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Content Strategy For Digital Marketers


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Be The King Of Your Content: A Six Week Guide to Creating, Promoting, & Measuring Great Content.

• Assess your existing content and execute changes that increase its
• Communicate a distinct brand message through a uniform voice and tone
• Create targeted content that engages your audience
• Manage the content strategy process and each contributing team member
• Implement cross-channel promotional strategies with long-term effects
• Set attainable goals and measure critical KPIs

Published in: Marketing

Content Strategy For Digital Marketers

  1. 1. CONTENT STRATEGY FOR DIGITAL MARKETERS A Six Week Guide to Creating, Promoting & Measuring Great Content by Amanda Gallucci “ be successful online, a magazine can’t just take what it has in print and move it to the electronic realm. There isn’t enough depth or interactivity in print content to overcome the drawbacks of the online medium. If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will. They need to have audio, and possibly video. They need an opportunity for personal involvement that goes far beyond that offered through the letters-to-the-editor pages of print magazines... Those who succeed will propel the internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences, and products -- a marketplace of content.” Bill Gates, Content Is King, 1996 #CSFDM 2
  2. 2. We’ve all heard the phrase “content is king,” and this certainly seems to be true. Companies are rearranging to focus on content simply because it works. You have to question, though, how can a strategy be a king? Aren’t kings usually people? Here’s the major downfall of this clever “content is king” catchphrase—it doesn’t actually put anyone in charge. And with no one in charge, frankly, nothing can get accomplished. Your content strategy can’t just be a king in and of itself—it needs you—a strong leader to ascend the throne. You’ll have to have a plan and take command to execute it. You’ll need loyal followers and have to deal with the usual royal politics. Being king is hard work, but don’t fear. Once you understand the steps to take and who to involve along the way, you can start producing content on a regal level in no time. You’ll learn how to: • Assess your existing content and execute changes that increase its success • Communicate a distinct brand message through a uniform voice and tone • Create targeted content that engages your audience • Manage the content strategy process and each contributing team member • Implement cross-channel promotional strategies with long-term effects • Set attainable goals and measure critical KPIs Put on your thinking cap crown and let’s dive in! #CSFDM 3
  3. 3. Table of Contents Week One: Internal & Industry Analysis Part I: The Content Audit 7 8 Get Organized 8 What To Record 9 Defining Shareworthy And Linkworthy 11 Following Through 12 Part II: Competition Analysis 13 Who Are Your Competitors? 13 SEO Competitive Analysis 15 Social Competitive Analysis 15 Content Competitive Analysis 18 Week Two: Brand Development Message, Voice Tone 20 21 Core Strategy 21 Brand Promise 23 Brand Slogan 23 Voice And Tone 23 A Winning Example 24 Who Will Your Brand Be? 26 Personas 26 1. Focus On Content Audience, Not Consumer Audience 26 2. Borrow Social 28 3. Segment Everything 28 #CSFDM 4
  4. 4. Style Guide 31 Week Three: Creating Properties And Assets 33 Building Blocks 34 Creating A Blog 34 Starting Up On Social 34 Post Frequency 41 Site Restructure 42 Map It Out 43 Selecting Pages 44 Week Four: Setting The Stage The Holistic Content Process 46 47 Governance 47 Idea Generation 49 Organizing 51 Content Development 52 Quality Assurance 53 Creating an Editorial Calendar 54 Calendar Tools 54 Monthly Goals 55 Daily Goals 57 Editorial Calendar Dos and Don’ts 58 Week Five: Content Creation 63 Types Of Content #CSFDM 64 5
  5. 5. Week Six: Launch, Measure, Repeat Launching Content 75 76 Social Push 76 Email 76 Landing Page 77 Paid Media 77 Measuring Content Strategy ROI 78 Social Media 78 SEO 81 The Bottom Line 84 Week Seven: All Hail The King Of Content 87 Appendix89 Blog Managment 89 Content Creation 89 Content Managment 89 Idea Organization 90 Landing Page Creation 90 Market Research 90 Project Managment 91 SEO 91 Social Analytics 92 #CSFDM 6
  6. 6. Week One INTERNAL INDUSTRY ANALYSIS Before you can properly rule over your domain, you need to know the ins and outs of your own site’s content. An excellent king familiarizes himself with the history of his territory before he creates new laws. Additionally, you’ll want a working knowledge of the type, style, and popularity of the content your competitors put out. How can you expect to dominate without understanding what you’re up against? #CSFDM 7
  7. 7. Part I: The Content Audit Before you start creating any new content, you’ll first have to figure out what you already have. There are two major reasons why you need to do this. First, you want to find the content you created that really worked. You’ll make note of what content significantly increased your traffic, caused a buzz on social media, or was complimented by thought leaders or clients. You can then figure out what all of this good content has in common so that you can produce more of it. On the other hand, you’ll have to own up to your failures. What content completely flopped, and why? No matter how good of an idea you originally thought it was, if it didn’t wow your audience, similar content should not make its way into your new content strategy. Below are the categories that the iAcquire content team uses to categorize content during the audit phase: Get Organized Prior to sifting through your content, you’ll have to decide how you want to keep track of it. An Excel spreadsheet will probably work best for categorizing individual pieces of content. To find a starting place—first pick a method that you’ll stick to throughout. You can choose to go through your sitemap top to bottom, or work at one layer of your site at a time. Just be consistent. This is also a good point #CSFDM 8
  8. 8. at which you can determine how many people will be needed to complete this undertaking. If you have thousands of pieces of content to go through, assign the areas of the site for which each person will be responsible. Additionally, as you’re going through your content you’ll want to make note of site structure—where does all this content live? Here your Excel spreadsheet might not be enough. You’ll need a visual record of your site layout so that you can clearly see the click through path people need to use to get to your content. There are a few different flow chart creation sites you can use to map out your content, including and Gliffy. Start with your home page at the top center and then work your way through the different levels of your website. Follow your internal linking structure to map out page depth and note what content users come across as they navigate through the site. After you’ve used your layout to see how your site is set up for people to use it, check it against Google Analytics to see how people are actually getting to your content. Hopefully you have a logical flow to your site design and people are clicking through accordingly. If you see a big difference between the visual you’ve drawn up and the Visitors Flow report in Google Analytics, you may be able to pinpoint a problem. As you’re going through your site, jot some notes down about how you can rearrange your content so that your best work is the most easily accessible. What To Record First, make sure you have the basics, including page title, type of content, and format. While manually going through the site is the best way to make important discoveries, gathering these simpler criterions can be automated using a tool. #CSFDM 9
  9. 9. Then, you’ll have a solid base to add onto. ScreamingFrog works great for an in-depth look at your metrics, including categories such as content type, H1 tags, HTTPS status and more. During this list compilation, you’ll hopefully start to notice if you have an excessive amount of one type of content and almost none of another. You should also start thinking about which content can be reformatted and reused. Do you have an article that would make a great infographic? Or can you expand and make it a white paper? Making your own spreadsheet allows you to get as detailed as you want, as you can choose how important it is to track details like author, date created, and word count. If you’re looking for more guidance and simplicity, however, there are also several sites that offer spreadsheet templates with what you may need. This template from Demand Metric is great because it allows you to organize by priority level and status. Next record analytics and social metrics. Use a tool like Open Site Explorer or an Excel plugin such as MozScape to find what URLs your pages are linked to. Then, use Social Crawlytics for a social numbers count. Social Crawlytics breaks share count down by several categories including per network, on a page level, and by content type – all of which should be included in your audit. As you go through your audit, you may notice patterns of different types of content #CSFDM 10
  10. 10. performing better on different social networks. If long form content strikes up a discussion on Google Plus but never gets any traction on LinkedIn, for example, that should set off a red flag. You may even find some networks are underperforming with all types of content. Later when we talk about social and measuring social metrics more in depth, we’ll think about whether you need to create different content for these networks or whether certain platforms may not fit into your overall strategy. Defining Shareworthy And Linkworthy Content that gets shared on social media doesn’t necessarily get linked to and vice versa, so it’s important to note the distinction and explore the reasons for both. Sometimes shareworthy pieces are hot-button issues that resonate at the time, but are not worth linking to because they do not serve as a more permanent resource that can be applicable again in the future. Once you have your exact link and social share counts, you also want to approach these areas subjectively. Look at your content – would you link back to it or share it on one of your social media accounts? Record a yes or no answer for each. Finally, compare your opinion of what was linkworthy and shareworthy with the data about what actually got links and shares. Juxtaposing your perception and reality and understanding the area between what looks great on a surface level and what actually produces results makes you a better auditor and a better strategist. If you felt something was really great but see it didn’t take off socially or gain many links, highlight this in your spreadsheet and come back to it later. Maybe it needs to be re-launched in a new format or at a better time than it was at first, or maybe you need to consult a coworker and ask for more feedback. In addition including certain factors can increase share-worthiness, as seen in this study on determining a formula for content success. #CSFDM 11
  11. 11. Above all, look for the commonalities between the posts that your audience shared and linked to, and see where these elements can be naturally added to existing content. Content Recommendations “Marketing without data is like driving with your eyes closed” Dan Zarrella, Social Media Scientist, Hubspot Finally, have a suggestions column in your spreadsheet where you can leave yourself notes about what can be improved upon for each piece of content individually. You can further break down these suggestions into their own categories, for instance, “to add,” “to remove,” “to edit.” Make initial recommendations as you’re going through everything for a first time. Afterwards, sort your information in a few different ways and see if you find anything interesting the second time around when organizing by popularity, date, or type of content. Following Through A content audit is the first step, but it should continue to play a role as you carry out your plan. Take some time as you produce content to keep filling in your spreadsheet. This way, you can easily keep track of whether or not you’re hitting your goals for the types of content you want to see made and the type of engagement you’re hoping to produce, without having to wait another long stretch of time before you start over on a new content audit. #CSFDM 12
