy to best meet your established goals (see above). To figure out your strategy, think about some basic things: What am I trying to solve for my customers? What type of content do they like to see? What’s my end game (what do I want to achieve)? Additionally, you should think about how you want to use your content. Are there multiple channels where you can use versions of the same content? This step should also include identifying where you want to post.
  2. Identify your audience. You need to know who you are writing for so that you can choose topics of interest.
  3. Decide how frequently you are going to post. This may not sound important, but if you want people to keep coming back, you need to keep your content fresh.
  4. Create an editorial calendar. Calendar-Clip-Art-FreeThis will help you to keep your content organized. There are templates available for no cost on the web. I use a simple spreadsheet with the dates down the sides and the following column headings: Article Title, published/not published, category, and keywords/tags. I try to schedule topics for myself as far out as possible so that I have a working list to guide my efforts.
  5. Start writing. This sounds easy but of course is not. There are a number of steps involved with the actual writing
    1. Generate topic ideas (here are 6 Goldmines for finding relevant topics). In addition to those 6 goldmines, make sure to take a peak at what your competition is writing about to see if their topics make sense for you too.
    2. Consider SEO in your writing.
      1. SEO (search engine optimization) is important for search engines like Google to be able to find you in their searches. Do some research to figure out what terms your prospective customers are searching on and make sure you include those words in your article. You don’t want to overdo it, but you want to make sure your content is found.
      2. Note that Google+ is also important for SEO. While Google+ is unproven as a means to gain customers, Google itself considers Google+ presence when ranking content. So open up a Google+ account and post your content there. It’s free and can only help with your rankings.
      3. Once you’ve created your account, make sure Google knows who you are. You do this through Google Authorship and it’s how Google knows to start looking for you when someone searches on relevant terms. You can do that here. Doing this also means that when you do show up in a search, your name will be visible in the listing.
    3. Create an outline for the article. To be honest, I don’t always put this to paper, but I always have an idea, at least in my head, of how I want a post to flow.
    4. After you write your post, go back over it carefully to delete redundancies, fix grammatical errors, and in general tighten it up.
  6. Respond to comments. Once you’ve published an article, check your post for reader comments and respond to them. It’s a great way to engage with your readers and help them to feel a personal connection.

Don’t be afraid to publish that first article. The first time is always the hardest.

Top 5 Lists of Useful and FREE Digital Marketing tools

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By Sue Brady

Every day I read at least 5 blog posts written by others. I ‘retweet’ a lot of these and also ‘favorite’ them for future reference. Here are 5 posts that I have found to be extremely helpful:

  1. Free competitor analysis tools to help you evaluate your website against your competitors from a search perspective, including link building, traffic analysis, and keywords.
  2. Free Blogging platforms to help you get started as a blogger.
  3. Free Reputation Management tools. It’s important to know what’s being said about your company and these tools can help you monitor that. You’ll be able to set up rules to search complaints or to monitor where others might be using your name.
  4. Free images for your blog. Sometimes you need an image to enhance your blog’s appearance. Here are some sources of free imagery that you can use.
  5. Free content templates. These templates will help you to organize, improve, and get the most out of your content.

What are your favorite free tools?

Creating Content: 6 Goldmines for Finding Relevant Topics

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By Sue Brady

Content development requires careful thought and planning. And it can feel overwhelming if you don’t know where to start. Content can come from anywhere really, but how you create it depends on who you are trying to reach and what you are trying to accomplish.

Once you understand your ‘content goals,’ here’s how to find topics to write about:

  1. Case studies. Case studies are short stories about how a customer successfully used or uses your product. These are often used in B2B marketing. The best source of case studies is your customer service or sales departments. Ask them about the customers they talk to and have them identify a handful that were positively impacted by your company. Call the contact person there and ask if they’d mind being interviewed for a case study you’d like to post on your website. You can explain that it can be good press for their company and that they’ll be able to approve the finished article. You can even offer to share their URL in the story. Set expectations regarding length of time the questionnaire will take and even offer to send it to them in advance of the interview. You can do your interview over the phone or in person. If you are going to have the interview in person, I recommend having someone videotape the conversation for later use on YouTube or on your website (you of course have to ask for permission from the person you’d be filming…and you’ll want to get that consent in writing).  If your product services multiple industries, it’s a good idea to develop at least one case study per industry.
  2. User reviews. Read your reviews. Note if there are benefits or features that are pointed out more often than others. Use those as topics for your next blog post. And pay attention to the comments that others leave after reviews. If you can identify questions that are frequently asked, you can devote a post to just that topic.
  3. Customer Service and Sales Departments. Survey your customer service agents and sales people to find out what questions/complaints/praises they hear most often from customers and prospects.  Use those to develop a list of topics to write about.
  4. Employees at your company. Employees talk to their friends/family/clients/each other. Ask them what questions they hear most often about your products.  Form some blog posts around those. In addition, employees can be great authors. Have each employee in your company write about a topic they feel is relevant to your customers, company or industry.  You can even make an event out of it where for 2 hours one afternoon, everyone focuses on writing about a business-relevant topic of interest to them.
  5. Identify someone who is respected in your industry and see if they’ll agree to an interview. It’s great press for them and identifies your company with a thought leader.
  6. Social media conversations. Read what people are writing about your industry or your products specifically to identify hot topics to write about. You can find relevant topics using hashtags on Twitter, or look for conversations on Facebook or Linkedin that have generated a lot of comments. It’s a great way to enter the conversation.