Make a plan, define a goal, and measure the results
There is a lot to starting off your content marketing program that starts off with throw everything against the wall and see what sticks. When you don’t have insight into what your audience would like, sometimes that’s the only option you have. You try a mix of the standard stuff (blog posts, infographics, short-form, long-form, maybe video), and see what people like.
But then it’s time to grow up.
Stop treating content marketing as an exercise in dumb luck. Oh look that piece of content worked! Don’t know why, don’t care, we’ll just do more of that! I’m going to bet the next piece of content in the “more of that” type isn’t going to do well. Roulette is one of the best casino games for the house. It’s about as close to dumb freakin’ luck as you can get. You can’t treat your content—or any—marketing like that, you need to have a freakin’ plan folks.
One success doesn’t make a pattern
Say you publish an infographic on Monday and it starts generating more leads than other content. Okay, interesting. Good. Fine let’s plan a similar infographic for next week, but let’s stick to the rest of our content calendar (Remember that? It’s the secret content marketing weapon you know.) Sure, test to see if infographics are the thing your audience likes, but don’t bet the farm on infographics.
There is a difference between being experimental and being stupid. Experimental is saying, “I think we should try podcasting. We’re going to do a weekly show for three months and see if there is interest and uptake.” Stupid is saying “Podcasting is the new blogging, all we’re doing is podcasting now.”
Having a plan, and getting off the roulette wheel, means you work in stages. First you figure out the topics your audience are interested in. There might be a few different ones, but if you know your customers and target demographic you should have a start. Next you work on what types of content you’ll do. Honestly, start with blogging first. It’s the lowest hanging fruit and there is ample evidence that people do like reading interesting stuff. As you confirm the topics that work, then try other formats. Maybe a cool report came out and you think your audience might like it as a blog post with and infographic. Make it easy for people to tweet the infographic and see if people engage with it.
And throughout the process you’re measuring. You’re measuring the indicators for what success looks like. Is it leads? Is it comments? Is it shares? Is it just purely increasing regular traffic to your site? Having a plan with measurable goals is the best way to not get on the content roulette wheel in the first place. There is no guessing.
Serendipity is awesome; that’s why is so rare
When serendipity strikes it’s awesome. A post takes off, leads pour in, people are congratulating you left, right, and center. This is when it’s hardest to stay on plan. You have to resist pivoting your strategy on a single post. You need to dig in and understand everything about that post. Who read it. How was it shared. Have you ever written on that topic before. You dissect that post for all it’s worth to know if you should be looking for a new pattern.
Viral content is a bolt from the blue. Sometimes you’re onto something, sometimes you’re just fried. No way to really know until you look at the data.
Case in point: Me
I’ve been writing a lot of content about, well, content. It’s serving two purposes for me. One as a portfolio of how I think and my writing chops. Two is to generate leads and interest in me as a freelance writer. How’s it working?
I’ve learned that the topics get interest, but not here. This isn’t the old days when single-author blogs could get a lot of traction. I cross-post all of this content on Medium. I’m getting better interactions there, and that’s what I expected would happen.
Is it working? The jury is out.
I haven’t been posting regularly for long. I’ve been on a personal blog hiatus for more than a few years; I lost a lot of traffic in the meantime. Right now I’m testing frequency. Sure, posting everyday is cool, but it’s a lot of work and I have client work to do too. Maybe posting 2–3 times a week is the right number. I’m using Lumen 5 to create videos from my posts and posting those videos with a link back to the original on LinkedIn and Facebook. Videos are fun, and I like the process of distilling a post into a couple minutes. I had tried putting the videos into the original post, but that didn’t increase engagement, so I’m trying to link to the original tactic.
And that’s it. I know my core is writing. Infographics aren’t my thing, so I’m not going there. I’ve podcasted before and I’m not sure I want to start again right now. I have my plan, I know my goals, and I measure the results.
It’s not gambling. It’s content marketing.