One of our most popular blog series here at Content Equals Money is the “What Content Marketing Can Learn From…” group of posts. Here, our talented writers compare different aspects of content marketing to everything, from haircuts to Craigslist and everything in between. If you’re looking for a unique and interesting way to learn more about content marketing, these posts are for you!
Simply click on the small arrows to the left to expand the content from your topic of choice. Take your time, and let us know what you think!
What Content Marketing Can Learn From…Craigslist
Now, let’s not discount the end-all-be-all of online classifieds just because of poor website design. I’ve found years of housing and a career through Craigslist. Craigslist founder Craig Newmark has plenty of lessons that the content marketing industry can learn from. Today, I want to highlight just five of those lessons.
#1 Creative Posts Get More Attention
If you’ve ever searched for apartments on Craigslist, you know how the listings usually go. There are the spammy realtor listings that will throw up two fuzzy stock pictures. Plus, they usually neglect to include the address of the location they advertise. And then, there are the listings by actual property owners who care about their house or apartment. These listings will have plenty of pictures, information only an owner would know, and maybe even suggestions on how you could use the different spaces.
Thirdly, you have your wildcards. Your wildcard listings stand out through humor, pertinent details, and personality. This is how you want your content marketing efforts to come across! Give your audience creative content that stands out from the sea of dull information. Create content that matters; content that people will want to share with others!
#2 Know When Your Audience Is Reading
Another key factor is to know when your audience is reading. Studies show that Craigslist sees the most traffic from apartment-hunters on Sundays. If you’re posting to Craigslist, you want to put your listing up late Saturday night/early Sunday morning. But, you’re not posting to Craigslist; you’re posting to Twitter, Facebook, your blog, etc.
If you haven’t been paying attention to when these sites get the most traffic, it’s time to start. Knowing when your audience is reading is essential. But, before you know when they’re reading, you have to have a clear picture of your audience profiles. (Check out this post by Amie Marse to make sure you understand your audience profiles.)
Once you know the audience that you’re writing for, you’ve got to figure out where they go on the Internet and when they go there! If your audience is using Facebook and Twitter (and it’s likely that they are), do yourself a favor and read this invaluable how-to on sharing your content by Samantha Murphy at Mashable.
Here’s the short of it:
Twitter: peak time is 1:00-3:00 pm ET on Monday
Facebook: peak time is around 3:00 pm ET on Wednesday
If your company has its own blog, make sure you’re tracking the results with Google Analytics. This tool is free, easy to use, and provides lots of valuable feedback for site-owners.
#3 Exceed Expectations: Trust & Value
Thirdly, exceed your audience’s expectations. Generally speaking, this is good life-advice. Whether you’re in school, working for the man, or romancing a lady, when you exceed expectations your hard work pays off.
Good Craigslist admen exceed expectations by providing lots of information in their postings. Furthermore, they include quality (and valuable) pictures, a phone number, and let you know a little bit about themselves. Also, if the listing seems under-priced or a little odd, they’ll usually let you know the reason, thereby decreasing suspicion and increasing trustworthiness.
And really, that’s what content marketing boils down to. Content marketing is all about relationships and relationships are built on trust. When you make a point of exceeding your audience’s expectations, you build their trust.
The second part of exceeding expectations is adding value. Bill Wyman, in the Wall Street Journal, makes an astute observation about Craigslist founder, Craig Newmark. Wyman writes, “[He] did one simple thing: He thought about what his users wanted and put very little on his site that wasn’t useful to them.”
If you look at Craigslist, the stark barrenness of the website might immediately strike you as ugly. But, you’ve got to hand it to Newmark… he’s made his content extremely easy to access. If my great aunt pulled up Craigslist, I think she’d be able to figure out what’s going on much more quickly than if she had opened my Facebook News Feed. Make sure you’re adding value along with all your content’s bells and whistles. There’s no better way to exceed expectations than by adding value.
#4 Be Personable
Also, you want your content marketing efforts to come across as being genuine. Knowing the faces behind your audience profiles is essential because it allows you to make smart judgment calls about how you get your content across. One of my clients runs a legal blog for people with financial problems. It’s not the time to be funny. But, it is appropriate to be empathetic. Remember, being personable only works when you know who you’re writing for and what they’re looking for.
Successful Craigslist-ers know what kind of person is searching for their guitar amp or litter of kittens. You should know who’s looking for the information on your blog. Write for them. It’s your blog, sure, but if you want it to be successful, you’ve got to write for your audience profiles!
# 5 Play By the Rules
Please, just play by the rules. The bane of content marketers’ existence is article spinning. Essentially, article spinning is rewording the same article and posting it elsewhere as “unique content” just to build up a web reputation. Don’t do it. Besides being tacky, it just doesn’t work.
In the world of Craigslist (and pretty much everywhere else on the Internet) this is known as spamming – a very frowned-upon practice, indeed. As someone who’s looking for an apartment right now (ed: sorry if that phrase attracts spam), going through Craigslist can be a frustrating experience. It’s so obvious when realtors rephrase the exact same apartment listing and repost it five times in a day.
People see through spam. If you’re spinning articles or taking advantage of the content marketing industry in a similar way, people will notice. And, the result isn’t good. Your reputation sinks, your audience dwindles, and you’re definitely not building relationships and adding value.
What other content marketing tips can we learn from Craigslist?
#1: Build a following from your content.
I only knew a few songs by Scars on 45 when I saw them perform live, but that was enough for me to know that I liked their style. For you, the content marketer, this translates to always putting your heart into your work. Yes, it can be tiring to feel like you’re running on a constant content treadmill. Yes, you’re going to have days where your creativity seems to be waning. But don’t give up. Those bands get tired of living in vans and never being home, but in the end, they give their all to make sure they’re sharing their best work with the audience and listeners. Produce solid content and use social media to supplement it. Though I’m reluctant to use the term “rockstar,” in this case, I do quite literally mean it when I say that this is the rockstar way. Their songs are their major content, but clearly songs aren’t produced quite as prolifically as, say, blog posts. So they maintain their following by establishing themselves on social media sites. They’re tweeting, Facebook-ing, and blogging, too. And the fan interaction – don’t forget that part. It’s a big one. That’s the part that brings your following together and really solidifies it. Catch their attention with quality content and give them a reason to keep coming back for more. I own every Butch Walker album from 1998, on – former band, side projects, and EPs included. Most of them have been purchased without ever listening to the whole album (or even any of the songs) first. I will always order his new albums the day pre-order starts because he’s been keeping my interest in between: blog posts, amusing tweets, interesting pictures from the road on Instagram, music videos, non-music videos, a book, and lots more. And all of that? It’s great content. It keeps me hooked. And you can do it too. (Even the music video part. Ask any company who’s already made one, and I’m sure you’ll hear that they got a lot of great feedback about it. Really worth considering as an addition to your content strategy.) Don’t forget to make that content easily accessible from your web site.
