Online users are insatiable when it comes to new content.
Just ask the 500,000 new users who join Facebook every day, sharing over 4.75 billion pieces of content worldwide on a daily basis.
This eagerness for new and engaging content should be seen as an opportunity, not an opposition. Somewhere out there in cyberspace are hundreds if not thousands of users looking for precisely the kind of content that only your brand can create. It’s just a matter of connecting with them.
As you embark on your content marketing journey, let these six principles be your guide to creating content that will click with your market niche:
1. You have to show up
To be successful with content marketing, you need to be wherever your audience is. Different demographics prefer different platforms. To connect, you need to start by doing market research to locate your audience online, and then establish a steady and consistent presence there.
Your target audience hangs out on Facebook? Post links to your blog posts and other trusted sources of valuable content. Are they predominantly mobile users? Make sure your website is responsive and all your content is formatted to be mobile-friendly.
2. Don’t shy away from new platforms
Sure, there are plenty of social media networks that rise and fall in a matter of days, like the social app, Peach, that flared and fizzled in early 2016. You don’t want to jump onto every bright and shiny new trend in social media because some will be sinking ships. But being an early adopter of a viable new platform can be a huge asset to your content marketing and audience building strategy, giving you a head start against the competition.
Early users of Twitter had a much easier time reaching an audience than we do now. The key is to identify when a platform has reached a critical mass of users that makes it worth investing time and resources in—and signals that it has the staying power for that investment pay off.
3. It’s a conversation, not a soap box
The most common mistake brands make on content sharing platforms is treating them like megaphones, shouting their differentiators, accolades, and sales pitches to anyone who happens to pass within (digital) earshot. Taking this approach, you will soon find yourself shouting to an empty room. No one likes being shouted at, even on the Internet.
Instead, you should spend at least as much time listening on social media as you do posting. Listen to what your audience is talking about. Listen to the kind of language they use. Listen to what they want, what they struggle with, and what they think about you and your products.
Then—and only then—should you start engaging with them. Just make sure that when you do, it’s a conversation. You know, that two-sided thing where each party has an opportunity to speak and listen in turn.
4. Give the people what they want
Perhaps the second most common mistake brands make on social media—closely related to the first—is making their platforms all about them. Posts are in service of their needs, promoting their product or service.
Think about how you would respond to that kind of attitude in person. The words “narcissist” and “megalomaniac” probably spring to mind. Self-centered behavior is a turn-off, on a date and online. (How many Facebook friends have you hidden from your timeline just to escape their constant stream of “me, me, me”?)
This goes back to listening. By listening to your audience, you’ll come to know and understand them. Instead of force-feeding them content they’re not interested in and never asked for, you’ll be able to create timely, valuable content they will actually seek out of their own accord. Being personal, personable and relevant will take you farther than you might think.
5. Crowdsource collaboration
Once you get a dialogue going, take it to the next level by encouraging audience engagement. The most viral brands are those whose audiences not only consume their content, but act as crowdsourced collaborators.
Look for ways to invite your customers to participate in your brand, whether that’s with a creative contest in line with your brand values, a microsite for consumers to post product ideas, or even a simple hashtag campaign. Not only can these opportunities for collaborative interaction have a profound impact on customer loyalty, but consumer contributions can multiply your overall brand capital.
6. Play to your strengths
Online, there’s always going to be someone doing something cool on a platform you don’t inhabit. There’s a strong temptation to try to be everywhere at once. Don’t give in to this temptation. Pick a platform or two that feels like a true fit for your brand and your audience, and channel all your resources into those chosen platforms.
It will serve you much better in the long run to do one or two platforms really well than to spread yourself thin across platforms that you don’t align with your expertise or core brand values. Know yourself, know your audience and play to your strengths.
The constant stream of content available online can be a source of inspiration, but it can also be a source of distraction and comparison—two things that can easily hold you back as you attempt to establish your own online presence. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your brand is to put on blinders. Focus on listening to your audience and digging to the core of your brand promise and values.