Content Marketing Strategy
An in-depth conversation with a local expert about content marketing and social media management.
At 5 by 5 Design we believe it’s possible to change the world by posing the right questions, listening to the honest answers, and following the path that emerges from the dialogue. Today, we’ve tapped into the insights of an experienced pro to discuss content marketing strategy.
Melissa Harrison, founder and CEO of Allee Creative, is an executive in the content marketing space and experienced blogger on content marketing strategy. For more than 17 years she has worked with SMBs, nonprofits, associations, and B2B corporations to develop successful content marketing strategies using a combination of traditional and digital channels. We spoke with Melissa about the need for content marketing strategies in business and how social media is just one (important) piece of the pie.
1. What are some misconceptions around content marketing and social media?
The biggest one is that content marketing and social media are one in the same. They are not. Content marketing is a strategy that has been around before social media came on the scene; it’s a way to develop relationships with potential (and current) customers by producing relevant, consistent content, typically across digital channels, that leads to engagement and conversations. Think video, webinars, virtual event experiences, quizzes, blog posts, apps, community forums, e-newsletters, and yes, also social media.
Content marketing is less about the sale and more about engagement and brand awareness. Think relationships over revenue. It’s the way that customers learn about you, develop sentiments about your brand, trust you—it’s producing content based on what the customer cares about and needs (their pain points) not about what you’re trying to sell. Eventually, that sale or conversion happens—after all, it’s why you’re in business—but that is not the first driver in content marketing.
Your customers find you in all stages of their journey—there’s not one path-to-purchase. They may receive multiple emails and then decide to buy. Maybe they’ve done Google searches and happened upon your blog, your YouTube videos, or your Facebook posts. Through content marketing, you show up as a thought leader, an educator, and an expert no matter where those customers are in their journey. You’re setting the pace and metrics for creating positive customer experiences even before they become your customers.
Social media comes in as one of the many ways to distribute the content you produce as part of your content marketing plan. These channels are certainly a crucial part of most content marketing plans but they are not the plan.
2. What roles or tasks are involved with content marketing?
First, understand your business goals, your target audiences, and your resources. These components are what will drive the bulk of your content marketing plan.
Next, develop clear goals about what success will look like—why are you moving forward with the content marketing plan? What do you want to achieve (and which channels will you use to do that)? Who do you want to reach? How will you measure success?
Finally, outline the tools to get you there.
What can you tackle in-house and what might you need to outsource? Examples:
- Content strategy
- Community management
How will you stay organized?
- Content calendars
- Metrics spreadsheets
My advice always is to start small and grow from there. Get acclimated to doing a few things really well and once you have a handle on those components, add more. You do not have to be everywhere, either. Be strategic about the channels you take on; we’re going to see a lot more focus related to digital channels of choice in 2021 and beyond.
3. What advice do you have for tackling social media management?
I come from a background in publication and content/editorial management so for me, the easiest way to stay organized is to use source lists, content calendars, and third-party software or scheduling tools. It’s a perfect combination of organic and automation that makes my life easier.
Assignment and expectations of roles prior to kicking off any kind of social media engagement is also key. Things like:
- Who will monitor social media conversations in real time (i.e. likes, comments, retweets, shares)
- What will be the protocol for negative press?
- What will be the process for un-scheduling or removing content in times of civil unrest or historic events when it no longer makes sense for your brand to have content go live that day(s)?
- How far in advance will you plan social media content?
- Will you monitor content on the weekend?
I’m also a huge fan of getting yourself or your team acclimated to a project management flow—whether it be a software system such as Asana (my favorite!) or through an internal system. The most important thing to remember is to be present, monitor, and engage. Once you’re out there, you’re out there.
4. How do you choose the ‘right’ channels?
It’s all about where your audiences hang out online and which channels drive the most engagement (both with the content you’re serving up and back to your website). Research the demographics of each social media channel and compare them to your target audiences. For instance, if you’re trying to reach more Alphas or Gen Zs, creating content for SnapChat, Instagram, and Twitch will be much more appealing to those audiences than content for Facebook or LinkedIn.
Channels to consider using outside of social media could also include:
- Video platforms (Vimeo, YouTube)
- Other streaming platforms (Discord, Clubhouse)
- Email marketing (Constant Contact, MailChimp, Active Campaign)
5. Do you have any tips or how-to advice for developing good content?
Use what you know to guide you—your personas, your metrics, even your sales team and FAQs. Google Analytics is a great resource that can tell you what search terms lead people to your website; this in turn can be used in developing social media content or blog post topics. Pull your social media metrics on a monthly basis and gauge which pieces of content or topic types receive the most engagement from your audience. Develop sources lists or an ideas one-sheet/folder where you can save content ideas as they come in so you’re not always starting from scratch each month. You can also start with larger themes or long-form pieces of content (white papers, eBooks, etc.) and break them down into smaller pieces (video clips, a series of blog posts, weekly social media posts, etc.).
Google is also a great resource of (free) information. For example, let’s say you’re a business that offers tax and accounting services. Your clients may be asking questions around how to file taxes online. A simple start to a Google search will also provide you information based on top searches in the past 30 days. All of these ideas show up in various areas on that first page of Google. They look something like this:
A few other resources that can help get the creative content juices flowing include:
At the end of the day, a solid content marketing strategy needs to include community management—whether that is straight up social media management, identifying the right people to monitor email responses, or following up with leads/contacts/downloads that come in from your website. When you make the decision to be digitally active on behalf of your brand, you need to come prepared to monitor, engage, and respond. It’s like any type of communication: If someone calls you on the phone, you talk back. If you’re at a cocktail party and you’re asked questions, you give responses. The only way we don’t engage in those settings is if we choose not to answer the phone or stay home instead of going to the party. Think of your digital content with the same sentiments. Once you’re there, you need to be prepared to engage with your audiences. And if you do it well, your brand will flourish.