#2: Being a small business can actually be an advantage.
Part of the allure, as I’ve said, with these small acts is that they’re very approachable. They don’t have the resources to hire people to do everything for them, so they do it themselves. The band members are the ones fielding questions and comments on Twitter and Facebook. They’re outside the venues interacting with the fans. They’re working their own merch tables. They’re writing their own blog posts from the road. As a small business, you have this same advantage when it comes to content marketing. If you and your employees are interacting with your customers and prospects, they’re much more likely to remember that they talked to a real person with practical knowledge of the business and not someone whose sole purpose is to answer telephones. They’re going to remember that it was the CEO who replied to their blog comment. They’re going to remember that it was a principal who conversed with them via Twitter. They’re going to remember asking you questions and, two days later, seeing a blog post that addresses those very topics. And that’s where you, the small business, have an advantage. Your following isn’t so large that it’s impossible for you to meet and talk to all of them, so hop to it. Make that personal touch a part of your content strategy. Maybe two of your blog posts a month feature your clients or you’re really active on forums talking to them. The point is that you have the ability to be a major, personal presence, whereas larger corporations, though in possession of more resources, don’t. At least not always (there are always exceptions). Be approachable.
#3: Develop a unique voice.
As I’ve also mentioned, part of the reason I love this kind of music so much is because it doesn’t all sound exactly the same to me like the stuff I hear on the radio. There’s a unique sound to it. (Sometimes literally – the first time I ever heard Fitz & The Tantrums, my immediate reaction was to say, “Wow, you don’t hear a bari-sax too often these days.”) Not only does the music have its own unique sound, but the artists do, as well. Their voices in blog posts and social media updates are strong – they use colloquialisms and talk about things other than themselves and their music. They share other content: pictures, videos, other artists they love. They sound like real people. Like real people with whom I want to interact and do business. The long and the short of this tip is to not be afraid to sound like yourself. Whether it’s a blog post, social media update, eBook, white paper, or anything else, let your voice and personality be a presence in your content. Take chances. You want to be cordial, respectful, and professional, but you also want to let your audience know that you’re a real person. Real people with real personalities and unique voices will almost always win out over automation or someone who sounds too stiff and formal to be engaging. All of this doesn’t just hold true for indie musicians, either. Think of something that you feel is like a best-kept secret – maybe it’s a band, but maybe it’s a writer, a clothing line, a bookstore, a restaurant, or something else entirely. What keeps drawing you back to it? My guess is that “quality content” will factor in there somewhere (however the “content” applies). Based on your own experiences, then, what tips would you add to this list?
It’s been a while now that I keep finding all of these places where you can find wonderful content marketing lessons, including movies, retail, and even hipster facial hair. It seems, though, that we’ve overlooked the most obvious of all places to find these lessons: you!
Think about it. How many times have you casually observed someone else’s content marketing and thought, I wish… ? Probably more than you realize. This is something that a lot of us tend to do without really thinking about it, and we do it with pretty much every aspect of online marketing (and life).
So here are some tips you can take away from what you thought were some casual observations.
Observation: This website content is so boring. I can’t even focus on what I’m reading because it’s so dry.
Tip: Bring your personality into your content marketing
Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through in your content. This helps attract customers to you. Look, for example, at how you prefer to interact. Are you very friendly and outgoing? Do you prefer to be more polished and down to earth? These personal characteristics are more than just that – they say something about what platforms you might use.
Very straight-laced and professional? Maybe LinkedIn is the platform for you. Social butterfly when it comes to business interactions? You’re probably more of a Twitter person.
Understanding these personal qualities can help you create content and share it with like-minded individuals.
Observation: This company gives me the impression that they’re keeping me at arm’s length. I wish they were a little warmer and receptive.
Tip: If you want your customers and clients to feel like friends, treat them like friends.
This will probably first require you to assess how you behave with your friends (and perhaps how that measures up to others. Just because you and your friends might party until 4 a.m. doesn’t mean everyone is like that).
For example, contact your customers and prospects at the same time you would contact a friend (so not at 7 a.m. or 2 a.m., hopefully!). This doesn’t just mean phone calls – it can mean emails too. While most people are never going to know they received an email at 3 a.m. for no apparent reason, there’s always someone who’s got a notification sound set.
Observation: I wish there was some better organization. I’d like to know when I can expect new content and what that content will be.
Tip: If you are a very polished business professional, feel free to organize.
You might want to make sure that your content machine is only running during business hours – 8-5 every day and not a moment under or over. You might also put a considerable amount of resources into your editing staff to ensure that every piece of content is as flawless as it can be.
Observation: I wonder who this writer is outside of his or her writing.
Tip: Make room for you in your content.
When you spend a considerable amount of time online, reading others’ content, it’s natural that you feel like you start to develop some kind of relationship with them, and thus want to know more about who they are.
Similar to allowing your personality to shine through, don’t be afraid to be present in your content. Feel free to include tidbits about your hobbies, interests, and life in your content marketing efforts. This can only serve to give customers a way to relate to you and your business and establish a friendlier relationship if that’s where you want it to go.
That little bit of common ground could be all the difference it takes for a prospect to choose to do business with you.
Observation: This email newsletter arrived right on time! This is exactly the info that I was looking for.
Tip: Identify what works for you when purchasing a product.
What helps you make up your mind when it comes time to making a purchase? Chances are good that those are the same things that are helping others to choose your business, as well.
Was it an email newsletter that came at the perfect time of day? Or maybe you read a lot of blog posts that review products. Perhaps it’s videos on YouTube that help you make up your mind. Try to figure out the content strategy behind the items you consume. How can you emulate that?