  12. 12. In addition to measuring your progress, keep adding new metrics that are relevant for your brand. As you periodically redefine or reevaluate your business goals, you may need to use different metrics to define success. For instance, if the main purpose of your content is to generate leads, page views and social shares should not be primary indicators of great content. You can keep these in your content audit, but also add a column where you tally how frequently that piece of content was cited in a sales pitch, and how frequently those pitches led to customer acquisition. The more metrics you add and insights you draw, the more helpful your content audit will be. Let it continue to play a role as you shape the rest of your strategy Part II: Competition Analysis Auditing your own content should not be your only source for setting content standards. If you really want to become king of your content strategy, you first have to assess your competitors’ content. Setting the bar high for content quality and relevancy means first exploring the level of existing content in your space. Who Are Your Competitors? Before you analyze your competition, you have to find out who they are. Don’t assume that your biggest competitors will be larger, well-known sites because as you know, SEO and content can be huge leverage points—boosting the smaller companies who are doing it right and burying the larger organizations that still haven’t figured it out. Dig through data to find your silent killer competitors. Remember that due to the nature of online search, you may find that your organic competitors are not always the most related businesses, but have many keywords in common for another reason, like a similar company name. Also think about how e-commerce sites that strictly operate online can be larger competitors for brick and mortar companies than other physical retail stores. #CSFDM 13
  13. 13. There are dozens of great tools, some of which I’ve outlined below, that will help you determine with whom you’re competing, however a simple Google search can be the best place to start. If you’re logged into Gmail, don’t forget to hide personal results before you search. Type in some of your most important keywords and make note of what other companies come up. Be sure to notice things like which companies are listed under paid versus organic search, what keywords competitors are using in their meta titles, and which companies are utilizing Google Authorship. Google’s ‘Related:’ search function can provide additional competitors to research. Don’t forget to finish off with a search for your own company, looking to see if any competitor has bought an ad for your term or has managed to show up in your search some other way. Another great starting point is SEMRush because it identifies your competitors in both organic and paid search. Select a competitor and export the common keywords into Excel. Then create formulas to easily determine who is performing better in search position, search volume and number of top ranking keywords. The competitors who seem to be significantly ahead of you in one or all of these categories are the competitors who you should be putting on your list to delve into further using the following methodologies. If you’re still not sure you’ve found all your competitors, or want to clarify whether or not a company is in the same exact line of business as you, check directories such as Hoovers and LexisNexis. #CSFDM 14
  14. 14. SEO Competitive Analysis To see how your competitors compare to you in terms of SEO, industry standards like Open Site Explorer and the Majestic SEO Comparator will serve you well. In Open Site Explorer, you can compare your company to four competitors at once at a Page-specific, Subdomain, and Root Domain level. Use caution when looking at these numbers—green indicates the highest number in a category but this is not always a good thing. If you have thousands more links but still aren’t ranking as high as your competitor, assess the quality of your links versus the quality of their links. Mark down any great sites from which they have inbound links that you do not, and save them for later in your content strategy when you begin outreach. While Majestic SEO’s tool is similar to Open Site Explorer in the information it provides and its option to compare five companies, Majestic SEO has conveniently already separated out links from educational and governmental domains to help you hone in on your link quality. Social Competitive Analysis Once you have a pretty good idea of who your competitors are, start monitoring their social media use. At the start, take a few minutes to actually visit their Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus and Pinterest pages, or examine these platforms through a source such as Hootsuite. Look at the types of posts they use, the frequency of their posts, and how much of a reaction each post is getting. You #CSFDM 15
  15. 15. can also use Social Crawlytics to track competitors’ social shares. Figuring out the way they engage people best will be an awesome starting point for how and when you will build social into your content plan. Do they have unique themed Twitter chats or exceptional Facebook contests? Move beyond just jotting down notes of what they do and start the creative process by brainstorming how you can incorporate similar, but better, ideas. Find Your Audience Followerwonk can be useful in multiple ways so take full advantage of all it has to offer. First, search Twitter bios with some of your industry keywords to see what companies pop up; you may further add to your competitor list this way. Then, using the Twitter handles you’ve found for your competitors, go to the “Compare Users” tab and compare yourself and up to two competitors at a time based on followers to see how many followers you each have, your influence on those followers, and the percentage of followers you have in common. Click into the list of their followers and try to determine who their audience is and how you can get a share of that audience. Next drilldown into the “Compare users they follow” report and consider following some key influencers who they follow that you do not. #CSFDM 16
  16. 16. While you have Followerwonk open, you can also search users’ Twitter bios for keywords related to your industry. You can find new influencers to follow who you know are interested in the type of content you have to offer and therefore will be more likely to engage with your brand. Relationships with these users can help spread your voice to the existing communities within your area of expertise. Additionally, you’ll need insight into what people are saying about your competitor. Tools like Topsy and Social Mention can give you an idea of the social buzz they are stirring and what type of feelings your industry’s audience has toward the company. Topsy also provides value in that they allow access to their API. Using this involves more technical ability, but the potential is tremendous. The Topsy API provides access to a full index of all tweets and related analysis dated back to July 2010. With this information you’ll have the power to track historical influencers and patterns. Moreover, you can build your own apps so that you can track tweets in the most relevant way for your brand. #CSFDM 17
  17. 17. Content Competitive Analysis Much of what you need to do here will be a shortened version of the content audit you performed for your own website. You can use the same exact tools on your competitor’s sites, but just need to approach them at a slightly different angle than your own. For instance, you likely will not be trying to analyze every single piece of content on their site as you did with yours (unless you have one strong competitor who outranks you everywhere and whose site you really want to dive into). Try to assess a representative sample by looking in depth at every fifth or so piece of content, until you feel that you have seen at least a few examples of each type of content they produce (article, video, infographic etc.). You should be looking for the same social metrics, visual appeal, relevance, and all other factors on which you were assessing your own content, but this time organize your information in a way that directly compares your site to theirs. What do they have that you don’t? If they have similar content, what about theirs caused it to be received better or worse than your own? For a faster, higher-level overview, utilize Google Brand Impressions. You can look at a company’s most popular content (by topic or visual) over a selected date range of up to three years, as well as see social traffic for the brand. There is also an impact map and the option to compare two companies at once. #CSFDM 18
  18. 18. When you come across posts that have performed extraordinarily well, challenge yourself to make your own–but better—version on the same topic. Follow the principles of Brian Dean’s so-called skyscraper technique in which you build up your post to be more in-depth, more up-to-date, and better designed. If one post is already doing well and you have added quite a bit of value by expanding and refreshing it, your content will undoubtedly succeed if you can get it in front of the right audience. Whether you start with SEO, social or content is up to your personal preference. As long as you are assessing each competitor from every angle, you will be well equipped to create an even more successful content strategy! By the end of Week One you should have: • Performed a content audit • Compiled a list of content recommendations • Analyzed your competitors’ SEO, Social Networks, and Content Coming up next in week two, we’ll be talking about how to develop your brand. Remember, we’re not analyzing the competitors in your space so that you can model your brand off of their success. We want to know what others are doing so that we can set your brand apart in a positive way. Your brand’s voice and value propositions should be completely unique. Take one more look at your content audit before you head into week two and ask yourself if your site has a distinct voice and clear message. If the answer is ‘no,’ let’s get to work on defining those. If ‘yes,’ remember that in order to maintain this brand, you’ll want to make sure that there are clear guidelines in place as you move ahead to create new content. Get started on building your content’s foundation just ahead. #CSFDM 19
  19. 19. Week Two BRAND DEVELOPMENT Moving into the second week of your reign, you want to define and develop your brand. This encompasses not only determining your brand personality, but also who makes up your audience so that you can target your content accordingly. #CSFDM 20
  20. 20. Message, Voice Tone Now that you’ve learned to perform a content audit and analyze your competition, you’re ready to get working on what will serve as the face of your content strategy. Before you start planning any actual content, you’ll need an exact idea of the message you want to convey, and the voice and tone which will convey it. Without this step, your brand identity will be unclear. Be consistent so that no matter what piece of content a potential customer lands on, your brand is represented appropriately. Think of every page of your site as a landing page, and therefore a potential first impression. For this reason each page should adhere to your brand’s larger objectives. “Authenticity, honesty, and personal voice underlie much of what’s successful on the web” Rick Levine, The Cluetrain Manifesto Figuring out message, voice and tone is too important to be a one-person job. This requires some deep thinking on the part of all your company’s key players since it has to encompass each person’s role and serve as a foundation for each client-facing communication. Once you have a representative team together, start by breaking down your message into three key areas: core strategy, brand promise, and brand slogan. Core Strategy Your core strategy is your high-level overview of what you want to achieve and how you will achieve it. A company’s mission statement is the first half of this strategy because it details what the brand charges itself with accomplishing. Some brands like Nike have fairly broad and large goals: “Our mission: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world. If you have a body, you are an athlete.” Nike #CSFDM 21
