FYI Friday: Your Content Marketing Sucks

FYI Friday: Your Content Marketing Sucks

This week, we look at content marketing, what makes for good content, and why so much of it sucks.

In Marketing, It’s All About The Content

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I’ve recently discovered Help Scout, and besides their excellent help desk SaaS, I have been very impressed with their own marketing content on their blog. They’ve written out 25 Principles That Power Their Blog, and while it reads like a checklist of reminders and encouragement, what it really boils down to is what we focus on here at BuzzShift: know your customer.

The thing we ask here the most before we produce any video, visual, or text is, “who is the audience that we want to see this, and will this provide any meaningful value to them?” The first handful of principles in Help Scout’s blog post all focus on the “why” and the “what.” As you scroll down the list, you get to more tactical, but still very relevant, things you need to consider as you produce your own blog pieces and content. While I would have organized the post a little differently, the fact is that these are some very powerful principles for creating content, and their strategy is, overall, very sound.

Make Interesting Things For Interested People

On media content today:

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This is a very compelling commentary on the state of the media and the marketing industry, and why quality content matters so much. To quote Topolsky at the end of this article, we are only interested in making interesting things for interested people.

Why All Marketing Is Content Marketing

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While we agree with the premise of the article, there is one piece that is totally missing from the author’s proposed marketing mix: any marketing content related to education and consideration. This is very typical of the PR and traditional marketing communications mindset. What didn’t exist 10-15 years ago, and what traditional marketing and PR people fail to realize, is the ability for normal consumers and buyers to educate themselves to a strikingly high degree, simply by using Google and the vast resources of the internet. Look at his chart: nowhere does it include things that, you know, actually add VALUE to consumers’ lives without overtly calling them to a “buy now” action. Adding this education-without-selling component breaks his model a little, and it’s why the use (or misuse) of “content marketing” has risen in the past couple of years.

Making The Internet A Better Place, One Piece Of Content At A Time

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Like the previous article, this author riffs off of Dan Lyon’s new book Disrupted (a great read if you haven’t already picked it up). However, she talks about the broader cultural implications of bad content and our willingness to consume it. The thing to ask ourselves, as marketers and brands, is: are we complicit in furthering bad content (and clickbait headlines), or are we working to make quality videos, visuals, and copy that can educate, amuse, and help us achieve our business objectives? It’s a tricky equation, but it’s our job to solve that challenge everyday.

Using Content Segmentation to Optimize Social Media

Using Content Segmentation to Optimize Social Media

You can measure so many things on social media. Likes, shares, clicks, comments, link clicks… but what do those measurements really mean? Will knowing that our engagement rate increased over last month help us decide which photo to post tomorrow?

Content segmentation can help you put those metrics to practical use, optimizing your social media posts and informing your day-to-day content decisions.

When marketers talk about “segmentation,” it’s usually in reference to audience segments. And while audience segmentation is important, there’s still the question of how to best communicate with your target audience. Content segmentation fills in that piece of the puzzle. By breaking your content into different categories, it allows you to compare the performance of each type of post. That makes it easier to create and develop content that your audience will appreciate, which in turn will improve your overall metrics.

What Data to Use

For reference, the metrics we typically use for comparison are engagement rate, click-through rate, or engagements per post, depending on what we are trying to measure. For example, if you’re sharing a blog post, engagements are nice, but what you’re really looking for is a high CTR. If you just posted a photo, however, engagements are where it’s at.

A word of caution before we begin: When segmenting your content, you’ll probably end up with categories that only have a few posts. That’s why we try to work with the biggest data set possible, or leave out those categories entirely. You don’t want one extremely high- or low-performing post to skew the analysis.

Segmenting Posts by Type

When we say “type” of post, we mean how it appears on a timeline, because appearance can be the difference between someone noticing your content or scrolling right past. Facebook has very structured delineations — there are 4 main types of posts (photo, link, status, video) and each post can only be one of these. And on Facebook, post type tends to have a big impact on how people interact with it.

