What I’m about to share with you will shock my loyal readers and those who know me in real life because, well, I’m just clearly so friggen cool. But I was in fact a newspaper geek in high school.

Just for kicks, this is me when I was 17 with my BFFL Amanda, who ran the school newspaper with me.

Fast forward to 2010, I grew up, got health insurance and a desk job doing marketing at a startup. It was time to get serious about content marketing. Drawing upon my newspaper roots, I initially approached inbound marketing like a journalist, and honestly, this wasn’t the right idea.

I had an editorial calendar and listed the buyer personas I wanted to target with each post. To me, said personas signfied a section of a newspaper to be targeted each week. Usually, though, the content was ad hoc. Unless I was assigning the blog post to a guest poster, intern or freelancer, I was flying by the seat of my pants and just doing whatever it took to “crank out content,” do my best to hit a few keywords, toss on a catchy headline and hit a self-imposed daily deadline of 8 a.m. (Blog posts get more views in the morning and I wanted to move onto other tasks, after all.)

Creating content as a journalist is more about storytelling and covering breaking news. These somewhat apply to content marketing, but creating content as a marketer is a much broader perspective than simply taking each post day-by-day. Each Tweet, blog post and Facebook status can be thought about in a way that helps you use your time wisely. Each tactic is part of an overall content strategy that should be contemplated and measured.

Think of the Content You Push Out via Social Media

As a community manager, social media manager… (samurai…. whatever you call yourself)… you push out many different messages.

  • Tweets
  • Tweets with links
  • Blog posts
  • Hyperlinks to other content in blog posts
  • eBooks
  • webinars
  • Email newsletters
  • Facebook page posts
  • LinkedIn group posts
  • YouTube videos, Screencasts (Posted to Facebook page, embedded on blog post)
  • Slideshare presentations (embedded on blog post, Tweeted, shared on Facebook)
  • Photos (Twitpics, Flickr album or slideshow on blog post, Facebook photo album)

The key to a content strategy that scales is thinking about how each piece of content can potentially become another piece of content. This doesn’t mean linking your FourSquare to automatically update your Twitter to automatically update your LinkedIn and your Facebook. It means asking the question: “How can this article I’m linking to in this blog post I’m writing be used elsewhere in my social media marketing?”

To take that as an example, here are five content ideas that can be your answer:

  1. Got a sweet chart in that article showing off new industry research? Post just the picture of the chart to your Facebook page (link to the original article) and ask your fans for their thoughts about the research in the caption.
  2. Schedule a Tweet of the article.
  3. Post the link of that article to an industry-relevant LinkedIn group with your thoughts on it to show thought leadership. Join the conversation, yo.
  4. Include that article as part of a links-roundup email newsletter of industry news for your community.
  5. Think about what you liked about the article – it’s content? Research findings? Headline? Consider how you can replicate that style in your own original post.

To Create Content, You Have to Read Content

Reading is an important part of learning what your community or target audience wants to learn about. I use Summify to get a daily summary of the most popular news stories from my Twitter & Facebook community. Lucky for me, I have some low-hanging fruit, as that’s where my brand’s community is located for the most part too. You’d want to subscribe to a Summify for your brand’s community if that’s not a social media/marketing type of community. Cadmus is another tool that will show you the trending stories from Twitter. I still use Google Reader and segment my content into folders to stay sane.

Collect Ideas Gradually & Curate

I don’t sit down one day a week and decide what to blog about or assign to freelancers. I collect ideas throughout the week just by bookmarking articles in a Google Chrome folder. I curate this content by scheduling Tweets, and I do a “links roundup” style piece each Monday. This is a way to create another piece of content out of the Tweets we’re curating that drives traffic to our blog and to our CTA for an eBook download.

The links-roundup thing is all about how you frame the content. Here are a few examples:

For me, framing it as “10 tips to start your week” has been the most successful way (per pageviews and social shares) to execute this kind of blog post. But what works for my community may not work for yours, so measure and iterate until you find something that works.

