In the beginning, we thought content marketing was a fad. But now we'd even go as far as calling it ‘King’, and there are no signs of it slowing down. Moreover, research from the Content Marketing Institute (2018) shows that 91% of organizations put a lot of effort into content marketing. Why? That’s what we'll explain in this blog article.
But that’s not the only thing. We'd love to help you start conducting content marketing or improve your current efforts. That’s why we provide 5 practical steps for you to create content that your community members will love! Enjoy this read that includes the best practices. And let us know which awesome results you achieved thanks to these five steps.
Why spend tons of time on content marketing and creating valuable content?
Maybe you never heard of content marketing (and are living under a stone... haha). In short, content marketing is a (long) process that involves creating content which:
- is focused on your target audience;
- provides value in terms of helping and informing your target audience ;
- is personal and customized especially for the receiver;
- will be delivered at the right time and in the right places.
Alright, this sounds nice but why should I (as a community owner, manager or related) care about content marketing? There are many reasons for that. Content marketing isn't only interesting if you have a business that sells products or delivers services. It also accelerates your community because content marketing will i.a.
- Increase the traffic to the community;
- Convert the traffic into new community members;
- Create awareness for the community and its story or purpose;
- Improve the visibility of the community in search engines;
- Build a reputation through a feeling of trust and expertise;
- Educate the target audience and helps them to solve their problems;
- Drive engagement and stimulates development and innovation;
- Generate value for the community in terms of regular activity and high-quality experiences;
- Reduce costs for i.a. advertising in Google AdWords or Facebook.
To underline this, research from Demand Metric showed that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates approximately three times more leads.
The Five Essential Steps to Content Success
Communities produce a lot of content. A lot of this content is generated by existing members (user-generated content), mostly in closed groups, is short in length. But how could you make your community more popular in terms of more awareness, more traffic and more potential members signing up for your community?
For that to happen, you have to create relevant and valuable content, and we help you with the five essential steps to success of this content. Because if you want success, keep in mind:
Never create content for the sake of creating content!
Important note: We are talking here about public content because closed content - which only can be seen after logging in - won't reach new potential members.
Step 1: Define your target audience and their problems/needs
Before you start creating the best and most valuable content you can imagine, you need to get to know your target audience. Ask yourself this question: Who is my target audience and what drives them to be a new member of my community?
A really helpful method to know your target audience better is by making (content) personas. Personas are a detailed sketch of different individuals who represent your target group. In actuality, you're creating profiles of fake people but the insights represent how people would act in real life. It’s not only an overview of demographic data but also insights about work, needs, and interests.
Some questions that should be answered for your personas:
- Who are they? Which demographic characteristics describe them?
- What's their job title and function?
- What kind of company/industry do they work for?
- How does their job relate to subjects spoken about in the community?
- What goals do they have in their personal life?
- What frustrates them?
- Which needs would they be looking to fulfill or which specific problems would they need to solve to alleviate some frustration?
- How do they typically access content?
- How much information would they want to receive and how often?
- Who/what influences their content consumption?
Tip: Interview current members of your community and accurate your personas with these insights.
If you want to learn how to create actionable content marketing personas, the Content Marketing Institute gave some great advice in this article.
One of our clients, Victim Support Netherlands, created personas of victims from different delicts. They worked out complete scenarios for each persona and collected great insight into their potential new community members. It helped them to structure their community and develop new features, and it provided a lot of inspiration for new content.
Step 2: Determine your content marketing objectives and select KPIs
Never start a marketing technique without objectives and a measurement plan. Content marketing objectives are highly individualized. There are a lot of reasons why content marketing accelerates your community (as we mentioned above).
Your objectives may relate to these reasons but you should try to make them more concrete by adding the actual results you want to reach (e.g. X% increase, or XXX more) or the time period (e.g. Q1 2019, or the last half of 2019).
If you start spending your time and money on marketing activities, you definitely want to know if these activities are fulfilling your objectives.
Thus, if you determine your objectives, you have to set always the most important KPIs and monitor them periodically. Here are some general KPIs you should always have to keep an eye on e.g.:
- Community visits: the total number of visits to your community;
- Traffic sources: the number of visits per traffic source (e.g. Organic, Social, Direct, and Paid)
- Landing pages: the top 10 landing pages that generate the most incoming visits;
- Time spent on community: the duration time of visits to your community;
- Conversion rate: the percentage of visitors who become community members;
- New members: the total amount of new community members.