  21. 21. This might seem outlandish, but if you aim high, you will set yourself up to make a plan to achieve a higher level of greatness. You might not want to set the unrealistic expectation of inspiring every human being as Nike does, but wanting to be the industry leader in a specific niche would not be a bad place to start. Then when you are creating the rest of your content plan, you will include every element necessary to get ahead of the competition. Content’s Relationship With Core Strategy It’s important to note here that core strategy for the business as a whole is likely determined by a larger group that includes executives and key decision makers from other departments. If this is the case, those working on content must learn to redefine/enhance the brand’s voice and tone in a way that aligns with the company’s established message. At the very least, the brand should have core values established, and the content team can build up a strategy that meets business goals with these values in mind. These values should define the company’s attitude in regards to the treatment of customers and employees, and product and service quality. It would include positions on environment, politics, and finances, as appropriate. In his presentation, Sine Qua Non: Core Values and Content Strategy, Jonathon Colman, a content strategist at Facebook, proposes that organizations shouldn’t look to create core values, but discover them. He asks the difficult questions that will help you determine where your brand stands on critical issues, such as “If this value became a competitive disadvantage would you keep it anyway?” This resource is a great place to start with young brands that have not yet defined their core values, and can also be a way to revisit the values that have already been set for older brands. Colman proposes, “Without core values, there is no content strategy… there’s only content.” With this in mind, make sure that no matter how much or little the content team is involved in creating the company’s core strategy, the content strategy should be an extension of how this strategy will be communicated and #CSFDM 22
  22. 22. integrated into the rest of the site’s messaging and marketing. Brand Promise A brand promise is less about your needs (what you want to achieve and how you will do so) and more about what you have to offer. The purpose should be to clearly define your value propositions. Why should a user choose your brand over another? What does your service/product have that no other brand has, and how do these features meet the wants and needs of the consumer? In addition to describing your product/service, draw heavily on your core values here. Don’t forget that less tangible promises to stay transparent or ethical can also provide great value to your customers. For example, Nike promises to maintain a high level of corporate responsibility and regularly works toward helping adolescents and the environment. Brand Slogan The brand slogan is unique from the core strategy and promise. Its main purpose is to provide a short, catchy phrase by which your brand can be remembered, while at the same time representing something important and inherent to your brand. Nike has one of the most famous slogans of all time, “Just Do It.” Again, unless building a brand from scratch, the content strategy team is likely not creating the slogan but building content around it. They should use the slogan as a basis for setting or continuing to shape the voice and tone of the brand. Voice And Tone In order to convey your message most effectively, you’ll next have to decide the personality and attitude with which you’ll portray it. The best way to determine this is to think of your brand as a person. What type of person would your company be? A superhero? A geek? Friendly, laid back, helpful? More serious and authoritative? #CSFDM 23
  23. 23. Make sure when you are creating guidelines and examples of how your voice and tone will sound, you also make a ‘what not to do’ section. It’s great to have examples, but providing your team with only examples of what they should do may not be explicitly clear enough. Try to set up your voice and tone in pairs of what is ok and not ok. For instance, a brand can strive to be friendly yet professional or young and fresh but not inexperienced. Voice vs. Tone While the two are closely related, voice and tone are not exactly the same and should be defined separately. Voice identifies who is speaking whereas tone connotes how and to whom that voice is speaking, and why. Put together a document for your brand that specifies guidelines for the type of person your brand should emulate, and then the type of language and attitude that the brand should use when conveying ideas. After reading this document every person who will be responsible for writing content for the brand should have a clear idea of not only the basic everyday communication style to adhere to, but also: 1. The company’s definitive position on key industry issues 2. The words and manner that would appropriately convey each position For more guidance, this resource by Joel Klettke illustrates how to find your voice and tone in more depth. The below example will also help. A Winning Example MailChimp’s guide on Voice and Tone for their brand is frequently cited as a go-to example. It’s no coincidence that they have an entire domain dedicated to it: http:// One of the great strengths of this guide is that it provides specific examples of different content types, including social interactions on Facebook and Twitter, press releases, and error messages. Then for each type of content they provide a scenario of what the user might be looking for and how he/ she might be feeling, how MailChimp should be responding, and tips for success #CSFDM 24
  24. 24. which include dos and don’ts. It shouldn’t be a surprise that this comprehensive guide is only one piece of MailChimp’s strong voice. It starts with their messaging and extends through their entire online presence. They illustrate their core strategy on several pages beyond their “About Me,” including sections on their approach to business, their view of user experience and even their practical jokes. Within these and other pages they also make many specific user-centric promises such as a commitment to security. Takeaway: the more of a personality you develop, the more ways for your audience to interact with you and build loyalty towards you. So does having a strong message, voice and tone pay off? Absolutely. From both an SEO and social standpoint, MailChimp is winning. MailChimp ranks in the top five for “best email manager,” “best email campaigns,” “best free email marketing,” and variations of each. What seems more interesting from a content strategy point of view, though, is that it ranks number one for phrases like “best email practices” and “best email subject lines.” They have put together so many guides and blogs surrounding all there is to know about their niche industry that they have become a top resource. They have truly embraced content marketing by extending their core strategy far beyond their product. The result? Thousands of dedicated brand fans and tons of positive sentiment floating around the Internet. They have over 80,000 likes on Facebook, and comments from clients saying things like, “Loving the new editor. Keep the good stuff coming, MailChimp!” Their general Twitter account has over DesignLab at MailChimp #CSFDM 110,000 followers. Their resources and 25
  25. 25. product are useful and important, but the real secret to their social media success is in their unique voice. Their followers praise them for portraying their brand as fun and quirky. For example, their brand fans loved their “Monkey Hat for Cats” giveaway. It’s unrelated to anything they do, but it gets their followers involved, makes people smile, and differentiates them from the competition. This off-topic but engaging component is not to be left out of your strategy. The fact that MailChimp has seen so much success in a space that many people associate with spam (email marketing) makes this even more significant. If you find the right voice and tone, you can make your brand break out of the negative connotations of your industry bubble. Who Will Your Brand Be? You are now faced with a lot of big decisions, but hopefully you can take some inspiration from Nike and MailChimp and realize that having a little fun with your messaging and voice can go a long way. Sure a comical brand image is not going to work for everyone or every industry, but a boring message and voice will work for no one. Find at least one quality that no one else in your industry is portraying and make yourself stand out. What is it about your company that’s entirely unique and setting you apart? Once you’ve identified this, make it a top priority to consistently represent this characteristic in every piece of content you create from here on out. Personas I know you’ve heard about personas by now. iAcquire’s Director of Market Research Norris Rowley gave us perfect examples of Personas for Black Friday. But stay with me, here. Creating personas specifically as part of a new content strategy should be approached from three different angles than usual. 1. Focus On Content Audience, Not Consumer #CSFDM 26
  26. 26. Audience Oftentimes personas are used to target potential customers, but this should not be your only goal. If you want to be king of your content strategy, you have to think of all the people who will be coming to your website and reading your content. This includes not just people who want to buy products, but thought leaders in your industry, competitors, information seekers, and more. As king you can’t focus on your loyal subjects only. With analytics data, you already know the demographics of the people who are returning to your site. Now that you’re making a plan for new content, you have to think outside the box about who else you want to attract in addition. For this, you should turn to market research. Whereas analytics gives you more information about the user you already have, market research rounds out your audience with people who you should be reaching out to, who have related needs and interests and who are already involved in your space to some extent. Data from resources like Experian Simmons will help you define the specifics of users’ actions on the web—what they’re searching for, how, and when. The key to drawing traffic to your site is making content that will interest people with all different motivations for visiting, not just your direct users/customers. Gaining the attention of thought leaders and others in your space will indirectly lead to sales in the long run because more people will be sharing your site. Come up with at least four categories of users you want to target, not as customers, but as an audience to your content. Make sure you’re planning to create content that speaks to the full spectrum of potential readers; it should be clear enough for those who are new to your industry, but unique and intelligent enough to wow those who know most. Separate these groups accordingly when you’re getting ready to personify them, and realize that not every piece of content needs to hit each target. You can plan in such a way that the breakdown of your content’s focus corresponds to the importance of each group. #CSFDM 27
