How to create an outstanding content creation strategy
25th May 2020
Putting together a killer content creation strategy might sound like a daunting task. But when you’ve done your research and started to get the wheels in motion, you’ll start to enjoy it.
That’s because you’ll stop having to think of content to create on the spot. Instead you’ll focus on what works for your brand, what drives traffic, who your target market is and what drives leads from social media platforms.
We find the process exciting because we learn much more by putting together a content creation strategy!
We learn answers to questions like:
- How is our previous social media marketing content performing?
- How can our content drive more leads?
- Which channels work best for our business?
But first we need to answer this question…
What is a content creation strategy?
Simply put, a content creation strategy is a social media plan for creating and publishing content that ties to your business’s wider objectives.
So unlike a plan, where you’ll just dive straight into the nitty-gritty of what you’re going to do, first of all you need to step back and think why do it at all? It’s a good question.
You want to be thinking about these things in particular:
- What do you have to say that’s unique?
- Why will your audience bother reading your content?
- How will content help your business reach its goals?
That leads us swiftly onto the more important question - Why do you need a content creation strategy?
Why do you need a content creation strategy?
Let’s look at these three questions again.
- What do you have to say that’s unique?
- Why will your audience bother reading your content?
- How will content help your business reach its goals?
You need a really clear answer for each of those questions before you start on your content strategy.
There are so many reasons to build out your content creation strategy, but to keep things simple, we thought we’d concentrate on the top three reasons we use a content creation strategy at ContentCal.
So here’s how we’d answer those three questions:
- We know content can transform businesses’s growth strategies with personality
- Our target audience (content & social media marketers) read our content because they find it useful & easy to understand. We also give stuff away, which people like!
- Content gives businesses a better way to grow. We are running fewer ads because our content puts us in front of new customers and helps them get to know what we do.
What’s the alternative of having a great content creation strategy?
You wouldn’t try to cross the world without a map. Your content creation strategy is your map. You need it to know where you’re going and whether you’re on course, if you want to grow your business with content, you'll also want to consider a social media calendar.
A plan can’t do that. A plan is just a list of things you’re going to do. You need a strategy.
When you begin to map out your strategy, you’ll need to make a note of the following things:
If there’s one thing you need to keep in mind at all times it’s your audience. You might begin this process with instant big and bright ideas about what you want your brand to say and show, but if it’s not something that your target market will go for then you’re wasting your time.
Who exactly are you writing for? If you’re writing for the C-level, they’ll be motivated by very different things to marketing managers. Always think, why should this person sit down to read your content vs any of the other thousands of resources there are across the house.
If you haven’t carried out proper research on your ideal customer persona, then we suggest you get started on this pronto. From here onwards, take a look at what your ideal customers are up to on social media platforms. Who are they following, what content do they enjoy, where do they engage? Use this research to inform your efforts and help with your social media marketing plan.
You probably have a brand book with all your messaging in, but it might be a bit dusty. Go back to it and make sure all of it is relevant and up-to-date.
Before you start creating content you need to be sure of:
- Vision - what does your company want to become
- Mission - what does your company do
- USPs - what makes you special?
- Voice - what does your brand sound like?
At an absolute minimum, you need to be clear on the above.
Other, visual elements of the brand book, e.g. color schemes and design guidelines, come into it too, but they come into it later.
Right now you need to focus on - who you’re speaking to, how you’re speaking to them & why.
Pick one topic that you want to own and write only about that topic.
You want to become known for writing about one thing - and become the expert in your field. If you lose focus, you’ll lose your audience. Let’s face it, creating content takes time, so your strategy should be mindful of that.
Consistency is everything. And both you and your readers should - after some time - instinctively that your posts are about ‘X’, e.g. creating content, and are well worth reading.
Of course, you should find creative and unexpected ways to explore whatever ‘X’ is for you.
Thoroughly researching your target audience will be crucial in helping you plan an effective strategy for content creation, but don’t forget to research your competition too. To be truly unique in a saturated market and make your brand stand out, you’ll need to know what everyone else is doing...in order to do something entirely different.
Google the keywords you want to target and see what your competition are writing about. Are they giving resources away? How can you go one better? Not sure you can? Then find an angle or other keywords that you want to rank for instead.
You’ll also notice patterns in what your competitors are sharing. What type of content are they sharing and including in their social media plan? What’s getting the best engagement? You can use social media marketing tools to help.
You need to learn from their successes and their failures.
While we don’t definitely don’t recommend that you start copying or stealing the content or ideas of others - you should definitely be ‘keeping your enemies close’ as it were. Check on them regularly for inspiration.
Are there any brands - not in your space - that are doing great things with content? How can you do the same thing in your own industry?
Be real about how much content you can create. You should be spending more time creating content than you think - and then way more time than that actually promoting the content. There’s a whole lot that goes into creating content. So be mindful that you may need to bring together the following team - or the following skills.
