Marketing is full of buzzwords and today’s hottest include ‘content’, swiftly followed by ‘storytelling’. In fact, so pervasive are both words they could become almost meaningless.
Brands talk as if content has become a strategy, a creative idea or even a communications channel – too often clients ask us to “raise awareness through content, so let’s get some content out there”. Traditionally storytelling would take place around campfires or at children’s bedtime, now brands use it to try and convince consumers to buy products.
Vast swathes of individuals are now bitten by the “create and share” bug via countless platforms not restricted to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr, G+, WordPress et al.
But too many brands are confused about how content will help them deliver business performance. To simply make information available will not boost awareness, reinforce or alter a perception problem.
People need to learn from this. In the same way that I check out reviews of products or services before I buy, I Google a person who is new to me before I do business, meet or interview them.
If they are successful at “content marketing” I can form an opinion more quickly, understand their vision or motivation. Conversely, if they haven’t paid attention to their online profile then I’ll question why.
First impressions count – verbal and non-verbal. But add online to the list and you get a digital trinity, which in today’s reputation economy means people, like the brands, have to be authentic and relevant to their audience.
For your online reputation to reflect your real-world persona it’s critical to create content, but don’t do it for the sake of it or because it’s fashionable. Before you start, there are four questions to ask yourself:
What’s your reason for talking and sharing? In the digital world your content competes with professional publishers, brands and your peers, all trying to own a fraction of a digital screen.
Unless you have something of real value to say, you’re just creating more noise and should stop now. At the heart of the ‘why’ question is the need to establish a value exchange, which gives you a reason to exist and ensures your content is relevant to the target consumer.
You need to understand where your content should live: Storify, Slideshare, YouTube, Vine or a combination of platforms. The precise location will depend on the target audiences’ tastes and habits – it’s no good putting your content on Pinterest, if your target is not there.
If you decide to publish on multiple platforms, all of them should be interrelated, allowing traffic and content (in the appropriate form for each platform) to move between them.
Getting your audience to visit these destinations will then require investment in paid, owned and earned media messages. There is so much content out there that a “build it and they will come” approach rarely works.
[#3 ask what you want to achieve]
We live in a world of KPIs and performance targets so before you invest in content, be clear how “great content” will help you.
Clearly define what success looks like. This could be impressions and likes – a good first step to benchmarking performance – but ultimately link it with broader goals.
If you want to get really serious, advanced analytics will help you map out a wider range of metrics and enable you to segment who you want to engage with based on your targets.
This will ensure you understand how aspects like language, word count, number of images and their position within the text, content topic, and others perform differently with different consumer segments.
[#4 do it all again]
Once is never enough and your online reputation – like all marketing – works best when you test, learn and repeat.
The more sophisticated your measurement strategy, the more you will learn from each piece of content you post and how your audience responds.
Each insight will help you make the next piece of content better and more effective, not just in terms of the way it is received, but also whether your distribution is as effective as it can be.
Great content is incredibly powerful to enhance an online reputation, but if you haven’t asked yourself these questions then the odds are that your efforts will be unsuccessful.
A personal brand, like a product brand, is not built overnight but with the above building blocks you’ll be more effective, faster.
Mark Terry-Lush is UK curator for CoolBrands and CoolBrands People. He is partner and co-founder of Honey, an international PR, seeding and social content agency.
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