Informative website pages. Interesting blog posts. Peppy Facebook posts. Witty tweets. Striking Pins. Funny videos.
Is that all there is to content marketing? To create one of the above, publish it, and hope for lots of likes and shares?
No. That's just the content part. To make it marketing, you need to first figure out what your marketing goals are, and how content can help achieve them. In other words, you need a content marketing strategy.
A content strategy is what drives your marketing content, and outlines a method to the madness. Here are some of the things you should lay out in your content strategy:
1. What's the purpose? Better SEO, more visibility, leads, reputation management... whatever it is you want your content to do for you, write it down. You can absolutely have more than one goal, but in that case order them by importance/priority.
2. Who's your audience? This goes together with #1. What kind of people do you want viewing, sharing and engaging with your content? Break this down by location, demographics, interests, industry (if you're BtoB), etc.
3. What kind of content should you focus on? This can relate to your industry (recent news and how to respond to them, events you attend, etc.), your service (SEOs talking about SEO is the most obvious example for this blog!) or your audience (helping your audience solve a problem, even if it isn't directly related to your business (for example, I frequently write about other aspects of marketing, although our business is design). This also needn't be exclusive-you can intersperse one type of content with another-but deciding this is also the basis of your content schedule.
4. What form of content will you focus on? As I mentioned in the first paragraph-website pages, blog posts, video, photos, microblogging... what forms will your content take? It's wise to cover as many of these as you can without spreading yourself thin.
5. What kind of vehicles should you focus on? Do you create content only for your own website and other vehicles? Do you only guest-blog on very popular industry blogs? This again, depends on what kind of audience you're targeting: the best rule always is to go where your customers are.
6. How will you generate the content? Do you create the content yourself, hire a dedicated writer (or videographer, or whatever) or outsource content creation? This depends on what kind of content you want (#3) as well as your strengths and the time you can spare.
You don't have to have a written document that details all this information, but you need to know it. With the answers to these six questions in mind, you can go forth and:
a) hire a content creator,
b) create a content schedule,
c) create lists of the publications/bloggers you want to pitch to.
And of course, once that's done, all you have to do is create and place the content. Which isn't a piece of cake, exactly, but at least now you know how.
(If you liked this post, you might enjoy The Content Marketing Process Explained )
Unmana is the co-founder of Markitty, a tool that recommends actions to improve your online marketing. She writes about marketing for startups and small businesses on the Markitty blog and can be found on Twitter @Unmana.