Content Marketing: Pick a Network, Any Network
By Richard Dannenberg
If you’ve been following my series on Content Marketing for Printers (Bulletin issues 2/6, 2/20 and 3/6), you may be thinking that the marketing strategy we’ve been talking about is the contemporary equivalent of a Rube Goldberg device. Surely there has to be an easier way to get the top off a can of tomato soup (or get the message across to prospects and customers)! Never fear. Content marketing does work. It also makes sense, and that should begin coming together for you with this post.
We’ve covered a good bit of ground so far. In Part 1 of the series we talked about Why Content Marketing Makes Sense for Printers. Part 2 discussed original content and Where Does Content Come From?Part 3 asked the question, Content Marketing: Can You Manage It?(That post went a bit long, but more from necessity than from the author’s tendency toward nonsensical machinations.)
We covered baseline requirements for your website, listed some alternatives for kinds of content, and suggested some options to share the workload with team members and potentially some outside sources.
So far, most of our conversation has been about the original content that you’ll develop to communicate with your audience. There are a couple of key points that are worth repeating before we move ahead:
• The content that you create and share should be interesting, readable and relevant to your audience.
• The intent is to develop a conversation and open lines of dialogue between your company and folks who are interested in what you do.
In this post we’ll talk a bit more about what you share and begin to look at an assortment of channels that you can use to distribute original and curated content that contributes to the conversation.
Content marketing is all about sharing ideas. With original content, you establish your credibility and give your audience a feel for the character of your business. The idea is to build a degree of trust that increases the likelihood that people will want to talk with you when they’re making a purchase decision, opening the path to an ongoing business relationship. Curated content—information that you find and share on social networks—adds to the discussion. There is an immense amount of information generated on the interwebs every day. Forget about reading everything. Read and share the best of it, and explore from time to time.
Quality Over Quantity
In my view, the “better is better” axiom also applies to the content that you share. While there is data to indicate a correlation between the number of posts you generate and the time required for building your community, boring your audience with meaningless Internet drivel probably isn’t a good tactic. Along with your publication calendar for original content, you should also develop a schedule for curated content. The emphasis should be on manageability and consistency. If you only have time to find a couple of good quality articles to share each week, don’t set up a schedule for six tweets a day or frequent Facebook posts. You’ll either miss the schedule or (worse) you’ll start posting junk and lose your credibility.
Yes, you’ll be using social media as part of your content marketing program. For many printers my age (over 50), Facebook, Twitter and the like are anathema. Get over it. You should also discard another view prevalent among many small business owners: the notion that Facebook and the other social networks are basically online advertising platforms. With the possible exception of a few specialty retailers, social doesn’t really work well as an outbound channel. An occasional announcement or product promo is fine, but the predictable result of a company page full of product ads is no audience. The corollary to that theory is that the social networks are channels to promote content, and that’s kind of correct, but not really. The goal of your social networking activity should be interaction. Who are you talking with and what’s the conversation? Measuring and receiving “likes” is lovely, but conversations and conversions are better.
Depending on your networks of choice, you may find that some of the folks you’re talking with are industry associates, or even competitors. That’s OK. In fact, it’s even good. Part of the process is building alliances with contacts that reinforce the conversation. The tone of your comments (always encouraging) transmits a message about the way you do business and the way you work with your customers. After all, if you’re friendly to competitors aren’t you likely to treat a customer even better?
Let’s dispense with the warm, fuzzy marketing stuff for a minute and get practical. The goal of content marketing is to broaden your contacts, generate leads, qualify them, communicate with some of them, and obtain new customers and profitable work for your business. Likes, comments and conversation might do wonders for your ego; it’s great to make new friends. But what you really need is new business. Ultimately, the measure of the success or failure of your efforts is in new customers, increased revenue and higher profit.
Goldberg, Heisenberg and Dannenberg Are All Uncertain
Let’s wind up with a bit of preposterous Rube Goldberg pseudoscience. In 1927, Werner Heisenberg illustrated a principle that applies to quantum mechanics. Basically, he said that the act of measuring either the position or momentum of a particle affects the ability to measure the other attribute. In other words, the measurement of one attribute makes the precision of measurement of the other attribute uncertain. Dannenberg’s uncertainty principle is altogether different and was invented only seconds ago. It states that the effectiveness of any marketing tactic is completely unknown until measured, but the measure only reflects the effectiveness over a measured period of time and is not necessarily predictive.
Here’s the point:It’s really not as random as “pick a card, any card,” but choosing the combination of social media channels to try in your content marketing strategy is an educated guess. I’m less than enthusiastic about reviewing the relative merits of each of the various channels. There is no shortage of this kind of advice for small business marketers and printers online, so I’ll refrain from adding another numbered list to the collection. The simple advice is to choose the channel that most closely fits the audience you’re trying to reach and then stick with it for a reasonable period, say four to six months. If your tactics aren’t working, analyze both the tactics and the channels, and switch horses accordingly. If your efforts are successful, continue along until effectiveness begins to declines (it will), then do the same kind of analysis.
Chances are good that you’ll add at least a couple of channels to your social media portfolio and you’ll want to schedule your posts to appear over a course of hours or days. You may want to check into two useful tools, HootSuiteand Buffer. Hootsuite is available in a very limited version for free, but the functional version is a very reasonable subscription ($8.99/month for up to 10 channels). Hootsuite allows you to monitor and schedule posts, but has some significant limitations with LinkedIn posts. Buffer is for posting only and costs a bit more ($10 for 10 channels and basic analytics), but allows you to schedule and pile up (buffer) curated content for transmission. It also works better (but not perfectly) with LinkedIn. Finally, if you’ll be using Twitter as part of your social media mix, TweetDeckis an application produced by Twitter that is a very useful aid to maintaining the conversation.