Friday, 30 May 2014

What is Content Marketing, and why does it work?

Content marketing is sometimes referred to by other names (digital marketing, internet marketing, online marketing, custom publishing). In this article, I explain what content marketing is; why it works; and how to do it well.

What is content marketing? 

Content marketing involves providing information that is of real use to (potential) customers, without trying to directly sell them a product or a service.
The idea of content marketing is that by providing this value, users develop a trust and respect for your brand, and are more likely become customers of their own free will –rather than via a hard sell on your part.

Content marketing is not just about creating great copy, it is also about distributing it; acquiring followers by capturing genuine subject interest; reminding existing customers about the value your products / services offer, and ultimately engaging your audience (which will in turn improve your search engine optimization).

Why does content marketing work?

Perhaps the question should be why have traditional forms of marketing stopped working?
  • TV commercials have become a source of annoyance for people who flick channels or reach for the iPad during the three minute break. 
  • Internet advertising is largely ignored, as browsers continue to the content they originally searched for (Research shows that less than 1% of web user actually click through to a webpage from an advert).
  • Magazine and newspaper adverts are easily flicked past as they compete for attention of the busy reader.

Content marketing works for a number of reasons:

People appreciate that they are genuinely getting something for free - information. This enriches their experience of interacting with your brand, and you start to build a positive relationship with them. 
Your audience are more likely to trust the information you provide to them if they feel that you are not trying to directly sell them something.

It’s easy for people to share the information you provide via content marketing with their family and friends at the click of a button. Research confirms that word of mouth and word of web are both highly credible, and amongst the most trusted sources of information.

Customers are much more savvy now and are likely to research products online before making a purchase – content marketing can help you to get your brand into the mind of potential consumers at the start of their purchase making decisions.

How to do content marketing well – 5 top tips

  1. Research what people actually want to know about the product or service you are selling. Address those questions in your online information.
  2. Use free tools such as Google Keyword Tool to research the keywords that people are searching for and include these in your article headings, sub-headings, and opening paragraphs.
  3. Don’t hold information back unnecessarily – put it all out there – content marketing is about providing information that is of real value.
  4. Make your content easy to share – add social network buttons so people can like / follow / pin you, and so on.
  5. Encourage real engagement by allowing people to comment on your posts. Be prepared to take the rough with the smooth and take the opportunity to correct any misgivings people may post about your product or service – it’s a chance to set the record straight. That said, avoid getting into lengthy debates with individuals online. 

The impact of an intranet on cultural change

Back to the series index: How to build an intranet

Developing an intranet is not just about implementing a software solution - it is also probably going to involve asking people to work differently. You might for example, be asking them to complete tasks via an intranet that they have previously done off-line, or that they have not previously done at all.

User adoption of your new intranet will depend on buy-in and belief that the system helps employees to do their job more efficiently and effectively than the old ways of working.

Action point – Involve your HR and Communications teams – ideally from the start of the project. They should be taking a lead in helping employees make the cultural shifts that the new intranet will bring – be it through effective internal communications, or the provision of training.

Action point – If training is required, make sure there is time and finance allocated for this when considering resource implications.

Next article in series - Content credibility

Intranet accessibility

Back to the series index - How to build an intranet

Discussion point -  How can you future proof your intranet as much as possible, for example, by ensuring it continues to be supported on ext generation devices and platforms?

The end user adoption rate of a new intranet will be linked, in part, to it's ease of use. Make sure employees will be able to access their new intranet regardless of:  physical ability;  geographical location; operating system / device (laptop, smart-phone, tablet) used.
Action point – At the start of your project, agree the accessibility standards that your intranet will have to meet, for example, conformance with standards.

Action point – Think about how employees will need to access the intranet. Will they need access via VPN or a smart phone? Linked to this, what range of operating systems will the new intranet need to be compatible with?
Next article in the series - Sustaining your investment in an intranet

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Which social media channels should you choose?

When getting started with social media for business, it can be difficult to know where to focus your efforts for maximum efficiency – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and so on. Here are 5 pointers to get you started:

1.       Decide who you want to communicate with

It sounds obvious, but different segments of your audience will hang out on different social media platforms. A first step should be to consider which segment of your audience you wish to communicate with. Segment using a range of variables that you already have data on such as age; gender; location; past purchasing behaviour, and so on.

2.       Find out where your target audience is already active

Analyse your stakeholder database and CRM system to find out which social media platforms your target audience are already actively using. Consider taking your messages to where they already are, instead of expecting them to come to a new channel that you set up. This can also give you some useful breathing space whilst you learn the ins and outs of managing social media.

3.       Be current

Examine whether the platforms you are considering are increasing or decreasing in popularity for your target audience. Do you remember articles like this - highlighting the number of young people moving away from Facebook (11 million since 2011)- ?

4.       Assess your capacity to manage different platforms

Fully engaging on social media can become a time consuming business. Assess how much resource the channels you are considering will cost you on a day-to-day basis:

a.       How often do you intent to publish information?

b.      How many responses do you anticipate receiving?

c.       Who will manage the responses?

d.      How will responses be managed out of working hours?

5.       Listen first

Before entering the social world, take time to listen to existing conversations. This can be very valuable in enabling you to understand what topics your target audience is currently interested in and how you can piggy back on these.

Listening will enable you to assess sentiment around your brand and decide how to amplify or manage these feelings when you open your own channels.

By listening to existing conversations, you will quickly be able to identify who your greatest ambassadors and critics are online. You can then evaluate how influential these people are to inform how much effort you should spend in engaging with them.

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