Content strategy – an effective tool or complete bullsh*t?
Communications is everywhere these days, and it is not just communications professionals who do it, but everyone. Whether a company benefits from its communications and whether the content is being managed somehow, is a different story. This is where content strategy, a term embraced by consultants, steps in. What does it really mean? Is content strategy worth investing in?
Put shortly, a content strategy encompasses analyzing, planning and creating content. In other words, what, where, how, when and who is communicated to. Why? Because people no longer want advertising, they want their needs to be met. They are not interested in your agenda, but instead in what’s in it for them.
It is thus “a long-term plan for content marketing”. Quite the jargon.
What is content marketing?
In addition to content strategy, content marketing is a term widely used. Both are (in my opinion) terms surrounded by unnecessary hype. The consultant mentality appears to involve coming up with difficult terms for even the simplest of things, to make them sound terribly professional.
You should focus on doing the right things in the right place and at the right time.
In practice, this means creating valuable content to visitors, i.e. content that is of interest to both old and potential customers. Information, instructions, manuals and entertainment equal more free value to the customer and more sales for the company. The best case scenario happens when the customer is not even aware of having fallen “prey” to advertising!
The value of the content depends, naturally, on who reads it and where.
Different content paths include, e.g.
- Website content, for example newsroom and blog
- Social media content
- Shared presentations (e.g. Slideshare)
- White Papers
- Instant messengers
Content is where humans interact with one another.
For content production to truly be of benefit to you, you must understand the wishes of your audience: what they look for, what they need and what they do not even realize they need.
Does my drivel also sound like vague jargon? Bear with me just a little longer.
How to create your own content strategy?
Yes, I’m using the term myself, even though I just said that it has been unnecessarily placed on a pedestal. Oh well. I allow you, dear readers, to punish me, should we meet sometime.
How is content strategy created?
It is done like any other strategy: by analyzing the current situation, planning future targets and considering the states between these two phases.
Start by considering the following:
- Who are the contents targeting – i.e. who/what are your target groups? Consider your different stakeholder groups, and define your strengths with each of these. What benefits can you offer to each group? Also define which matters are of interest to each target group, who they listen to, what is their level of skills, as well as their needs. Does you supply correspond to their needs?
- Where do you currently have content? Own website, social media, other?
- How does the current content correspond to your goals? Does the content bring added value to the target groups? If so, why? Or why not? (In other words, does the target group member receive any value, and if so, how much?)
- Set measures. What key performance indicators are most relevant to you? Site visitor figures, social media shares, sales growth (*wink wink*)? Only through measuring you can know where you are at now, and how the situation will evolve.
- Steer and improve content from what it currently is to where you want to go. Define the tasks for your staff. Who produces content, for whom, when, why and how often? (Do you have the resources necessary for continuous content production?) And, really, produce content, don’t just plan it.
- Analyze the goals that have been attained and develop some more. What works, what doesn’t?
(Did you write the answer to each question down somewhere? That was really the point. Reading is not yet an intellectual product of any kind.)
Each stakeholder or target group has its own way of discussing matters. For example a company’s internal communications often differs completely from customer and partner communications, in terms of channels and content.
No really, how to create valuable content?
So, should we get to the point already? Were the previous parts too intangible or high-flown?
Next, I will introduce a few types of content and tell you what could be done about them. Maybe even today.
Website/Online store: Introduce your services and make sure that product descriptions are in order. First tell the customers what value they will be provided, i.e., how are you of benefit to them. Not features, benefits. Not a “21-inch bike with Shimano’s gears” but “a free commute and better health”. Yes, all qualities must also be listed. But only after you have first explained why your service or product is so excellent.
Blog: Solve your customers’ most common problems and answer their questions. You save time, when people find the answers online, and your customer service receives less calls. Also provide inspiration and tips relating to your field. For example fashion blogs show how products can be combined to create different looks. A bike salesperson can write a story on a bike they have put together and what a wonderful bike trip they made (where and how they got there) last weekend. You can also write about your visits to different events in the industry you have partaken in, or tell about the new phenomena that are taking place in the industry.
Videos: The most popular ones have been the so-called “how to” instructions and manuals to doing something. Our bike salesperson could make a video on how to change a broken pedal or repair a tire (with the modern tire sealant from their online store, of course). The person will naturally also write a separate blog article on the video.
Social media: Be creative. Naturally you will share all the above-mentioned blog posts and videos in social media. You can also provide customer success stories (also fit for blogs), quote celebrities (in relation to your industry), give tips, or simply give a “Behind the Scenes” account of your operations and advertise the best offers of the day. Remember to always reply to comments on social media, whether positive or negative.
“I didn’t even bother finish reading your content”
To conclude, forget about fancy, difficult terms. Create content, which you know will give value to the potential group of customers – in other words, content, which will be useful, moving, entertaining. Share information for free, and in return, you will get sales.
Create manuals, guide videos, infographics, entertainment, Behind the Scenes features, seminar reports, success stories. And do it actively. Don’t create and then forget your company’s Facebook page. Don’t write blog posts once a year. Don’t tweet only product offers. Do it every week, preferably every day.
Benefits come first, engineer thinking second. I don’t buy a Lenovo laptop because it has a 32 gigabyte flash memory. I buy it because it allows me to work incredibly fast. I don’t buy a system camera because I want a 50 mm objective with a f/1.8 aperture. I buy it because I want superbly accurate photos from my vacation with my wife.
When creating content is goal-directed, and a schedule and framework have been set, you have a content strategy. Simple as that. Let us not turn a simple matter into an issue.