Producing content without a strategy is like planning a trip without a map.
And creating a content marketing strategy without basing it on real user data is like using a map of Tolkien’s Middle Earth to plan a trip across Europe. While some landmarks might look a little familiar, you won’t end up going far before you lose your way.
When it comes to content marketing, intuition and imagination can only take you so far. If you want to see real results, you need to base your strategy on accurate data.
You Need Insight From Real Data to Create Effective Content
Many a content strategy begins by brainstorming in a staff meeting, but while that may be a wonderful team building exercise, it’s not how effective content marketing strategies begin.
Gut feelings only tell us so much. Perhaps you feel like you get a lot of new leads from your Facebook page, because your fans are very vocal and comment on all your updates. Maybe you feel a large portion of your Twitter followers aren’t paying attention, because they never reply or retweet anything you share.
But appearances can be deceiving. When you take the time to dig into the analytics, you may discover that things aren’t as they appear.
It could be that those Facebook fans, while vocal, aren’t your target audience. They may stay put on Facebook, never actually clicking over to your website, or perhaps their bounce rate is sky-high because they’re not your target audience. It could be that those silent Twitter followers are the ones who are clicking your links and converting at a high rate.
You won’t know for certain until you have the data.
Any marketing strategy you put together based on assumptions won’t be as effective as one that’s driven by big data.
Let’s take a look at how you can put that data to use.
How to Get Started Gathering and Using Data
When you’re first starting out in content marketing, it takes time and experimentation to gather the data you need to create an effective strategy.
In order to learn what topics, channels, formats, and styles of content your audience prefers, you need to test them out. You can experiment with things like style and tone, blog post length, content delivery (video or audio, for example), different social media platforms, etc. You can get ideas on what to test by taking a look at what your competitors are already doing (or what they’re not doing).
When you’re getting started gathering data, it pays to keep in mind exactly what kind of ROI is your goal. It’s one thing to have a lot of Facebook fans or Twitter followers, but exactly how does it benefit you? Decide your exact goals for your investment, and how you’re going to measure your progress.
Familiarize yourself with the various available analytics tools and software, and how they allow you to track and measure goal progress. Many social media platforms also have built-in social data analytics that help you to take a look at your follower’s interests, and what topics will appeal to them the most.
Get Specific Topic Ideas From Advanced Searches
Analytics will give you a good idea of overall trends, but maybe not specific ideas of what topics you should create content around. Going beyond using analytics software and tools, you can also use advanced searching to find specific topics to cover when creating your strategy.
Searching for specific products you offer, or specific features provided by your service, will often uncover buying objections which you can then use as topics for blog posts, social media chats, FAQs, infographics, video tutorials, or other forms of content, giving your target audience exactly the kind of content they’re already seeking.
This kind of data mining through advanced searching is invaluable because it gives you insight into the exact concerns and objections your target audience has, but that they may not bring up directly to you.
Use Data to Map Your Content Calendar
Now you’ve done the research and gleaned all the data you need from your analytics software, social media, and data mining. You have a good idea of the topics your audience likes to read about, the style they enjoy, the titles that grab their attention, which channels are best to share to share them on, and more.
The next step is to start mapping your content strategy: planning your future content according to the data you now have. A content map is a data-based timeline or editorial calendar for what content you’re going to share, and how you’re going to communicate it to your audience.
Mapping out your content ahead of time allows you to get more out of each piece of content you create. You can be strategic about your sharing, and optimize your time and energy while getting the most out of your efforts.
By planning ahead with content mapping, you can plan for one single interview to be turned into a blog post, a case study, a photograph session to share on Instagram, and a few shareable quotes via Twitter. This sharing can be staggered over a period of time to keep all your platforms and channels updated regularly, without you scrambling for good content at the last minute.
Incorporate Data Into Your Content on the Fly
While a content map or editorial calendar is ideal for planning ahead, it’s important to keep it flexible enough to incorporate real-time data to produce content on-the-fly as events develop.
Keeping your content map flexible and staying at the helm to monitor your editorial calendar is incredibly important. If you’re asleep at the wheel, scheduled content can backfire horribly. And by keeping your ear to the ground and listening for the latest news in your niche, you can leap at opportunities to jump in to current conversations and stay on top of what your audience considers timely and relevant.
Your content map should plan the broad strokes, while leaving room to fill in the blanks with timely updates and interactions. You can use the data you’ve gathered to share with your audience, such as “factory seconds” — bits of data you’ve discovered but haven’t yet shared with your audience.
Without accurate data to drive your content marketing strategy, you’re a ship adrift without a compass. But if you make the time to gather and analyze the data you need, you’ll find you’re never lacking for content marketing ideas again. By using data to inform your strategy, you can keep your audience hooked and interested, and accomplish your marketing goals.
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