Observation: What is my competition doing with their content marketing?
Tip: Worry less about your competition.
I know that sounds counterintuitive, but allow me to explain. Don’t just focus on your competition. Think bigger. Look at what’s working across the board for brands big and small. Consider what gets you to open your wallet, then figure out how you can make that happen for your business too. If you think you might need some help here, we can help you plan your content strategy.
Observation: This is great that content marketing works so well for larger brands, but it would never work for my small business.
Tip: Nonsense. The process is the same.
Whether you’re a Fortune 500 company or a small mom & pop-style business, the process of content marketing is exactly the same. Ideas, strategies, and so forth are all on the table. Anything you see a bigger company doing is game because the content marketing playing field is level.
So the next time you’re consuming content online, listen to yourself. What are you observing, and what does that say about your style? What other observations would you add to this list?
#1: Don’t flip-flop. Take a firm stance.
This is an example of what not to do. There are countless politicians who have been accused of flip-flopping, or changing positions for personal gain. You would be wise to avoid such tactics in your content marketing efforts. Controversy can be an excellent addition to your content strategy. Unfortunately, it’s not always planned to be that way. It’s a traffic booster because it gets people talking, but it can also bring the pressure to “take it back” or tone it down from those who disagree with your position. Understand that you can’t play to both sides and you’ll never please everyone. If there comes a time when your company needs to publicly take a position, be firm in it. Make that position clear in everything from your Facebook and Twitter updates to your blog posts. While not everyone will agree with you, people are a lot more receptive to transparency than they are to secrecy and deception. Consider this when developing your content strategy, and use your content as a vehicle to achieve said transparency. Bonus: As an added piece of related advice, when your position differs from your competitors’, avoid the smear campaigns. Sure, it might be amusing for people to watch as you exchange insults (masked or otherwise) via blog posts and social media content, but it’s not the way to be taken seriously as a business. Avoid going for the eyes and be respectful and professional, instead.
#2: Pick and choose your negative campaigns.
Negative marketing campaigns are everywhere these days, and political campaigns are a perfect example of this. I’m sure you know exactly what I mean: Candidate A airs a commercial that tells you how the world will implode of Candidate B is elected, then backs it up with reasons. Candidate B publishes a post to the campaign blog talking about how Candidate A will destroy life as you know it and follows up with reasons to support such a claim. If there were a little black dress of political campaigns, fear tactics would be it. While fear and negative marketing certainly have a place in your content strategy, avoid relying too heavily upon them. We as a society have become so accustomed to always hearing the negative and focusing on the bad that many of us have little, if any, reaction. Focusing on the positive, on the other hand, is always a welcome strategy. We like content that makes us feel good and gives us hope – hope about your product or business included.
#3: Use multiple channels to promote your message.
This is one thing that political campaigns have gotten very right! Sure, you see campaign-related content in more traditional forms such as the flyer hanging on your door, the letter in your mailbox, the commercial on your television, and even the message on your answering machine. Any serious candidate, however, knows it’s time to get social. Today we see candidates posting content on Facebook and interacting with supporters through Twitter. Their camps are blogging from the campaign trail. Earlier this year, President Obama even held a Google+ Hangout. Content marketing has become very much a part of every political race. If no one is seeing your content, you might become frustrated with your efforts. But you needn’t be. A politician’s goal is to win, and to do that, he or she needs to get every campaign message in front of the constituents. Making the messages available on multiple channels makes that possible. So use the major channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and a blog to promote your content, but don’t forget about other sites (and there are lots of them). Slideshare, YouTube, PRNewswire, and Google+ (hangouts or not), are all good ways to use other channels to get your message out.
#4: Know how to reach your target market.
Along those same lines, it’s important to know where your target market is going to be. Spreading your message across various channels needs to be part of your content strategy. It can’t just be a series of random actions. Through your research, you should know where your target market is spending time. For example, Mitt Romney realized that the rise in popularity of DVR means that fewer people are watching live television. That, in turn, means that they aren’t watching commercials – they’re just fast-forwarding through them. In an effort to reach that target market, Romney’s ads appeared and played in web browsers. Arguably the most important aspect of content marketing is a solid content strategy. Make yours work by knowing who you want to consume your content and where they will be. Those details are crucial to a successful campaign.
#5: Measure your success.
Political candidates know where they are in the polls. They know if they’re ahead or behind, and by exactly how much. If you want your content campaign to be successful, you’ve got to know how you’re doing, as well. Dive into your analytics and spend some time really monitoring your progress (or, as is sometimes the case, lack thereof). Use this information to help you determine what is and isn’t working. If there’s a certain kind of content that’s really doing well for you, keep working on that. If something is falling flat, don’t place a focus on it. A sizable portion of content marketing is giving your audience what they find most valuable. The Obama Campaign can see whether or not you’ve opened their emails, as well as what you clicked while you were viewing them. Based on that information, they know whether or not to send more or less content to you. And they’re certainly not the only ones practicing this strategy. The bottom line: keep a close eye on your analytics to help you determine where to focus efforts and where to ease back. Your audience will appreciate the way you appear to read their minds. These are, of course, just a few of the lessons that we can take away from political campaigns and apply to content marketing. What do you think? What other lessons would apply?
The Movie Industry
There’s a certain glamour involved when it comes to the movie industry, isn’t there? Silver screens projecting another life back to us, actors and actresses moving from role to role.
And don’t forget about so many pieces–scenes–coming together to form a whole feature-length presentation.
The movie industry is pretty massive, to say the least, and there are countless lessons to be taken from it when it comes to content marketing. If you’re a movie lover who’s looking for some tips on content marketing, then you’re in luck because today I speak your language.
Documentary films can serve several different purposes, but one of the major ones is to educate. Whether these are film-length productions made for television or documentaries that make it to the big screen, someone spends a lot of time, money, and other resources doing research so that the information the viewer receives is as accurate as possible.
When you think of it like that, content marketing isn’t much different. When you’re creating a content strategy, one of your primary objectives is probably to educate your visitors in some way, as well. A documentary will educate through film, while content marketing will educate through a variety of channels and content.
What is it that you want to teach your visitors? How will you address their questions?