Post types aren’t always as straightforward on other platforms. Twitter doesn’t segment its types as neatly, and you can have a post that has a photo and a link, where neither is really dominant. Those will have to count in both “photo” and “link” categories. Or, if you have enough content, you could create a separate “photo and link” category, answering whether or not you get a better CTR when the link post also has a photo.

Many measurement platforms will do these post type comparisons for you, but there are other variables you can compare. For example, how long is the post? Did it specifically ask for engagement (“like if you agree” or “tell us what you think”)? Does it include hashtags?

Exploring post types on this level may seem petty and granular, but you’d be surprised — for several clients, basic insights on post structure have vastly improved engagement.

Segmenting Posts by Topic

This segmentation tactic is less structured than the previous one, but it can be extremely useful. Here’s what to do:

Step One: Create Your Tags
When developing your content strategy, develop a set of “tags” that describe the types of social media posts you should be sharing. These tags aren’t audience-facing; they’re just a way to categorize your posts for internal use. For example, if your brand shares a lot of funny content, “humor” will probably be a tag. If you will frequently share curated content, “curated” should be a tag. And so on.

These tags can be specific to your brand, identify a content series, or be broader and more topical. Just try to have fewer than 15 tags, or you could end up with a bunch of categories with only a few posts in each.

It’s also important that everyone on the team understands the tags and what they mean. Otherwise, you could end up disagreeing about which posts belong to which category.

Step Two: Use Your Tags
As your community manager creates posts, he or she should add those tags to the posts. To manage and track tags among various content contributors, we recommend implementing a content planning/workflow tool. We use Divvy to manage social media content approvals, which also allows users to add tags to content. It’s not perfect, but when we are analyzing content, we can export the Divvy calendar and align it to the native platform exports.

Step Three: Analyze Your Tags
Use the tags to break your content into groups and analyze. Be sure to have a large sampling of content — we try not to analyze fewer than three months’ worth at a time.

Once you get three months of content and analyze it, you should see a few distinct patterns. Maybe you find that “humor” content gets better engagement, but “curated” content gets more click throughs. Maybe content about “social media” gets shared more frequently, but content specifically about LinkedIn performs best.

Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper — is it that we always share LinkedIn content with a photo, or does our audience really just like content about LinkedIn? There are many variables in social media, and it’s important to consider all of them when drawing your conclusions.

Closing the Loop

Finally, no matter how you decide to segment content, be sure to share your findings with your content creation team. After all, they’re the ones who will benefit the most from this information. However, don’t just give them a report. Take some time to talk about what your insights mean.

Discussion is important, for two reasons: 1) You could have drawn the wrong conclusion. There are lots of variables, and nobody’s perfect. 2) You don’t want your content team to follow the numbers too closely. It’s easy to let creative guidelines push your content into a rut, creating the same content over and over and never experimenting.

The insights you will glean from these analyses should be treated as guidelines: what we’re shooting for is a mix of what we know works and new things we think will work. They are intended to guide creativity, not stifle it. In this way, content segmentation will drive your team to continually improve, creating better content for your brand and your audience.

What methods does your team use to better understand your audience? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below and make this an ongoing conversation.

How Microblogging Can Solve Content Creation Gridlock

How Microblogging Can Solve Content Creation Gridlock

In the triathlon world, there’s a saying that goes, “You can’t win a race during the swim, but you can certainly lose it.” So it goes with a content strategy, and especially a company blog. It’s my opinion that even with all the fanfare around content strategy, creation alone won’t cut it. Innovative marketing, analysis, and design along with informed marketing decisions are the vital organs of a vibrant content marketing strategy. But with that said, if you don’t create content, you’ll flounder quickly among the competition (and you also won’t have much to market).

When it comes to a content strategy, you can do one of two things: curate or create (aside from promotion and analysis, etc.). Creation is pretty straightforward (though less likely to happen), which is just to make something new on the web. Curation is sharing and adding to what has already been created.

