10-Step Content Marketing Plan

Traffic Avalanche

Content marketing is the hottest topic in digital marketing. It’s all the hipster buzz for how to get your brand in front of customers, in “a good way.”

Truth be told, it’s kind of interwoven into the fundamental premise of the World Wide Web and if done right can bring you an avalanche of targeted Web traffic.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee may have written the seminal work on content marketing in his 1990 proposal to use hypertext “… to link and access information of various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will,” [source: Wikipedia]. His proposal conceived a system that relies on the interlinking of content to form the Web’s fundamental structural architecture.

Thus, it naturally follows that the Web would perpetually crave new content for growth and vitality.

Marketers are just catching up to their role (opportunity) in feeding the voracious appetite of a content consuming Web. Your responsibility, as a marketer, to that system is to feed it with integrity–providing the most valuable and effective content possible.

Hopefully, I can make a small contribution to improving the content system by offering you my checklist for better content marketing.

1. Determine Your Thing – Focus is the silent killer for most startups and websites alike. You need to know what your thing is. It needs to be simple to communicate, especially to a stranger. Your Thing becomes the cornerstone to all the pillars of content marketing: content development, SEO, and social media.

2. Create a Platform – Every good strategy needs a home base. This is a safe and stable base of operations from which you can consistently launch new campaigns. I recommend that your platform is something that you own and have complete control over. There’s a little military language thrown into my description, but the analogy is not without merit. You need to own real estate and build reinforced supply lines (outposts, which we’ll talk about in a moment) if you want your content marketing campaigns to yield results when you launch them.

3. Build Formidable Outposts – I believe that this is one of the most powerful, yet underused and understood content marketing strategies–build killer outposts for your content. Getting all of the people you want to discover your little website is tough. Even the biggest of you reading are probably relatively tiny fish in a very big ocean. However, if you build strong presences on platforms that are designed for sharing great stuff and already have tons of Web traffic you will be able to increase your chances of discovery. Even more importantly you will be able to grab a sliver of their traffic, reinforcing the supply line of traffic back to your home base, thereby introducing new audience to great content.

4. Think Like a Publisher – Get serious about your content. Publishers think much bigger than one blog post or article. They take into account the nature of their readership, the climate of the audience (i.e., pop culture, economics, political, etc.), the needs of their advertisers, their unique position in the larger publishing market, and then design an editorial plan that will leverage these factors to attract and retain an ever growing audience. Stop starting with this question: “What will I write today?” And consider this one: “Why am I publishing?”

5. Create an Editorial System – Ideas are, as they say, “A dime a dozen.” You need to get it published. Even more importantly you need to get it published in a logical and relevant way. An editorial process is critical to creating that professional feel to your publishing. Your content will be more organized and seem more relevant because of your intentional editorial planning.

6. Consistency and Frequency – The real value comes when you start generating a consistent and frequent flow of quality content. You’re odds of being discovered go way up when your audiences starts anticipating and craving your new content. You have begun the trigger, response process that produces a habit–a routine that includes your content.

(Side note: Just finishing up Charles Duhigg’s Power of Habit. [affiliate link] Definitely a recommended read.)

7. Scout Traffic Streams – Content marketing should go beyond the creative process of content development. You need to get into the numbers if you want to generate significant web traffic. Specifically, I suggest you look for existing communities that are relevant to your topics and strategize how they might send you regular traffic. Focus in on communities where people are already going to discover new content.

If you’re a photographer, that might be Fickr; a videographer, maybe Vimeo or YouTube; a techie, Hacker News, ArsTechnica, or TechMeme; personal finance tips, WiseBread.com; funny memes, Digg, Reddit. The list is endless. Find out where your audience goes to discover and get in the stream.

8. Find the Influencers – There’s nothing harder than trying to build a community one person at a time. Although I’m a big advocate of writing with the intimacy of a personal conversation, your content marketing plan should not have the same field of view. Instead look for communities, large groups of people that already exist and should be interested in your content. Then find the influencers who seem to guide and have the most impact on the community.

At Kaleidico we developed and use a simple tool called Find Influence to more efficiently identify these people.

Study these influencers carefully. Observe the type of content that they get interested in and more importantly share. Can you write something similar? Can you create content that will get you into their conversations? That should be your plan.

9. Syndicate Your Awesomeness – This is the natural strategic outcome from scouting traffic streams and building formidable outposts. Your content needs to go far beyond your website. You need to create a syndication strategy.

Your goal is to get your content discovered and seen in as many places as possible–Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, SlideShare, YouTube, this famous blog and that famous blog, in that Fortune 500 marketing meeting, in that coffee shop meeting, and in the hallway at Big Conference XYZ. The secret to getting the buzz going is to increase your probability of being discovered and shared, which means getting in front of a lot of eyeballs and impressing them–that takes massive syndication.

10. Make It Interesting (Please!) – Given the choice between forcing out another 500 words of mindless, SEO keyword packed text from your computer keyboard and watching the 400th season of Survivor, please go watch Survivor.

Content should never be created for content sake. Google has already slapped around the content farms under the very accurate assumption that, for the most part, people hate that kind of content. (Unless of course you, like myself, still need to go to the Internet every time to figure out how to boil an egg.)

Ergo, please think through a clever angle for each piece of content, even if it is simply for SEO purposes.

Don’t be overwhelmed. Content marketing plans are meant to be iterative in nature. There is no short-cut to creating excellent content. However, getting your content noticed and appreciated can be accelerated. This is where a well thought out content marketing plan, set on a solid foundation of syndication and promotion can yield faster and bigger results.

What do you do to get your content noticed? What did I miss in my content plan?

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