Key Questions for Content Marketing

Back in the last decade, I published a niche bridal magazine that included some content marketing pieces on topics that were of interest to the target audience. Those included recipes, makeup tips, and relationship advice, among others. However, two contrasting pieces stand out most vividly in my mind: one from a photographer, and the other from a hairstylist.

The photographer wrote about his own views and approaches toward his craft and illustrated his article with some of his pictures. All fine and good, but he was not happy with the results. He complained that it wasn’t working.

What wasn’t working? The article didn’t bring in droves of customers. It did, as he acknowledged, bring him recognition, as people told him that they saw his article. He could not separate marketing from sales and so didn’t consider the positive effect of building up his brand as valuable, as well.

The photographer’s disappointment formed a strong contrast to a hairstylist’s delight. She was thrilled with the response she got from the articles and ended up writing a series of articles with practical tips on maintenance, finding a flattering cut, and understanding the differences among the products available. Many women called her, seeking out her services, for they had learned to trust her as result of reading her advice.

Now how to account for the different experiences of the photographer and the hairstylist? Naturally, women tend to have their hair styled more often than they order a photographer’s services. Even a person who was really impressed by his article wouldn’t necessarily give him a job; there just may not have been an occasion coming up. But there was also a difference in the communication of the two pieces.

The photographer put the spotlight on himself in talking about what he does. The hairstylist put the spotlight on her readers by telling them what they can do. While some well-established brands are beloved enough to attract attention on the basis of their own stories, as in Lego’s 80th anniversary video (though note that even it begins with “you,”) those of us who do not have star status get more attention from giving readers information that relates directly to them.

Engagement is what we’re all after, particularly when we publish online and hope to get likes, pluses, comments, and shares. When planning what to include in a piece intended to serve as content marketing consider: who, how, what, which, where, when, and why.

Who makes up your target audience?

How would they recognize that the piece would be of interest to them? That’s something to be taken into account in the title and platform selected.

What impression would they walk away with about your name in connection to the content?

Which visual elements would enhance your content? Would it benefit from photographs, videos, or drawings to illustrate your point?

Where do you publish it to reach your audience? Another consideration is where to link to it: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Pinterest, LinkedIn, on your blog, or maybe even on another’s blog. Is it in a format that lends itself to sharing?

When is the best time to publish this? Is it seasonal? Does it connect to something that is happening or trending? Some topics are evergreen, but you can sometimes catch more eyes by tying into something that people are already talking about. Just don’t insult your reader’s intelligence by putting in a connection in the title when none exists in the actual content.

Why would someone share this? Is it interesting, funny, or helpful enough to make them want to pass it on?

Put yourself in the shoes of your readers to answer these questions and then craft your content accordingly. What you’ll achieve is recognition, respect, and trust , all of which are key to building a relationship with potential customers.

Guest post by Ariella Brown

Ariella Brown writes on marketing, analytics, technology, the internet, and social media, among other things. She holds a PhD in English. Links to post appear at WriteWayProductions. She welcomes connections on LinkedIn and conversations at Google+.

 

Comments

  1. Good stuff, Ariella! The subtleties of targeting the reader in the proper fashion are missed by many, and your example demonstrates the difference it can make very well. I think another aspect of the example that played a major part is the immediacy of the benefit offered to the readers, per the probable reason for their search.

    Certainly, every woman wants to have some dynamite photos of her wedding day to share and enjoy for years. But one has to wonder… if they had to choose between being breathtakingly beautiful in a photo album or at the altar, which would they be more likely to choose. I suspect the latter would be the hands-down favorite.

    That, I think, would further explain why the hairstylist’s side of the story would garner more interest. It addresses the more urgent aspect that probably brought most people to the piece to begin with… better to ensure the memorability of the occasion than the mementos.

  2. Thanks, Doc. It’s interesting that you bring up that question of photo preference. I pass by a photographer’s studio nearly every day. Like many others do, he puts samples of his work in his window. Now, in some of them, clearly the star is the photographer himself rather than the subject. That is particularly noticeable in one shot that captures the reflection of a woman in a compact mirror on table covered with various cosmetics. He’s showing off that he went for the reflection and framing rather than the straight on portrait. However, the reflected image of the woman getting her makeup applied is very unflattering to her, making her nose look very prominent due to the angle. He also has some shots of couples in attractive outdoor settings where the background rather than the bride and groom become the real subject of the shot. It’s something for couples to consider: do they want the photographer to show off or show them off?

  3. Very helpful post! I use a version of the 5Ws and How when creating content plans as well, but I’ve never really explored the “Which”. That was quite interesting, and I’ll be sure to consider that in the future.