With that said, we’ve seen and will see ever more creative ways to create and share content. The handover from the previous decade, the blog, will not leave, but there will be innovative variants on what the blog does that we’ll see released in the next few years. Examples of this that are already happening include Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Vine. All of the content on these platforms could be and were previously shared on blogs, but now they’ve become their own platforms centered around a certain piece of content, making it easier to share and create.

Which brings us to microblogging.

Microblogging isn’t just Facebook statuses and tweets. With the advent of Tumblr, a new element in content creation is offered that’s an upgrade to a tweet or a Facebook status because it’s on its own platform and offers the versatility of a custom domain and various theme options, something the other two do not offer. Many people write Facebook statuses as mircoblogs, but it’s on the platform of Facebook and it’s heavy on likes, shares, and comments. I see microblogging more as a longer form of Twitter, but with greater freedom in length and media formats. Videos, images, quotes, links — all of it can be shared via microblogging.

Right now, Tumblr remains mostly a creative arena, something akin to Instagram, but it has the potential to create its own popular niche.

Here are six things to keep in mind when wanting to get into microblogging for creation or curation of content:

First, it’s perfect for providing quick commentary and sharing your views on trending topics. Have you ever read a post and thought, “I’d love to write a blogpost response to this but I don’t have the time”? Microblogging is perfect for posting a link and then leaving a short paragraph comment on what you’ve read, adding your own spin of critique or praise (or both). Microblogging becomes a great platform for thought leadership and sharing ideas quickly with added commentary.

Second, it’s a great link-building tool with low time costs on your end. Personal and manual link building (basically anything other than directory-based link building) is the present and future of that area in SEO. Microblogging creates an excellent place to post diplomatic and transactionary blogposts (the often “Hey, I’ll link to your site if you link to mine” kind of link building), and even better, it can be the starting point of new relationships with other content creators online (“Hey, we just linked to your site with some kind words. Feel free to do the same.”).

Third, WordPress still remains the king of blogging and is more versatile than microblogging platforms like Tumblr because of the plethora of plugins. If your company’s website is already on WordPress, well congratulations because you’re halfway to having a killer content strategy. WordPress was made for blogging and the customizability of websites with content creation in mind. A Tumblr page can create content and make pages but the hosting isn’t yours, and you can’t run ads (among other things) which normal websites can do.

Fourth, don’t rely on the media outlet’s provided domain. This may be obvious and is already happening if you microblog from a company website, but if it’s a personal brand, yourname.tumblr.com is not as good as yourname.com for the domain. Domains gain authority and clout online, so building up that authority (particularly those links that people send to it) is crucial to a long-term microblogging content strategy.

Fifth, microblogging can be an easier sell and starting point for your agency or company to get into content creation. A common attitude toward blogging is that it’s a waste of time, it’s vanity marketing, or the team doesn’t have the time or expertise in copywriting to maintain a blog. Has someone at your company shared a link to an article that’s shaken up your industry? A quick microblog post should be your next step (at the very least) with internal activity like this. It’s an organic activity already happening that becomes a wasted opportunity if you do nothing.

Microblogging sells easily because it takes less time, and it can be a supplement to the learning and article reading that employees at your company are already doing.

Sixth, three recommended places to start for microblogging are to build a WordPress site, start a Tumblr, or try out Medium (a new platform integrated with Twitter). Those are the big ones, but microblogging certainly isn’t confined to those three. Microblogging is to Twitter/Tumblr what tissue is to Kleenex.

I will say Medium has an advantage in easy integration with Google authorship verification, which is another big part of the future of digital marketing and content curation and creation.

That should be plenty to get your company started on a content marketing strategy that’s both easy and viable. Generating the ideas for content is the topic of another post, but it also can make a difference in how effective your content strategy is. Feel free to leave comments or questions in the combox or contact us directly with a message.