There are two ways to produce content — sporadically or strategically. While there's a lot of freedom in sporadically creating content based on whatever comes to mind in the moment, treating content this way is like planting a garden based on whatever seed packets your hands happen to grab. You're getting the job done by planting a garden, but you have no result predictions or goals.
There's a better, smarter way, and we want to help you find it. Planning and strategizing is what sets engaging content apart from aimless content. A plan helps you produce marketing material that makes sense in its timing, its placement, and to its audience. Ready to start getting smart? Let's go.
Remember, you're doing yourself a favor
For those free spirits who adore the spontaneous style writing about whatever pops in your head and dread the thought of planning a content strategy, remember: you're doing yourself a favor by planning ahead. Instead of skimming Twitter every week or day in search of a blog topic to develop, you can just look at what's already scheduled and start writing. You can also trust that the topic before you fits into your overall marketing goals because you already thought about that when you created your content strategy.
Strategizing not only saves time but also brain power. When you're mapping out your content strategy, you're in brainstorming mode, and you can stay there. When it's time to write, you're in writing mode, and you have the time to stay there. Avoid brainstorming and writing back-to-back because it can be jarring for your brain to immediately transition from "idea land" to "outline land."
How smart content strategies are born
It's not about you
First, it's important to realize that your content plan is not about you and what you want to write about — it's about your business and its goals. To identify content goals, take a closer look at your business. Read customer reviews and revisit your mission statement. Even if you've seen this information a million times, reviewing it is a great way to reset and refocus on what's truly important to your business and what your customers value about you.
Also, analyze your existing content. Look at your SEO performance. Where is it weak? Are there holes in your current content? How can you fill those gaps?
Use your vision statement, target audience and content audit to influence specific business goals, and write them down. The purpose for the goal-setting process is to pinpoint what exactly you want your content plan to accomplish. It sets the foundation for your strategy. You might be trying to strengthen your SEO on a specific topic or provide insight into a topic that everyone else in the industry seems to be missing. Ultimately, goals give you clarity to define a strategy.
The great brainstorm
Now, let your mind run wild. Go to any place that fills your brain with ideas — Instagram, magazines, Quora, your favorite coffee shop, the bathtub — whatever! This is the time to write down anything and everything that relates to your business. Research what's going on in the industry. What questions are people asking? What noteworthy events are happening or coming up? How will those events impact your business? What insightful information or advice can you offer to your customers?
Once you've collected a sufficient hodgepodge of ideas, go back to that list of goals from earlier. Which brainstorming topics fit into your goals for your target audience? Can any of these topics be refined or developed to better serve your goals? Start pulling out the topics that fit and tweak them as necessary.
Blaze a trail
This step is where everything starts coming together into a cohesive plan. Map out relevant topics into a logical format. For example, if you're a jeweler, and one of your buyer personas is a young man planning to buy a ring and propose to his girlfriend, then your blog topic progression may look something like this:
- "How to put money away for a ring without her knowing"
- "How to save for an engagement ring faster"
- "4 ways to figure out her ideal engagement ring (without asking)"
- "What every married man wishes he'd known about planning the perfect proposal"
See what I mean about that natural progression?
Sharing is caring
There's so much more to a smart content strategy than a list of blog topics. Once your topics are scheduled, work in a plan for sharing on social media. But don't just share links to your blogs; think about how a carefully thought-out plan can deepen your topics. For example, hand a topic over to your graphic designer to turn into an infographic. (Social media users generally prefer infographics over articles).
We know you work hard on your content, so make it go as far as possible by sharing it strategically — at the right times and on the right platforms.
Even experts tinker and weak
You've seen Pirates of the Caribbean, right? Think of your content like "the code" — it's more like a guideline.
The best marketers are the ones who take the time to analyze their current content plan and tweak it for their audience, platform and performance. For example, if a specific blog article is getting a lot of views, shares or comments, then consider expanding that topic into a campaign or using that topic as a launching point for related blog topics. If your audience is already telling you they care about a certain topic, then give them more of what they want.
While we've provided some of the basics for creating a smart content strategy, we know that every business and their audience is different. Make your content strategy uniquely your own. The important thing is that you make one.