A little while ago, our estimable COO tweeted a link to Socialcast’s fun infographic on the harried 24-hour work cycle of the average social media manager. It was entertaining (not to mention frighteningly accurate) and we all got a good chuckle.
What it also unwittingly illustrated, however, is why content strategy is becoming so important to the success of digital marketing. Social media managers (and their web counterparts, site managers) are supposed to constantly be pushing out great content to build brand awareness, image, et. al., and build customer engagement. But with so much to stay on top of, do they have time to be strategic about that content? How well are they able to plan, create, curate, and manage well-thought-out material that tells your story effectively, captivates your audience, aligns to your marketing strategy, and helps you achieve results?
Very often, the answer is “not nearly well enough”. (That is, when it’s not hysterical laughter followed by “me and what army?”)
This is where content strategy can help. Content strategy, as defined by industry thought leader Kristina Halverson, “plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content.” That’s good stuff; it gives you a structure for creating targeted material and keeping it fresh (editorial calendar, anyone?). It also makes content development more efficient, which helps those busy social media and web site managers get more done. But there’s more: By providing a structured approach to content and thoughtful alignment to your audience’s needs, content strategy plays a critical role in helping your social media and web site teams deliver on marketing goals.
Let’s say you’ve just introduced your fabulous new geo-location app that helps parents find high-quality, immediately available babysitters anywhere in the world, even at 6 pm on a Saturday night. (Hey, a mom can dream…) Your team has a great marketing plan, key messages, etc., and will rely heavily on social media and a web presence to create customer engagement and drive online purchases. Now, you need to get more customers interested in your app, and (ideally) improve their opinion of your company while you’re at it. You have two choices:
- Thoughtfully plan for the subjects, content types, voice/tone/personality, and publication schedules that will be most interesting to your customers. Align the material with your other marketing activities and your sales cycle. Optimize it for search. Develop guidelines for managing “real-time” content marketing opportunities on top of the plan. Ensure that there is someone in charge of managing content development (and that this person is empowered to say “no” to the guy from Sales who’s convinced that his new 12-page brochure needs to be tweeted from the rooftops). If the content person is different from from your social media & site manager(s), ensure that they work together closely to track content effectiveness and adjust as needed for best results.
- Hand your marketing plan, messaging, and a few key dates over to the social media and/or web site managers. Tell them that you want a lot of “buzz” about the product. If there’s a lot of material, assign a copywriter to help. Walk away for a few weeks, then ask for results.
While the example above is cartoonish, the point is very real. Buzz is great, but without compelling information to back it up, you may not get much in the way of results. Content strategy, in this context, helps address this problem by providing content-specific guidance that complements your marketing plans. It gives your marketers the opportunity to provide strategic direction, helps social media or web site managers plan their activities more effectively, and helps your content development efforts to run more efficiently. Most importantly, it helps you to create and promote not just content, but the right content. So that your buzz can do more than just get attention —it can start relationships.