Isn’t it fair to say that we are experiencing content and information overload? One could even argue that the best content will not be read if it lacks the right timing and ability to reach its target audience. A lot of content gets lost amongst the fiercely competitive online marketing landscape. You see, content alone is no longer king. Content requires a consistent and continuous narrative that never stops telling the story. For your content to resonate and attract followers, you need a powerful delivery mechanism – videos, photos, campaigns, blogs, keynotes, etc. – to draw your audience and convey your most genuine intentions. Content marketing is both an art and a science, requiring the ability to stimulate the heart and the head.
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There is a right way and a wrong way to go about your content marketing strategy and approach. For starters, don’t launch a strategy until you are committed to defining your content narrative and sticking to it until you find your voice and influence. Also, as you embark upon the content marketing journey, you must be prepared to become accountable to the needs of your audience and take responsibility to sustain the relationship you plan to build with them.
Content marketing is a powerful way to create purposeful and meaningful relationships with people and to enable insightful feedback and user knowledge about your products and services. But content marketing can also hurt you if you don’t take responsibility for the content narrative and how you use it to convert into desired behaviors (i.e., increased social media followers, sales transactions, event participation, commentary, etc.). Content marketing is not just about getting new followers on LinkedIn, Twitter, and/or Facebook in an effort to enhance your corporate or personal brand profile and online relevancy. In the end, content marketing is about helping educate people and holding them accountable to take action towards solving a problem and/or creating a new opportunity. It’s about helping people be more courageous.
Content marketing is not only about featuring the value of the individual or brand the content is representing, it’s more about how to enhance the value of its audience.
It surprises me how much content distributed via social media, blogs and other platforms is not all that original (versus repurposed and scraped content). But should this really be a surprise? Most people and companies are struggling with their own identity crisis and thus need the content of others to inspire and enable their own ideas and ideals that lie dormant or stuck in a rut. Perhaps this is why LinkedIn recently decided to empower the diverse voices and expertise of its members by allowing them to more fully utilize its newly expanded content platform.
It will be interesting to witness the quality of content that is shared by LinkedIn members and whether or not their content is original or repurposed; whether it strengthens or weakens their personal brand identity. I’ll be keeping a close eye on LinkedIn’s new strategy as it will either: a) backfire if the relevancy of LinkedIn members falters, as it diminishes the (commoditized) value of great content that is repurposed multiple times over and makes it difficult to discover the gems, or b) serve as an enabler for LinkedIn members to earn an abundance of serendipity (which of course is the desired outcome).
Are you a supplier of original content or a distributor of someone else’s content? Or, are you both?
Individuals and corporate marketers alike may selfishly use the ideas and ideals of others to serve their particular needs and/or solve a specific problem. More often than not, the author of the original content is not asked permission for its use by the individual or company, many times abusing content privileges and monetizing content that they don’t have the legal right to distribute. For example, many of my articles could have been responsibly and legally repurposed and republished for corporate newsletters, television shows, books, video blogs, online leadership magazines, training curriculum, advertising campaigns, whitepapers, keynote speeches, and so on, had my permission been sought beforehand.
The bottom line is this: the creation, placement, distribution and delivery of content is a responsibility – and those who do it right are the ones that create highly visible campaigns that oftentimes go viral and exceed their desired outcomes. As you design your next content marketing strategy, here are seven things you must consider to optimize the impact, value and reach of your narrative through its viral relevancy, interest and influence:
1. Make it Newsworthy
Your content should always support, complement or play-off the heels of a newsworthy story. For example, recently there has been much discussion about women in politics and their leadership role in the workplace. As such, I wrote an article titled: The Most Undervalued Leadership Traits of Women. This strategy accomplished two goals: 1) I wrote about something that I believe in and stand behind; and 2) it supported a newsworthy subject matter. However, what I learned about later through the hundreds of emails I received was that there was an appreciation for a story about women in leadership written by a man – which alone became a newsworthy story. Serendipitously, not only did the article go viral – I also have been asked by several women-led organizations to be their keynote speaker in 2014.
Content marketing must support things that are trending and newsworthy. When done correctly, your strategy could even become the next headline for a new viral campaign.
2. People Want to Be in the Know
How many times have you been in a meeting and your boss quotes an article they read in a book, magazine or blog? People are empowered when they reference notable authors and resources because it strengthens their argument. Not only are they referencing sources that you would expect them to be reading, they are making you aware of content that you can read to broaden your point of view too.
