Content marketing is an important and powerful way to share relevant information with your audience, while also establishing your company as an industry leader (all of which, when done right, works to lead to sales and new customers). However, content marketing only works when the information you share is actually getting in front of your target audience. How do you know you’re targeting the right audience for your business? What information is most relevant to them?
Here’s your step-by-step guide to boosting the success of your content marketing efforts.
Research Your Audience
In order to generate good content, it’s important to know your audience inside and out. Without this step, your content marketing will be floating in a vast, empty ocean — it may float past a curious consumer here and there, but it won’t pick up any traction or drive results for your brand. Researching your audience is the key to making your content marketing impactful. Your research should answer three essential questions:
Who Is Your Consumer?
Start by determining who your audience is — what type of consumer are you hoping to attract? It’s helpful to sit down and create a marketing persona that embodies the demographics, desires, and needs of your target market. Use that persona to put yourself in the mindset of your audience (What do they like to do for fun? What are their pain points? Why would they find your product appealing?). This will be your guide to delivering content that’s interesting and engaging to your target market.
Where Does Your Consumer Spend Time?
It’s critical to not only define who your consumers are, but also where they are. I don’t mean regionally, I mean digitally. As you develop a persona for your target market, identify where they spend most of their time online. Do your ideal consumers love collecting and pinning ideas on Pinterest? Perhaps your audience includes mainly teenagers, who are constantly posting on Snapchat and Instagram. This may be the most important step in all of your research. No matter how high quality your content is, if it’s not getting in front of the right people, it won’t do much for your brand.
What Does Your Consumer Care About?
You know where your consumers go online — now, go there yourself. Explore the popular websites and forums that your audience is most likely to visit. There you’ll learn about your industry’s latest news, and find topics your audience is passionate about. Take advantage of resources like Google notifications, social media networks (like Twitter or Reddit), and question and answer forums like Quora.
One golden place to look for content ideas? The comments section. Review comments left on your site’s social media and blog posts, to see if there are any patterns in what people have to say. Did your recent how-to article on one of your products strike a reaction in people? Perhaps you should consider creating more how-to content. Did your interview with an industry expert prompt a lot of positive feedback? Maybe you should reach out to other experts; or even create a series of interviews. You can also poll your audience through surveys, social media, or email — oftentimes, the best way to get a sense of your audience is to simply ask them what they like.
Research Your Industry
Are you aware of the big news story that broke out this morning? Do you know which are the hot topics in your industry this week?
Establishing your company as an industry thought leader means keeping up with the latest trends and news. Subscribe to industry newsletters, and look out for new studies and surveys published by trade organizations. Researching your audience will also give you insight into the state of your industry; in fact, these approaches shouldn’t be mutually exclusive. Offering your take on an important merger, for example, shows both your audience and other companies that you’re aware of what’s affecting your industry.
Industry research should also include your competitors. Check out their websites to see what type of content (e.g. blogs, videos, guides) they’re producing for their audience. Perhaps they’re missing an important angle on a newsworthy event; or maybe you can expand on a topic they covered, adding more detail or your own unique insight. Check out their social media posts related to their content. Perhaps they’re seeing higher engagement rates due to hashtags, headlines, or timing of posting. Get an idea of what’s working — and what’s not working — for your competitors, so you can identify where to ramp up your own content marketing efforts.
Research via Third-Party Sources
Make use of third-party tools to better understand your target audience — there are so many available, you should have no problem gathering data to support and solidify your audience research. Google Analytics provides a breakdown of your users into various demographic categories (e.g. age, gender), market segments, and geographic location. Google Trends shows you how much people are interested in a given topic. As Digital Information World suggests, searching through different keywords related to your target audience and comparing interest levels can give you an idea of what topics are most important to your consumers.
Don’t forget to take advantage of free metrics available through different social media platforms. Facebook Insights allows you to search Facebook users by interests — and see a breakdown of that audience by demographics, location, and even page likes! Twitter and Instagram rely on hashtags for users to search and find relevant posts. Review the posts from industry leaders, competitors, and your customers to see which hashtags are frequently used; this will give you a good idea of what your audience is looking for.
Target Your Audience With Content Experts
The best way to ensure your content strategy is heading in the right direction is to bring in a content expert. Unlike brand and marketing managers, content managers have the writing and editorial expertise to ensure your content is of the highest quality. Contently said it best: why would you move your successful restaurant manager to sous chef, and expect she can cook up amazing new dishes? The positions are totally different!
You may have a marketing manager who develops powerful campaigns, understands consumer behavior, and delivers successful metrics — do not assume this automatically translates to content expertise. The two positions should absolutely work together to share goals and tactics, but it’s wise to recognize that they are distinct positions with different skill sets. A dedicated content specialist can integrate with your current marketing objectives, and your existing marketing leaders, to make your content shine.
Whether you’re revamping your content marketing strategy or tackling it for the first time, remember that discovering the most relevant content to target your audience takes time. Placing your strategy in the hands of experts will help to grow your target audience over time, build the relationship between your brand and your consumers, and even catch the attention of some new customers along the way.
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