What does effective content marketing look like? According to a recent study by the Content Marketing Institute, 55 percent of B2B marketers admit they're not sure.
A lot of that uncertainty is due to content overload. The more brands try their hand at being media companies, the harder it is to create compelling content. Winging it won't work. Getting the most traction takes both a short term and a long-term strategy.
No matter the size your marketing budget, these ideas can help you get others to share your content.
1. Use story-building techniques.
Verizon Director of Corporate Messaging and Reputation Jason Moriber shared how he creates a network of influencers who share content without arm twisting or begging.
"The first step to good story-building for any organization is to understand who your customers are," says Moriber. "Figure out behaviors; where do they eat, where do they go. You can sign-up for services to help you look around on social media and find people who you think might be your customers talking about topics related to your brand story. Make sure you are regularly listening to what they have to say."
Software providers like Sysomos and NewsWhip enable marketers to predict what stories and ideas are about to trend based on keyword searches and topic trackers.
In addition to using a listening software, go ahead and follow your instincts. If you notice many of your customers are Beyonce fans, follow Lady Bey on Twitter, where thousands of potential customers could be waiting for you.
2. Curate influencers in advance.
"I have dozens of lists," says Moriber. "I categorize people by topic, or by their style, or by shared words or what time of day they share." Moriber also evaluates people's general tone. As he puts it, "Are they looking to make friends or are they looking to piss people off?"
In essence, these lists could be called passive panels because by the very act of categorizing people, you're listening to them. You can curate and categorize your lists on Twitter according to topics such as technology, politics, the economy - whatever is meaningful to you and your business.
Curated lists save you some heavy lifting by allowing you to ask your followers to retweet and share content that's pertinent to them.
3. Meet customers where they are.
StubHub's Director of Communications of the Americas Johnna Hoff stresses the importance of not waiting for your customers to come to you. "With so many different platforms, messaging opportunities and touch points with our customers, we need to actually meet our customers where they are."
"Consumers are becoming more reliant on quick messaging apps like What's App, WeChat and Facebook Messenger," explains Hoff. "StubHub just launched a chatbot for Facebook Messenger and the results have been incredible from a customer experience standpoint."
StubHub's chatbot understands the nuances of language and online conversations about live events. This allows the company to communicate with fans the way they like to talk about their favorite sports team or other live events.
4. Use cultural triggers to create an emotional connection to your brand.
For small businesses with smaller research budgets, one tactic Moriber suggests is using a cultural trigger. "If you want to go after the Gen Xers, maybe you create content that references the Brady Bunch, Happy Days, or breakfast cereal in the headline or your story," he explains. "You're creating that familiarity and then there's an automatic emotional connection to your brand."
5. Chart a long-term course.
Without a long-term strategy, short-term strategies like cultural nostalgia are just tactics.
Moriber illustrates this by likening a brand to a sailboat. "You might have the highest mast, but not the biggest sail," he suggests. "If you tap into a cultural reference, people may see it but it won't put more wind in your sail. You might get a lot of attention in a short space of time that pushes your boat a couple of feet, but it won't push your boat a mile."
As an entrepreneur, you have to figure out the balance between people "seeing your brand" and identifying leads, driving conversions, and ultimately, increasing your profits. Short bursts of engagement and interest on social media channels are helpful, but they must work with long-range image you want to project.
Brands need to create waves to help move their content spikes along, but that requires long-term planning and executive buy-in on the importance of marketing. When small businesses align their tactical content strategy with their larger brand strategy, they can win.