Building a successful content marketing strategy requires a very clear articulation of one's goals: establish thought leadership, create awareness, generate consideration and affinity with the brand, or convert leads for a direct response. Without that, it's impossible to measure success. In addition to setting goals, you need to understand both the potential and limits of each type of content playing a role in your strategy. Furthermore, by studying your audience's interaction and engagement with content, you can easily refine and optimize your strategy.
Below are five common mistakes that content marketers make and what you need to know to avoid them.
Curating content from around the web and driving traffic elsewhere
Curating is an excellent first step for marketers who do not have their own content because it requires significantly less time and effort than creating content from scratch. There are essentially two flavors of curated content: linking out and linking in.
Linking out -- social sharing
Social sharing involves combing the web for the best and most interesting content in your niche, and then sharing it with your followers. Generally, this is done through social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. This type of curating helps to position your brand as an expert resource without your having to create anything from scratch.
You can share general content that promotes the category and also propagate "earned" content produced by third parties that reflects favorably on your brand -- for example, a great review about your product or service on CNET.
The downside of this tactic is that it will rarely bring traffic to your website, and what it does bring will be difficult to track. So, if one of your primary marketing goals is driving visits -- or collecting leads or increasing conversions -- then you should consider investing in the second flavor of curating: a service that allows you to host curated content on your own site.
Linking in -- "leased" content
Companies like Newscred and Scribit enable marketers to host curated content directly on their website. They take care of the SEO and copyright issues and make it easy to search, select, and post content to your site, as well as to share it socially or amplify it on any other channel.
This way you can both position your brand as an expert and benefit from more visitors -- and longer visits -- to your website. Additionally, it enables you to associate your brand with top publishers, offering a level of trust that would otherwise be hard to achieve.
Creating editorial content by only relying on outside experts
Editorial content comes in many varieties, but we'll focus here on two fairly broad categories:
"Purchased" content -- creating a virtual editorial board
Companies like Contently and Skyword can help you build an editorial board and commission content, or you can amass a network of bloggers yourself. Either way, you'll still be paying outside experts (often freelance journalists) to write about your industry or niche. While you'll own the content from these well-established thought leaders, you'll also have the option to only pay for content that is up to your standards. The disadvantage here is that these writers may not be as intimately familiar with your company.
"Created" content -- leveraging internal experts
The second type of editorial content is that created by internal experts at your company. These can include engineers, product owners, scientists, or any other expert, depending on your field. Although the opportunity cost of this type of content is high, since you are asking high-value employees to spend time creating it -- or at least being interviewed to gather the subject material -- it is perhaps the most high-value content you can create because your internal subject matter experts know their stuff better than anyone else. This is where your company can really differentiate itself. Freelance bloggers are an asset that any organization can theoretically have access to -- your internal SMEs are unique.
Creating (lengthy) white papers and hiding them behind a gate
White papers generally differ from editorial content in both structure and substance. They tend to be written with a very particular persona in mind, and are often gated to help the sales team gather leads. While this can be an effective strategy in certain circumstances, it is widely overused, often to the detriment of marketing goals.
Before you create a white paper, remember that people's attention spans are very short nowadays. It's rare for someone to read the entirety of a 10-page white paper. Consider how long your white paper really needs to be in order to get the point across, and don't make it any longer.
Next, instead of automatically placing it behind a gate, where visitors have to give up contact info to view it, create teasers. One way to do this is to break your white paper into short html-based posts and use them as bait. Give something before you ask for something in return. Prove your content is valuable before you ask for contact info.
White papers can be a great way to educate your customers and the industry at large, and they can go a long way towards painting your brand as helpful and informative. Just make sure you do them right.
Thinking "All we need is video!"
With the proliferation of YouTube and other social video sites, many brands have come to think of video as a cure-all. However, it won't magically solve all of your content marketing woes.
One mistake that many marketers make is misunderstanding how and when people consume video. Most people believe that the majority of content is consumed in the morning. However, our data has demonstrated that this is not true.
In observing the pattern of content consumption throughout the day, we can see that most content is consumed around noon. In other words, people are getting their content fix in the office and during lunch. Think about how video is consumed in an office environment. Most employees are not comfortable watching videos when the boss could walk by at any moment, right? One great way to avoid losing readers because they can't or won't view video content at work is to write short complementary articles around your video content.
Tweeting everything in the morning
Another common misconception is that mobile content consumption peaks in the morning, but this is true only in places with very large commute times --think Los Angeles. Content consumption via mobile and tablets actually peaks in the evening hours, as desktop traffic trends down. As the chart below illustrates, understanding these patterns is vital when planning what types of content to put out and when.
You should consider both consumption patterns and form factors like screen size when determining what kind of content produce and when to share it.
Bringing it all together
When planning your content marketing strategy, be sure to avoid the aforementioned mistakes. Instead, remember that data is the best place to start when it comes to making decisions about what type of content to use and when. Gather as much information as you possibly can about your audience before building a content marketing strategy. Then, when you create the content, make sure you are employing the best tools that technology has to offer to optimize and distribute your content to achieve your marketing goals.
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