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18 Why You Must Change Your Content Marketing Approach

Now that pretty much everyone on the planet gets the importance of content marketing it’s time to throw a wrench in the works. To remain effective with your content marketing efforts you must constantly evaluate, change and evolve!

I know you may not want to hear that, but content only provides value when it’s useful and the consumer always determines what useful looks like. As more and more content marketers experiment with content form, length, frequency, mode, delivery, and style the consumer pallet for content continues to mature and evolve and you must do so with it. content marketing

I’ve been participating in content marketing for about fifteen years now, long before we called it that, but I’ve always tried to stay in touch with the wants and needs of the reader.

My first efforts were articles placed in directories and shared in an ezine. (How’s that for some nostalgia) In 2003 I started blogging here and that’s driven a great deal of my growth for over a decade.

Over the years my email newsletter has become more of a place to filter, aggregate and share other people’s content in snack sized versions. I produced my first eBook in 2004 or so and now feature ten, including some I’ve licensed from other writers.

We now feature guest blog post two and sometimes three times a week and I contribute blog style articles to about a dozen publications on a regular basis. Social media has obviously opened new doors in terms of sharing and generating new forms of content.

I believe the future of content marketing, however, rests in our ability to evolve to a more personalized form of creation and delivery where the end reader participates in the curation and creation of the content they request from marketers.

This next step will require even more from content marketers if they are to continue to deliver value in an saturated field of more and more content. I reached out to some well-known content marketers and asked them to share how their content marketing thoughts had evolved over the last few years.

Their responses are both fascinating and informative.

Enjoy!

Online content strategy has changed over the last couple of years. The focus is still on providing value, but this has been honed even further. I see businesses being more strategic about the type of content they publish online, to build the communities they want. There’s more long term strategy in the content they produce. I see businesses blogging less often but with deeper content to create strong evergreen content relevant to their business. I see others sharing more thoughtful pieces of content to connect with the right people. A few years ago providing value might have been enough to get traction to impact your business, but it’s also very important to create the type of coherent online visibility you need to establish relationships. Combining the two is essential today. There’s just too much noise, too many people publishing the same thing. And of course you need a visual marketing strategy to go hand in hand with your written content if you want to really take advantage of social media reach today.

Cindy King
Director of Editorial
Social Media Examiner

Different people in your target audience (whomever that audience may be) have varying preferences for content format, platform, approach, etc. I always knew this to be true, but in the past two years I’ve really embraced the concept that there is no such thing as all-powerful content. No magic bullet. No reliable home runs. Consequently, I’m striving to create more and more content types native to more and more content platforms, so that there is something from me in the style and format that’s preferable to each person in my tribe. That’s why I’m doing more podcasting, videos, ebooks, slideshare and just about everything else. Instead of trying to do one thing extraordinarily well, I’m trying to do many things very good. It’s not easy, but content can’t fully succeed as the tip of the spear – you need the whole spear.

Jay Baer
Convince and Convert

In the last two years, I have changed my ideas about blogging. I used to do more video posts with tutorials but I’ve switched to posting very long text posts with a lot of screenshots as my primary blog post and then occasionally add in video posts. I’ve found that having a lot of screenshots is great for people who are scanners. Even though my video posts were usually around 3-5 minutes in length, not everyone wants to sit through them. My blog posts are typically between 1000-2000 words which is much longer than I used to write when I had written posts. I’m also focusing this year on posting 2-3 times per week on my blog rather than just 1 time per week. It doesn’t always happen but I do like when I can post more often because it allows me to post a little more variety of content. I can post one in-depth technical post about Facebook or social media, and then also post something slightly different about business motivation or more general marketing or even something more personal about my journey. I’ve found that people have really responded to my personal posts – they don’t always get the biggest amount of traffic but they definitely get the most comments and I think they are great for connecting with your readers.

Andrea Vahl

Over the last two years, I’ve attempted to add more contrast to my content. It has often been said that content is king. However, with so much content out there it can all start to blend together so I’ve been focusing on making contrast king. This way, my readers look forward to what’s coming next. There’s more anticipation and surprise and, as a result, more attention and conversation is produced.

