How a content strategy will help your blogging career

Suppose you want to turn blogging – or let’s call it content creation – into a career. The first thing it means is that you need a business attitude at least where it comes to how much content you’ll create about what topic(s). What you really need is some kind of plan for your content.

A Content Strategy is important for your blogging career. So is Meditation. Relax...

What are the characteristics of a (good) content strategy anyway? I ran into a nice, possibly helpful definition on Business2Community, to which I’ve decided to add my own perspective in this post.

A content strategy for your blogging career

Having a content strategy means you

  • deliberately create content
  • which you have optimized for search. This means that you base your content on keyword phrases that drive ‘organic search traffic’ (and conversions) – this is what the article I mentioned focuses on,
  • that demonstrates an understanding of your potential customer’s knowledge acquisition at various stages in their buying cycle. Don’t worry, I’ll explain later 😉

This means you don’t write whatever you like – a different approach from what you’d do on a personal blog. Instead, you start by finding out what keyword phrases your potential customers are probably using to find the information they need.

What kind of content is your potential customer looking for?

Put yourself into your customers’ shoes for a moment. What information you need depends on several aspects:

  1. Whether you’re already familiar with a type of product or service. Do you need to know what different smartphones do, or do you own one and do you want to compare the latest smartphones with yours?
  2. Whether you’ve already decided which product or service you want, or from which company you’ll buy.
    1. You may want to compare prices to get the best deal regardless of the brand so long as the product meets your demands.
    2. Or you know what product you want. All you need to know is which site or company offers you the best deal.
    3. Or you’re fed up with the lousy service you’ve had from company X and you need to make sure you find a company that does know that “customer service” contains the word “service” for a reason.

Every different situation means you’ll be using different keywords while looking for information.

A content strategy that is optimized for search means you take your potential customers’ search behavior into account even before you start creating content for your blog (or website).

What do you know about your potential customers? Can you ask any of the customers you already have?

Delivering your content to your potential customers

Next: you deliver your “optimized” content to your potential customers in a relevant and compelling way.

What is relevant depends on what your readers and/or your potential customers are looking for, not what you feel is important for you to tell the world.

Compelling is a word I’ve seen too often since I started reading about content marketing, and relevance takes care of a lot. True, it doesn’t help if you analyze quite interesting stuff down to the level of atoms for potential customers who either want you to help them or to entertain them. On the other hand, maybe you’re doing exactly the right thing to attract the people you need for your business. Do you know?

What kinds of content can you deliver on your blog?

A couple of categories of content that could work in the context of your blog are:

  1. Case studies that show how you dealt with a particular kind of issue. This lets people know what to expect from you.
  2. The ‘how to’ posts are familiar and they can be quite popular. However a post doesn’t become popular just because the title starts with “How to…”. Again, relevance to your potential customers matters most.
  3. White papers that give in-depth information to those readers you’ve selected as possibly interested in more than the average blog post.
  4. News about events you attend or organize, so people know where/when to find you.

Final considerations for a blogging career

If you’re serious about a blogging career you also need to consider which format suits your potential customers, and where they hang out for preference.

  • Are they the reading kind or do they prefer video?
  • Do they write lengthy comments on your blog or do they drop a short line on Twitter?

If, like me, you’re writing for the fun of writing, or to help your thinking process along, these considerations are probably not for you. But if you’ve decided to try to make money blogging, you’ll need to cater for your potential customers’ preference rather than stay in your own cosy comfort zone wondering where they went.

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How content management will help your content strategy

How is content management related to content strategy? And how can content management help your content strategy? The answer to the first question differs depending on your professional background.

Before going into the connection between content management and content strategy, here is how I see the two in their respective roles.

What is content management?

Content Management - Content Strategy - Content Planning

A content inventory allows you to find content gaps and planning to fill them

Content management inside an organization is pretty much an administrative role.

Although content management systems (CMS) help you structure the content your organization has, the role of content manager hasn’t gone away – people who have trouble structuring information generally find the cure, or system, worse than the disease.

Not getting your categories, keywords, tags sorted means you and your coworkers will have a hard time finding stuff back. It’s a major reason why many people keep their own little archive – to make sure the information that matters most to them, or even to their coworkers, won’t get lost.

What is content strategy?

Content strategy is a word from the realm of content marketing – just like search engine optimization (SEO). Content marketing is about how and when to bring your message to your audience.

Some basic content marketing questions are:

  • What audiences do you want to attract?
  • What does their customer journey look like?
  • What kind of information do they need at various moments?

Your content strategy is also about more fundamental issues, like defining what you will share at all and why (not). This means structuring what you have and planning what you don’t yet have.

The article “How to build online engagement with health care communities” makes clear that you should realize who you, the organization (or person) providing content to your audiences, are.

  • What types of content you can offer to what audience flows from your organization’s identity – the roles you play in the careers and lives of your various audiences.
  • Then there’s the topics you want to publish about – the services or products your organization offers. Which topics can you share with which audience?

How will content management help your content strategy?

Any decent kind of content management (using tags and the like) will help you take inventory of the content you’re already publishing. The first time you see your content inventory and your content strategy laid out side by side – what you have versus what you should have – you’ll probably find quite a few gaps in your published content. These gaps are the should haves you don’t have yet.

