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What is content marketing and why does every startup need it?

What is content marketing and why does every startup need it?

Content marketing began to gain popularity with the advent of the Internet. Today, it is hard to find companies with no website or social media presence. At least you expect to see them on Facebook and LinkedIn, and at most – across all available platforms where their target audience is also present. In this article we will explore content marketing and the benefits it can bring to your project.

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Introduction

Content marketing is one of the leading forms of online marketing that creates brand awareness through content distribution. In practice the variety of tasks performed includes working with the company’s website, maintaining accounts in social networks and interaction with the mass media.

If you manage to produce quality content that your audience cares about on a regular basis, your business will get not only clients, but also clients-fans who will be protecting you and promoting among their friends.

Content marketing includes the following steps:

  • Target audience communication;

  • Theme identification;

  • Creating a content plan;

  • Drafting and writing text requirements;

  • Promoting publications.

To implement content marketing in your project, you don’t need to reorganize the budget and recruit special staff. Publications, especially in the early days, can be built with minimal costs. First off, the key thing is to define content goals that you want to achieve for your project. Secondly, to identify the resources that you already have and those that you need to attract. Finally, to develop your media strategy, including a content plan and ways to promote it. To work with content you need to understand your audience.

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Content marketing

How and why you need to study the audience

It is important to know your audience in order to relate to them, understand their needs and the triggers urging them to buy your product. Audience research enables you to write articles that are useful both to potential buyers and wider communities. This, in turn, will help to gain a positive brand reputation, and in the future to get the status of an expert or trend-setter in the subject matter.

Conducting buyer persona research leads to a better understanding where to publish your posts, as well as their topics, genres, size, and presentation.

If you are launching content marketing from scratch, survey the target market you hope will be receptive to your product as well as find out your competitors’ social media TA.

To picture your ideal customer, you need to answer the following questions:

  1. Where does a typical representative of your audience live?

  2. Socio-demographic characteristics: gender, age, education, occupation, income level, marital status, size of the family.

  3. Consumption pattern: is a typical representative of your TA an innovator or a conservator?

  4. Does he/she make decisions on his/her own or does he/she need a piece of advice? If so, then who is the advisor? Do the opinion leaders influence his/her views and choices? If so, who are these leaders and experts?

  5. Where does the customer buy your product?

  6. Which social networks does he/she prefer? Which news/analytical portals does he spend more time on?

  7. What fears regarding your product does your buyer person have? What prevents him/her from buying your product? What doubts does he/she have? What are the emotional and functional advantages of using your product?

From the information obtained you are able to understand to which extent your future content should depend on such parameters as region, financial attitudes and behaviour, new technologies, expert opinion.

In addition, you will figure out which channel is the best to start work with — whether it is better to fill up the website with content or to throw yourself into social networks, and to which platforms to give preference.

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Content marketing

How and where to find the right topic

Any content plan starts with the search of a trending topic.

The simplest way to find it is to check competitors’ pages. Study posts on their websites and social media platforms. See which of them are the most popular ones and also note the views, likes, reposts, quantity (and quality) of comments. Based on this data you have, create your own ideas avoiding plagiarism, but taking a fresh approach to a known problem.

Next, to diversify your thematic palette, learn from the international experience. Look what foreign companies similar to yours publish in their blogs/social media. A little lifehack on how to do that. Go to Google, enter your niche name in the search box, for example, artificial intelligence, and add the word blog — voila, we have a list of blogs on our topic. Study them and choose what is useful for your future platform.

One more option is to come up with the themes based on your personal experience. You work in this market and have depth of knowledge, you are also aware of the problems business and clients have. Brainstorm with your team and select the feasible options. Remember, they must be relevant to the majority of your audience.

Work with request services — Wordstat, Spywords.ru (for Russia), Semrush.com (for USA). Enter in the search field the key queries on your topic and check in which context people are searching it. This will become your topic. Let’s have a look at an example of how it works in the Wordstat service: https://prnt.sc/rwatad. I have highlighted with the arrows queries that may become topics for your blog as long as they are related to machine learning.

Explore the thematic forums: simply write out the most discussed topics — they will form the basis for your future publications.

Work with the question-and-answer services: https://www.quora.com/, Yandex.q, otvet.mail.ru. Check what people are asking about your topic — some of the answers may be a subject for an expert article.