  27. 27. 2. Borrow Social A large part of your content strategy will be starting your social media from scratch or looking to make major changes and improvements. Working with nonexistent or underdeveloped social resources won’t help you find your entire audience, so you’ll have to turn to your competitors, using the information you gathered during week one. The important difference is this time around you’ll be paying closer attention not to what other businesses are doing to engage their audience, but who it is that they are engaging. Once you find these users, turn to market research as described above. You’ll then find out the type of content that your audience wants to see and the best places and ways to reach them on social. If you don’t have access to market research, you’ll have to do a little more digging and make the most educated guesses you can by following the activities of specific influential users. Look for patterns in the way the people with the most social followers act online. Do most of them have personal blogs? What kind of articles are they sharing? What questions are they asking? The more data you collect about these users, the better you will be able to define them as personas. 3. Segment Everything As you’re planning out your content, you can redesign your website to house it more appropriately. Depending on how extensive of a project you are undertaking, your content strategy could involve new pages including a blog, or just might need #CSFDM 28
  28. 28. some reorganization to become more user-friendly. When you’re ready for this step, keep in mind the personas you’ve decided to captivate. Audience Strategy Part of your persona development should also include a “How to Target” section. Decide what types of content will best reach each and mark them down on a checklist. If you know an unfamiliar user won’t understand a white paper that’s fine—keep your basics on Facebook or in a brief blog post where you’ll reach this persona, and put your heavy information in the white paper for the persona who would be interested in more detailed information. “ The key in content marketing is in understanding what consumers really truly want/need and in providing it to them in the method, time and place of their choice. You can’t only be good at one or the other – you have to nail both.” Julie Fleischer, Director of Content Strategy Integration, Kraft Foods In addition to the medium of the content, think about type and theme. What will an information seeker be looking for on your site? Consider making a glossary of terms. Thought leaders want actionable tips; make sure these are in your blog. Have a good mix of long and short form, list style posts, and a range of topics that cover all the different areas where you can provide value and insight. The right balance for your brand is not a magic formula but a careful calculation of what your audience is reading and who in your audience deserves the most attention according to your goals, whether those are driving leads, creating brand awareness, or something else. #CSFDM 29
  29. 29. Layout Finally, segment the layout of your website according to the people who will be using it. Right on your homepage, direct different groups of people to different places—the places that are relevant to them specifically. For example, Citibank not only segments their content into categories at the top of the homepage in their menu; they also have a dropdown so that you can click through to the part of the site you need. Depending on your business model, it may make sense to have entirely different microsites for each type of user. For smaller sites, all you’ll need is helpful navigation getting people to specific sections of the site or specific blog posts that are relevant to their needs. Creating personas within a content strategy doesn’t have to be a radically new process from what you’ve done before, but if you keep these key focal points in mind you should find that your audience is much larger than you thought originally. Once you find it, you’ll be prepared to hone in on smaller specific groups and make content just for them. Depending on your business model, it may make sense to have entirely different microsites for each type of user. For smaller sites, all you’ll need is helpful navigation getting people to specific #CSFDM 30
  30. 30. sections of the site or specific blog posts that are relevant to their needs. Creating personas within a content strategy doesn’t have to be a radically new process from what you’ve done before, but if you keep these key focal points in mind you should find that your audience is much larger than you thought originally. Once you find it, you’ll be prepared to hone in on smaller, specific groups and make content just for them. Style Guide All the elements we’ve covered are critically important, and as such should be brought together in a document that can be shared with everyone who plays a role in content strategy for your brand. The only way to make sure strategists are planning for the right personas and writers are using the same voice and tone is to give them a detailed outline of what you’ve established alongside examples that will further flesh out how you want your brand to be presented and how you do not want your brand to be presented. Even if you believe your team has a thorough understanding of your brand’s style, don’t forget that it’s likely you’ll be bringing in outside writers and designers for guest blog posts or as freelance creators. In Joel Klettke’s guide to working with copywriters, he details exactly why you need to have a style guide to hand off to anyone who will be writing for you. In addition to outlining what we’ve covered in this chapter, your style guide should also detail layout and format requirements. Establish standards for • Length of posts • Fonts • Headers • Introductions #CSFDM 31
  31. 31. • Calls to Action • Citations • Images • How will you give credit to copyrighted images? • What types of images are ok to use? • Are there size requirements or restrictions? • What needs to be done for images that get pulled into social meta tags or other places on your site? Your style guide can be altered later if you find you need to shift your target audience or some of your goals, but you should always have something to strive towards and measure against. By the end of Week Two you should have: • Crafted a core strategy, brand promise, and mission that your brand can get behind for the long run • Defined your brand’s personality and it’s attitude towards your audience • Fleshed out personas from market research and analytics • Compiled a style guide that illustrates your voice and tone, personas, and editorial standards With a strong grasp on your brand’s style and target audience, you’re ready to start expanding your reach. In week three you’ll learn to build out any new sections of your site and put the finishing touches on them so your site is ready to be shared and promoted via your fresh content. You’ll also need to create accounts on select social networks so you can develop your audience and have strong channels within which you’ll communicate with this audience. Continue on to find the best ways to integrate social and new content. #CSFDM 32
  32. 32. Week Three CREATING PROPERTIES AND ASSETS Part of your new role as king will include generating a blog and promoting your brand with social media accounts, as well as making changes and adding features to your site. All of this is necessary to keep your subjects engaged, share information with them in a user-friendly way, and build a relationship. In this case, you do not want to be the type of king who is inaccessible to the common people—you want to embrace the opinions of those whom you serve and communicate with them regularly. #CSFDM 33
  33. 33. Building Blocks You’ll need to create a plan, a blog, and several social media accounts before you begin putting anything into action. Ask yourself two questions: 1. What platforms will help me reach my audience? 2. How frequently should I post to remain relevant? Creating A Blog There are dozens of sites that will help you create a blog but WordPress is standard and user-friendly. Make sure you’re branding your blog with the right colors, images, and catchphrases that will make your company memorable and have a distinct persona. Wait to start populating your blog with content until you’ve laid out your content strategy and built out your social properties, a mailing list, and other associated assets. We’ll get into how you should create and promote your blog content in depth in the second half of this guide. Starting Up On Social For social, having a presence on Facebook and Twitter is a minimum requirement. There are endless possibilities to what you can do on these platforms and various others, but first you need to grow your following and prove the value of interacting with your brand. Facebook As the most widely used platform around the globe, Facebook is a nonnegotiable. You can engage quickly and easily by posting photos, videos and statuses that people ‘like.’ Beyond these basics, there are great ways to target your audience with paid posts and ads, and serious potential to build unique apps and integrate with apps you’re already using. #CSFDM 34
  34. 34. Your posts should reflect your site’s content and your brand’s values and voice. Above all, however, you need to use Facebook as a two-way communication resource. Don’t post about what’s important to you – post something that strikes a chord with your users. If someone comments, whether positive or negative, reply! There’s nothing worse than ignoring people or deleting their comments when they have problems or complaints – doing so almost always ends in an influx of more angry supporters with a similar opinion. Show your users that you care about their feelings and are able to support your position on something or alter it as necessary. Twitter Twitter similarly should reflect your voice and be seen as an opportunity to interact and engage with your followers, but its 140 character limit makes it inherently different from Facebook. People look to Twitter for quick updates, so here it’s appropriate to share curated content that is not your own, but has relevance to your audience. You can share industry news, case studies, or blogs that people in your space will find valuable. When you first join, be aware of your follower/following ratio. You certainly want to follow influencers in your space and news/media outlets relevant to your brand, but you don’t want to follow hundreds of people right away. Your strategy can grow to include following brand fans, customers, and additional influencers as you progress and naturally grow followers over time. You should also consider following employees as a way of measuring internal engagement with the brand and for reputation management purposes. Tweets should be optimized by using one or two relevant hashtags when appropriate (not every single tweet). Look for the hashtags that are used all the time in your industry and monitor the conversations that take place there so you know how to join in. When you’ve mastered this, start creating your own hashtags for your brand, certain campaigns, or even branded Twitter chats or contests. #CSFDM 35
  35. 35. Use a tool like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck to monitor your brand mentions and relevant hashtags. When you see your company in a tweet, be responsive. Thank people for sharing your content, reinforce positive feedback, and address concerns that are brought up. Don’t be afraid to hit the retweet button when someone says something particularly great about your brand or if another brand or media resource shares a piece of exceptional content. Keep in mind that with more than any other platform, it’s not necessary for every tweet to contain a picture, link, or video. You can tweet a quick tip, an inspirational quote, a joke… whatever is relevant for your brand. The relevant caveat is huge… don’t just tweet something funny/political/newsworthy to be fishing for retweets; this frequently backfires. Google Plus While Google Plus isn’t an ideal platform for everyone across the board and some groups of people are more active than others on this network, there are certainly ways to make use of it. On the most basic level, Google Plus can boost search engine rankings for brands who use the proper keywords in their page description and Google Authorship for their blog posts. Google+ Local is also important for service oriented businesses to optimize because it’s where users can post and read reviews, see pictures, and find out contact information. Posts on Google Plus can be similar in nature to Facebook, but because different people tend to favor different social networks, you may find you are interacting with a separate group of influencers. Hence, you’ll want to make sure you are targeting the audience that exists on that specific platform. Another unique element of Google Plus is their Communities section. You can join different groups that are targeted towards people with specific skills, hobbies, and interests. If you interact with people in communities related to your business, you can grow relationships that carry over onto your own Google+ profile (so long #CSFDM 36