Actors and actresses sometimes play one role so well that they end up playing it more than once in different films (think Jennifer Aniston in romantic comedies). This is fine for some actors, at least for a while. But it’s always good to take a chance on a role that’s different from what you usually do to avoid being typecast.
For your content marketing, this means stepping out of your comfort zone. Consistency is an awesome thing, but if you feel yourself falling into a rut by doing the same thing day in and day out, it might be time to shake it up before you get too bored, otherwise you risk burning out and fading into oblivion. If you want your visitors to be interested in your content, you have to be interested in it, too. If that means trying out a video or a podcast, so be it. Do what you gotta do. You might discover that you’re actually really good at crafting a different kind of content.
In the movie industry, deep focus refers to a cinematographic (boy, that word’s a mouthful!) technique in which a large depth of field is used. Instead of a lot of back and forth shots or slicing and dicing in the editing room, the scene is allowed to play out.
This can be risky, though. If you mess up, you have to go back and start all over again. If things start to drag, the scene can get away from you.
Think of deep focus a bit like using longer pieces as part of your content strategy. Instead of a lot of slicing and dicing and trying to keep your content below 800 words, let it play out.
Maybe this becomes a long blog post, a blog series, or an eBook. There is any number of ways to take on longer content. Understand that the risk is there, though. You don’t want to lose people in the middle, so you’ve got to really practice perfecting this technique.
And by the way, if you’ve heard that it’s unwise to use longer content, ignore what you’ve heard. When done well, it can be a major plus for your content marketing strategy.
These three ideas are really just the tip of the iceberg. There are countless lessons that content marketing can learn from the movie industry. What other ones can you think of?
Vary your approach
The beauty of a department store is that it doesn’t carry only one type of merchandise. There’s a variety of departments. What’s that mean for your content marketing? It means you can’t just focus on one thing. To that end, you can’t pick a single method and just keep repeating it over and over. That gets boring; both for you and your visitors. Imagine what would happen if department stores never updated their stock to include current trends and fashions. Instead, try varying your content. Mix it up a little with a video blog post or try your hand at an infographic. Post an interesting interview – either one that you’ve conducted, or where you’ve been interviewed.
Use content segmentation
If you close your eyes and picture the department store you visit most frequently, you can probably visualize where all of the individual departments are located. Kids, shoes, women’s, men’s, and so forth. When you walk in the door, you probably don’t spend much time meandering around the departments that are of no use or interest to you. The same holds true for your website’s visitors. We’re all in a hurry these days and we don’t want to spend a lot of time lollygagging and slogging through content that’s of no interest to us. Content segmentation is the process by which you provide your visitors with a way to self-identify on your site. The choice they make will determine the kind of content that they see. This way, the process is streamlined and they get what they need. And speaking of all of those departments…
Have a little something for everyone
Beyond just providing different kinds of content, provide content that meets a range of interests within your industry. Different topics, if you will. Take social media, for example. There are plenty of social media blogs out there, and many that are quite good. Think of your favorite one. Okay, now why is that one your favorite? If I had to guess, I’d say that one of your top reasons is probably that it brings you a very well-rounded picture of the social media landscape. It doesn’t focus solely on Twitter or Facebook or Google+. If you’re only writing about Twitter, you’re missing out on catering to another significant part of the spectrum: those who are interested in other social platforms as well. Get my drift? A department store isn’t a department store if it’s just aiming to fulfill one kind of person’s needs. Same goes for your content marketing.
Keep up with the latest fashions, but keep your classics handy
In the fashion world, every season brings a new look. Trends are constantly changing; so much so that people make careers out of predicting those trends years in advance. But then there are the old go-to pieces: the little black dress or blue jeans, for example. These pieces may go through some changes, but by and large, they’re always in style. You’ll note that department stores keep those trusty classic pieces on hand while the rest of their merchandise literally changes with the season. I like to compare this to your timely and evergreen content. Timely content is the hot fashion trend. It could change drastically next week, but for today, it’s so hot. Use timely pieces to show that you’re up to speed on the goings on in your industry. But don’t forget about those classic pieces. Evergreen content is the little black dress of the content marketing world. You might have to invest more in it (either creating it or consuming it), but you’ll get more wear out of it, as well. What other content marketing lessons can you derive from department stores? Let us know in the comments!
A League of Their Own
A League of Their Own really just hit it out of the park.
Okay. I’m sorry. I couldn’t avoid starting with a really cheesy baseball joke.
But seriously, this movie about an all-women baseball league during World War II is full of lessons about life, love, baseball, and content marketing.
Yep. You heard me.
Plenty to talk about here, so let’s jump right in.
Don’t be afraid to take chances.
Dottie Hinson (played by Geena Davis), whose husband Bob is away at war, and her younger sister Kit Keller (Lori Petty) work on their parents’ farm and play baseball in a farm league. When scouts come around to recruit players for the first professional baseball league for women, they’re interested in Dottie, a star catcher. They agree to take Kit, but only if Dottie comes. Dottie wants to play it safe, though, and has no interest in going.
Were it not for Kit, she would never have taken that chance, and they wouldn’t have been running alongside the train to catch up with it to get to try-outs. Dottie took that chance and became a star.
Don’t be afraid to take chances with your content. Maybe all you’re doing now is blogging, but don’t be afraid to branch out and try some videos, podcasts, or even an infographic. Maybe even decide to tackle a controversial topic (perhaps liken this to Mae teaching Shirley Baker how to read on the back of the bus).
Yes, there’s a chance that it won’t go exactly how you want it to go. But there’s also the chance that it will.
However, if it doesn’t, just remember…
There’s no crying in baseball.
Or content marketing.
You may work so hard on a piece of content and think you really nailed it, and it might fall flat with your audience. You may keep blogging and blogging, writing your heart out as often as you can, but seeing very little traffic. You may spend hours on Twitter feeling like you’re talking to yourself.
That’s no matter. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep at it. Play around with your technique and try different things until you find your sweet spot. That’s the way to become a champion.
Lay off the high ones.
Kit always swung at the high ones even though she knew she couldn’t hit them. What does this mean for your content strategy?
Well, you could interpret this in a few ways.
First of all, on a very basic level, just because content marketing may seem like an easy pitch to hit doesn’t make it so. You’ve got to work at it, which means honing your skill and lots of practice.