Michael Port
Book Yourself Solid

1. Publishing on weekends – CMI now publishes posts on Saturday and Sunday, as we’ve noticed that the posts get a bit more attention with less competition on those days. 2. Audio/Podcasts – Last year, we launched our first podcast and have seen amazing results. In the anticipation of more opportunities to get access to iTunes (ala Apple CarPlay), we are in the process of launching a podcast network as part of our core content offerings. 3. More In-Person Events – A decade ago, we were under the impression that social media might lead to people less likely to travel to events. Actually, the opposite has happened. With more networking going on via the Internet, people are actually craving more in-person, face-to-face time. So over the past two years we’ve added an event in Asia Pacific, as well as five additional events in North America.

Joe Pulizzi
Content Marketing Institute

We’ve not really changed much at all with regard to our content during the course of the last couple of years. Since launching our corporate blog, we’ve always focused on just one thing: our audience. We try to write content for the blog that is informative, educational and which can help marketers (our audience) do what they do more efficiently, effectively and with fewer headaches. We try to stay on top of trends, tools, and must-know, must-consider things as marketers develop and execute their integrated marketing strategies. Much like you, we understand that relationships today are built with information, and by giving it away (information), people come to trust and rely on us as a go-to source for whatever it is they need. I use just one phrase as a barometer (and I use this when I’m on the road speaking as well): How do you know if you’re doing it right? Ask yourself just one questions: Is it good for people. If so, then you’re doing it right. I believe that applies to every facet of your content marketing and lead gen initiatives: website, landing page campaigns, blog, social, email, and is applicable both online and off.

Shelly Kramer
V3 Integrated Marketing

“At Social Media Examiner our approach to content has not fundamentally changed in the last five years with two exceptions. We still publish 1000+ word articles that are extensively edited by a team of at least 6 editors. However, the first major change is the use of images. We custom design Facebook open graph and Twitter card images for our high profile articles to help them appear better in social. This means we have a designer create a nice image with words that will compel more clicks and shares. Secondly, we have upped the frequency of our original content from six times a week to ten. This means publishing two articles per day on most days.”

Mike Stelzner
Social Media Examiner

The last two years have been a time when we’ve experimented a fair bit with our content on numerous fronts including: 1. we’ve seen our longer form content do very well so have experimented with what we internally refer to as ‘mega-posts’ that are more comprehensive guides to larger topics. These posts are generally 2000+ words (and have gone as high as over 5000 words). While this isn’t what we publish every day we’ve tried to throw them into the mix ever few weeks and have been rewarded with great sharing, traffic and comments. 2. I’ve experimented increasingly with repurposing posts in different mediums. This has included using content previously published on the blog as slideshares and republishing older posts on LinkedIn and Google+ (usually with updates). I’ve also done it around the other way by publishing content that was still in a ‘first draft’ format to LinkedIn to get reader reactions before publishing it to the blog. 3. On ProBlogger we’ve also slowed our frequency down slightly and have been experimenting with ‘themed weeks’ where we tackle a larger topic over a series of posts over 5-6 days. This means we’ve been able to dig deeper into topics and build momentum. These theme weeks have been very well received. 4. The other major change for me has been the way I’m sharing content. I’ve put a huge effort into Facebook (on Digital Photography School) where we’ve gone from auto-posing new posts to 5-6 manual updates every day. The results of this have been amazing for us – while others are seeing reduced results with Facebook we’ve seen significant improvements in our organic reach, engagement and traffic driven from Facebook.

Darren Rowse
ProBlogger

I’ve become even more convinced of the power of brevity.

Dan Pink
To Sell Is Human

I just made a change… this week! After 5+ years of writing two posts a week, I’m now publishing content every day. It wasn’t so much that I thought “more is better” — the old way was good for a while, too. But then it became stale and I felt like I wasn’t challenging myself. Just as important, I felt like I wasn’t serving my readers well. The new blog has a lot of more frequent, shorter content, as well as a new series of Reader Stories and Profiles to highlight some of the great people in the community. So far, I’m very happy with the change and I think the readers are too.

Chris Guillebeau
The Art of Non-Conformity

I tend to go to longer content in social media and shorter content in blogs and direct response. I’m not sure why other than I use stories in social media and those tend to go longer. I don’t know that I’m using content for just education about ‘how to’ — but education about who I am and how I serve, how I live and how I see the world.

Carrie Wilkerson
Barefoot Executive

I stopped sending newsletters monthly that were long and had multiple subjects to it. I found that they were not getting read. Now I send brief single subject emails weekly with very enticing titles to get open, click thrus and shares. This has resulted in much better open rates and easier content generation.

