Content marketing for startups in 2018

25th Dec 2017
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Content marketing has been on everyone’s minds in recent years. The internet has ensured that every brand that has a story to tell can easily find a platform. With a few right moves, finding an audience is not very difficult too. The real challenge now is finding a relevant audience and retaining their attention. 

The world has gone from long-form blog posts to six-second video chronicles in a very short period of time. For content marketers as well as writers, the challenge is going to be keeping track of these changes and being adaptive and future-ready at all times. I could give you a download on content formats and platforms that are trending right now, but can’t give you my word on which will continue to be relevant at the end of the first half, or even the first quarter, of the year.

Image: Pixabay

You really need a strategy

Brands, marketers, and content creators need to internalise this – content marketing is not about that one blog series, that 12-month editorial calendar, that set of case studies, or that one viral podcast. Like any lasting reputation and communication tool, content marketing is an art. It needs long-term thinking, not flash-in-the-pan virality. Great content will scale and reach a wider audience organically – focus on what you need to get there. Virality cannot be the end-goal. A well-thought strategy with a focus on becoming a content powerhouse that attracts a return audience and creates engagement – now that’s an intelligent goal to have. A sound content strategy answers the following questions way before content creators put their hands on the keyboard: 

  • Well-defined end goals for your content
  • Audience persona and content consumption habits
  • Core messages and topics that your content should focus on
  • Proof points that make you an authority on the messages and topics your organization will touch upon
  • Personality and voice because eventually, this is what sets your brand apart

Who’s the boss?

Content has been a useful tool for many business functions for many years now. Which is why it is surprising when content marketing is touted as the “next big thing”. It is not – it has been around longer than we realise. Take for example a company with B2B and B2C products and services. Each business function in the two sub-divisions will most likely be churning out large amounts of content. There could be whitepapers and case studies on one side, six-second videos and funny tweets on another. PR has long been the content stakeholder in most organizations, but now there is social media, business development, sales and marketing, and several others in the mix. The challenge is that because of this newfound complexity, there is rarely a cohesive brand story that ties it all together. There are two ways to address this:

  • A centralized team of content developers and experts can ensure consistent adherence to agreed content strategy and messages. The challenge with this is the increased timelines and layers of approvals – something that our new marketing ecosystem no longer allows.
  • You can also include the agendas and voices of your entire workforce into your content strategy using message workshops that take into account the KRAs of each business unit. Follow this up with a centralized repository of messaging, standards, tonality, and voice as well as periodic training sessions. This can be an effective way to roll out consistent, amazing content for time- or resource-crunched startups as well as for large conglomerates with many KRAs and individual agendas.

Operations and impeccable execution are going to be crucial for content marketing to truly come of age. 2018 might be the year when organizations finally realize the operational aspects of content marketing and begin to address it.

The only way to establish expertise is by diving in deep and being original

I will let you in on an open secret. In content marketing, the thin line between plagiarism and rewriting has started to diminish. With the “Buzzfeedification” of news and content in general, listicles are the rage now. For a writer, they are often easy to write too. The challenge then becomes breaking through the clutter in order to establish credibility. For example, if I Google “how to look for freelance clients”, I will find hundreds of articles, most of which say the same things in different ways. As an audience, nothing persuades me to differentiate one source from another. Not unless I have read a source before and know for sure that their content will be insightful and not another rehash. That reputation comes with time and requires an ongoing effort in sharing “amazing” content.

At its heart, this is about respecting the intelligence of your audience. For example, if every customer experience measurement business is writing the same 1,000-word, 10-pointer listicles about how customer expectations have changed – which by all accounts have – then it becomes impossible to rely on content to differentiate the experts in a crowd.

The answer then is in establishing expertise by diving deep into your topics of interest and being original. There are a time and place for templates – I am not one to deny that. But there are also proven results in creating effective, useful content that is not necessarily rehashed. The end goal of a mature content marketing strategy will eventually be about creating content that serves some purpose. For content markers, 2018 will be about finding the courage to break away from the ‘me-too’ execution and think in terms of credibility and novelty. Anything less will not last.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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