But also, know where your strengths lie and focus your efforts there. Maybe you have no skill at all to create your own infographics, but you’ve got a knack for writing and producing entertaining and informative videos that always get a lot of feedback. That’s fine. There’s no rule that says you have to swing at every pitch.
In your content mix, dress it up and dress it down.
The girls spent most of their time in baseball uniforms, sweaty and dirty, with blood running out of their cuts and scrapes. (There should be an amendment to “There is no crying in baseball” when it involves sliding in a dress!)
So when they had the opportunity to get all dolled up and go out, they did it up.
You just never know when a little bit of pizazz will shake things up just enough to make it new and exciting again (just look at what happened when they put Marla Hooch in a dress…).
Recognize when you should dress your content up. That is, when should it be a bit more formal? Perhaps you keep research reports, white papers, and eBooks formal in tone and layout.
But also recognize when it’s okay to relax and dress down. Blog posts, videos (depending on the content), podcasts… all of these should be structured, but don’t feel like they have to sound like academic research papers.
That balance is key. You want to be professional, but you also want to be approachable.
Be present in the aftermath.
In the event that you’ve been living on another planet for the last 20 years and somehow haven’t seen this film, this part is going to include something of a spoiler, so heads up.
Throughout the film, the characters interact with each other, coaches, and fans. Though Jimmy Dugan (played by the amazing Tom Hanks) is no longer playing baseball but coaching the Rockford Peaches instead, he still makes time to interact with fans. His approach is amusing, if not a little rough.
Perhaps your style is more like Kit’s.
In the end, after Dottie and Kit’s fight and Kit’s trade to Racine, she finally becomes the champion. When she smashes into her sister at home plate, Dottie drops the ball and Kit scores the winning run for Racine. Afterwards, she’s standing outside signing autographs and talking to her fans.
Be present in the aftermath. Interact. Depending on your following, you might not be able to reply to every single comment on your blog. You may not be able to answer every tweet or Facebook comment. But be present. Responding to as many blog comments as you possibly can is easily one of the best ways you can build community and support for your efforts.
That’s a wrap.
I could probably go on and on. Who knew that there were so many lessons about content marketing in a twenty-year-old film that’s mostly one big flashback? (Seriously, does anyone else think it’s amazing that elderly Dottie doesn’t get hit by a foul ball while she’s standing there staring around and reminiscing?)
But that’s enough from me.
If you’re interested in getting some small business lessons from this movie, check out Amie’s post from earlier this week: “There is No Crying In… Small Business.”
What content marketing lessons can you take away from A League of Their Own? Let us know in the comments!
The Kentucky Derby
#1: Establish Authority
The Kentucky Derby, often dubbed “the most excited two minutes in sports,” is probably what you think of first when you think of horse races. It’s the definitive horse race, steeped in tradition, and the kickoff for the US Triple Crown (which also includes the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes).
Content Marketing Takeaway: Aim to be an authority, regardless of how big or small your business is. Today, the Kentucky Derby is an event that plays host to the rich and famous, as well as the well-connected. But it wasn’t always that way. The famed race built up its status as such with traditions and time. Likewise, remember that becoming an authority doesn’t happen over night. You need to consistently produce great, useful content to attract a solid audience, thus increasing your chance for business.
#2: Establish a Unique Style
What kind of style do you think of when you think of the Kentucky Derby? I don’t know about you, but I think of elegant women in beautiful dresses – and the hats! Many people choose to throw Kentucky Derby parties each year, and no party is complete without the hats. This gives the Derby a very unique look.
Content Marketing Takeaway: Establish your own unique style in your content. If you’re blogging for business, take a look at the voice you exhibit in your writing. Is it uniquely you, or does it sound just like everybody else? Don’t be afraid to use your authentic voice. Few things will send readers scurrying faster than a blog post that’s written in the same tone as an academic research paper (not that there isn’t a time and place for that style, but make sure you know what it is).
In addition, establishing your own unique style will help you to stand out from the crowd, which holds the possibility of helping you to increase your authority.
#3: Establish a Rich History
This can be a little tricky – especially if you’re a startup. If your business is still pretty new, it’s hard to consider much of its history.
The Kentucky Derby obviously has a very rich history – it’s been around since 1875! Let this inspire you. Maybe you’re a startup, but think with the future in mind and let that lead your content marketing efforts. Create content and a content strategy that will help to shape your history as you grow. This means evergreen content that will withstand the test of time, as well as timely pieces that will show where your business stood on issues of the moment and as the industry grew.
#4: Establish Traditions
The Kentucky Derby is full of ’em. Extravagant dresses. Big hats. Mint juleps. Roses. The first Saturday in May.
What will be the traditions your business establishes? And don’t forget, these traditions will play into building that rich history.
Or, to narrow the focus a little bit more, what will be your content marketing traditions? Maybe your readers know that you post every Tuesday and Thursday to your company blog. Maybe once a month you publish a new whitepaper. Or perhaps once a year you release an eBook. What about your content marketing strategy will become a tradition?
#5: Make It a Part of Something Bigger
The Kentucky Derby may be “the big one,” so to speak, but together with the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes, it is the US Triple Crown.
Content Marketing Takeaway: Recognize that your content marketing can and should be able to stand on its own, but know that it will be even stronger when combined with other efforts, such as social media. When you round out your marketing mix in this way, you’re creating a powerhouse strategy sure to make you the Secratariat of your field, so to speak.
What do you enjoy most about the Kentucky Derby? How can you factor that into your content marketing efforts? Let us know in the comments!
The Law & Order Franchise
#1: Keep a steady stream of guest appearances
The Law & Order franchise has played host to a wealth of celebrity guest appearances over the years. This is a big draw for fans who will tune in to see what their favorite celebs are doing on the show. With any luck, they’ll be hooked and become regular viewers.
Content Marketing Takeaway: Invite others to guest post on your blog. This serves several purposes. First, it’s mutually beneficial: their audience will check out your blog and you could gain some new followers. Your audience will read their posts, so they stand to gain some new followers, as well.
Also keep in mind that your guest posters don’t all have to be high profile bloggers. Plenty of celebrities made appearances on Law & Order before they were stars. Give some promising bloggers a chance to shine on your site, and hopefully one day you can say that you knew them way back when!