Barry Moltz
barrymoltz.com

More Long Form Content We are gravitating away from shorter more informal “blog” posts and are investing much more in creating lengthier, more authoritative articles. There’s a glut of blog content of the short style, and while it may be shared on social media widely, it also tends to have a short shelf life. Longer, more in-depth pieces on evergreen topics tend to deliver a better ROI on the investment (time or money) in an article. In other words, if you’re going to write an article, you might as well make the extra effort to make it rich in detail and fantastic! It’s not unusual for Small Business Trends to publish pieces I’ve personally written or we’ve commissioned from others, at 1,500 – 2,000 words each, several times per week. (We publish around 50 articles per week, since we are an online magazine.) We don’t have a steady diet of long pieces, but we do a greater percentage of them today than two years ago. Here is why we do more long-form content. We find that people AND search engines tend to favor well-written, in-depth pieces. For instance, Google recognizes Schema markup for in-depth articles. But even if you don’t know what Schema markup is or don’t want to bother with it, you may just find that longer content helps your site’s engagement because (a) people tend to spend more time on your site reading longer pieces stuffed with useful information; and (b) they are more likely to explore the rest of your site, not just consume a short snack and immediately go away. Also, a page with a lot of quality content on a specific topic tends to naturally rank well in search because of the sheer quantity of information for the search engine spiders. That means more people may find your article — and your site — via search. And perhaps hire you or buy from you. However, everybody has their own style, and every site is different. There’s no one-size-fits-all. I recommend that people experiment. See if long-form content works for you.

Anita Campbell
CEO and Publisher
Small Business Trends

My approach is much different now than in years past. When I first started out with my blog in 2006, I posted ten to twelve times per week, then a few years later, I brought on contributors in order to scale the blog, while I focused on writing for business media outlets. Now, I rarely publish on social networks and only write articles six times each year when I have new research I want to push out to the marketplace. Part of this is because I believe the marketplace is changing and part of this is because I burned out from posting so much. I have so much going on now that I would rather focus my content production when I need to get something out there rather than random articles.

Dan Schawbel
Author of Promote Yourself

The biggest change for me has been that there are more outlets to share my content on. Specifically I think of Instagram. In the past the only way to share what I was seeing out in the world was in a blog post. Flickr has always been around as someplace to upload photos, but that is where it ended. There was no real community. But, using Instagram I can take a photo, tag the location and then write as little or much as I want and share it out to all other channels. I love having that flexibility and functionality right in my pocket anywhere in the world. I no longer have to take out my laptop to create and share.

C.C. Chapman

“Social media has changed the way I approach the content I create. Twitter, Facebook, et al have reduced our attention spans and at the same time increased the amount of “noise” we have to wade through, in order to get to the “signal.” As a result, I am creating more visuals and making any written content more succinct. I’m using images to gain attention, graphics to convey my message, and even my new book, Repped: 30 Days to a Better Online Reputation, is just 194 pages, spread out over 30+ concise chapters. In short, less truly is more.”

Andy Beal
CEO of Trackur

I’ve changed it all. I write once a week or so for chrisbrogan.com, instead of once or twice a day. Instead, I write my newsletter once a week, and write for private communities multiple times a day. I’m sharing a peek from outside, but only the faithful gets the payload.

Chris Brogan
Publisher of Owner Magazine

So, if you’ve made it to this point why not share thoughts on how your content marketing is evolving!

15 How I Write and How I Decide What To Write

People seem fascinated with routines – how other people get things done and the like. While you do need to develop your own way of getting it all done, it can be inspiring and reassuring to hear how others are doing it. (Yesterday I wrote – 7 Things I Did Not Know About Writing Before I Started)

How I decide what to write about

photo credit: Sven Van Echelpoel via photopin cc

photo credit: Sven Van Echelpoel via photopin cc

I have a pretty solid editorial calendar that runs out about a year in terms of monthly focus themes so my blog posts, podcasts and guest content is lined up to match my annual plan. For example, this month’s theme is writing. I also write a lot of content for needs beyond my blog – presentations, eBooks and webinars often show up in outline form on my blog. (Here’s a description of this Total Content System approach)

How I write

I’m an outliner. I come up with the primary point I want to make from the blog post and then I outline the supporting points, elements and resources that I need to add to fill it out. I find that this approach allows me to stay focused and write very quickly. I write an opening statement, add 3-5 subheads, fill in each and wrap it up with a restatement of the original point.