You may also find that your content management is fine in traditional (administrative) terms. Thinking ahead in order for your content to be found later on is part of content management. You may still need to look at your content (tags and all) and wonder: where is my customer? If you can’t find them, make sure you put them in.

Next step: use your new knowledge to fill in the content gaps

You now have a good view of your content landscape. Simply put, what you do next is: fill in the content gaps, add tags that make sense to you and to your audiences, and plan ahead to keep the flow of content going.

Interviews as a time-saving part of your business content strategy

You may have noticed that bloggers like Mark Schaefer (@MarkWSchaefer) and Steve Farnsworth (@Steveology) interview subject matter experts on a regular basis. Interviewing experts has got some advantages to asking them to produce content for your blog:

  • You don’t ask much of their time – catch them at a congress if you want a video. Or ask them a specific question through any medium: e-mail, Twitter, or their own comments section.
  • Visiting your SMEs may give you some opportunities to get video footage. If you don’t have much time, pick up the phone and get a few short questions answered.
  • If there’s any writing to be done, you’re the one doing it. That’s an advantage if your SME is not used to writing for the audience you’re interested in.

Interviews can be a valuable part of your content strategy – if you decide to make the most of them.

Bits For Your Business Content Strategy

Bits of content for your business content strategy

SME interviews as part of your business content strategy

Remember those busy subject matter experts from my post about single versus multiple content creators? What if they’re your colleagues?

You could simply make a few phone calls or pick up your mini-cam and head over to wherever your SME is hanging out and interview them for the business blog or website. When you’re done, you tell them when you intend to publish.

Then publish and let your SME know, so that they can reply to any comments – if they want to. Or you can opt to have your SME post the video themselves in an online community. If you send them the video (or URL) via e-mail:

  1. Make sure your SME knows the procedure (see 2-5).
  2. Add instructions, starting with the publishing date. Inform your SME that if the video isn’t posted by [exact time on specified date] you will go ahead and post it yourself.
  3. Add a copy-paste text for them to use or edit.
  4. Check if it’s posted.
  5. If it’s not posted, post the video yourself and notify your SME. You can even invite them to reply. Add an example like “My personal favorite from this list is actually X.” This isn’t a must-do, but it can help.

How do interviews save you time?

The time-saving won’t work if you spend an entire day on an interview then share the results only once.

You may want to share the original interview soon after it takes place. But every interview can be ‘mined’ for later use. You can structure the content you’ve collected soon after the interview to have bits of content ready which you can integrate into new posts or save for a content emergency.

  • You quote from the interview.
  • Top tips from your SME for achieving a certain goal.
  • Mining the interview to get ideas for related topics.

Getting strategic about your interviews

On the other hand, if you do a series of interviews in which you ask one or more identical questions, you can:

  • collect the answers as you go.
  • share the answers to a specific question in yet another piece of content. Or two. (Or three.)

This means you make collecting data from multiple interviews part of your business content strategy. I’ll admit it sounds like research 😉

This approach will let you (re)share parts of your content much later in a different context following the principles of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”.

Your content strategy – and the subject matter experts

Of late I’ve found myself thinking that blogging is the easy side of the content story. At least content strategy-wise. In this post I’ll explore a few pros and cons of having a single versus having multiple content creators on your platform (blog, community, website).

Content Strategy And Subject Matter Experts

The lone ranger content strategy model

Check out my blog right here or consider your own blog.

  1. You’re on your own, typing away about anything you like. No meetings, calls, discussions via e-mail to get your content calendar filled.
  2. It’s up to you to come up with ideas and to decide if you need a content strategy – or if having a content strategy would suck all the creative juice out of your blog.
  3. If you don’t come up with new content, there will be no new content. Search engines will lower the frequency with which they scan your blog accordingly.
  4. You’ll need to do research to get the facts right.
  5. You need – well – discipline to go through the entire process every time. Having a content strategy helps you by planning what you do and when. But it doesn’t help you with the other aspects of content creation.

This model is great for people who love to create content. It can also turn into a time-consuming habit.

Team content strategy: the subject matter experts (SME) model

O-kay, here we go. You have multiple players in this model. Anyone can contribute. That adds up, content-wise. In theory.

  1. You’ll need to schedule at first, so that all ‘your’ SMEs get used to posting on a regular basis. And remind them it’s their turn.
  2. Without a schedule, if nothing gets posted, it’s nobody’s fault. They all thought someone else might produce or find some fresh content.
  3. SMEs don’t exist for your convenience. They have their usual tasks that need doing first.
  4. It’s easier for SMEs to share a bit of content that’s already out there than to come up with something new.
  5. How does your content strategy fare? You may have great plans, but if content creation within your team is not part of the picture, you’ll depend upon existing content created by others inside or outside your organization.

With many potential, but few actual content creators, “what to share when” quickly turns into this choice:

  • share now, because it’s fresh or
  • share later, when it fits into our content calendar.

A lot of content goes stale after a while, so it’s often shared at once.

How to ensure a constant stream of content?

I’d opt for a combination of both approaches.

  • By all means get your SMEs involved in your content strategy – only the owners of a (personal) blog can risk running a blog by themselves.
  • Make sure you have plan B prepared – in case your experts forget to show up 😉

Note: If you’re interested in content strategy and related topics, stay tuned for my next post.