Let’s face it, people want to be in the know and your content marketing strategy should act as their knowledge enabler. As I’ve always said and written about: the content you read shapes how you lead. Know what your audience is reading and following — and design your content marketing strategy to support a narrative that will appeal to them.
3. Empower Other Voices
Align your content narrative/messaging to the specific needs of your audience. Many times I’ve been asked to write about particular leadership, marketing, branding, career management, and entrepreneurship topics. In fact, I’ve created a matrix of topic themes that have been requested over the years and will survey my audience whenever I need to strengthen my pulse on what matters most to them. Though this takes a lot of time and strategic focus, it has allowed me to be more deliberate with my content – and this has triggered comments/reactions that have led me further down the path of discovering the root causes of many issues and tension points that people and companies face. Empowering the voices of others through my content has allowed me to help other people (that I’ve never met) get promoted, create a new position, sell a business, launch a strategy or mobilize new workplace best practices.
You just never know who is reading your content and how they are applying it. This is another reason why your content narrative must remain consistent and on-point. Content marketing is not about you, it’s a responsibility to your audience and how to best serve their needs.
4. Advance Other Personal Brands
When you empower the needs (voices) of others, it can lead anywhere. Unfortunately, too many times with content marketing, other people will “scrape” your content and repurpose it for their own momentary benefit. Of course it’s flattering, but when others steal your message to make something of themselves, it can be disheartening. The ethically least they can do is reference you as a source for their repurposing inspiration.
When your content goes viral accept this fact: it is helping others advance their own platforms. It is incredible how many people intentionally leverage the content messaging of others to advance their own personal brand and cause. For example, one of my most popular articles is titled: The Most Successful Leaders Do 15 Things Automatically, Every Day. This article has exceeded 1.7 million views (and counting) and has sparked a tremendous amount of debate and repurposing. It has also been used as a featured article for at least one internal corporate publication across six different industries; a piece of the article was even used in the script of a popular reality television show (all with written consent).
Original content can be incredibly powerful. Find your content narrative and you will soon be discovered because you never know whose problem you are solving.
5. Solve a Problem, Start a Trend
Things are changing so fast that people are trying to find ways to solve problems that have never existed or that they’ve never encountered before. In many respects, the best content marketers are futurists. They know how to predict and/or create trends. The trick is in knowing what people find most interesting at the moment and leveraging that information. For example, when using a search engine, how many times have you clicked on the most interesting content instead of the content most relevant to your search?
Content marketing is about solving problems for people and starting trends where the message gets amplified by the viral voices of others. Always look through the lens of a problem solver and think five steps ahead. What problems await others that they might not expect? Be bold, stay on message with your content narrative, and be courageous enough to start a trend. It takes time, but when you finally hit the mark the rewards will be invaluable.
6. Make an Emotional Connection
Content marketing can change peoples’ lives. As you write your content, think of its many interconnection points and how it can potentially impact your audience – their moods, desires and ambitions. My writing style is to be provocative and forward-thinking in a motivational and inspirational way. My ultimate goal is for people to see what others don’t, do what others won’t, and keep pushing when prudence says quit.
Establish an emotional connection that is genuine and where you reach for both the head and the heart. Be responsible for how your content connects with your audience and how it can enable them to act and overcome their fears and greatest hurdles.
7. Be Personal and Relatable
Humanize your content. People want to know that what is being written is real and not fabricated. Allow others to get to know who you are and what you stand for. Make your content relatable through thought-provoking storytelling that gives it personal depth and expresses your breadth of knowledge and wisdom. It amazes me how many times we are influenced by those we have never had an opportunity to meet. Your responsibility is to connect with the people you want to build relationships with and to sustain those relationships. Content marketing is about managing the quality of touch points in order to amplify the quantity.
When my readers tell me that my content makes them feel as if they know me, this is when I know I am being most responsible in how I cultivate my audience and communicate my content.
As this article is debated, others may add to this list. But these seven things will serve as the ultimate foundation for making your content go viral. In the age of information overload, this is what will make you and your content stand out from the crowd. Be an authentic storyteller who appeals to the head and the heart while sticking to the ongoing narrative of your message, and you will be heard above the noise that permeates the online content marketing landscape. By being loyal to your readers, understanding their needs and adding value each time you write, you will attract a loyal following that continues to grow whenever your content goes viral.
- Click here to learn about my high-impact workshop, Develop Your Personal Brand as a Leader on April 2-3, 2014.