In 1996, Microsoft founder and then CEO Bill Gates gave a famous speech entitled Content is King, in which he predicted that content would become the next online commodity, in the same way as broadcasting had in the 90s.
Nowadays, in the ever evolving, increasingly mobile world of social media where 62% of American adults use platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat as their main source of news, it appears that Bill Gates was on point. Social media has become the best way for brands and companies to communicate and engage with their communities, keep clients interested and catch the eye of potential new customers.
But simply having a social media profile is not enough. To keep people coming back for more, companies need to provide a steady stream of interesting and valuable information. Constantly posting promotions, photos, and funny memes will get boring after about 5 seconds, and become an annoyance to consumers, who will most likely ‘mute’ you from their newsfeeds.
So assuming that your company doesn’t have the resources to hire a full editorial team, here are five ways that you can jump start a content machine without needing to make any additional hires:
Understand what type of content your audience is interested in
The first step should be to work out content that you can share, which your audience will really A) find interesting B) find useful in their day to day lives C) share.
A common misconception, which has marred the good name of content marketing for decades, is that creating content should only be used as a form of promotion. If you sell cheese, and have a blog and social media page about your company which sells cheese, then you can assume that your readers already like cheese, and may well have already tasted your delicious cheese.
You don’t need to bombard them with a bunch of crappy articles about how your cheese is the best, why cheese is delicious, and why cows don’t mind people eating cheese, as long as it’s your brand.
Instead, come at the problem from a different angle. Look at your consumer, and try to write content which they might find useful, and might be new to them. For example, why not suggest 5 new relatively new cheeses which they could try (other than your own), take a look at how the dairy industry is using new technology, or interview farmers to give them an insight into how the cheese reaches their table.
Enough about cheese.
The fact that if the consumer is engaging with your content, and spending time on your social media page, then this is is enough in itself. If you provide consumers with enough interesting information, then the rest will come organically. They will be more likely to click off the blog post or social media page to your main website, and most importantly, next time they have a hankering for some dairy goodness in the supermarket, your brand will pop to mind.
Take a look at your competitors
If you are new to the game of content creation, it might not be very easy to come up with original ideas to engage your community. The first step would be to speak directly to your clients, and find out what they are interested in. This could be during onboarding calls, at the end of customer service interaction, or simply via polls and questionnaires on your social media channels.
The next step could be to use analytics tools like Google analytics to assess which content your audience is most interested in which you have published already.
If you are still stuck, then the best next step is to look at what your competitors are publishing, and the different themes of content they share. While it might pain you to look at any bigger companies in your industry — your arch enemies — the chances are they have a lot more resources to throw at social media and content creation.
Don’t try and copy them, but instead look at the type of content they have created, and the amount of likes and shares they have received, and then add the general themes of the content to your ideas list. The chances are that your team will have a different perspective on the topics, and can make a point of improving the original source.
And if nothing else, then at least you can giggle with your team at their silly photos, and poorly planned content machine.
Bring your team together
As we mentioned before, unless you have bulging bank balances, the chances are that you won’t be able to hire a full editorial staff. But rather than placing the whole weight on the shoulders of your new intern, or social media person, why not bring together the collective wisdom of your whole team.
Encourage different groups who might not usually write or create content to come together and share some different ideas. Explain to them the value of creating a steady flow of content, and the benefits that this could bring to the company as a whole. While the prospect of writing a blog post every month might not seem too appealing to a developer, the prospect of more customers and thus a nicer office and higher salary just might.
Each of your different team members is likely to have a different area of expertise. Encourage your different teams to sit down and brainstorm together, to come up with themes they are interested in, and take aways from their day to day jobs which could add value to your audience.
We decided to launch a bi-monthly “Media-thon” in which our whole team got together and different groups who normally don’t work together got the chance to interact. We put different members in small groups, run by someone with content creation experience, and then gave them four hours to create as much content as they could together.
An event like this will offer an interesting alternative to an awkward once a year lunch or dinner where the most exciting thing that will happen will be someone from marketing having too much to drink, or the boss pouring soup all over his nice white shirt. People will be more likely to actually chat with people they don’t know, and continue doing so once the event is over.
We should note that we lured them in with the prospect of free food, beer and some small prizes too. In the end, our whole team understood the value of the initiative, had the chance to bond and work with people who they pass by in the office, and we created swathes of interesting content and great ideas in the process too.
Make it worth people’s while
Bringing the team together in a fun, competitive environment was a great way to jump start content creation, and also for people to have fun at the same time, but there are other ways to motivate team members to get involved too.
The first thing is that the option to take part should be 100% optional. There is no better way to peeve employees than by forcing them to stay behind and work after hours, when they have already put in a full days work, and are dreaming of their sofa. Even if they do create any content, the likelihood is it will be short, boring, and uninspired, as they frantically try and type their way to freedom. Hatred does not inspire creativity, at least not the type you want to share with your customers.
Why not offer prizes for people who create the most content or get the most likes or shares, and make it a decent prize, not just a box of chocolates? Having the chance to win a holiday, or a few hundred dollars at the end of a set period (3-6 months) might be enough to bring people on board.
Another option would be to allow team members to dedicate a short time per week to creating content, aside from their regular job. While you don’t want all your developers to forget about your dashboard in lieu of writing listicles, if you limit the time to less than three hours per week, this might appeal to people, especially on slower days like Fridays.
Finally, you should stress to team members that any content they will create will be published in their own name. Writing blogs, social media posts and guest articles is a great way for people to raise their social profiles online, which gives them verification as an expert in their specific area of interest. Make sure to add a short writer bio with a photo to all articles, the proud writers will have something to display on their social media, and share on their LinkedIn too.
For companies who want to keep their social media profiles popping, and keep existing clients and potential customers coming back for more, it is essential to set up a steady flow of interesting content. Paying for this to be done by a third party content company will be expensive, and will mean that the content you are sharing is not in your voice, and sharing the real views and opinions of your own company.
So before you reach out for help elsewhere, why not find out what your consumers are interested in, and see what your own team has to offer?