Then I add lots of links, tips, tools and additional reading to make it as useful as possible. The last thing I add is the headline. I use SEO plugin to create URL, title, and description but the headline is there to grab attention in places like Twitter and RSS readers.

I asked Seth Godin, Mitch Joel, Ann Handley, Mark Schaefer, CC Chapman, Ian Cleary and Brian Solis two questions related to today’s post and I’ve included their thoughts here to give you even more insight into the practices of others who write.

My questions:
1) Describe your blog editorial process: how you decide what to write about
2) Describe your blog writing process: how you attack the actual process of writing a post
Their answers:

Seth Godin

sethIt doesn’t matter.

If you had Elvis’ microphone, you wouldn’t sing like Elvis, nor would you want to.

Readers don’t care about shovels, they care about holes!

Mitch Joel

mitchEditorial process: At the beginning of every day, I scan my email inbox. I subscribe to a significant amount of e-newsletters and I use this as my pure inspiration. If there’s something that really pops up, I tend to save it in an email inbox folder titled “blog.” Over the course of the day, if I find anything else that inspires, I also file it there by sending myself an email. When I finally feel like I am ready to write, there is usually one theme that bubbles up to the top and that’s the one that I roll with. My typical blogging time is at the end of the day, but inspiration can hit at any time… from anywhere.

Writing process: This pretty straightforward. I start with the title and just blog. Once the first draft is done, I do a quick spellcheck and glance for grammar. I review the post a couple of times and put in the tags last.

Brian Solis

solisAbout the only plan I bring to the table is the desire to blog and to do so with rhythm and passion. While I don’t maintain an editorial calendar, I do keep an open mind to trends and also the ongoing challenges and questions I see people asking or attempting to address. I keep a list of ideas as they come up via Apple’s Reminder app. For the most part, I write on the weekends. It’s quieter and I can slow down and focus enough to think through what I’m writing about, who it’s for and what the takeaway will be. I’ll then publish the posts later in the week. I don’t however, write against an outline. I go with a feeling and let it evolve naturally. I think about the outcome as I go to make sure that there’s value at the end. But, often I find that what I set out to write and what I end up publishing are often two different pieces altogether.

Ann Handley

annhEditorial: At MarketingProfs, our editorial process on the text/newsletter side is generally mapped out about a month in advance (with some flexibility for timely items that deserve coverage).

We aren’t a news site with real-time coverage — instead, we publish how-to information with an eye toward filtering the noise to get to the signal. We educate marketers about what they need to know, when they need to know it.

How to we know that? We listen, read tons of blogs/sites, and rely on the PR folks we have relationships with, as well. We also practice what I call “social prospecting,” looking for good writers/speakers/story or session ideas via social networks.

The one exception to my statement about us “not being a news site” relates to our research summaries (here’s an example: http://www.marketingprofs.com/charts/2013/10730/internet-ad-revenue-breaks-record-mobile-achieves-111-yoy-growth) and opinions (www.mpdailyfix.com), which are timely and newsworthy, but not necessarily breaking.

On my own site (AnnHandley.com), I feel no pressure to produce. So I only create content there when I can’t stand not to, and I don’t have anything that remotely resembles an editorial calendar. For example, after seeing Sheryl Sandberg speak in Boston recently, I felt compelled to write this (link), because I couldn’t not write about it. So the things I create there are far more emotionally charged for me. But the trade-off is that I post waaay less frequently.

Writing: I almost always start with a headline that expresses my distinct point of view, which becomes a sort of Blog Mission Statement for the whole post.

That headline doesn’t always end up being the one I use on publication, but it always gives me a framework and perspective to work from. This is critical for me because, as someone who started my career as a newspaper reporter, I sometimes find it a challenge to put “me” into the story, and to not feel like I have to cover an issue comprehensively, like a news reporter might. That was a huge shift for me, when I started blogging.

I know lots of people use word outlines and graphical organizers and mind maps and the like. But I’ve always been terrible at that. (Side note: I was always also terrible at diagramming sentences. Something about it feels like foisting math sensibilities onto the mystery and poetry of the written word. Also, I’m allergic to math.)

I’ll add one more thing about writing a post or article or pretty much anything: Sometimes writing comes easily, and the words flow onto the page as easily as soft butter onto warm toast. But that’s rare. More often than not, the words are like cold butter on sandwich bread: When you try to work it, the whole thing ends up kind of a mess.