  36. 36. as you are genuinely interacting and not merely posting links to your content). Finally, if you choose to grow a following on your G+ page, you can opt to make use of Google Hangouts. By video chatting with your audience, you can get as creative as you want, from hosting QA sessions to teaching lessons to holding contests. There’s no more personal way to interact on social media. LinkedIn When LinkedIn purchased and integrated with the Pulse mobile reader application, it became clear how much they want their platform to center more around content. They suggest content to users via the site, mobile application, and email based on the users’ preferences, influencers they follow and groups they’re in. While I don’t personally know many people who currently flock to LinkedIn for content, there is tremendous potential there and I wouldn’t be surprised if content skyrocketed on the platform in the near future. As far as strategy, again it comes back to your audience. LinkedIn is primarily for professionals, and so content focused on career strategy, job skills, and networking are the obvious choices. You know your target and your industry best, however, and you should tailor just how professional and formal your content should be based on how that will be received. LinkedIn may be a seemingly more “boring” platform because it certainly isn’t the place to host contests or post funny pictures, but tapping into a wide network of professionals can lift your business to new heights so this platform should not be ignored. You can’t recruit strong talent without LinkedIn, and you likely won’t get the same level of respect from prospective clients and leaders in your space without having a presence there. A basic plan should be quality over quantity. Every blog post you write may not be the most relevant material for your LinkedIn, meaning daily updates could be unnecessary, but making sure to post relevant white papers, conference presentations, and content that appeals to a more corporate audience should be a regular priority. #CSFDM 37
  37. 37. Pinterest If your business is visually oriented, there’s no excuse for not having a Pinterest account. While the site continues to have a stronger female demographic and is known for posts relating to fashion, exercise, crafts, and food, it’s possible to find success on Pinterest in other verticals that involve high quality original images and videos. To determine whether or not Pinterest is the right fit, explore the different categories (as seen below) and see if you have enough relevant, distinctive content to post. As you’re getting started, create a manageable number of boards by determining the appropriate level of specificity for the categories you want to contribute to. For instance, if you’re a restaurant, having a “Food Drink” board is too broad, but creating dozens of boards that only encompass one dish or ingredient isn’t optimal either. Maybe categories like Breakfast, Lunch, Appetizers, Entrees and so on would be most appropriate for the range of your menu and the frequency at which you plan to pin. Don’t create so many boards that most will look empty or too few boards that seem cluttered with only semi-related pictures and videos. For each pin you create, make sure to fill out the description box with enough detail for those who choose to repin without changing the description on their own. You may also want to consider including some text or branding on the image itself in the event that people delete the text in the description box when they repin it. #CSFDM 38
  38. 38. Instagram While Instagram may be the most personal social medium and not as many companies are utilizing it, there are brands who are capitalizing on the advantages it has to offer. Two excellent examples are Pretzel Crisps, who post unique recipes replacing typical ingredients with their pretzels, and Tieks, who arrange their shoes in visually stunning ways. Both of these brands are also exceptional in the way they play off of seasonal events. Instagram should by no means be a replacement for Pinterest because there is no organization like Pinterest’s boards and you wouldn’t regularly want to post on Instagram more than a few times per week. Instead of the same pictures you have elsewhere on your site and other social networks, you can use Instagram as a chance to show the face behind your brand as employees can take pictures from their smartphones and give sneak peeks at company happenings. When you think outside the box, there are many ways brands can creatively show off their product or service in daily snapshots or 15 second videos. If you integrate with Facebook, use appropriate hashtags (3+ per post is typical for Instagram), post unique content, and respond to comments, you are sure to develop a following. You can then host contests and giveaways on Instagram, such as entering to win a prize pack by liking and commenting on a picture. Niche Social Networks There are hundreds of other social networks out there that focus on certain #CSFDM 39
  39. 39. communities. Some are populated with engaged, loyal followers bonding over whatever it is they have in common. So, these relatively smaller sites could still be a better use of your resources than a major network on which your audience is not particularly active. Examples include Houzz for home remodeling ideas, Foodspotting for foodies, and Stylitics for fashionistas. To find success in these niche platforms, let your approach be as organic as possible; make sure you fully understand how people interact on the site. Don’t stick out by using hashtags on a site that has no use for them, for instance. The more you observe how users of this network want to be engaged, the more you’ll be able to use the site or app to its fullest potential. “The best way to create discovery is to plug into communities” Katrina Craigwell, Digital Marketing Manager, General Electric Focus On Value As I touched upon earlier, not every platform is right for every brand. Don’t feel pressure to make an account on every possible network just because that’s what you see other brands doing. You’ll make the best use of your time and energy if you work hard at developing your presence in the places that matter most instead of spreading yourself too thin. #CSFDM 40
  40. 40. Market research should be the first way you inform your decision about what networks to join because you’ll want to base your answers on your target demographic and their social media behavior. Second to this, you should think about what makes the most sense for the format and theme of your content. For instance, a financial company may not see much traction on Pinterest because of the heavier content and lack of shareworthy images. Post Frequency Once you have everything all set up, make a general plan of how often you want to utilize each channel. A good goal for blogging may be posting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to start off. On most social networks, on the other hand, you’ll want to post daily or multiple times per day (except as noted above). As far as what time of the day you should be publishing blog posts and promoting them on social media, there are some basic guidelines you can follow, but the more important focus should always be on your audience. Track hourly visits in Google Analytics to see what time you have the most people coming to your blog and track mentions of your brand on social media with a tool like Social Mention to see when users are talking about your content. Tagging all the links you share on will also help you determine when people are clicking on and sharing your links. Your starting point before you can track data for your own brand should definitely be market research that spans across your industry. Find out how frequently your competitors are posting new content and determine when the thought leaders in your space are interacting online. You can also consider these factors: • Time zone of your target audience: if you have international customers, don’t let your social media go dark during their peak hours • Time of day people read content: Most people consume new content before they get to work or during a lull in their mornings, not in the rush of afternoon meetings or finishing up work for the day • Type and length of content: Shorter, lighter pieces might actually work #CSFDM 41
  41. 41. better during lunchtime or later. Longer thought-provoking pieces should be sent out in the morning so people have time to digest them. There are various studies that attempt to uncover the best days of the week and times of day but due to multiple conflicts in the various reports I’ve seen, I’m skeptical to say there really is a universal posting schedule. If you want to learn more about how iAcquire’s Manager of Market Research and Analytics has determined our posting schedule, you can read more here: Tick, Tock, Time To Post That Doc. Site Restructure As you’re taking the time to build a blog and add social platforms, you should be rearranging your site to highlight all your new offerings. Make sure your site is clearly organized and easy to navigate, and add a social component to as much as possible: icons of where to follow you on every page, and share buttons on content that should be shared. Now is also the time to edit the content in existing pages, and consider if you can better meet user needs by adding new pages. Does your “About Us” page really explain who you are and the direction you want to move in with your new content? Maybe linking “About Us” to new “Meet Our Team” and “Our Brand Mission” pages will further clarify. Look at everything the “About Progressive” page links to for example: #CSFDM 42
  42. 42. Create fresh pages of content anywhere it will enhance the usability of your site. Be cautious of creating so many new pages that you have added needless information or have hidden what is most important to your audience. Map It Out Use the same tool that you used to visualize your site layout in Week One. If you already have a solid structure, you can simply add on. If your page structure is too deep or if you have too many unorganized pages, move around and condense where you can. “It’s a fact: People won’t use your web site if they can’t find their way around it.” Steve Krug, Don’t Make Me Think #CSFDM 43
  43. 43. This diagram should let your developer know how each page connects to other pages on the site, and it should also make clear where content needs to be added and taken away. Selecting Pages It will take some discretion to determine how much content you want to share about your brand and how many pages it will take to do so. A brand new company probably doesn’t need a “history” page yet, and a company of thousands should not be building out a biography page for each and every team member. To decide what’s most appropriate, think first of who will be coming to your site and what their needs are. Pair this with how you measure success and conversions. For example, maybe one of your goals is to get signups for product demos. What type of information are people searching for on your site before they typically sign up for a demonstration? Is it worth it to have an FAQ page answering the most common questions you get from prospects, or better yet are there major features of your product that would be useful explaining or even walking people through in a video? Providing more background information can save time for you and your potential users. By the end of Week Three you should have: • Set up a blog and social accounts on all relevant networks • Determined an appropriate posting schedule for your social media channels • Planned any necessary structural changes to your site’s layout Whether you’re building out social media accounts or pages on your site, be ever aware of your voice and tone. Stick to the guidelines that you laid out for your brand last week and always have an editor-in-chief or lead content strategist checking for brand cohesion across your online presence. Then you’ll be ready to solidify your foundation in week four, where you’ll set up a workflow and the tools you need to maintain an efficient content process. #CSFDM 44
