Long before content marketing became the first choice of marketers, Bill Gates famously declared, “Content is king.” Today, the prescience of his statement is clear. The rise of social media and internet marketing has proven him right. No business can afford to ignore content marketing as a way of building their brand and increasing profits.
The problem content marketers face is that it’s easy to mess up when creating and sharing content. It’s not enough to post content on Facebook. You have to be sure that Facebook is the right platform for what you’re sharing, and that the content you create is of interest to your target audience. Make the wrong choices and you could be wasting your marketing budget.
Understanding Content Marketing
Let’s start with a definition of content marketing. According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is:
A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
What does that mean in plain English? Content marketers create and share content – which may be written content, photographs, videos, or other graphic content – with their target audience. Some of the content they share may be curated, meaning that it is has been carefully chosen from industry publications or authorities. The goal is to use the content shared to convince customers to make a purchase or use a service.
What are some examples of effective marketing content? Here are a few:
1. A few years ago, the cat food brand Friskies created a series of YouTube videos called “Dear Kitten.” They featured a world-weary older cat welcoming a new kitten to the household with some advice about how to deal with humans. The original video and follow-up videos were viewed and shared millions of times.
2. The skin care brand Dove has shared dozens of photographs featuring women of all ages without makeup. The message is that their products help promote healthy skin at all ages. They have also done campaigns celebrating mothers in honor of Mother’s Day.
Those are just two examples, but there are many others. Any time you read a blog post, watch a video, or check out a series of photographs or an infographic from your favorite brand, you’re seeing content marketing in action.
Content Marketing Mistakes to Avoid
If you want your content marketing efforts to earn you a high return on your investment, you have to approach what you do strategically. Many marketers – even people who are experienced – make mistakes that can bring a campaign to its knees.
With that in mind, here are the ten most common content marketing mistakes, along with some ideas to help you avoid making them.
Mistake #1: Sharing low-quality content
This might seem obvious, but the content you share must be high-quality and relevant for it to be effective. In practical terms, that means that you should:
1) Spend time thinking about which content is most likely to be effective
2) Be willing to put in time and effort to create quality content – or pay someone to do it for you
3) Never share any piece of content without reading or viewing it yourself
It’s not enough simply to read a headline before sharing an article from an industry publication or blog. Read the entire thing, and then add your own thoughts before sharing it.
Mistake #2: Creating or sharing content that isn’t useful to your target audience
The next thing to be wary of is sharing content that isn’t directly relevant to your target audience. You might be tempted to share a cute cat video from YouTube, but unless you’re a veterinarian or selling pet products, save it for your friends.
Every piece of content you share should be directly relevant to your target audience, and if at all possible, useful to them as well. A video from a cleaning company demonstrating how to get stains out of a throw rug is useful and relevant; a photograph of monkeys at the zoo isn’t.
The one exception here is if you can find a way to make the content you share relevant. Without context, monkeys have no bearing on a cleaning company. However, if you write a clever paragraph about the mess that monkeys might make at a party, you could use that same image to market your services. Context is everything.
Mistake #3: Picking the wrong places to focus your marketing
Content marketing is about more than choosing the right content. You also have to choose the best places to share it. If the majority of your customers use Twitter but you’re sharing your best content on LinkedIn, you’re missing an opportunity to connect with them.
Creating a customer persona and using it to focus your marketing campaigns can help you avoid this mistake. Instead of trying to be on every social media site, pick two or three that your customers are most likely to use and focus your attention there. And if you discover that your posts on a particular site aren’t getting any engagement, you can rethink them – or allocate the money you spend there on a different marketing tactic that will earn you better returns.
Mistake #4: Not building trust and authority
The next common mistake is failing to build trust and authority. The content you share is an extension of who you are. Every time your reach out to your social media followers, you have an opportunity to establish yourself as an authority in your field – and authorities usually have their followers’ trust.
Part of establishing authority is taking the time to share only relevant and useful content. However, it’s not enough just to share an article. You should also take a few minutes to add to it. What are your thoughts about what the writer said? Is there anything they got wrong – or missed? When you insert yourself into curated content, you build authority.
Mistake #5: Forgetting that content marketing is a two-way street
When you’re marketing your business, you might feel as though you’re shouting into a bullhorn – just trying to get people in a crowd to pay attention to you. However, that’s the wrong analogy to use.
A better way to think of content marketing is that it’s a conversation between you and your target audience. You don’t just want people to take in what you’re saying – you should want to hear what they have to say too. One way to avoid this particular mistake is to encourage customer engagement. For example:
1) Ask your followers to share their experiences using your product or service
2) Encourage people who read your post to share it or to tag a friend
3) Ask a question in your marketing emails
4) Take a poll of your followers
You get the idea. You should always be trying to get your followers to respond, engage, and react to what you share.
Mistake #6: Not soliciting and sharing user-generated content
This mistake is closely aligned with the last one. Not all of the content you share should be created by you. In fact, you should be actively seeking out ways to get your followers to create content for you.
For example, an animal shelter might ask people who have adopted pets from them to share photographs of themselves with their pets. A travel service might solicit stories from travelers. You can also host a contest for the best photograph or video, and then share the best entries with all of your followers.
Mistake #7: Not using scheduling tools to keep an active presence
How active are you on social media? If the answer is “not very” then you’re definitely doing it incorrectly. The whole point of social media marketing is to maintain an active presence.
One very common mistake companies make is not using scheduling tools to help them with social media. A scheduling tool can help make sure that your posts go out on time even if you get pulled into a crisis at the office. Some social media sites, such as Facebook, have tools that allow you to set a time and date to publish a post. However, your best bet is to use content management software to set up a schedule for all of your content. That way, you’ll never miss a post.
Mistake #8: Not asking for what you want
Are you asking for what you want when you share content? It might sound strange, but if you’re not asking or likes, shares, or comments, then you’re probably not getting them.
If you’re thinking that you click “Like” on posts that don’t ask for it all the time, you’re missing the point. You’re marketing a company, not sharing information with a friend. The only way to drive user action is to ask for it. A lot of companies will ask followers to share their content – and you should too.
Mistake #9: Not varying the format of your content
One very common content marketing mistake is always sharing the same type of content. If all you’re doing is sharing blog posts, or photographs, or videos, then you’re missing out on opportunities to engage with your audience. It’s never a good idea to paint with the same brush every day.
One of the benefits of content marketing is that it’s incredibly versatile. You can share a video one day, an infographic the next, and an in-depth think piece the day after that. All are valid forms of content marketing.
If you want to avoid falling into a rut, try re-conceptualizing a content idea in a variety of ways. Instead of writing a blog post about a complex issue, try hiring a graphic designer to make it into an infographic. Write a story to accompany a photograph. As long as you make a conscious effort to vary your content, you can avoid this mistake.
Mistake #10: Not refining as you go
The final content marketing mistake on this list is a very common one – and one that can have a negative impact on your ROI.
No marketing campaign is perfect out of the gate. Even marketers with decades of experience can misjudge a piece of content’s effectiveness. The key to successful marketing is to be able to recognize when something isn’t working and correct it.
You should be using analytics to track the performance of your content. The information you gather will help you figure out which types of content get the highest levels of engagement and which types don’t resonate with your audience. They can also help you pinpoint weaknesses in your overall marketing strategy.
Content marketing is both an art and a science. If you want to do a good job with it, you have to take care to choose your content wisely, share it appropriately, and measure your results. Any company that manages to avoid these ten mistakes will be in a good position to engage their target audience, increase sales, and grow their business.