When you first commit to online marketing, it can be difficult to understand the purposes of the various strategies your inbound marketing specialist recommends. Sure, things like having a quality website and implementing keywords make sense, but why do you need a blog, a social network page, and other seemingly time-consuming projects? Do they really make a difference?
In short, the answer is — absolutely! Not only do they make a difference, but they are everything. For inbound marketing to produce real results you can’t just focus on one component, like SEO, but you have to employ a variety of tactics and have them work together as one unit.
Allow us to explain…
Content Marketing VS. Social Media Marketing
Before we delve into the strategies and processes, let’s first clearly define the differences between content marketing and social media marketing. Here are some basic definitions we can work with:
- Content Marketing – The process of generating great content (blogs, articles, videos, infographs, etc.) for your website or other online properties and promoting it throughout the web.
- Social Media Marketing – Increasing brand awareness and consumer/industry relations through social engagement on various social networks.
But, can’t you also use social sites to bring attention to content, and can’t you create some content exclusively for social sites, you may ask? Of course, you can. And with that realization, it’s beginning to get easier to see how all these facets work together.
- Having a recognizable brand people trust
- Customers seeing value in your business
- Customer loyalty
- Online support from other professionals
- High rankings and position as an industry authority
So, what’s the best way to implement your content and social media campaigns? Basically, it boils down to a seven step process:
Step 1: Self-Evaluation
Before you get underway, it’s important to first perform a self-evaluation to see what current tactics are or are not working and to outline other important data, like your target audience and business goals. By the end of this step you should detail the following:
- Your target audience
- Most vital information to share (most important pages on website)
- Design preference
- Top three competitors
- Current analytics (if you already have a website), including, highs, lows, etc.
- Current marketing efforts (traditional or online)
- Overall goal, mission, and what you hope to achieve through inbound marketing
Step 2: Analyze the Competition and the Market
Even after ironing out all that data, there is still more homework to do, namely, analyzing the competition and the market. This step is important so you know where your business fits in the mix of things and to formulate your best plan of “attack.” Through this examination you should learn:
- Keywords your competitors are using
- Your competitor’s major strategies (are they blogging, socializing, sending newsletters, etc.?)
- Popular consumer search terms
- What are consumers talking about (monitor social channels)
- Gaps in the market
Step 3: Make a Game Plan
Now that you know the strengths and weaknesses of both you and your competitors, and you have an idea of what the consumers need, you are ready to formulate a game plan. Every business’ plan will be somewhat different, but by completing steps one and two, you may realize you should:
- Target new/different keywords
- Target a different audience/demographic
- Revamp your website for better user experience
- Optimize your site for SEO
- Add on-page optimization
- Integrate with local search
- Start link building initiatives
- Launch social networking pages (choose the ones where your audience frequents)
- Pinpoint the social influencers in your industry (observe what they’re doing and, at some point, try to connect with them)
- Create fresh, quality content
- And more
Essentially, by this point you will know what is lacking (or not being done well) in the market and in your own campaign and how your business can provide that missing element to consumers.
Step 4: Set Goals
To accurately measure your success, you have to set goals and an outline for reaching those goals. Your business’ objectives will be unique, but possible ideas are:
- Grow website traffic
- Increase number of social followers
- Have greater engagement (increased time on page, thoughtful comments, etc.)
- More conversions
Once your goals are complete, outline specific ways (things you can do) to make them happen. For instance, you may decide to post something on Facebook three times per day, run a contest every month, or write one blog post per week. It helps to create a calendar of your “to-do” items, so you can stay on track.
Step 5: Create the Content
Despite everything else, no one is going to come to your website or engage with your business socially, if you don’t have something of value to offer. This is why “content is king” — everything else depends on it.
And to keep visitors coming back, you can’t just provide one-time or sporadic great content; you have to do it all the time. Fortunately, there are all types of content to offer, so you can keep things interesting for you and your followers. Some content ideas are:
- Blog posts
- Guest blog posts
- Videos (animated, livestream, music, and regular)
- Tweets and other social network postings
- Industry data
- User-generated content
Whatever content you offer, make sure it’s relevant to your audience and it gives them something (i.e. entertainment, information, how-to, etc.).
Step 6: Start Reaching Out
With the research done, a plan formulated, and an optimized site, you now have the foundation ready to begin actively building traffic. Start introducing your business on social sites, send out emails, and interact with consumers and other professionals in your industry. When you have great content to share, let your followers know, but also be part of the general conversation and avoid making things all about your business.
Don’t try to take things to quickly or people might view you as spammy. Take some time to learn the “rules” of the network. In other words, how often do others usually post? What tone do they use? What type of content is appreciated?
Remember, creating an online community is a long-term process. As with any friendship, don’t try to do too much too soon.
Step 7: Monitor, Analyze, and Tweak
Now that your plan is fully in action, it’s time to begin the never-ending process of analyzing and readjusting. There is a whole gamut of variables to keep track of, and tools, such as Google Analytics can make this process easier. Among the things you’ll want to monitor are:
- Is your content resonating? In other words, are you getting re-tweets, likes, comments, shares, etc.? If not, it’s time to try a different strategy, such as posting at a different time of day, sharing different type of content, or providing incentives for action.
- Is traffic increasing?
- Are you getting more conversions? Are visitors signing up for RSS feeds, registering their email, making a purchase, or sharing your site socially?
- Are you seeing a ROI?
- How is the market changing?
- What are the consumers asking for? Closely following social channels can help you stay informed.
In many ways, step seven is like a repeat of steps one and two. You have to constantly analyze what is and is not working, what your competitor’s are doing, and what the consumers demand. Then, you repeat the process over again by setting new goals and implementing new tactics. In this way, content and social media marketing is always a work in progress and requires continual effort, but the benefits are tremendous.
Undoubtedly, you’re wondering how you’re going to juggle all that’s involved in maintaining these marketing strategies. There may be some aspects your team wants to tackle on its own, such as writing blog entries and social posts, but analyzing the market, optimizing your site, and choosing the ideal approach are things best handled, or at least guided, by professional inbound marketers. Having an experienced hand leading the way takes a lot of guesswork out of the process and generates better, faster results.