  44. 44. Congratulations on getting half way through your content strategy ramp up! Don’t stop now; get ready to put some important processes in place so you can keep up the good work. #CSFDM 45
  45. 45. Week Four SETTING THE STAGE As you’re laying the framework for your strategy, you’ll have to decree your royal guidelines as to how the process will be carried out. Carefully include enough structure to maintain organization and use your time and resources effectively, while at the same time allowing room for creative freedom so that you don’t stifle ideas that will lead to outstanding content. #CSFDM 46
  46. 46. The Holistic Content Process Content strategy involves the right balance of creativity and structure. If you write content with no strategy behind it, it can fall flat because it’s not targeted to the right audience or promoted correctly. On the other hand, if the process is too rigid and extensive, you fall into the trap of writing content for search engines and robots instead of content that connects with and inspires your audience. The tools below will help you move through your strategy in an organized manner that allows you to view the big picture of how content strategy fits into your overall marketing plan and business initiatives, and help you unite your content in voice, tone, and theme. They’ll also leave enough flexibility to adapt to and grow with your users. Governance While we’ve been talking about the importance of being king and ensuring that one person needs to take charge and maintain control, you’ll still need to work with a team to accomplish your content goals. Through each step of the process you need to maintain open communication with your team internally, as well as be connected with any external factors that may push you to reshape your content. “Quality, relevant content can’t be spotted by an algorithm. You can’t subscribe to it. You need people - actual human beings - to create or curate it.” Kristina Halvorson, Content Strategy for the Web Due to the nature of content being a holistic, collaborative process, a hierarchy must be set up carefully as to not be restrictive. For a smaller team there will certainly be a shorter chain of command and approval process as to not add unnecessary steps and limit creative freedom. At the same time, in organizations both large and small, each person involved in content must know who has the final say in what gets produced and published. #CSFDM 47
  47. 47. There should be one person fully responsible for all edits, whether that person is called an editor-in-chief or whether the manager/director of content strategy has the final say in all content. This person has to adhere to the guidelines set by his/ her supervisor, maybe a director of marketing who reports to the CEO directly, so that all the content continues to align with the brand as a whole. Below the content strategists, the pyramid structure is less clear. Under the guidance of strategists, content writers should be working with market researchers, graphic designers, developers, and editors in a circular revision process until they reach a final product. Starting to sound too complicated for a smaller team? No matter who you assign to what parts of the process, keep these steps in mind: #CSFDM 48
  48. 48. Now let’s move into some of the ways we can keep this process flowing smoothly. Idea Generation First, have a team meeting with everyone involved to go over your editorial calendar (more on how to manage an editorial calendar soon). While you’re still in the planning process, allow each person to share his or her ideas freely. If you get stuck during the brainstorming process, there are various sources you can turn to for idea generation—you just need to get creative. Social Search First, find out what people are already talking about. Use a real-time social search engine like Social Mention to look for a topic everyone is buzzing about and see what you can add to the conversation. If you have actionable tips to help or a contrasting perspective, use that as the starting point for your content. A word of caution: sometimes a hot topic already going viral on social media and in the news is better to stay away from because it is being overdone. Don’t write another article on a topic you’ve seen everywhere unless you truly have an original spin to put on it. News Aggregators Check out the posts around the web that people are sharing and upvoting on HackerNews and related niche sites, like for the inbound marketing community. Again, approach cautiously as you want to add to trending articles, not repeat them. #CSFDM 49
  49. 49. QA Networks To find fresh ideas, browse Quora for popular questions in your area of expertise. If people are searching for answers there, it is most likely because they cannot locate an existing blog post answering their question to their liking—that’s where you come in. Additionally, consider looking through forums specifically related to your role or business, such as Stack Overflow for developers. Some of your best content can emerge in response to these queries if you set out to create resources that people can link to, bookmark, and return to regularly. Where possible, strive to make these resources evergreen content, meaning they contain topics and strategies that will remain relevant over a long period time and are not centered around current events or pop culture. Test Ideas Entering a thread on Reddit allows you to get feedback in real time from actual people. Start a discussion, ask a question, propose a solution for a common problem, and sit back and watch how people react. Engage and ask further questions and see what works best. In a guest post on the iAcquire blog, Yuriy Yarovoy, SEO Manager at Razorfish, remarks Reddit is a great place to test ideas because “Redditors are painfully honest.” Market Research A final route is to capitalize on new research that no one is talking about yet. Pew Internet is a great resource for research and statistics in every category from politics to gaming. MarketingCharts similarly provides a wide range of data as it #CSFDM 50
  50. 50. pulls information from a variety of sources. See what you can take away from the facts you find and determine an interesting, relevant way to present them. The same sources you turned to when making personas like Nielsen and Experian can work just as well. As iAcquire’s Manager of Content Strategy Devin Asaro explains in Are Feelings Good for Content Strategy?, such data can help you build a stronger content strategy by first diving into what people actually like, want, and need, versus formulating an idea you’re in love with and then desperately trying to find an audience for it. Organizing Getting all these ideas down in one place and making sure they get carried out can quickly become a problem if you aren’t using the right tools to stay organized. Brainstorming During your meeting, record ideas by category or theme so that you can keep your messaging in sync and find related ideas more easily. You can use different Excel tabs, or categorized notes and notebooks in Evernote or Microsoft OneNote. Further, you don’t want the want the collaboration to stop when you walk out of your brainstorming session. Use a visual online creative board like Realtime Board or Popplet to organize and share ideas among your team members. Post what you’ve talked about in your meeting and then keep adding to the discussion throughout the development process. When you have this laid out in front of you, you’ll start to get a good idea of which pieces of content are ready to head to production, which should be tabled for a later date when they’ll be more relevant or when your team has more bandwidth, and which might not be a fit for your brand and need to be altered or removed. #CSFDM 51
  51. 51. Project Management Once your project manager selects which ideas will move forward, he or she should assign what each member of the team should be working on to bring the content to life. Gathering the people who will be researching, writing, and making the creative assets in the beginning of the process rather than trying to catch individuals up to speed afterwards should help avoid confusion and repetition later. Consider using a project management tool like Trello, Asana, or Pivotal Tracker. These apps will help in tracking due dates and will give you space to discuss each assignment individually. This is the best way the project manager of your content team can monitor progress and clearly lay out who is responsible for what. Beyond having a handle on each content process, you also want to have a strong read on how members of the team are doing. You can check in with individuals in meetings or even ask for feedback with a 15Five report in which each person takes fifteen minutes to answer questions that his or her manager can read in five minutes. You have the option to ask questions like, “What’s going well in your role?” and “What challenges are you facing? How are you going to fix and where do you need help?” This step is by no means specific to content strategy, but having a strong leader in place will undoubtedly help produce more effective, strategic content – not just content that is creative and well written. Content Development During content development, the content creator should be governor of his or her own work. Having an editor look at an unfinished draft can waste time as the writers/designers may catch their own mistakes and make changes as they’re creating. Give them some freedom, within reasonable guidelines and due dates, to have the space to work on content before they pass it along. This does not mean, however, that the content creator should not periodically check virtual boards for new ideas or additional instructions. Further, setting up #CSFDM 52
  52. 52. a Google Alert with keywords from your topic as you are writing/shooting video/ designing etc., is smart because you want to make sure there is not new content coming out that will throw the content you are creating into question. Collaboration There are a few tools that focus specifically on content planning and collaborating, such as GatherContent and Editorially. These are a step above Google Docs as they have advanced commenting features and the ability to save drafts and revisions in different forms. WordPress Plugins If you are blogging on a WordPress platform, there are several plugins that can help you as you’re writing. For example, Zemanta finds related posts and images to give you suggestions on what you may want to cover or avoid. It shows you content to which you can link, too. Additionally, the Yoast plugin helps with SEO elements like meta descriptions and canonical link elements as you work on your post. There are hundreds of other plugins that you may find beneficial for organizing, editing, collaborating, and more. Sort through them in the WordPress Plugin Directory. Quality Assurance Once the first draft of content is complete, governance should pass first to the editors and lastly back to the project manager for final approval. #CSFDM 53