Create Content From Content

It’s not just Tweets that can be turned into a blog post. Videos and photos from an event can also be used as a blog post. More importantly, think about how your blog posts can become more substantial pieces of content like eBooks, white papers and webinars that you can put behind a lead-gathering form. The blog post you write this morning is a chapter in an eBook you publish next week. (This applies mostly to B2B.)

Or, reverse that idea and consider how those eBooks, white papers and webinars can be broken down into smaller pieces of content to be distributed across your platforms, driving traffic to somewhere where they will fill out the lead-gathering form and download the content in its entirety.

An example from the trenches: I took an eBook about content ideas and broke it down into three smaller blog posts to give a “sneak preview” of the content, then had a call-to-action to get the full eBook. You could do this with a webinar as well. See how Chris Brogan did that here.

Design Your Editorial Calendar Accordingly

I’m still perfecting my editorial calendar and constantly strive to keep it somewhat organized and coherant for my (patient and awesome!) freelancers who keep up with it. I think an ideal editorial calendar should detail things such as:

  • Date (post due, post to be published)
  • Keywords
  • Categories
  • Buyer Persona targeted
  • Campaign
  • UTM codes for Tweets (I keep a separate Google Doc for these)
  • CTA
  • Notes/ideas on how to build content from content (IE, A “campaign” can be a week-long blog post series that becomes an eBook)

Again, this is much different approach to content creation than journalism because it’s a broader perspective. It’s not just saying “what’s the news to write about today?” or “hey we should do a blog post today.” It’s stepping back and asking “Why?” and very carefully thinking about how. This is a longer-term view of how your content fits into your marketing goals of driving leads. Although it seems like it requires more effort, it’s actually a much better use of your time.

6 Comments on How to Make a Content Strategy That Scales

  1. amber rinehard
    August 3, 2011 at 1:17 pm (6 years ago)

    I too was a major newspaper dork in high school so I can completely relate to where you’re coming from! At least the editorial calendar management skill is still useful to me as a community manager…

    Great advice here, as always!

    Reply
  2. Rachel M. Esterline
    August 4, 2011 at 6:28 pm (6 years ago)

    The cool people were the newspaper geeks, right? Because I was definitely the “executive editor” during my senior year and I thought I was pretty awesome. 

    You’ve made some great points here! 

    Reply
  3. Allen Bonde
    August 7, 2011 at 2:18 pm (6 years ago)

    Great + helpful post Janet!  The idea of organizing your ‘sources,’ building a content calendar, and even thinking of your social content as ‘programming’ is so fundamental yet seems to be missing in many social marketing plans – unless folks spent time at a newspaper, magazine or PR shop!

    Also, I think your point about using video to create blog posts is really important (and could be it’s own post).  It’s not only perhaps the most engaging format to tell your story, and how to reach mobile audiences, but we’ve found that it’s super-efficient for capturing the thoughts of execs and thought leaders – who typically don’t have time to write weekly blog posts – which can then be post produced into segments, vignettes, and even sound bites for their blog, Facebook, customer community etc.

    This is actually how I’m doing some of my blogging for TPN – for an example see: http://bit.ly/ny0p1u

    Reply
    • Janet Aronica
      August 7, 2011 at 6:22 pm (6 years ago)

      Love your points. I really wish I had included (and may go back and include or do a separate post on this) the importance of editorial guidelines as well. Even though it’ll take you an hour or two to sit down and write out want you want for style guidelines, the linking, photo and reposting policies…. it is very very helpful to have a cut-and-dry PDF to send over to freelancers and guest posters. It’s like a blogging prenup 🙂

      Agree to your point about video as well. So often we look outside of our companies for “influencers”… but particularly in B2B environments a lot of times our own executives are influencers/experts that the community wants to hear from. They will probably say they don’t have time to blog or maybe “host” the Facebook page for an hour… but getting video of them talking about industry topics is a good/quick way to leverage their notoriety. This is what flip cams were awesome for 😉 

      Reply

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