#2: Keep the plot line present, but thin enough to not be overwhelming
Law & Order features subplots, but the individual episodes from one to the next are pretty fluid. In other words, the majority of the focus is on the episode at hand as opposed to the subplot itself. That much was kept pretty thin.
Content marketing takeaway: This is how you should think of self-promotion on your blog, as well. It’s okay to mention your product or company in passing, but keep it thin. When you get to be overwhelming with the self-promotion, you alienate your readers and risk them thinking that you’re on the self-obsessed side. Not good for business!
#3: Having different series in the franchise appeals to a wider audience
There have been five total series shows in the Law & Order franchise, many of them overlapping each other in terms of air dates. This allowed viewers to choose the series that best suited their interests, which ultimately led to a wider audience.
Content marketing takeaway: Content segmentation. Give your visitors some options and let them choose what best suits their needs and interests. Don’t lump everything together and make them search too hard to find the information, otherwise you risk them leaving your site and visiting another. Instead, offer them some segmentation options from the get-go and let them choose their own adventure, so to speak.
#4: Keep the stories relevant to what’s going on in the world
The Law & Order franchise uses real life events to inspire their shows, borrowing from headlines to build story lines.
Content marketing takeaway: Leverage trends. Make sure you know what’s going on in your field. If news breaks and you’ve been following it, try to be among the first to comment by posting something relevant to your blog. And even if you can’t be among the first, it’s always a good idea to keep timely posts in your content mix.
#5: Build a foundation for your message
Law & Order is a household franchise name when it comes to television, and they’ve done this by creating a long-term entity (as opposed to short-term campaigns, so to speak). SVU premiered in 1999 and is still on the air today. Criminal Intent ran for ten seasons (2001-2011), and the original Law & Order series ran for a whopping twenty years (1990-2010).
Content marketing takeaway: Think in the long term. How can you use your content to build a foundation for your overarching message? How can you make longterm content a part of your overall content marketing strategy?
Bonus: Crossover shows are a great way to repurpose content
There have been several crossover episodes through this franchise history in which two series come together.
Content marketing takeaway:Repurpose your content. How can you take what you’ve got and move it into a new realm? How can you mix and match it? There’s also something to be said for content syndication here, too, as that process takes your content and make it available to a much wider audience.
What other television shows have taught you about content marketing? Let us know in the comments!
3 Lessons Content Marketing Can Learn From the Mall
#1: Optimize the Experience A well laid-out mall is the best kind. Everything is easy to get to, the food court and bathrooms are in a central location, and there are directories along the way to help you find what you’re looking for. Can you say the same for your website content? When your visitors arrive at your blog (or any other landing page, for that matter), are they able to locate what they’re looking for? Are you showing up on the directory (read: Google or other search engines)? And here’s a fun analogy for you: Your blog is to your website as a food court is to the mall. Your blog, in other words, is the hub. It’s where your visitors can get a little taste of everything you’re about, so make sure it’s not out of the way. If they can’t find it, they’re going to leave and go somewhere else. Because it’s such a big part of your overall content marketing strategy, keep it in a prominent location. In short, your content strategy should be optimized so that you are easier to find (in nearly every sense of the word: your site is easy to find online through search, your content is easy to find on your site, and so on). #2: Repurpose Content The Gap is a great store, huh? The retail chain, which was founded in 1969, was doing great on its own, but why not repurpose some content? In order to appeal to more people (because, let’s face it, no one piece of clothing or content will ever make everyone happy), they purchased Banana Republic in 1983. By the end of that decade, they had transformed it into a more upscale clothing store than the Gap. And they didn’t stop there. In 1994, they also added Old Navy in order to appeal to a different shopper (source: Wikipedia). So in other words, one good idea is great, but if you can tweak it a little or change it up to attract a broader audience, all the better. How do you do this? Branch out with your content. Put some blog posts together to create an eBook or maybe film an interview you do with another industry professional. There are so many ways to repurpose content, so make sure you’re trying some of them out. #3: Attract Visitors With Quality Content If a mall has really crappy stores that no one wants to visit (or, worse yet, a ton of vacant storefronts), they’re not really going to be attracting much of anyone. On the other hand, if a mall has stores that perfectly fit their demographic (because they know their audience, hint-hint), as well as deals that attract potential customers, people are more apt to visit. You’re not going to push Gucci on country folk, and you’re not going to sell Old Navy to the Chanel crowd. Likewise, know your audience when it comes to your content. Know what they want and need, and then be the solution to their problem – before they even know it’s a problem they have. Bonus: Remember back in the late 80s when Tiffany used to perform in malls? This shows that those malls were open to trying new things in order to bring in potential customers. And having a concert in a mall might seem a bit silly, but you know what? People went nuts and flocked in droves to see her. Find your high quality content equivalent of Tiffany (circa 1987), even if it means that you have to try something that seems a little bit out of your comfort zone. Take some risks with your content every now and again. What are your biggest trials with content marketing? Do you draw inspiration from outside sources? Drop us a comment and let us know!
Ironic Hipster Mustaches
I don’t know about you, but I’ve been seeing an awful lot of enormous beards lately. Not enormous in the sense that ZZ Top had enormous beards. No, the ones I’ve been seeing most are just so thick. Like shrubbery on your face. Then there are the ironic old-timey handlebar mustaches or mutton chops.
So much [often amusing] ironic facial hair.
Hipsters. That’s who’s mostly wearing this style. But you know what? I can’t really rag on the hipsters too much because there’s a little part of me that identifies with them (mostly the part of me that loves knitted items, my plastic-rimmed glasses, and listening to indie music. But keep the skinny jeans away!)
Okay, okay. So what in the world does this have to do with content marketing?
Well, you know, I was thinking. Some of this facial hair is seriously impressive. And some of it looks like the guys just stopped shaving and looking in mirrors. But in many cases, you can tell a lot of work went into making it look like effortlessly ironic facial hair. That handlebar mustache was a labor of love.
And you know what else is a labor of love?
(C’mon. Did you really think I was going to say something else?)
Scoff all you want, but the hipsters might be onto something here.
3 Lessons Content Marketing Can Learn From Ironic Hipster Facial Hair
1. Make a statement
When a man makes the conscious decision to try something new with his facial hair, he’s definitely making a statement. That statement could be any of the following:
- I’m putting a lot of work into making myself look good.
