Ask any online marketer and they'll tell you that if you really want to drive traffic to your website, you'll create insatiable content. Some will even tell you that creating a full on media hub is an even better means of nurturing a diehard fan base of potential customers. And they are right.
But if you've ever attempted to write a blog consistently for longer than two weeks, then you know what an undertaking this is. In order to pull it all off, you have to constantly crank out content that is both entertaining and relevant, which takes an unprecedented level of passion, persistence, and yes, the right keywords. So if you're going to spend all of that time and all of those resources, you'd better be damn sure you make it worth your while!
Which brings us to using content to build a real business.
It's easy to assume that the only way to monetize content is through online sponsorship. This is certainly one of many options, but the most successful content startups are thinking outside the box. Take The Infatuation, for example. You have probably visited that site when you need an in-depth assessment of all the best brunch places in your area, but what you might not know is that The Infatuation actually partners with large brands to throw food-driven parties. The reason they can drive so many diehard fans to their events is because of their strong online content.
I recently spoke with the company's co-founder, Andrew Steinthal, about how to build a real business using content and he gave us some great pointers. So here's your checklist!
Create content with your users in mind
The best place to start is by creating content with your users in mind. Andrew explains: "We create content based on the problems we know that our users are trying to solve. That information comes from the users themselves, via various channels, including our Text Rex SMS recommendation platform, it's an invaluable resource for us."
Creating content with your users in mind implies a deep understanding of your audience and the kind of material they'll find relevant, interesting and shareable. By asking them straight out what their pain points are, what they like, and the kind of material they'll be interested in seeing, you're halfway through the battle.
Many companies trying to play the content marketing game will monitor trending topics and produce pieces of content around a hashtag or Google Trend. While that's a strategy that can help virality, it can be conflicting when you're trying to build a real business. After all, what does celebrity breast enhancement surgery have to do with your project management software? What do Trump's latest controversial tweets have in common with your organic product line?
Always think about why you're writing your content and who you're trying to appeal to. Andrew confirms: "What we don't do is try to chase trends, post stories about a chef's pet or a subway rat that loves pizza, or generally get bogged down in pointless content. We're committed to being a high quality, entertaining resource for people."
Get the right team of people on board
Your company would be nothing without its people. And your content needs to be written by enthusiastic writers invested in your business. They should be passionate about what you do and understand the preferences of the people they're writing for. They need to study the tone and message, and keep the content's goal in mind. Analyze the types of pieces that have worked in the past and listen to what your users are saying.
When you start to get known and respected for the content you put out, people will naturally see you as a reliable resource or go-to place for information. You'll build a real business that real people want to work for. "Every single person we've hired," says Andrew, "has contributed immensely to this company's growth and development, each in different ways. We're lucky to have a brand that people want to work for, and even luckier that the people that want to work for us are so damn talented."
Having the right people who are in tune with your audience and create content around them encourages fan loyalty. Being ridiculously focused on how to better serve your readers creates return visitors and recommendations. "There isn't one thing that we do at The Infatuation that doesn't start with the question, "what does this do for our audience?" If we don't have good answers for why they should care about something, or why it could be valuable to them, we don't do it."
This way of thinking also allows you to cultivate stronger relationships with people across all platforms. You consider where they read your material how to present it best, whether through a mobile app, tablet, or laptop. And when you continually focus on being a people centric business, you'll keep on attracting people. Rather than writing for search engines and drawing irrelevant traffic to your site that provokes a bounce rate higher than a Chinese trampolinist.
Find partnerships that align with your core values
When your focus is continually fixed on the real nature of your business, and you don't get distracted by passing fads, your content will follow suit. This allows you to align with brand respected names and find partnerships that complement your core values. Andrew explains: "We work with a lot of different partners, but some of our closest relationships and deepest integrations right now are with American Express, Delta, Anheuser-Busch, Samsung, Don Julio, PAIGE, Bai, and Caviar. They like working with us because we're good at creating value for our user, and integrating an authentic brand message into that value, whether it be a Guide To The Best New Restaurants In NYC shot with Samsung Gear 360 technology, or a private dinner party we host with American Express at one of our favorite restaurants."
Everything the team does at The Infatuation is carefully thought out and studied, making sure that every strategy or brand they work with fits in with theirs. "We actually say no to a lot of money if it doesn't fit, as we need to maintain that all-important trust we've built with our audience." It can be tempting to accept large injections of cash for your business from any source, but if they don't align with your goals, you could end up diluting your brand and alienating your audience. This will cost you way more in the long run.
Think before you write
Before sitting down to work on a new piece or creating any campaign, make sure you think before you write. When asked the most valuable piece of advice Andrew could give to anyone looking to build a real business with their content, he says: "Ask yourself the question, "Does anybody actually need this?" If the answer is yes, figure out how to connect with a niche audience that you know will care about your vision. Don't start thinking you're going to reach the masses right away."
Rome wasn't built in a day and you may not construct your empire overnight either. So, start slow and steady and build, staying true to the essence of your business. If you're not swayed by flash-in-the-pan tendencies or deals with sponsors that don't share your company values, you can use content as a powerful tool to build a real business.