Additionally, pay attention to what is happening not only in your market segment, but also in the region/ country as a whole. Deliver the news with an emphasis on how it will affect your field, how it will affect the interests of your target audience.

Lifehack: talk about yourself

By telling about yourself, you open up to your audience: allow your clients to study the history of the product they use and learn about the people behind its production. Become for them a company with a “human face”.

What should you share?

  1. Figures — update your numerical data regularly and make it known at your sites.

  2. The history of a product: how it appeared in your lineup; talk about its history. Why do you produce/ sell/ create it? Such information increases the value of the product. You will agree that it’s nice to drink tea, which once was available only to the members of the imperial family. Almost any product has its own history.

  3. Cooperation with famous people and companies, participation in significant projects.

Tip: write expert articles

Sometimes to find the information you need, you have to pick it up in pieces using different resources. It’s annoying… but at the same time inspiring, because by introducing the genre of expert articles into your content strategy, you are getting a constant inflow of traffic and also the status of a thought leader in the eyes of your target (and not only) audience.

Expert articles are in-depth reviews of the topic covering all its key aspects. When writing such an article, try to avoid obscure words and incomprehensible terms — if you still need to use them, explain immediately. As a rule, people tend to read clear and distinct articles. It is easier to read plain and elegant language than google complex definitions. Follow the principle of “everything in one place”.

Stick to the logical and clear structure of the article. Start with the theory in an introductory section, in the main part tell how it works in practice, share cases, talk about the nuances, rules and exceptions to them. And in the final part draw conclusions/make a resume, using tips and checklists.

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Content marketing

Content plan

A content plan is a plan of what you are going to write about and when you will do that. A content plan is also called an editorial plan, a publication plan, a publication schedule at a particular site.

To implement content marketing in your project, first off, you need to define its goals: whether it is increasing brand loyalty, or accelerating sales, or developing social networks, or forming a community around the brand, or increasing attendance at the brand’s website, or growing the number of subscribers in social networks. These are the goals that will help you to shape the core of your main themes and the publication schedule.

How to start creating a content plan?

Divide your content according to the objectives. First, choose the content that your target reader will share and through which more people will know about you: different guides, lifehacks, instructions, humor.

Secondly, establish the content that will help you to gain expert status in your market segment: market research publications, interviews with experts, analytics.

Third, focus on the content that will promote your products and services: comparisons, reviews, instructions — everything that will explain in simple terms why your product is better than the competitors’ ones.

Now assess your resources: do you have an opportunity to hire an editor and/or journalist? Can you order content from freelance writers? Even if your answer to both questions is “no”, still don’t give up. Design your content plan with materials that will appear at regular intervals, for example once a week.

When planning, alternate materials of different genres and tenors. Start with a useful guide, next publish an expert opinion, and then prepare a comparison of products/services of your field.

Fill in the content plan with materials about important dates and holidays — for such topics you can create a creative sales pitch and attract more audience.

Lifehack: planning tools

It is convenient to use Google Sheets to create a content plan. It is a simple, handy and free tool that can be used simultaneously on different devices by as many people as your editing process requires. In Google sheets it is easy to report on publications and collect analytics by tracking the number of views, unique visitors, viewers, traffic sources, etc. Editorial accounting can also be maintained in this app.

If you need to keep track of how a particular task is progressing (even a small detail), you can try Trello — it’s a free task tracker that allows you to assign executors, deadlines, leave comments, set priorities, create task cards and checklists.

Among the paid software I will mention CoSchedule — a service that enables to create and update a content plan, assign executors, track work tasks, auto post to social networks (except VKontakte and Odnoklassniki), track publications. The free trial includes 14 days, then the program costs from $19 per month.

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Content marketing

Content Requirements

Another important task before working on the content is to determine the requirements for it.

  1. All publications must be useful — for you (brand promotion and sales growth), for the audience (new and useful information, lifehacks), for search engines — if you take into account the requirements of web search engines and how they work, when preparing an article, then they will better rank it and your site will be at the top of search boxes, as a result its attendance will increase.

  2. Pay attention to the headlines — they should be concrete and promising benefits (not necessarily monetary) for a client. It will affect if a person clicks on the link and reads the material or not. Avoid too long headlines, headlines with incomprehensible terms, rarely used and little known acronyms. Focus on informativity and utility. Try to think of at least 5 different headings for each post so that you can choose the best one.