- Graphic Designer
- Social Media Marketer
- SEO Person
According to Longitude, 60% of marketers find consistent content creation to be the most difficult part of their role.
We can confirm. For Q1 we wanted to produce a 5,000-word piece of content every week to help our SEO. We did manage it, but it took an almighty effort to keep everything on track.
When you’re looking at social media, you’ll want to stick to a couple of channels that work well for your business, and then test another channel you’re not sure about later on.
We won’t bore you with the details about how Linkedin is for business, blah blah, Facebook is for friends, blah. Instead, we’ve tiered each social platform in terms of how easy it is to get engagement there:
LinkedIn and Tikok are easier channels to work with as their algorithms are favourable to content from new users, and you can get great engagement without many followers.
Twitter and Youtube have algorithms that rewards quality content and creators over time. Putting the work in could see you go viral.
Reddit and Facebook do not tend to resopnd well to posts from companies due to Facebook's algorithm, limited reach, Reddit's community, and limited interest.
We’d recommend picking an ‘easy’ channel & developing a ‘medium’ channel. Whether you choose to take on a ‘hard’ channel is up to you. A social media management app may help you decide what channel is best for you when you look at analytics.
All successful content has one thing in common. It’s all about giving people what they want.
And people definitely don’t want to be sold to. Content is an avenue for them to start a conversation with you, rather than an opportunity to pitch your product.
Here’s an example.
You write a promotional piece on your blog that 50 people read, every one of them exiting straight away.
You create a complete guide to being successful in your industry that 50 people read, five of them share, 1,000 more people read, 50 people share, etc.
Depending on how useful what you put together is, that’s a possibility.
Creating something big and worthwhile also does something else really important. It gives you the opportunity to publish your blogs in more places than you would otherwise. More on that later.
In a world full of predictable blog posts, what your imagination can conjure up makes all the difference. Try making sure you have a balance of content on your social media posting schedule.
Anyone can produce a blog post that’s useful. But putting something together that’s also unexpected and funny is rare. What is your competition missing out on? Will that give you the edge?
Being creative doesn’t mean straying from objectives. Creativity gets you there quicker. But because creativity is an overused phrase, we’ll give a better definition.
You need to be original in some way for your content to have any effect whatsoever. That can mean you use different formats, you write in a different way, your visual brand is unusual.
Once you’ve analyzed the competition, a good next step is to brush up on new formats. Marketing moves incredibly fast (both paid marketing and organic marketing), especially when it’s online, and those who pay attention will always get the edge on their competition.
For example, there’s been a huge rise in video and visual content on social media platforms over the last few years. With video marketing becoming one of the most coveted forms of social media marketing, if you’ve got the resources and time to spare then give video content a whirl.
However, you don’t need to stick to just one form of content. With the ability to choose between images, videos, blog post sharing, gifs, company updates, ebooks, and infographics, you should be focusing your message across a variety of formats.
Though it sounds like a lot of work, it can actually save you a lot of time. A gif can be a video, a video can be a podcast, a podcast can be an ebook, an ebook can be a… gif?
Having a social media marketing strategy in place is worthless if you’re not taking the time to evaluate your efforts regularly.
We report on social media every other week, and we report on blogs once every month. Use analytics in your social media calendar to help.
When we report on social posts we look for engagements per post as our main metric. We also look at reach and engagement rate.
We do this every other week because content gets old quickly on social media, so it’s important to keep coming up with new creative.
When we report on blogs we look at blog traffic from different sources in Google Analytics, and we also look at conversions. That means the number of people that have subscribed to receive more updates from us, and the number of people that sign up free to ContentCal.
You can do that here, by the way 😉
Checking in with your key metrics you can be sure that you’re spending time on content that works.
Other metrics it helps to look at includes
- Bounce rate - how many people leave your site after landing on your blog
- Read time - how long people stay on the page
- Scroll depth - how far down the page they go
- Shares - how many people shared your content
- Backlinks - how many links is your content attracting
These help you understand the quality of your content. People are going to read for longer, share, scroll further, link back etc., if they like what they see!
Staying on top of industry trends is really tough. You probably need an RSS feed from a bunch of publications.
Or - you could subscribe to a service that delivers news to your inbox, social feed or Whatsapp group at a certain time every day.
Or - your business could collate the news and send it out. This is a great way to gain followers.
All you need to do is choose a niche, and serve them regular, high-quality news about it. It’s a really simple way to start conversations with people in your industry.
This is far more effective than trend-hopping.
When it comes to your social media strategy, quality is important.
And how do you achieve high-quality content? By giving yourself time to think, prepare, and go back and make changes if you need to.
You should always plan your content creation efforts in advance. Here’s how we do it.