  53. 53. While quality assurance should never solely rely on automation, there are some useful tools that can be used as a starting point or second opinion. Check out the GrammarBase Chrome plugin—a free tool that checks for Grammar, Punctuation, Style, Plagiarism, and Contextual Spelling. Beyond checking spelling and formatting, the QA process should also involve making sure your goals are met as far as fitting the correct target audience and adhering to the style guidelines you set back in week two. Creating an Editorial Calendar Along with your workflow process you’ll need a defined schedule of posting on your blog. Create an editorial calendar that reflects the goals of your content strategy. Calendar Tools Before we dive into what you do with an editorial calendar, let’s look at some of the tools you can use to house it. At iAcquire we use Trello for our content calendar, similarly to the way we use Trello to manage all of our other projects. We have a few columns to organize posts from ideas to launch: “To Schedule,” “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done.” The positives about using Trello are that you can assign posts to specific people with certain due dates, create checklists for multifaceted content, and house conversations about each piece of content right on the card created for it. It might not work for some since the format is not primarily a calendar, but now that Trello allows users to view due dates on a calendar, this shouldn’t be as much of a problem. Another option comes in the form of Excel spreadsheets. There are quite a few templates out there, and you can customize them to work for you. Two exceptional Excel calendars are these by HubSpot and Vertical Measures. They may help you #CSFDM 54
  54. 54. organize your schedule more clearly since the visual layout itself is a calendar, but the collaboration aspect could potentially be more difficult. Even if you share the calendar through something like Google Drive, it will be difficult to have an uncluttered conversation about individual posts right in the document. Finally, the platform you’re using might have plugins of its own that you can use for your editorial calendar. Here’s one from WordPress, for example. Monthly Goals Setting long-term goals for your content strategy is great, but you also want to set markers for yourself along the way so that you can track your progress more easily and leave room for adjustment. Setting up your calendar on a month-tomonth basis should do the trick. First, think of the kind of progress you want to see when the month is through. Try to pick something quantitative such as a gain of a certain number of followers on social media, as well as something qualitative like a more cohesive message and tone. Think about how many times per month you should post on your blog in order to accomplish these goals. “Try to turn as many soft, aspirational goals as possible into success criteria, and make them specific enough that you can actually tell whether or not you’ve met them.” Erin Kissane, The Elements of Content Strategy If you’re not going to post every day, how many times per week can you realistically commit to? One to three? What days will work best? Of course you should use data about your actual users to determine the best schedule for your audience, but until you have a thorough understanding of your readership, you can use data like in this study from Kissmetrics, Search Engine Land, and HubSpot, to determine the best times to post blog content. If there is something especially important in your niche, contemplate making #CSFDM 55
  55. 55. a weekly column about it. Technology Tuesday, Wardrobe Wednesday… give yourself a broad enough theme to work with frequently and then make the posts specific and unique enough to stand out. At the end of the month, you’ll be able to look at which posts performed best and on which days so that you can test adjustments to the next month’s strategy accordingly. Have A Cohesive Vision Picking an end goal and x number of times to post per month and then focusing on individual posts won’t be most conducive to fostering your brand. You want to lay out posts in a way that they can lead into and complement each other, or at the very least not clash with one another. With a big picture in mind you can plan for four awesome weeks of content, not three epic posts to start off followed by filler posts until next month. You’ll also ensure you are rotating through all the different types of content you can. With so many to choose from (as outlined in week five), there is no reason to have the same type of post more than two days in a row. Big Features You should also consider if there is anything you want to add to your content strategy on a strictly monthly basis. This can include an e-newsletter, a wrapup post of progress for the month, or a list of best content or client work from the past month. Try to find one element that you can make your own and deliver consistently at the start or end of each month. You might push this even further and make it a goal to produce a major piece of content like a white paper, case study, or webinar at the end of each month. This may very well take more than one month of planning ahead so you’ll want to factor this in as early as possible. You’ll also want to promote this ahead of its release, so make sure to factor this into your calendar as well. If you’re new to creating #CSFDM 56
  56. 56. content or have a smaller team, it might be a better idea to shoot for these big features at the end of each quarter instead. Daily Goals Of course you want each post to have a large number of social shares and comments, but understand that if you’re just starting out you may not find your audience immediately. Instead your day-to-day focus should be on quality assurance and making sure each post fits your style guidelines and is as strong as it can possibly be. You also want to be aware of other content floating around and outside factors that can affect your message. Before setting a post live, check: 1. What was posted this week in your blog and relevant related blogs? • Is this different? • Does this top it? • Should you reference it? 2. Is anything going on in industry or world news that makes this post more or less appropriate? • If so, what changes can we make to reflect this? #CSFDM 57
  57. 57. Editorial Calendar Dos and Don’ts Use the following guidelines to schedule your posts on an editorial calendar. Do: Brainstorm as a team and leave room for creative freedom Don’t: Assign posts to different people without guidance or structure Planning an editorial calendar should not be a one-person job. All of the people who will be contributing to content creation should have some level of control in the calendar process. Come together as a group to figure out how individuals might bring together posts around common monthly or weekly themes. There’s no rule that all your posts for the month must be interconnected, but you should still plan content together. Having one person pick all the topics suffocates individual potential and creativity, whereas each person planning his/her own content without keeping the rest of the month’s posts in mind leads to a messy collage of thoughts instead of a place for strengthening your brand’s identity. While you may be tempted to assign each person on the content team a due date and leave your calendar at that, doing so sets you up for failure because it will be much harder to prevent repetition and to vary type and format of content. Having a rotating schedule of writers keeps consistency, but you’ll need to add more information than names to your calendar well in advance, and shouldn’t make these assignments before getting everyone on the same page. #CSFDM 58
  58. 58. It’s far more important to vary the content on your blog than the writers themselves, so assigning different topics and formats to different dates and then seeing who on your team is best qualified to tackle that assignment is a stronger method. Do: Plan general themes for the entire year Don’t: Plan out day-to-day posts more than three months out The biggest potential flaw of content calendars is that anything you plan too far in advance will become irrelevant. However, some general themes and occasions come and go season after season, and these can be a great baseline. Just remember that “The Holidays” is not an acceptable theme and will not help generate posts—you’ll need something specific to your brand and your industry. There are plenty of non-seasonal ways you can plan your themes, too. If there are multiple categories in your area of expertise that you plan on covering on your blog, try focusing on one or two at a time. For instance, the iAcquire blog might hone in on content strategy one month and the marriage of market research and social media the next. Presenting a series on a given topic this way and letting your readers know it will be continuing over the course of x number of weeks can help increase your engagement level. A third plan of attack would be centering strategy around a large piece of content #CSFDM 59
  59. 59. you want to push out that month. If you know you’ll have an eBook on email marketing coming out, for instance, you might want to expand on the different angles in each chapter over the course of a few weeks. After you have a creative, relevant theme for each month, don’t get too far ahead of yourself. It is way too early to know exactly what you should create 7 months in the future. When the time gets closer (no more than one month in advance) you can pull timely items into your pre-made topic. As always, keep checking for anything that could make your topic outdated as you get closer to the publish date. “Don’t publish content just because you have it. Only publish content that is relevant.” Gerry McGovern Rob Norton, Content Critical Do: Plan out both topics and types of content Don’t: Make an overly fragmented or complicated plan We’ve already talked about why to plan ahead to avoid repetition—the same topic explained over and over again without new insights adds no value, and the same format gets too boring to engage and keep people coming back for more. On the other hand, you don’t want to hinder your ability to deliver content to a high standard and on time because you’ve spread yourself too thin or set your expectations too high. Remember that it’s perfectly ok to have multiple posts centered on the same #CSFDM 60
  60. 60. theme, so it’s not like if you talk about social media one day, you shouldn’t mention it again until next month. In fact, if your topic shifts drastically from one day to the next, it may be difficult for your audience to form a strong relationship with your brand. If the post adds value that no other post adds, the topic is unique enough. Similarly, content forms do not have to vary radically with each post. You don’t need to have a video one day and an infographic immediately following. This will be too much work for your team and too much information for your audience. Using different formats can be as simple as having a “How To” post one day, and a post answering user-generated questions the next. Do: Leave flexibility for posts related to hot topics and current events Don’t: Newsjack inappropriately Plan ahead for important dates and special events in your industry. Mark off days on your calendar when you know such events are occurring and plan to not generate the specific topic and format of the post until you find out the news surrounding that day/event. For instance, you might schedule a post for the day after a major conference and write about the most talked about themes or the best tips and strategies you learned. You can have this post on the calendar but will have to actually attend the conference to know the exact points you want to highlight. #CSFDM 61
  61. 61. Understand that there will be other times when blog worthy news erupts unexpectedly and allow yourself the flexibility to move around previously scheduled posts in order to talk about what is now more important. The key is to really only comment on news that is relevant to your specific industry—don’t try to take a hot news item that is completely unrelated in the hopes that you will generate clicks and shares (see Newsjacking: You’re Doing it Wrong). Everything comes down to finding a careful balance: plan content enough in advance that you have time to execute posts to the best of your ability but not so far in advance that your ideas become outdated. At the same time, allow for creativity and a chance for updates without losing your cohesive message, theme, and voice. By the end of Week Four you should have: • Developed a content workflow and assigned roles and realistic due dates • Explored possible topic ideas after thorough research of what’s already out there • Set up tools to stay organized and manage content projects • Created an editorial calendar and begun to schedule content Now that your team knows how the content process works, you’re ready to tackle all of the post ideas in week five and start coming up with your own. Grab a pen and paper and let’s brainstorm! #CSFDM 62
