The Business of Content Marketing

business of content marketing

You’ve learned all about the business of writing, but content marketing doesn’t just involve writing–it’s about the marriage of quality writing and effective marketing, joined together. In order to do that effectively – the business of content marketing, that is – one has to learn about a whole new set of challenges and solutions. Don’t worry–we’re going to break it all down in this post.

Key Performance Indicators

Key performance indicators (or KPIs, as you’ll often see them referred to) are metrics that you use to track the growth of your business. A good KPI is measurable, specific, and has a direct impact on the growth of your business. For more background, check out this primer on KPIs.

Beware of vanity metrics

When you start keeping track of metrics, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “vanity metrics.” Much like the name implies, these are basically metrics that look good and make you feel good, but don’t actually have any real effect on your bottom line.

Some common vanity metrics that people pay far too much attention to include:

  • Social media followers. Unless you know for a fact that increased followers on Twitter typically turn into more revenue for you, then you don’t want to make that (or increased Facebook likes, etc.) a key performance indicator. You could easily have 10,000 followers on Twitter that don’t do a thing for your business.
  • Shares of your articles. This is actually a good metric to keep track of, but again, it’s not a KPI.
  • Pageviews per month. Far more important than the amount of pageviews you’re getting is how people are interacting with your content (including choosing to become a customer or client based on your content marketing).

How to choose your KPIs

The thing with key performance indicators is that they’re key. That means every single metric you follow isn’t a KPI. Ideally, you’ll have no more than three key performance indicators–the Jim Collins quote of “If you have more than three priorities, you don’t have any,” applies to your KPIs as well. Here’s a few ideas of KPIs for your content marketing efforts:

  • Leads generated per month: How do you know if your marketing is working? Well, if people are expressing interest in your services after finding and/or interacting with your content, that’ll give you a pretty solid guess. Analytics come in handy here, so it’s important to have conversion tracking set up, and to ask new leads or customers how they found out about you.
  • New clients per month: For much the same reason as leads.
  • Email list sign ups: As long as you know that people who sign up for your email list typically become customers or clients later, tracking email subscribers and the growth of that number month over month is a good place to start.

Social Media

Technically, content marketing and social media marketing are different beasts. But they are closely related–think of them as siblings rather than two entirely unrelated people.

The core of a good social media strategy involves sharing useful, relevant content, and the core of a strong content marketing strategy is creating useful, relevant content.

This means sharing the content that you create on social media, and sharing it in such a way that people will actually click through and read it. Here’s a few ways to get started:

  • Find the times and days your followers are most active and share your content then. This blog post at Buffer that breaks down how to figure this out and test it.
  • Use social media plugins and tools to share your content more efficiently. Coschedule integrates with WordPress and is reasonably priced.
  • Make sure you’re customizing your shares for different social sites. What works well on LinkedIn doesn’t necessarily work well on Facebook or Twitter, and vice versa. Social Media Today has a handy starter guide.

Link Bait

“Link bait” typically refers to content that has a viral-style headline–something that people just can’t resist clicking on. Think Buzzfeed and HuffPost. It’s often associated with content that’s all headline and no substance, but it doesn’t have to be that way, and a well-crafted article with a link-bait-y headline can be sharing gold. These resources can help you craft your own link-bait headline:

Promoting Your Content

When it comes to promoting your content, you’ll want to test different headlines on social media. A headline that works well on Twitter might not work well on Facebook, so during the planning stages of your content, come up with a few different headlines and track the clicks on each one when it comes to sharing time. And of course, when you’re sharing on social channels, make sure to emphasize the value that the reader gets from reading the post (or watching the video, or dialing in to the webinar, or so on–you get the idea).

If you want to get adventurous, you can even do a mini ad campaign for a post (or other piece of content). You’ll want to:

  • Make sure it’s an especially compelling piece of content. Obviously, if you’re going to be paying to get eyeballs on it, you want it to be top-notch. This is key, otherwise you’ll just be wasting your money.
  • Have a clear next step with a strong call to action (CTA) at the end of the post. If you’re advertising a post (and not, say, a webinar, where the clear next step is to sign up for the webinar), make sure that you have a call to action at the end–to sign up for the email list, to book a consultation, to download a PDF that goes more in-depth, etc. Otherwise, people will click through (which, you know, you’re paying for!) and then read it and click away without doing anything.
  • Decide where to advertise it. Here’s a starter guide for social media ads (which are probably your best bet for something like this) that breaks down the different social media platforms and Google Adwords for comparison, with costs included.

Get Connected in Your Community

Whether you’re looking at the local level or the national (or global!) level that the internet affords us, a strong community to interact with and share your content with will help your efforts take hold and reach further. LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ all have built-in community features that let you find groups to interact in.

You can network with adjacent industries. For a content marketer, this might mean interacting with graphic designers or web developers. Whether you’re sharing content with them that you’ve created or that someone else has created, having people in adjacent industries think of you as helpful and knowledgable can be a great way to keep your referral engine going.

You can also network with people within your industry, but in different niches, for the same reason. If you mostly work in the B2B world, it might make sense to seek out people in high-tech or healthcare areas, so that you can refer people to them – and vice versa.

And of course, seek out communities that consist of your target market. Don’t ever be spammy in these communities–just answer questions wherever you can and share useful content (whether you created it or not). The more people you know, the more people can become your customers or refer customers to you, after all!

Your homework:

  • Check out our infographic How to Develop Your Content Marketing Strategy.
  • Decide on 1-3 KPIs for your content marketing efforts and set up whatever systems you need to track them.
  • Check your social media plans to make sure that you’re sharing your created content strategically and in the right way for each platform.
  • With your next piece of content, spend as much time working on the headline as you do on the content. Come up with at least 10 ideas and choose the most clickable one to see if it has any measurable difference on your results.
  • Make sure to emphasize the value readers get from your content the next time you share it. (And if you have an especially strong piece of content with a great call to action, consider doing a mini ad campaign for it.)
  • Find a group to interact in that falls into one of the three categories in the last section of this post, and aim to share something useful there (or answer a question from someone else) 2-3 times a week for a month or two. And as always, track your results!