Content Marketing: A process for evaluating content channels
“Should we have a blog? What about YouTube videos? Pinterest? Instagram?”
When engaging in content marketing, the question of “where?” always comes up. If you’re just getting started, you want to know on which channels you should focus your content.
If you’re already deeply engaged in content marketing, you likely want to reevaluate the channels you’ve been using at regular intervals as shiny new channels emerge and old channels diminish. (Social networks, like old soldiers, never die; they just fade away.)
To that end, here is a process for evaluating content channels. I’d love to hear your input, as well.
Step #1: Determine value of brand
All marketing, including content marketing (heck, really every decision your company makes), should begin with your value proposition. After all, the main focus of your content marketing should be communicating helpful information that is in line with the value of your brand.
Obviously, crafting an effective value proposition is a much bigger topic than I can cover here, but here are a few high-level tips that may help you out:
- Answer this question – Why should [Prospect Here] choose [Brand Here] instead of [Competitor Here]? Obviously, you may need to do this more than once if you’re targeting more than one type of prospect or have more than one competitor.
- Identify and express your value proposition – You can use this simple value proposition worksheet to help you answer the above question and to identify and express your value prop. Also, make sure you find evidentials, which are elements that help you to support the claims made in your above answer.
- Evaluate your answer – Be sure to get input from others inside your company yet outside the Marketing department (What does Customer Service or Product Development think the value of the brand is?). And, of course, you ultimately have to test your value proposition to see how effective it is with your target audience.
Step #2: Determine value of product(s)
Now do the same exercise as in step #1 to determine the value of your products. Just slightly change the question to, Why should [Prospect Here] choose [Product Here] instead of [Competitor Product Here]? (If you are a one-product company, you can likely skip this step).
Step #3: Conduct preliminary research
Those first two steps are really independent of content marketing, and you should have already done these for your marketing as a whole. However, I felt it was important to include them because your content marketing is essentially an extension of your brand and product value propositions.
That said, let’s now dive into some content aspects:
- Identify target audience – At whom does this content aim? Decision makers? Influencers? How old are they? What income level? Where do they live?
There are endless ways you can break down this information, but you’re essentially trying to discover what type of information they are looking for and where they go for that information.
- Identify channels for analysis – This step is crucial for overcoming “I Hear Twitter is Hot and I Should Use It” Syndrome. You might love Twitter, but does your intended audience?
For example, let’s say my mom was your target audience. She thinks it’s called Twiddle. And she’s amazed at how they fit all those pictures into a digital camera. In other words, Twitter is not the right channel for reaching her.
You can start by looking at your analytics. Which content channels are already driving traffic to your website?
- Discuss with your team – As with value propositions above, not all of the wisdom resides within the Marketing department. What has Customer Service learned about your customers, the information they’re looking for, and where they find it? What about Sales?
Step #4: Determine what the ideal channels for communicating content would look like
In anything I’ve worked on in my marketing career, I’ve learned it never hurts to engage in a little blue sky thinking.
For example, if a few years ago you thought a great content channel to reach your audience with would be like Facebook but more visual, then you could have been a successful early adaptor when Pinterest came along.
Or, you might even find the need to create your own community.
Either way, grab a whiteboard and ask yourself these questions:
- What would the ideal channel’s value be? – To your potential audience. Why would hearing about this new channel stop them in their tracks and make them sign up right away? What element of that can you leverage using the current content channels that are at your disposal?
- How would you use the ideal channel(s)? – What would these channels offer you, the content creator, that you aren’t able to utilize now? Is there any way to work within the confines of today’s channels to make possible what you currently view as impossible?
Step #5: Create a draft content infrastructure
Now that you understand the value of your brand and its products, know how your target audience likes to get its information, and have pushed the limit on thinking about how you could possibly communicate better with your audience, it’s time to create a draft content infrastructure.
For each channel in that content infrastructure, you should have this information:
- To whom does the channel speak? – It doesn’t have to be every member of your target audience either. You just have to make sure the channel is appropriate for at least one targeted persona in the audience (for example, it might appeal to influencers but not executive-level decision makers).
- What content can we produce? – On a recent webinar, I received a question along the lines of, “We’re a boring B2B company, so how can we produce videos?”
Now, I’m not so sure I was right. After all, just because Pearl Jam can rock the Garden, doesn’t mean I can.
So, do a little corporate soul searching on this one … can we create the type of content that is expected in this channel? Will we be able to have a blog as informative as competitive sources of information? Will we be able to have a YouTube channel as entertaining as other choices the customer has?
How is our company organized, and what is its culture? Is information easily accessible? Will subject matter experts contribute to our content?
These are not yes or no questions; you’re grading yourself along a scale and trying to prioritize in which content channels to invest your resources. That said, even with infinite resources, you should not invest in infinite channels.
As the knight says in Indiana Jones, “But choose wisely, for while the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you.” Producing content poorly, or that is a poor fit for a content channel or social network, is likely worse than doing nothing at all. And, this ties into the next question …
- Can we support this channel until the sun (or Wal-Mart) expands enough to swallow up the Earth? – That is, after all, the point of this exercise.
Much like having a baby, conception is the easy and fun part. But will you still be dedicated to that content channel when it’s an annoying teenager?
How frequently will you add new content to this channel? How often will you read and respond to customer feedback?
Important questions, because that Google+ account you last updated eight months ago telegraphs the message that you’ll abandon your customers, as well.
- Does the channel support my brand’s and products’ value propositions? – The channel itself communicates value. For example, should a serious B2B brand be on Facebook? How do the ads surrounding your YouTube videos affect the perception of your brand’s value?
I won’t answer these questions; I’ll just leave them out there. But make no mistake, the channel itself sends signals about the value of your brand to potential customers.
- What is the value proposition of your content on this channel? – Why should [Prospect Type Here][Read Your Blog To Learn About Fixing an Appliance] instead of [Get Information To Fix An Appliance In Any Other Way]?
Even your free content needs an effective value proposition. That is the final litmus test. If you can’t answer the above question, you’re just wasting time and money investing in that content channel.
Step #6: Create and disperse your content channel recommendations
You have a pretty good understanding of which channels are worth the significant investment of time, money, and resources necessary to have an impact on your content marketing.
Now that you have created your content infrastructure, one last piece of advice from me to you.
Call it a “draft.” And distribute it to your team and to appropriate departments internally. For two reasons:
- You’re always going to overlook something – Call it Murphy’s Law, or whatever you like. Even after going through the above steps, having something that looks like a plan will likely jog the thinking of someone in IT who will say, “I was reading an industry forum, and found that competitor X is going to launch the same …”
- Get buy-in – Content marketing is not simply a marketing effort. It is an entire company effort. If you want to create a blog, much of the information you fill it with will come from outside of the Marketing department.
So if you don’t have the proper leaders and teams on board, you’ll have selected the perfect content channels … but have nothing to put in them.
Amanda Sieusahai contributed to this blog post.