At the start of every quarter we have an hour-long brainstorm with all of our ideas. Everyone in your team should come prepared with ideas.
We put them all on a whiteboard, then we ask a few questions:
- Is this relevant to our audience?
- Does this have the potential to be better than any other content out there?
- Does this help our business reach its goal of 1,000 new customers (or whatever your business’s goal is)?
If it’s not a ‘yes’ to all these questions, then we rub the idea out - they’re not worth thinking more about.
From there we’ll rank the ideas based on the most impact we think they’ll have. We define an impactful idea as:
- Working across different channels, eg. SEO article, whitepaper, keynote speech
- Good enough to bother people you barely know with & get a positive response
- You would read the whole thing, bookmark it, and share it with a friend
Then you plan to work on whatever the most impactful idea is first. It is worth noting that good ideas take time to develop.
When you’ve answered these questions, you’ll need to decide:
- How frequently do you plan on posting?
- What channels will you use to promote your content?
- Who’s going to be involved in the process, from ideation through to promotion?
Yes, you heard that right.
I almost renamed this section Quantity then Quality then Quantity then Quality. Because it should be a cycle that improves itself.
It’s a chicken-egg debate, and I’m putting all mine in one basket.
Quantity comes first, because the more content you produce, the quicker you learn what your audience is engaging with.
Whatever your content idea is, run small tests on social. Whether it’s a new visual style, idea for a guide, anything. See how people respond to a small version of what you’re doing.
If you start with quality you’ll spend too long producing something that people aren’t fussed about.
Then you’ll look at your content marketing calendar and you’ll panic at how close to the end of the quarter you already are, and how far your content goals appear to be.
The more content you produce and add to your social media plan, the more you learn what works. No one does an amazing piece of content first time - getting things right takes time and effort.
You should tweak your strategy as you go based on how you’re tracking to your engagement goals.
Things often don’t go to plan. And when they don’t, don’t just keep doing the same thing.
When our biweekly social reports and monthly blog reports show that engagement is under-target we introduce changes to make things better.
Doing this regularly means you get better quicker and be honest with yourself your using the right social media marketing tools to get full impact of your reults..
Ignoring this part of your content creation efforts means that you won’t improve.
So let the data tell you whether you’re doing a good job - and use your creativity to continuously introduce new formats that you can use over time.
Keeping what’s working and letting go of what’s not, while introducing new ideas, is a sure-fire way of continually growing engagement on your blogs, videos and social content.
Get into the rhythm of it and you’ll see amazing results.
Visibility, Organisation, Ideation, Collaboration, Execution.
The VOICE framework is where the tires of your content creation strategy start to hit the tarmac.
In other words, this is where planning what you’re going to do turns into actually doing it.
Visibility is all about having a content plan.
We don’t go into detail about how to create a content creation plan here because it’s important to separate this from a content creation strategy.
All we’re going to say is that you need to make enough time to do each of these things:
- More promoting
- Even more promoting
Here's where we can use the monthly or weekly calendar views to gain a quick snapshot of all the content that's going out across our channels.
Here’s where you get your ducks in a row.
Use custom planning channels on tools like ContentCal to maintain a workflow that’s easy to understand.
Within this organization stage, here we can build out ContentCal to represent a picture of all of the content we have planned, not just for social media. Using the custom planning channels, we can build out content for emails for blog's or press releases, etc.
Using this functionality gives us total clarity that all of our messages are aligned across channels and we have enough content prepared to go out.
You’ve already got a group of great ideas from your strategy. Now you need to bring them into your calendar.
ContentCal’s Content Hub acts as your ‘digital pinboard’ for ideas from across the business. This is the place where you're going to curate all of those suggestions and contributions.
Can you use any of these alongside your overall strategic ideas?
The second is the ContentCal Google Chrome Extension, known as the 'Web Clipper.' Here, your team can gather interesting articles from across the web and easily pin that to the Content Hub.
So now we've got a bunch of ideas living in the Content Hub, it's time for the collaborative process.
In the collaboration stage, we can now start taking the contributions from our Content Hub with the ‘use content’ button.
We’ll put together our drafts, tag contributors in the comments, and send them off for approval when they’re ready.
This helps you build a streamlined process around how you collaborate. And now that your content plan is visible, it’s well organized, it’s brimming with ideas and your team is involved, it’s time to get creating.
We’ll use ContentCal to publish our content across a range of channels. You’ve got the main social channels that you use for your brands, but you can also tie in the personal profiles of people across your business to give your content additional reach.
Integrations can help you publish your content to Medium or using Pinterest or Youtube, giving you the ability to create a post once then publish it everywhere. Just make sure that you're posting at the optimum times for maximum engagement. Check out the best time to post on social media 2020.
Looking to make your video content go further? Find out how to post a Youtube video to IGTV.
So that’s how you manage your content plan from ContentCal.