Every week we're asked for general advice about starting out in content marketing, and it usually revolves around whether Twitter is better than LinkedIn and what's the best URL shortener.
Normally, these are the wrong questions to be asking.
In putting together your content marketing strategy, you'll be thinking about managing three Cs: Content, Communities and Channels. We're most frequently asked for advice about the third of these - the tools and platforms by which you interact with your communities. Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, YouTube, etc etc. But channels are the easy bit - they're all out there and easy enough to use, with plenty of freely available tips and guidance for getting the best from them.
The really challenging bit is determining what sort of online communities you want build around your brand, how you will manage them, and the content you will create or curate to engage them.
This is the human bit.
There are loads of content marketing success stories out there, and when you spend some time analysing them it becomes clear that the common factor is never a focus on technology, tools or platforms, but brilliant content and community management.
Here's Dan Vinh, VP Global Marketing, Renaissance Hotels (part of the Marriott group): "Content is critical for us because it’s the currency that drives our relevance and therefore consumer consideration for our brand. And content for us lives first and foremost in the offline world through our hotel guest experience. This is how we ensure that what we do and say is authentic."
The good news - authenticity and uniqueness are largely the same thing when it comes to content creation, and to find them you have to look within.
In a tiny business, that means YOU - the business owner/manager. It's what you know, what you do, your craft, that will make you interesting and worth following or liking or retweeting.
In a larger business, the same applies, but the processes of defining the communities and of finding the personality, the unique knowledge or perspective, needs to be more collaborative.
Earlier this week we found ourselves advising a long-standing client - a large family-owned business - on just this subject.
The original agenda for the meeting was "advise us on what social media tools we should be using and how we can get the best from them." By the end of the meeting, the action points were all about how to acquire the required skills and develop the right internal processes to harness the huge opportunity in front of this client for building a community of passionate online advocates, and generating a compelling content narrative.
Never mind the tools - assuming you know what you're trying to achieve for your brand, start by looking at the human side, inside and outside your organisation.
- Who do we want to have in our community?
- What are they interested in?
- How can we engage them with what we know?
- How can we make sure that we listen harder than we broadcast?
- How can we involve and coordinate people throughout our organisation to support and drive the content strategy?
- How can we acquire or develop the skills we need to make it all work?
The decisions on tools and channels will flow naturally from finding the right answers to these important questions.
What's your own experience? Have you suffered from tool-obsession?! Please tell us in the comments below.
Need support in developing or implementing your content strategy? We can help.