2016 is here – another year is upon us! And many people just like you are wondering what they’re going to do about their content marketing in the New Year.
For many creators, the task of content creation became stressful a long time ago and, now, many view it as more of a chore than a joy, especially given the importance and stress of it all. It’s one of the key marketing principles to include if you have a website and presence at all online.
Fortunately, there are ways to hack your content planning in order to ensure that you’re doing your best work in 2016 and that all the content you create is content that your readers are excited to interact with.
As a busy group of expert content creators, we know just what you need to know in order to do your best content planning this 2016! Here are our best tips.
First: Defining Good Content Planning
The concept of content planning is pretty simple: content planning allows you to plan your content in advance in order to avoid frantic, last-minute crushes to create something as well as allowing you to ensure that your content is doing what it’s supposed to do: attract readers.
Content planning has many benefits, not the least of which are planning for seasonal content, ensuring proper keyword usage, taking action on reader requests, and promoting content variation.
The 5 Steps of Effective Content Planning
Great content planning is a little bit like planning a road trip: you need to know where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and what you’re going to do once you have.
In order to ace your content planning in 2016 and beyond, you’ll need to follow these 5 steps:
1) Define your Destination
In order to plan content effectively, you’ll need to know what purpose you want your content to fulfill. Maybe 2015 saw you with large traffic numbers but low conversions or maybe you want to make more sales. In any event, you need to define the goal of your content before you begin creating it. A fantastic way to do this is to compile a list of primary and secondary goals.
Once you’ve laid out your goals, you’ll want to set a time frame for achieving them. Building relationships with your audience is going to take time and it’s unfair for you to expect anything to happen overnight. So, for example, maybe you say you’d like to increase your sales through content 20% by June of 2016. This gives you 6 months to test new theories, plan your content, and make changes to your company.
2) Identify Your Target Audience
Once you’ve identified your goals, it’s time to identify the people who will help them become a reality. Enter your target audience. These people are hugely important to your company and it pays to ensure that you’re doing everything you can to nurture and create content for them. Even if you’ve defined your target audience in the past, the beginning of 2016 is a great time to reevaluate it. Target audiences do change over time and it’s important to keep your marketing personas up to date and current.
To begin this process, sit down and consider the following questions: What demographics (age, location, income, gender, education, occupation, marital status) comprise your target audience? What do they value (interests, morals, attitudes, values, lifestyles, hobbies)? What are they interested in? What content medium (text, videos, podcasts) are they most likely to interact with? To get a fuller feel for your target persona, take a look at your current site visitors to determine what the typical reader is and what they want.
For more information about creating a buyer’s persona that helps you get a handle on who your target audience is and what they want, consider this buyer persona card from Manobyte:
3) Define your distribution channels
Once you know what your goals are and who you’re speaking to, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to get your message out. Content planning extends far beyond blog posts and entails social media posts, video content, and a variety of other web-based platforms.
In order to determine which of these many channels will most benefit you, you’ll have to consider where your target audience likes to hang out. For example, if your audience loves Twitter and Facebook but isn’t so into Instagram, you’d be wise to begin your content distribution efforts on those platforms. If you’re new to content creation, a great benchmark to start with is Twitter, Facebook, blog posts, and Instagram. These four platforms combine to offer short- and long-form content, visual content, and interactive content, which is a fantastic foundation for new marketers to start from.
So, in conclusion, you’ll want to spend some time considering where your audience is, what content types they expect to see, which channels your audience is currently interacting with and where, if any, the content gaps are. Considering these things will help you put together an effective content strategy that truly caters to your unique readers.
4) Establish your team
According to Hootsuite, any content marketing strategy that’s up to snuff will follow the Rule of Thirds. The Rule of Thirds suggests that of all the content you post, 1/3 should be promotional, 1/3 should share ideas from industry thought leaders, and 1/3 should seek to build personal relationships with readers.
This is one of the reasons content planning is so important: creating good content takes time and no business can expect to adhere to the rule of thirds and create quality material without extensive planning ahead of time. For this reason, you’ll need to establish a team that’s dedicated to your content creation needs. Ideally, you’ll have a writer, designer, editor, and publisher to create content and help distribute it. In some cases, however, there aren’t enough people on-staff to handle these roles or a company simply doesn’t have the time to create content in-house. In these cases, outsourcing your content may be the wisest idea.