It’s disheartening. Sometimes you cry. But if you keep at it, it somehow works out.

Writing is relatively easy. Good writing is very, very, very hard.

CC Chapman

ccEditorial: I wish I was more of a planner who would lay out a full editorial calendar, but that isn’t how I work (although I do it for clients all the time.)

For me when I get inspired, I write. Sometimes if I just have an idea and don’t have enough time to do all the full post so I’ll start a new post in wordpress and leave it as a draft. I’ve got tons of these and on days when I’m stuck for something to write I’ll go through the drafts and pick one.

I am constantly consuming content from every source imaginable and many times that will inspire what I decide to write about, but sometimes it comes from going for a walk, taking a shower or any other random time.

Writing: For me, I always write the post first. I’ll sit down and brain dump the idea directly into word press. Sometimes the headline comes first, but even if I have an idea for it, usually by the time I’m done writing it will evolve and change.

I proof read it at least twice with the final time being in a preview window so I’m reading it as it will look live on the site. This helps me notice strange formatting and since it is bigger text then the editor, I tend to notice mistakes a bit quicker.

Mark Schaefer

schaeferEditorial: I have absolutely no editorial calendar, which I find rather liberating. I write about whatever interests me and try to write ahead so I have at least 10 or so posts ready if I need them. To me, scheduling the blog is kind of what it must be like to conduct a symphony. You want it to flow in a harmonious way, pulling here and there to get just the right mix. I want there to be an ideal blend of tips, insights, opinion, and fun. Most of all it is has to be interesting and one way to accomplish this is to be flexible enough to write about what is happening now, not what was scheduled a month ago. It works for me, anyway!

Ian Cleary

ianEditorial: I only write about social media tools and technology and I get ideas from a variety of sources including tweets, subscribers that ask me questions, reading other blog posts and monitoring keywords related to social media tools and technology. I also often get an idea when I’m in the car or working out in the gym so I jot it down or create a task.

All content ideas goes into an editorial calendar called Divvyhq. There’s a place to park ideas and a place for scheduled content. Since using an editorial calendar I’ve got more consistent with my blogging and I’m not stuck for new content ideas because I’m always adding new ideas.

Writing: I go to Divvyhq and pick a post off my list or come up with a new topic basic on a combination of a couple of items on the list.

I then do some initial keyword research using Google keyword tool and SEOMoz to see if there are useful keywords I can target for the blog post.

I write an initial headline which I’ll always tweak a few times before publishing. I try to grab attention with my opening line and then outline what the angle of the story is. If I have some research or a quote to use I’ll add it in straight after this. I’ll then write the body of the post and finish off with what I want the reader to remember with a call to action to put in a comment!

When the first part of the post is written I’ll go to photopin and find some images to add to the post and then I’ll optimize the content for search engines.

When I post the content I schedule it as I have set days for publishing. When it is published it automatically goes out twitter using dlvr.it. but then I’ll manually post the content on a variety of platforms such as LinkedIn, Google+, Facebook, Inbound.org and Scoop.it. I also reach out to relevant audiences that might be interested in the post to encourage them to come back and read it. When I get comments I try to respond immediately to them.

So, since you made it this far I wonder if you might add your process?

6 The Content Inspiration and Creation Rules

Marketing podcast with Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

Ann HandleyCC ChapmanThe need to produce lots of educational content is a given these days – I’ve written about both how to find inspiration and how to create a systematic approach to content generation in recent posts.

I think, perhaps, most people get this idea so the focus is turning squarely on practical ways to get this done. For this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast I visit with Marketing Profs Chief Content Officer, Ann Handley and Internet Marketing Expert and Founder of Digital Dads, C.C. Chapman about their new book Content Rules.

The title of the book has an obvious double meaning – as in these are the rules and dude, content ruuuules (think Wayne and Garth) – and it’s one of the first books that really does lay out the path for how, when and why to produce content that will help you achieve your marketing objectives in this information crazed world we find ourselves living.

And since this is a book and podcast about content I thought I would share a list of other content about the book:

You can listen to the show by subscribing the feed in iTunes or a variety of other free services such as Google Listen (Use this RSS feed) or you can buy the Duct Tape Marketing iPhone app. (iTunes link – Cost is $2.99) or Android app and listen to the show as well as about ten past shows on your phone.