  62. 62. Week Five CONTENT CREATION You have a polished site, social media accounts, guidelines and a process; you’re ready to create new content! The ideas in this chapter are merely that—ideas. Explore them, get inspired, make them better and add your brand’s touch. Remember, you’re the king, so use your influence to produce something magnanimous. #CSFDM 63
  63. 63. Types Of Content Now that you’re ready to lead your team through the creative process, it’s time to gather your ideas. Since you’ll want to vary the type and length of your content, try challenging yourself to start out by not repeating the same type of post for your first month. This way, you can have a better grasp on what works best for your audience, where your content team’s strengths and weaknesses lie, and how much time and effort goes into different types of pieces. Below are 31 ideas to get you started on your month of varied content, and the minimum time required for each. Feel free to go above and beyond; in fact, I challenge you to do so. 1. Share Company News Time Required: 30 minutes Tell your audience about what’s going on in your office—new hires, fun events, and company culture. 2. Create a How To Guide Time Required: 1 - 4 hours Break down parts of your strategy into easy to follow steps and include an example and visual for each step along the way. Depending on how complicated the subject is, your post can be more time consuming to write, but a clear guide is invaluable. 3. Present a Case Study Time Required: 1 week – 1 year Whether you’re compiling research about your clients or your internal sales process, you don’t need to keep all that great information to yourself. Let people know what you’ve tried and what you’ve found the outcome to be. Give details about the implementation process and the results. Present clear takeaways that prove why your study is relevant to others. #CSFDM 64
  64. 64. 4. Make a List of Top Posts Time Required: 2 – 6 hours Curate content on a regular basis. Make lists of your most viewed or most shared content. Make lists of posts on other blogs that you found especially useful. The possibilities are endless. If you keep track of your content and bookmark other blogs over time, you can put a list together fairly quickly. If you need help keeping track as you go, use a tool like to organize your links.a 5. Review a Tool or Product Time Required: 1 – 2 hours If you can be one of the first people to cover a new tool or product that makes everyone’s jobs easier, you will have an instant winning post. It may take you some time to learn for yourself first, but once you’ve mastered it, explaining it won’t be hard at all. Similarly, if there’s a tool or via Mashable product that is already widely used but you think you have a shortcut or other insight that can be helpful, what may be simple and obvious to you could be extremely useful to someone else. 6. Give a Personal Take on Industry News Time Required: 1 – 3 hours Establish your voice by bringing your knowledge to a conversation already taking place. You should largely be sticking to the facts, but don’t be afraid to insert your personality and bring your background knowledge to the table. #CSFDM 65
  65. 65. 7. Talk About Survey Research Time Required: 1 day – 1 week Take a survey of clients, social followers, or industry peers using a service like SurveyMonkey. Put your findings into charts and graphs and describe any theories or conclusions you can draw. 8. Illustrate Company Goals Time Required: 1 hour via Athena Health You undoubtedly have goals you want to accomplish. Instead of sharing with only your team, let the rest of the world know what they can expect from you. This leads to even more content because you can follow up over time to explain what you’ve accomplished and how, or what you were not able to achieve and why. As in the above example, reflecting on goals can also be a great time to ask for user feedback and strike up interactions. #CSFDM 66
  66. 66. 9. Live Tweet a Conference Time Required: 1-3 days Live tweeting is not restricted to the social sphere. Bring it directly to your blog to provide content that is insanely useful to those who were not able to attend the conference. If applicable, use the live blog feature in WordPress to give your audience a social and blog Live Tweet of NMX experience at once. 10. Host Reader Engaged QA Time Required: 2 hours Use your social media accounts to spread the word that you will be taking questions from your audience. Use a hashtag to keep track on Twitter. After you carefully choose which questions will give you variety and will best allow you to speak to your area of expertise, create a blog post with your answers. 11. Interview a Thought Leader Time Required: 2 hours Joe Pulizzi Interviews Lee Odden Find someone whom you admire and who has a substantial following and ask him or her questions that play to his or her strengths and personal and professional experiences. #CSFDM 67
  67. 67. 12. Hold Contests Time Required: 1 week – 1 month Contests can generate infinite amounts of content. At minimum, you can write one post announcing the start of the contest and explaining the rules, and another congratulating the winners. Even if the contest itself is taking place on social media or through another method, you can still write about it on your blog. You can also host contests involving user generated blog content or guest post blog content to rack up posts for an extended period of time. 13. Publish Guest Posts Time Required: 30 minutes If you publish only quality articles from thought leaders who have something shareworthy to contribute, guest posts can still be valuable. Set up clear guidelines on your site for what you would expect in a guest post, and use your social marketing skills to build relationships with those who you would want to see post on your site. 14. Build a Chrome App or Extension Time Required: 30 minutes Having an app or extension can be a way to bring people to your blog to view your content. It can also be the subject of a blog post when you announce its creation, where to find it, and how it works. Check out Will Critchlow’s post on Building Chrome DistilledU App #CSFDM Apps and Extensions to get started. 68
  68. 68. 15. Include a SlideShare Presentation Time Required: 1 – 4 hours Presentations often involve thorough research and preparation, so why not take all that hard work and share it on your blog? If you are speaking at a conference, put your presentation up afterwards for those who were unable to attend. You don’t have to use a pre-existing SlideShare, though. Like in the above example, you can use SlideShare as a more interesting way to wrap-up information. 16. Summarize Marketing Campaign Results Time Required: 2 hours After you’ve spent time, energy and resources on marketing, you’ll want to assess the outcome. Create graphs and charts to get a visual representation of how your campaign succeeded and where you need to improve. In your blog post, be sure to give some reasons why you achieved iAcquire Linkmas Post Mortem the results you did so that your audience can learn what to follow and what to avoid. 17. Make Statistics an Infographic Time Required: 3 – 6 hours Create your own infographic with sites like Info.gram, Picktochart, or Use facts and statistics you already have from prior research, or gather new information with a survey. #CSFDM 69
  69. 69. 18. Do Hypothetical Client Work Time Required: 2 – 4 hours via Moz Your clients may not want you to share on your blog the methods you’ve used to help them. You can still show off your thought process and your skills, however, by picking a company that you would like to have as a client and explaining what type of work you would do for them. 19. Create a Map Time Required: 10 minutes A map is simply another form of content that you can describe and customize. Sites like Map-Generator.Net allow you to create and mark up maps. Use this to enhance a post about a travel experience or widespread research data. An Instagram Photo Map or something similar can further contribute to the visual appearance of your post. In sharing your pictures you can make your blog more personal. 20. Tell a Story Time Required: 2 hours Blog posts can be informal and imaginative, whether you are telling a story about a personal experience or bringing some creativity to otherwise boring data. You can also bring a story to life with Storybird, a site that allows you to create a simple virtual book. It can be used as a fresh format for a How To guide like in this example. #CSFDM 70
  70. 70. 21. Teach a Skill Using Interactive Examples Time Required: 3 hours Take your step-by-step guide to the next level by making it interactive somehow. There are dozens of ways to do this, so experiment to find what makes the most sense for your industry and skill set. 22. Explain a Strategy Using Analogy Time Required: 2 hours Analogies can come in handy in several cases. First, if you want to add insight to a topic that has already been discussed at length elsewhere, using an extended metaphor to drive in your point can shed new light on a topic and bring attention to your opinion. An analogy can also liven up a less interesting subject, or help to explain a more complicated process in terms that anyone can understand. Beware of stretching subjects that are too dissimilar or of confusing your audience with overly intricate examples. Keep it simple and relatable for the best results. 23. Share a Spreadsheet or Google Doc Time Required: 1 hour Chances are you use an Excel spreadsheet or Google Doc to help speed along your day. If you can save other people time by sharing this file, your audience will greatly appreciate the help. If you don’t already have a shareworthy document, think about a process that you would like to make easier during your work day, and try to find a solution. Blog about your results. 24. Show Examples of What Not To Do Time Required: 2 hours This is similar to a How To post, but works by providing examples and explanations of what doesn’t work. Ultimately, the goal is to teach people what they should be doing by illustrating what they should avoid. #CSFDM 71
  71. 71. 25. Propose a Theory Time Required: 1 week – 1 year As you take notice of changes in your sphere of influence, see if you can find patterns in or correlations between data points. If you have an idea of why these changes may be occurring “The Bigfoot Update” this way that you can back up with data, people in your space will likely be interested in listening to your theory. This can be time consuming as you want to consider multiple possibilities and address each clearly. If your theory leads to new strategies in your space, however, the payoff can be quite rewarding. 26. Give Kudos Time Required: 1 – 2 hours Positively mentioning another brand can be great for your blog. You can get increased traffic to your post coming from the other company and their followers, and may even see reciprocity in the future. By pointing out elements of another company that you admire, you are providing a great resource to your audience with concrete examples. 27. Create a Timeline Time Required: 30 min – 1 hour A timeline can be a fun way to fit a lot of information into a concise and visually appealing post. Use a site like Dipity to add a great balance of images and text to chronological data. 28. Answer Why Time Required: 2 hours You can’t teach a new skill in every post you write. Sometimes you should be reflecting on why a certain method or tool is worth reading about. Answering #CSFDM 72