    Another factor which a lot of social media managers mistake for ‘good engagement’ are controversial contents. Sure, these get a lot of shares, maybe a ton of Likes should captions be quirky/satirical enough but in the end, there isn’t really any on-ground value for these. Almost like engagement fishing. There IS such a thing as bad publicity via content, and should be something content planners take into account.

    Thanks for this post! :)

    jsncruz

  4. Many years ago I worked in a gallery selling photography and it astounded me how many small time photographers would place themselves front and center in much of the writing and discussion of the photographic exhibition. There were a little too many thinking they were the next Annie Leibovitz.

    The photographers that sold the most were always the ones that created back stories about the subjects of their photographs and let the images be front and center.

  5. Jsncruz, you’re most welcome. you hit on something that is worth exploring further: questioning the value of notoriety. Sometimes it is easier to become infamous than to become recognized for one’s merits, and many have chosen that route to gaining attention.
    With respect to “which,” once I started listing the questions, I thought of how various aspects could be categorized. As visual elements are a major factor in drawing attention to content, I decided to include planning for that aspect. I wanted to keep that distinct from the considerations I put under “what.”

  6. @Robin, that’s exactly it. Though one would think that photographers are used to a behind-the-scenes role, some demand to be recognized as artists.

  7. Thank you so much for the quick reply! As much as possible, I include high-resolution images specifically targeted to my clients’ market/audience – for the most part, these works. I know videos are quite appealing as well in terms of increasing total reach, but unfortunately, most of the market/audience are on simple web-enabled mobile phones. This factor also determines my current strategy.

    In certain cases, would you recommend notoriety? And what would these be?

  8. @jsncruz I believe that notoriety works for certain brands in entertainment, which includes celebrities who prefer finding themselves in the headlines of tabloids to not being mentioned at all. However, there are clearly those who do not believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity. That was the starting point of the blog I wrote about the “Science: it’s a girl thing” video fiasco. http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=1402&doc_id=246469& Though the EU Commission’s first response was that it’s great to have everyone talking about its launch, they soon realized that it wasn’t the kind of attention they wanted and decided to pull the video. The same kind of thing happened when milk companies promoted its product as an antidote to PMS. The backlash was so strong that it ended the campaign early.

  9. Well from that point of view, I will never utilize notoriety for any of the corporate pages/sites I manage! :P Your links are bookmarked reading materials for me tonight.

    Thank you so much for your patience in answering my questions. I simply enjoy learning from those much more experienced in social media than I am.

    Jason

  10. SEO is the most important part for online marketing. So everyone should use this option by using proper ways. I’ve read your many article regarding this topic & found helpful information. sometimes many people claim that they can optimize their website within 7 days! so what do you think about it? please share your knowledge.

  11. Put yourself in the shoes of your readers to answer these questions and then craft your content accordingly. What you’ll achieve is recognition, respect, and trust , all of which are key to building a relationship with potential customers. Well said … Excellent and a useful post..

  12. @Stanley, exactly! It’s very kind of you to comment. Your summation is spot on.

  13. Great ideas about how to keep your readers’ perspective in mind. One additional thought that most nonprofits struggle with is how to keep generating content consistently over time. Maintaining a schedule week after week and month after month can get old if you’ve not done a good job of planning and figuring out content gaps and who’s going to fill them tomorrow, next month, and next year.

    Good marketing is a long-distance, multisport event, not a single day dash.

  14. SEO is the most important part for online marketing. So everyone should use this option by using proper ways. I’ve read your many article regarding this topic & found helpful information. sometimes many people claim that they can optimize their website within 7 days! so what do you think about it? please share your knowledge.

  15. Your article actually covered every topic that would come up in this subject. It’s really helpful and informative to amateurs like me.

  16. Frankly, every blogger should consider the fact that publishing an article and marketing your well thought-of content should somehow depend on the readers too. One should keep in mind that readers would want something new, unique, timely, and informative. Thanks for posting!

  17. Hi Ariella! I couldn’t agree with you more when you mentioned that engagement is a goal that we all want to be able to fulfill and it ultimately gauges our efficiency in content marketing. These key questions are critical in the process of generating the traffic we need for maximum exposure. Thanks for the salutary share!

  18. Totally agree, Clay! “Winging it” works for a while, but eventually you realize that a plan works much better at keeping those ideas rolling. Those content gaps are really only noticeable if you’ve spent the time to study what the readers want and need, so winging it will often miss those gaps. Thanks for reminding us about that!

  19. @Kath, I’m very glad you found it helpful and informative.

  20. @Joy exactly, your target audience is not compelled to spend time on your posts unless you provide something they’ll find worth reading. Thanks for commenting!

  21. @Kristine Yes, engagement is not the product of just thinking about what you want to promote but of thinking about what will appeal to your audience! Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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