5) Create an Editorial Calendar
Once you’ve planned the what, where, and who of your content creation, it’s time to make it official. Developing an editorial calendar can help ensure that you stay on schedule and publish content at peak traffic times throughout the days and weeks. This can help produce higher traffic numbers and more engagement from your readers.
Two Huge Fundamentals of What Makes for Great Content
Now that you know how to plan your content, it’s time to consider how to make it great. 2016 is the perfect time to master content marketing and focusing on these helpful tips can make sure you do it in style.
1. Get Great at Storytelling
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, it’s likely that you’ve heard something about the importance of storytelling in content marketing. Storytelling is virtually the only way to run a successful content campaign anymore, and it’s everywhere you look in the world of content. From our favorite blockbuster movies to the television ads that run during the Superbowl, storytelling is the #1 way to master content.
Plus, since we currently live in a world that is literally saturated by content, storytelling is one of the only effective ways to ensure that your content rises to the top and is actually seen by your viewers. Right now, 27 million pieces of content are shared across the web on a daily basis and U.S. media consumption recently rose to 15.5 hours each day. For this reason, 70% of B2B marketers are creating more content today than they did just a year ago and 56% of business bloggers are planning to hire additional staff within the next 12 months.
Think about these numbers in relation to your own life for a moment: of all of the digital, television, radio, and web ads you’re exposed to on a daily basis, how many do you remember? Chances are you can count them on one hand. What’s more, chances are these ads are ones that exhibit great displays of storytelling and have the power to make you relate to them, sympathize with them, and feel connected to them.
Because of this, it’s important to master storytelling in your own content creation. There are many resources on using storytelling in your content marketing and many ways to do it effectively. One of the most important things to remember, though, is that effective storytelling can only come about when you know who you’re talking to, so the aforementioned target personal research needs to come first.
2. Consider the Millennials
The Millennials are coming! And they’re bringing with them specific web preferences and a whole lot of tech know-how. In addition to being very specific about what they like and what they don’t, millennials are a huge group (they’re currently the largest generation in the U.S. and individuals spend an average of 25 hours searching the web for authentic content on a weekly basis) which means that they wield some considerable market power. For this reason, content marketing needs to bend to millennials to avoid sinking altogether.
To keep millennials in mind as you plan your content for 2016, you’ll need to do the following things:
- Listen. Nowadays, millennials want a real role in the creation of a company’s content. They’re happy to tell you what they’d like to see more of but if they don’t see results in a timely fashion, you can bet they’re going to hop right off of your page in favor of one that gives them what they want. That said, pay attention to your social channels and seek to incorporate the questions, desires, and interests of your millennial audience into your content planning efforts.
- Personalize. Millennials will gladly divorce themselves from your site if it features content that isn’t authentic or is written only to make sales. That said, you’ll need to create content that feels personal for them. The use of personal pronouns can help with this, as can the use of your personal and brand stories.
- Focus on your personal brand. Millennials could do without big corporations and are much quicker to bond with other people. For this reason, more and more companies have been working to amplify their personal brand. Consider Progressive’s character “Flo” or the Geico Gecko for a moment. Both of these personas are designed to give customers someone to bond with. For a real-person example, consider Tim Ferriss, who uses his personal voice, photos, and experiences to sell products and services.
- Focus on visuals. Millennials love visual content. When you’re in the midst of content planning, you can’t afford to forget visuals. Millennials are quick to abandon sites with poor design and are much more likely to engage with sites that offer quick video updates, vertical displays, and beautiful images.
- Make your presence multi-channel. Remember when you were determining which social channels your audience would love? With millennials, it’s likely that they’ll favor a few of them, so it’s important to meet your audience where they are. This ensures that the huge millennial audience can find your site wherever they love to interact and that all of your content is as shareable as possible.
When You Need Content Planning Assistance
There you have it – you now know how to plan your content like a pro in 2016 and beyond. But let’s face it, everything we just talked about takes work. And don’t forget, if you’ve found that you don’t have the time, know-how, or energy to tackle content planning on your own, it’s okay to hire pros to help you out.
Our content planning services are unique and not often seen in the world of content creation. Whether you need content for your blog or social media accounts, our team of SEO and content specialists will use tools like SEMRush and BuzzSumo to create a personalized content plan that’s sure to get you readers. Learn more about our content planning services here.