- I don’t give a rat’s butt what my facial hair looks like. I’m going to let it grow out of control. That will be funny.
- I’m waiting for the late 90s boy band era to make a serious comeback.
- I have a criminal record.
Your content strategy should actually work much in the same way. Think of it as a reflection of yourself. Your business is your face, and your content strategy is your facial hair. Let’s see how that aligns:
- If it’s well-groomed and looks neat, that shows that you’re putting a lot of effort into your content marketing. You want it to be a reflection of your business.
By the way – facial hair can be well-groomed, neat, and amusing. So can your content strategy. And what does that say about you? It says that you take yourself seriously, but not too seriously that you can’t still enjoy it.
- If your business content strategy has grown out of control because you’ve been too busy to maintain it and you don’t really care, that’s a poor reflection of your business.
- Maybe you’re stuck in the past and not doing much to learn about or keep up with content marketing (inbound, after all, is “new” marketing). By this, I mean you don’t have a blog, you don’t really make any attempt to converse with your prospective clients, and your website looks like it was built on GeoCities in 1997. It’s void of relative content, but you have an animated gif construction worker to let your visitors know they should check back soon.
- If your content strategy aligns with criminal record facial hair, that’s bad business. Step away from the black hat SEO techniques!
What kind of statement is your business making? What kind of statement do you want it to make?
2. Get noticed
What’s the point in making a statement if you don’t want to get noticed? Don’t think that someone who chooses to grow mutton chops doesn’t want anyone to notice them. And how are you not going to notice a Civil War-era beard walking down the cereal aisle at Whole Foods?
Make a statement with your content marketing strategy and see it through. Much like ironic facial hair, content marketing is a commitment. If you want to be noticed, you’ve got to be outstanding and bold. Figure out how you can do that, and then go for it. Are you going to build a killer resource library? Is your blog going to be a go-to source for others in your industry? Do you want to be known for your creative infographics? Podcasts? Entertaining and informative videos?
Note: maybe pick one or two areas to focus your boldness. After all, you don’t want to be so over-the-top that you become a joke. You want to be noticed in a good way. Don’t be the knee-length mullet with a shoulder-length fu manchu. It’s one thing to be a bit ironic; it’s another thing entirely to just be really weird.
3. Groom and maintain
Once you’ve reached your desired facial hair goal, you need to maintain and groom so that you don’t end up looking like you live outside of a truck stop.
Content marketing is no different. Once you’ve gained momentum and you’re creating blog posts and videos, mixing them up with infographics and research, and you’re doing so regularly… maintain.
That is, you can’t work in short bursts for a few weeks, then disappear for two months, come back, and expect that everyone in your audience still cares what you have to say. If you only have time to work in bursts, build up some content and then schedule it ahead at regular intervals. This way it doesn’t appear to your audience like you’ve gone MIA. This is one of the reasons men go to barbers to help them maintain their facial hair. It’s also the reason many businesses are hiring content marketing managers to help them maintain their content strategies.
Groom your content strategy. Trim out what doesn’t work. Maybe the fu manchu and mutton chops together are just a little bit too much, so trim out what doesn’t work. Keep your content neat, easy to understand, and respectable. Content marketing is an investment. It’s a time commitment. But it gives you an image and is thus a tremendously important branding effort.
So, that all being said, if you had to assign an ironic facial hair style to your business’s content strategy right now, what would it be? What do you want it to be?
Wooly Willywill be waiting if you ever need some inspiration.
Top 3 Lessons Content Marketers Can Learn From Teachers
1. Don’t aim to sell; aim to educate A good teacher wants the students to actually learn and be interested in the subject matter. As a good content marketer, you want to present your site visitors and leads with informative material. You want to educate them on the “illuminating aspects” of your brand without going in for the hard sell. Marcus Sheridan is one of the best-known examples of this. His inbound marketing story is the stuff of legend. You see, in 2001, Marcus founded River Pools and Spas. Click on that link once and check out the page out in a new window. Go ahead. I’ll wait. What do you notice? The very first line of text: “Our Goal: To Empower You Through Education! …and if you live in our area, hopefully earn your business.” Education first. It goes on to say that the site is full of articles, facts, and videos about in-ground pools. That’s it – swimming pools. There are no hard sells for River Pools and Spas. The content takes care of the selling for them because they educate the visitors and convert them to leads and, eventually, customers. Check out this video of Marcus Sheridan talking about what inbound (and content marketing, specifically) did for his business. 2. Repurpose your content for a variety of audiences In the teaching world, nearly every lesson I created had to do have some kind of differentiation plan. I had to teach the same material in different ways that would appeal to different learning speeds and styles. Two important lessons from teaching: not everyone can learn just by reading, and not everyone can learn just by listening. Instead, we learned about Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences in college, and were told to “repurpose” our lessons to meet a variety of these learning styles. I strongly encourage you to check out Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences because they’re extremely beneficial to content marketers, as well. How can you repurpose your existing (and future) content to meet as many of these learning styles (read: your audience types) as possible? The lesson here is that not all of your content consumers will learn just by reading. Not all of them will learn just by listening. Blog posts are great. Podcasts and simple video are great. But add some other methods to your content strategy mix, as well. Video, webinars, infographics, practical application ideas – these are just a few ways to take one piece of content and turn it into a variety of content that spans several formats. 3. Create an editorial calendar to align with your content Teachers create lesson plans – long, detailed, boring, drawn-out lesson plans. It’s not the highlight of the job, but it does help to align your lessons with your themes and units. Likewise, content marketers can incorporate editorial calendars as part of their overall strategy. Use editorial calendars to create different themes throughout the year that will align with your business or marketing goals and objectives. Then plan for content that lines up accordingly. In addition to helping you stay organized with your content strategy, it also helps you prepare that evergreen content ahead of time so that when your industry needs to respond to timely events or breaking news, you have the ability to do both. For some of the best ideas in creating your editorial calendars, check out posts by Rachel Foster and Michele Linn, both of the Content Marketing Institute. What ideas do you have about education and content marketing? Do you see the similarities? Let us know in the comments!
It’s 6 p.m. on a Saturday night and Emma is about to go out on the first date she’s been on in a long time. She’s nervous because she’s afraid she’ll forget the rules of the game.
