Content marketing has become an essential element of successful online marketing and brand-building.
What's content marketing? All content that adds value and markets a business, directly or indirectly, can be considered a form of content marketing. The material can be distributed in long form (blogs, articles, and ebooks), short form (Twitter updates, Facebook updates and images), or through conversations and sharing (start or join Twitter conversations or share content in a forum comment). It can be a great way to build lasting connections with the right customers online.
But often small-business owners miss a critical step: cross-promoting the content to fully integrate both efforts. As you create and publish new material online as part of your content marketing strategy for building your business and brand, always consider how to link to your other online content. While you don't want to seem like you're always self-promoting and sharing links to your own content, do offer useful content when it adds value to the conversation.
Never bait-and-switch your audience by offering a link promising something specific that is not delivered. Don't promote your content for promotion's sake or try to disguise it as something else. This will annoy your audience and possibly flag you as a spammer. Instead, offer your links as additional, useful information and let the audience to decide whether to visit them.
When offering links to cross-promote your content, rely on what I call the "Catalyst to Click" theory: Don't ask readers to just click on a link. Tell them something meaningful, and then the audience can decide whether to follow through and click.
Your goal in cross-promoting your content through links should be to tell your audience something meaningful that leads people to think that your link will help them even more. Give them the control they want. Let them decide whether your links are meaningful based on the nugget of information you provide, not on how nicely you wrap those links in promotional copy.
To ensure that your online audience gets the chance to consume your diverse forms of content, automate multiple publishing options. Feed content from one of your branded online destinations to another. When you automate content publishing processes, remember a branded online destination should not merely include a long list of links to your other content and nothing original. A Twitter stream of tweet after tweet of links to your blog content will be more useful and interesting if you intersperse conversational content marketing efforts. Although automated updates can bring new audiences to your content, don't consider this a replacement for publishing original content.
Make it easy for people to find your diverse forms of content online by highlighting it in your online profiles and offering diverse options to consume it. Just as a retail store might offer the same shirt in multiple sizes and colors so customers can select the choices best for them, offer content options for your online audience. Instead of just lining up all the shirts on a clothes rack, offer links, buttons, icons, and other ways to raise awareness of your varied content.
The following are some easy ways to integrate your marketing efforts and surround consumers with branded experiences:
- Include social media icons in your blog's sidebar.
- Provide links to your branded online sites in your email signature.
- Place your branded online destination links in your forum signatures.
- Add links to your online content in the comment forms when you publish comments on blogs.
- Put links to your content in your ads.
- Include links to your content on your business cards.
- Insert links to your content in your email newsletter.
- Incorporate links to your content on your sales receipts.
- Include Facebook social plugins on your blog or Web site from the Facebook Developer tools.
- Include Twitter widgets from the Twitter Resources section of Twitter.com on your blog or Web site.
- Add your YouTube videos on your Facebook page and profile.
- Feed your blog content to your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn profiles and your Facebook page.
- Share your blog's content in LinkedIn groups.
- Use the SlideShare app to display your business presentations on Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Include links to your blog in your online profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and so on.
- The bio you include in guests posts for other people's blogs should include links to your online content and destinations.
- Include LinkedIn plugins from the LinkedIn Developers Community on your blog and Web site.
- Include the URLs to your online content in brochures and other marketing materials.
- Consider listing URLs of your online content in your store or event signage.
- Feed your Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook updates to your company's blog.
-- This article is an excerpt from Content Marketing for Dummies by Susan Gunelius (Wiley, 2011).