Welcome to the ‘Content Creation Guide for SMEs’ – inspired by a talk given by Hannah Smith from Distilled and collated into 5 top tips to make sure your content rocks your reader's world AND performs well in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
We will cover:
- Knowing your audience
- What content should you produce?
- Creating a content calendar
- Test, revise and become more awesome
- Reward yourself with a cuppa!
Knowing Your Audience
Before you begin to produce awesome content, you need to work out who your content will be aimed at. At Noisy Little Monkey we do this by sitting down and creating different imaginary people who are in the target audience. Start by thinking about the following questions:
- Who are my existing clients and what interests them?
- Who do I want to start targeting?
- Who would want to hear from my company?
- How can I produce content which answers the audiences online needs?
And then try to crystallise this into 2 or 3 imaginary people (your target personae):
- How old are they?
- What sex are they?
- Where are they located?
- What devices do they use?
- What other publications are they likely to read?
This should start to give you a clear understanding of your current audience but will also start to open the gates on potential audiences. Imagine what the people look like and get all this down on paper...you may even end up with something which looks like this:
What content should I produce?
In general, content can be split into four boxes; that which:
Hannah presented us with a fancier image of this which you can find on SlideShare (page 10)
Your challenge as a marketing manager is to create (or encourage your team to create) content that people will love so that they will share it. Unfortunately you are limited: people only tend to share things which entertain them (3’s dancing pony) or educates them (Facebook page performance by Industry)
Fortunately you’re in digital marketing and are already a creative individual so producing awesome content which people will want to share should be easy right? We know this isn’t always the case. But narrowing your content to either be entertaining or educational gives you two goals to aim for, rather than the four mentioned above.
Remember the job of content is not to persuade and convert. Granted it helps towards the sales process but when you sit down to create content don’t get bogged down trying to reach either of these goals.
So how do you create awesome content on a shoestring?
This is where knowing your audience and the ability to think outside the box comes into play. Number one rule: don’t think you have to create everything yourself. One of the many joys of the internet is that it allows people to share their creativity and you can take advantage of it (whilst tipping your hat to them obviously – I’m not suggesting you steal their work!)
For example: So, you own a riding school in Somerset. You have a blog and you want to increase visitor numbers to the blog (your analytics account is looking a little desolate!) plus increase engagement across your social media marketing channels.
Two birds, one stone. Two horses, one field.
Get a feel for what’s already out there. You’ll probably already aware of major publications in the riding community. What are these magazines writing about? What are they sharing on social media?
Start to think about how you could cover the same subjects but tailored to your reader’s needs. For example here's what I found in Your Horse (on the left) with ideas for an imaginary riding school blog content on the right:
The article examples above are a mix of informative and entertaining. They also include some input from the riding school's existing audience (AKA User Generated Content or UGC) which has two major benefits: the brand gets to touch base with people while giving them an incentive to produce content. People are more inclined to share content if they created it themselves to enter a competition or for the kudos of getting it on a brand website.
Think about it - if the riding school runs a competition for best / funniest horse photo and the photo with the most votes wins a prize, entrants are far more likely to share it with friends and family to ask for their help through likes and tweets. The win is not only increased website traffic but also masses of brand awareness.
If you’re stuck for ideas for content, think about the following:
- Interviews with staff members
- Collating the best industry events to attend
- Q & A session with an industry leader
- Opinions and thought leadership on topical subjects related to your industry
- Advice on using certain tools and products
- How to guides to help your audience
- Round-ups of events you have arranged
Creating a Content Calendar
Planning a month (or even a couple of months) in advance may seem like a lot of time to invest straight up but believe me, it will save you hours in the long run. At this stage you do not need to actually write the content – just have a clear idea of what you are going to write and when.
If I was running the social media for the riding school example , I'd make sure we noted what events are happening nationally, across the globe and just in your industry such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, UK Bank Holidays, show jumping events, agricultural shows and start to work these into a content marketing plan. For your business, you have to think can you create content around these events? Are you attending an event where you can take pictures? Perhaps you’re presenting an award? All of these things can be put into a content calendar and be used to populate your blog or social media channels.
Your calendar will be starting to fill up now so all you have to do is fill in the gaps with content which you produce yourself and that is entertaining or informative for your audience.
Once you have a content calendar in place, then start producing the content when you have time. The great thing is, as you know what is coming up, you can start to prepare for it meaning you will lose that dreaded feeling of ‘what am I going to put on the blog today?’ Win!
A content calendar doesn't have to be a fancy spreadsheet – it can be a printed calendar, a Google calendar – whatever works best for you. If you are part of a team creating content then an online solution, such as a Google calendar, is probably best as everyone can access it.
Test, Revise and become more Awesome
Testing what works can be time consuming but it is important if you are going to start to spend your time more efficiently in the future. Take a look at your analytics and see how well your content is doing. Key things to look for:
- Which pages are your visitors landing on?
- How long do they stay on the site?
- On many pages on average do they visit whilst on your site?
- Do they activate any of the goals you have set up?
Once you have an understanding of how your visitors are behaving, you can start to tailor your content around that. Is one blog post more successful at keeping people on the site? What are your calls to action and are they working?
You can go one step further and start to look at the analytics of each social media platform you post on as well. Some give you more detail than others, but you can start to see what is working in terms of attracting your audience. Which day is most successful? What time are people online? Do more people RT when you ask them to or when you use a hashtag?
Don’t get worried about analysing every single detail at this stage – the knack with analytics is to understand what is going on, not to get lost in the numbers.
If you do need a head start, check out Nic's blog post 3 Analytics Reports to Tempt Your Boss.
Have a break…have a cuppa!
Creating content is a skill in itself and don’t worry if you are not yet brimming with ideas – do some research and start to get a feel for what other companies are doing. Ask your audience what type of content they would be interested in. See if anyone would like to volunteer some time to produce articles. And when it all gets too much – stick the kettle on!
Do you have any top tips for creating content? I’d love to hear them so please drop me a comment below or tweet @NoisyMonkey.
Image Credit: Treehouse1977, Worldizen, Dekcuf and Guy Sie.