What if I have nothing to say or all I can talk about is content marketing?
Emma is a girl who loves her some content marketing. She lives and breathes it, which is why she’s good at what she does.
As she discards her eighth outfit option onto a mountain of clothes on the floor and returns to the closet looking for something more inspiring, a thought occurs to her.
If I were dressing up a content strategy, what would I suggest?
Well, that’s easy, she thinks. Just earlier that day she’d spoken with a client, suggesting that, as part of their content strategy, they offer some freebies — a white paper download or a study, perhaps. Something that would give their audience just a taste without giving it all away.
“You see,” she’d said, “you need to hook them with some really great content, and if you offer them something for free, they’re more likely to come back and develop a relationship with your content and you.”
Emma tries a little black dress with a modest neckline. It’s neither too prudish nor too revealing. Perfect! she thinks.
Let your content show a little skin! Don’t be afraid to give your readers and potential clients an idea of what you’ve got to offer.
Mike picks her up right at 7:00.
I love knowing when to expect content — I mean people! People! she thinks.
As they get into the car, Mike tells Emma about his hockey league. Emma knows nothing about hockey, but the team sounds interesting.
It’s okay, she assures herself. This is just his way of content marketing. A good content strategy would put some (ideally valuable) content out there and try to get the audience to interact with it — to watch the videos, click the links, and leave comments.
So Emma interacts with the content.
“That sounds really interesting. How long have you been playing on this league?”
And her quick application of content marketing strategies leads them to a conversation about what sports they enjoy. By interacting with the content, she discovered that they both share a love of kayaking, which just opened up further dialogue.
Your goal is to get your audience to interact with your content and give it some time and attention. You want it to be interesting enough to hook them, and captivating enough to keep them involved.
“So I was thinking,” Mike says. “I know I said we were going to go to The Beach House for dinner, but then I thought that maybe you might like to go to Russo’s for dinner, and then we could take a walk out on the pier and go to The Beach House a bit later for dessert?”
Ooh! Repurposing content! I like a man who offers options.
“That sounds great!” she replies.
When creating a content strategy, don’t be afraid to take old ideas and turn them into something new. Old blog posts can become white papers or eBooks. Tweets, status updates, and videos can become blog posts. Text can become infographics. The list goes on! Once you have some sort of goal in mind (conversions, clicks, unique views, etc.), don’t be afraid to walk your content for miles to help meet that goal.
At the end of an enjoyable evening out, Mike drops her off back at her house.
When creating good content, you hope to elicit a reaction of some sort to indicate that your audience enjoyed it and found it useful — some kind of conversion, be it a blog comment, a download, or a new subscription. He’s shown me some pretty good content tonight, so…
Emma leans over and gives Mike a kiss on the cheek.
“Thank you for a great night!” she says. “We should go out again soon!”
“Definitely!” Mike replies. “How does Tuesday night sound?”
So you see, dating strategies could take a few tips from content marketing. Those “What Would Content Marketers Do?” bracelets will be out any day now, I’m sure of it!
And as for our content marketer, Emma, well, as neurotic as she may be, she finally found her Prince Charming.
Where else do you think the rules of content marketing could apply? Have you ever found yourself applying them to your own life? Let us know in the comments!
The Contemporary Arts Center
Like most museums, the CAC has a rotating collection. There are 6 floors to this museum (it is right in the middle of downtown) and the 2nd-5th floors are changed every month or so. On the 6th floor there is the “UnMuseum” which is a floor dedicated to children. On this floor you can (and are encouraged) to touch the art and interact fully. This is both refreshing and very interesting. I like that after walking up 5 floors I know exactly what to expect!
Takeaway: make the ground rules obvious for your content marketing strategy. You might have hundreds of landing pages, so be sure to direct your site visitor to the meatiest or most important page. This can be your resource page or your latest post. Whatever it is, make it obvious.
As you enter the 6th floor UnMuseum the first installment you see to your right is the Sensory Elephant. Created specifically for children with sight or hearing disabilities, this “elephant” consists of multiple drawers. Each drawer has Braille lettering and a unique touch and/or sound element.
For example, this drawer has chess pieces and plays classical music when you pull it out. Even though this elephant was not made for me and I have seen it multiple times, I always spend a good 30 minutes exploring its crevices.
Takeaway: Cater your content strategy to many different types of people. Remember that your visitors came with a wide array of education, background, ethnicity and skill. Create visitor profiles and integrate them into your content strategy.
Around the corner from the sensory element is The Hypar Room display. This installment has an angled floor and 8 sets of tables with chairs. Each table and chairs set is accommodating the slant of the floor in a different way. Some are on stilts, others are on their own flat surface, whereas another set is simply at a diagonal. And since you are encouraged to explore this particular installation you are free to sit at each table and see how it works for you.
Takeaway: People learn differently. If your content marketing strategy is all about education marketing, be sure to provide it in multiple ways. For example, repurpose your blogs into a white paper and/or create a video tutorial. Very few of your site visitors are going to soak up every morsel in every medium you use. That’s why you need to make it as accessible to them as possible.
In the back corner of the UnMuseum is a very traditional looking play area. One side has a multi-level stage and the other side has a sink. It looks like any other place you would take children for group interaction- or any house with multiple children. This allows for functionality and fun. It also probably puts many children at ease as they see things they are used to playing with.
Takeaway: Don’t make your website so confusing that your visitors get lost. Provide them all the tools necessary to interact fully with your content. This can include breadcrumbs or related posts. Also, if education marketing is part of your content strategy make sure to create very clear connections. If people can understand what your product does, they are more inclined to purchase it.
At the end of the day, your content marketing strategy is just thinking through who your client is and how they view your site. I encourage you to pull out a piece of paper, and on one side create a list of client profiles and across the top write out the stages of the buying cycle. Then just fill up the page with your ideas. Toss in some keywords and you have a cohesive content marketing strategy!
Do you have any other basic lessons about content marketing strategy? We’d love to hear them! Do you have a favorite place? Link to a blog post you created using that favorite place.
This post created by Amie, the founder of ContentEqualsMoney.com. If you would like to contact her directly for content generation you can find her on Skype (“amiemarse”) or email her via firstname.lastname@example.org.