  3. The content of the article should correspond to the title, be competently written and arranged (quotations, footnotes, subtitles, selections). If the reader likes it, he/she will share it on social networks and therefore you may get new customers or at least a new audience for your brand.

  4. Articles exceeding 1500–2000 characters should be divided into subheadings, broken down by quotes and illustrations.

  5. Be sure to think through the illustrations. Create a photo archive on the Google disc, organize thematic folders and add photos with the information about what is depicted on them, when the picture was taken and its main theme. Use special resources to create infographics — there are many free ones. This will allow your customers to visualize the product and make it more memorable, because most users remember visual information better.

  6. All the facts stated in the article must be authentic.

  7. If you use other people’s information, remember to specify the author and the service link to the resource. Make sure that your links lead to active web pages, and the sources you refer to are reliable.

Search engine optimization (SEO) for web pages and blog posts

If your content policy is delivered through the website, make sure the materials you put make ‘hit a match’ with the search engine robots. This will enable your materials to rank higher and be more visible in the search queries thus enhancing your traffic.

It is noteworthy for web search engines that the content shows the most relevant information on the topic.

To be a content marketer, you don’t need to be a SEO specialist; however, some basic information is worth knowing. The following should be in the text:

  1. Every web page should have a clean URL that is understandable to both users and robots;

  2. Pay attention to the layout elements of a web page: it should contain headlines, formatted quotations, subtitles, illustrations (preferably one-of-a-kind), interlinking with other pages of a website;

  3. Pay attention to the fields ‘title, description, keywords’ during HTML coding. If your material contains keywords related to your activity, then web search engines will better rank your content and your site will be at the top of search boxes.

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Content marketing

Content promotion

Let’s consider free and paid promotion tactics.

The free ones include:

  • Links to your new platforms in the signature for emails from corporate mailboxes;

  • The use of personal social profiles to promote your product — motivate journalists and other members of a project team to share content;

  • a content partnership, agree with partners to share publications, e.g. write an expert article for their website, and let them prepare a publication for you: thus, you will mutually promote each other;

  • Communication with opinion leaders (well-known individuals whose blogs are monitored by thousands of people) — arrange a comment for your website or an interview with them, if they mention your content in their profile, you will get part of their audience;

  • Content seeding across different platforms, e.g. on forums, question and answer services;

  • Collaboration with niche media, small news/thematic media — you produce free quality content for them on your subject matter without advertising, and they publish it and mention your project.

As for paid content promotion, it is the purchase of advertising on social media and the purchase of ads that appear on search engine results pages. To bring more attention to your content you can also publish your posts on other people’s resources on a paid basis.

Optimal promotion system includes both paid and free techniques.

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Motivation

For journalists who work in the media industry, the motivation is publicity and the possibility to be nominated for a prestigious award. However this is not always available to content editors, because the goals of content marketing are related to the promotion of the company’s brand, the sales growth, and the increase of audience engagement — i.e. they are narrower than the goals in traditional media. As a general rule, the incentives for the staff are expressed through bonuses for achieving certain results, i.e. a pre-set number of views, subscribers, reposts or leads. These targets are set monthly, quarterly, and annually. In addition to that, set up extra remuneration for the content that has attracted more traffic, for expert articles, that sometimes take weeks to write. All this will make employees more motivated, as well as affect the quality of content.

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Summary

Content helps to promote a brand and increase company’s sales. It allows you to be useful to your audience, communicate with them, get feedback, give them quality information for free and thus gain their trust.

When developing a content strategy, it is important to study your audience in detail in order to speak to them the same language, know their problems and needs. At the start the best way to find interesting topics for them is to examine your competitors’ content, then to turn to foreign experience, query services, thematic forums, question-and-answer services, possibly, inquiries of real customers, your experience, and the history of the product that you deliver.

Design a content plan with an emphasis on diversity and correspondence to company goals. You can use both free and paid tools to manage content and organize the work of your editorial office.

When developing content requirements, pay attention to text optimization, make your content convenient for both users and search robots.

To motivate your editorial staff, set simple and clear goals and provide bonuses for their achievement. Thus, people will be more satisfied with their work.

 

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