But you could also measure some extra KPIs that are more specific objectives you defined. In order to demonstrate how you can do this, here are three examples of content marketing objectives and their most important KPIs:
Objective 1: XX% increase of traffic to the blog section on my community
KPIs could include the number of blog visits, bounce rate (the percentage of visits who are leaving the community immediately after reading the blog post), the percentage of returning visitors, the duration time on blogs, and the number of social shares.
Objective 2: Generate XXX new community members in Q1 2019
KPIs could include the amount of register-page views, the percentage of potential members (e.g. visitors who start the registration), and Top 10 pages driving members.
Objective 3: X% increase of the community awareness on social media
KPIs could include the post reach (the number of people who saw your post), social engagement rate (e.g. likes, shares, comments), the number of followers and fans on social media, and CTR (the percentage who click through to your community).
Step 3: Identify the content gap
You worked out your target audience and their needs in Step 1. If you're doing right, you collected insights that tell you which content would be relevant for them (best to make a list of all these topics in Excel or Google Spreadsheet).
Next, you need to check your existing public content (because content behind login isn't visible for your potential members). After checking this, you'll be able to identify the gap between content you already have and what your audience is looking for.
Regarding the explanation length of this tip, it looks like a small, easy step in between, but actually, it’s really important. Take your time to identify the content gap! The list is the starting point for the content calendar and will make or break your success.
Step 4: Structure the process with a content calendar
A content calendar speaks for itself, it's an overview to schedule every content task from brainstorming to publishing to spreading. You can make the calendar as specific as you want. Using a content calendar is really helpful because of several reasons:
- It's the key to an organized content strategy since you know what and when you have to create content;
- It takes the stress and pressure away because you won't have to create content on the go;
- It helps you to maintain a steady flow of high-quality content;
Based on the list with missing content, you can probably fill the content calendar for months. Enough to work on! We use the content calendar template from Hubspot. It's clear and provides us the support to continue our content marketing efforts. As you can see, this post was also well planned in our content calendar.
Now that the four important basics are set up, we move further to the last step about creating the content your potential members will love.
Step 5: Research user intents and create your content
Relevant, well-written content is really valuable for the search visibility of your community in Google. It will improve your rankings for community-related topics because Google sees you're an expert with a lot of knowledge.
In order to make your content more relevant and helpful (with as result higher rankings in Google), you have to answer the user intents related to the topic you're writing about. But how do you research user intents easily? We always use AnswerThePublic.com for our researches.
Above you see a figure with almost 100 user intents for the topic 'content marketing'. These intents are really helpful if you don't know what to write about. The figure helps you to identify what your target audience wants to know and it helps structure your content.
Of course, it's not possible to answer all these user intents, and you also don't want to. Just pick the most important ones that are interesting to write about. If you’re more interested in researching user intents and SEO, read more about it in Kevin Indig’s article.
You spent a lot of time on researching and structuring, but now the actual fun starts! You can start creating content now! Creating content is a technique on its own. We could spend a whole new blog post describing this process (maybe we will at a later stage). But we don't want to go into too much detail here.
Just four short tips to give you a bit guidance in creating great content
- Create original content. Please, don't copy/paste from others, an absolute no-go!
- Write catchy, snackable titles and headings to attract people and encourage them to read.
- Make your content engaging and rich with images, videos, infographics etc. (if we talk about content, we are mostly talking about text, but the content is more!).
- Write short and to-the-point and ask at least one person to proofread your content.
Start with these five content marketing best practices
If you follow these five steps, you will be able to make content marketing an important online opportunity for your online community and, as a result, you'll attract many potential members for your community. Good luck!
- Step 1: Define your target audience and their problems and needs by making (content) personas;
- Step 2: Determine your content marketing objectives and select KPIs so you are able to monitor the results periodically;
- Step 3: Identify the content gap by comparing the needed content and the existing content;
- Step 4: Take the missing content and structure the content and the process with a content calendar;
- Step 5: Research the user intents per topic and start creating the best content you can in the best format.
Do these practical steps help you to start with content marketing or make your current efforts better? Let us know in the comments below.
Did you like reading this blog article? Please spread the words! Share it on social media and help other communities also. Because you know: sharing is caring 😉