Read the original post published on iCrossing’s The Content Lab on June 12, 2013.
There was a lot to love about this year’s ConFab Minneapolis, one of three annual ConFab events where businesspeople discuss content strategy and marketing, including how to make content better, how to organize it more effectively, and how content can help all our clients succeed. The most important learning we took away from Confab 2013 is that marketing content must serve as a conversation. The brand’s role in the conversation is to communicate your brand, vision, and the benefits of your products/services directly to the reader. Doing so builds trust with customers and improves the quality of the experiences that customers have with the brand — which thus increases the likelihood your customer will engage in a conversation with you and about you. Here are some additional learnings from the two-day event:
What Is Content?
Nowadays, content marketers understand that content can consist of a wide range of items such as videos, gifs, text-based articles, and infographics that reside wherever you have a digital presence. At ConFab, we also learned about some of the ways content reflects your brand, as follows:
- By sparking a conversation. The information you put out into the world will start or continue the conversation your brand is having with your customers. In order to have that conversation – you need to know who you are and to whom you’re talking.
- ·By reflecting your personality. Use your content to show exactly who you are — your walk, your talk, your dress, and your vibe. Own your personality at every turn.
We also learned that content is sometimes scary. Because it’s meant to be so personal, your content can evoke intense feelings for those creating it and for those engaging with it. Be mindful of this reality when creating content or making recommendations to change content. Your “content stakeholders” may be more resistant to change.
Moreover, never forget about the importance of content as part of your marketing strategy. Content is second only to the product/service you’re offering. It is your voice and it should be used effectively to sell your brand. So, in the words of Simple Minds (and for the love of John Hughes) “don’t you, forget about me … ” and make sure you keep content strategy and marketing in your marketing outreach.
Determine Your Identity
Before you start developing a content strategy, figure out your identities. Ask leading questions to help you understand and plan content, navigation, or design elements appropriately. For instance, rather than asking “what do you think about x?” or “why’d you do z?” or “WTF were you thinking with that?” try asking:
- What content issues keep you awake at night?
- Can you tell me about …
- Help me understand …
- I’m wondering about …
Be gracious, graceful, and artful when discussing content needs. Think of yourself as a content therapist and help people work though their issues. Always being their guide, not their map or taskmaster.
Put Yourself in the Shoes of Your Audience
While you always want to embody your brand at every turn, you’ll want to also use your content to bridge the gap between your brand’s offerings and what your audience is looking for. When writing content:
- Abandon the jargon. No one wants to read technical lingo and “marketing speak.” Be real with your audience, and their trust in your brand will rise.
- Don’t forget to ask why? And, whom I trying to reach? Ensure your content meets up with the expectations of your audience; not just your current audience, but your prospective audience as well.
- Say “You” Rather than “We.” People who are interested in your products and services want to know what they can achieve with your offerings, not what you say you can do. Instead of saying “We can help you achieve X,” say “Achieve X.” This kind of language shows readers that readers themselves they are capable of so much more, and the use of your products and services is inferred.
By living, breathing, walking, and talking as your brand, you can sometimes lose sight of whom you’re trying to reach. So when you live, breathe, walk and walk as your audience, you can find ways to keep your brand personality while connecting with those who matter.
Content and Social Go Hand in Hand
After you’ve got great content, you can use social media as a way to get more eyeballs on that content. When considering the development of a social media strategy as a way to promote your content, consider the following:
- Identify the five Ws (who, what where, when, why) of available social media channels to determine which channels with best for your content and your target audience.
- Don’t dive in too quickly. If you haven’t engaged in social media previously, begin using one social channel, do it well, and then grow your channels from there.
- Social media is growing as a preferred channel for customer service interactions. One out of three people would rather receive customer service through social media than on the phone.
- Social media is a great way to increase natural search signals for your content as well.
- Before using social media as a way to share your content, determine your goals and the best way to measure against them for success.
Social media, when used appropriately to target the right people with the right message in the right space, is the perfect complement to content strategy. Now, more people will see the fantastic content you’re creating, and you’ll be building additional brand trust with current and future customers.
Content Success Metrics
In order to prove your content strategy is successful, you need to make sure you can measure that success. Data literacy is a core content strategy skill that can improve the lives of your audience, as it’ll help you make their user experience better and, thus, increase online conversions through your content. When measuring content success, ensure that you understand the following:
- Measurement influences your strategy, and strategy then influences action. Therefore, if you begin with bad measurements, you’ll have bad strategies, bad content, and bad conversions.
- People care about outcomes. Prove that your content strategy can improve the bottom line by including content data proof points to all forms of reporting.
- Metrics should be aligned with your core values and the vision of your organization.
- The context of certain measurements can mean success or failure. For example, high bounce rates are typically considered a failure for your content; but you should consider a visit a success if someone came to your site, found it helpful, and had a good experience before leaving.
- Not all “conversions” need to be sales. Measure micro-conversions for your content as well, including shares, reviews, ratings, bookmarks and video views.
ConFab Minneapolis 2013 was definitely one for the books. We’ll apply learnings not only to our work but also to our day-to-day lives whenever we interact with others. Content is about showing your true self and helping others; and a solid content strategy can be the foundation of your successful online brand.