The ever-increasing ease with which prospects can access content has been a boon for thought leaders who aim to harness it for their own ends. According to a recent Hubspot report, 90 percent of marketing firms use some form of content marketing. Whether you create the bulk of the material yourself, use an in-house team or hire an outside firm with content marketing experience, use these five tips as a guide to improve and streamline your content creation operation.
1. Read – and Question – Relevant News and Ideas
In a content-drenched world, keeping your finger on the pulse of your industry is harder than you might think. It’s a good start to trawl mainstream news sites and trade publications on a daily basis, but you can’t spend all day researching. Start by setting up an RSS feed that tracks your favorite publications, blogs, and content aggregators and using social media tools like relevant hashtags – those pound signs that you see before keywords in tweets and Facebook posts – to zero in on compelling content.
Next, cross-check what your filters absorb for true relevance by monitoring the blogs, forums and other online spaces that attract your company’s target buyers. Create an actionable, ever-evolving content creation plan that uses up-to-date, “newsy” information in a sustainable format that appeals to your industry peers as well as potential customers.
2. Leverage Social and Professional Networks
You can’t position yourself as a thought leader if you don’t know what other thought leaders in your industry are saying. Build on the raw intelligence-gathering described in step one by leaning on mentors, successful peers, former colleagues and even competitors for high-level information and insight.
These days, “old-fashioned” networking coexists alongside newer forms of professional development. For the latter, go beyond hashtags and leverage relevant relationships with LinkedIn contacts. Pay special attention to successful LinkedIn Influencers who may be able to provide uncommon, highly relevant insights. If such resources exist within your industry, join online trade organizations or professional networks that promote the free exchange of ideas within your specialty. For the former, ask candid questions at trade shows, sales meetings, office parties and informal gatherings. If you’re part of a hierarchy, draw what you can from your superiors.
3. Don’t Be a One-Man Band
When the time comes to commit your ideas to the (web)page, use your resources wisely. Many first-time content creators mistakenly believe that they risk diluting their brand or sabotaging their style if they don’t personally write and edit every piece of sanctioned content. You can write highly personal or high-priority content on your own, but don’t be afraid to work with a trusted partner who can capture and refine your voice as well.
Likewise, don’t be afraid to manage your resources by curating relevant content from reputable sources. Thought leadership isn’t about producing totally original content at all times: It’s also about recognizing and rewarding other thought leaders in your industry through your website and social media platforms. Curation works both ways: When you produce original content that’s worth sharing, you can count on other thought leaders to return the favor. For more, read our recent blog post on the growing importance of content curation [LINK].
4. Write Often and Enthusiastically
Not every piece of written content deserves to be published or shared. To prime your writing muscle and ensure that your “idea basket” remains well-stocked, get in the habit of writing on relevant topics for 15 minutes per day. Even if you can only produce a couple of unorganized paragraphs on a new industrial process or marketing idea, save your writing for posterity and refer to it often. With a little polishing, some of your “after hours” entries could turn into publication-quality e-books, white papers or blog posts.
5. Follow the Four-Times-Per-Year Rule
The well-established “golden rule” of content marketing advises content creators to use each “main” piece of content – a white paper, high-level e-book, strategic plan and so forth – in at least four different ways. A parallel rule states that successful content creators must create at least four “main” pieces of content per year. The reason for this is simple: Marketers who regularly create high-level content naturally remain authoritative and top-of-mind with their prospects.
To be clear, you should be creating and curating lower-level content on a weekly or even daily basis. Frequent, well-promoted launches of white papers and e-books create the sorts of high-quality leads and visibility improvements that your business needs to remain competitive.
You don’t have to follow all of these rules all of the time, but we’ve made note of them for some very good reasons. Successful content creation demands painstaking research, consistent enthusiasm and a fair bit of creativity. Just pay attention to what the thought leaders in your own industry are doing. We’ll be ready to talk when you are.