2019 was yet another successful year for the #ContentChat community—we covered more than 40 pressing topics for marketers, welcomed 10 experts to the hot seat, and a handful of us were even able to meet outside the cyberspace at great events like CMWorld and local content marketing meetups.
Looking back on our chats from the year, we’ve pulled 18 of the best content creation tips and truths of marketing to set you up for success in 2020 and beyond. Check them out below, and comment if we missed any of your favorite marketing tips from this year.
Truth: Content that is not created with your customer needs in mind is not content marketing.
The customer should be at the heart of everything you do as a marketer. Whether it’s a press release about your new product, an infographic on your data report, or a webinar discussing trends in your industry, your content should be geared toward addressing the problems of your customers and helping them do their jobs better.
A1. Truly successful companies are not ego driven, they strive to fix a problem in the marketplace. Think about what your fans want to see, not what you want to project. If your executive doesn’t get that, you’re going to be fighting an uphill battle. #ContentChat https://t.co/ogFGRzwoNW
— GreenRope (@GreenRope) September 30, 2019
At the end of the day your customer is at the core of everything you do.
The livelihood of your business is in their hands so you have to ensure that your content is of value and of relevance to them! #ContentChat
— Bentley University (@bentleyu) September 30, 2019
A1a: This gets to the heart of the difference between creating content and being engaged in content marketing. If it’s not created with your customer needs in mind, it’s not content marketing. #ContentChat https://t.co/eG4v0o1Mt2
— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) September 30, 2019
Tip: For any one piece of content you create, have three uses for it.
One of the best ways to stay budget conscious is to repurpose your work. For any single piece of content, explore the different ways that your customers prefer to be reached and how this content could find new life in a different format. Consider the different channels you could share the content on, or different forms it can take (i.e. a video can be turned into a blog post with an infographic for social).
A1: Always has been, always will be. My mantra for any one piece of content is that if you haven’t used it three times, you’ve wasted it. #contentchat
— John Cloonan (@johncloonan) March 11, 2019
A2b: When you put a lot of time and money into a project, it’s silly to confine it to just one communication channel. It’s a better use of your time—and a better way to reach your customers with their own content preferences—to reuse the content in a few ways. #ContentChat
— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 11, 2019
A2a: Let’s say you interview a customer for a video case study. Not everyone likes or watches videos, so you create a blog post with the highlights. But you need a physical asset to hand out at trade shows, so you create a 1-page case study. #ContentChat https://t.co/ksoBw8rapA
— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) March 11, 2019
A2. Planning in advance for repurposing is simply a much more efficient way to create content—and it helps with strategic consistency, connecting the dots from one piece to the next, etc. #ContentChat https://t.co/qzwVlWR6zx
— Carmen Hill (@carmenhill) March 11, 2019
A2: A great way to extend a blog is to pull the key points into an infographic! Super shareable on social media and drive additional traffic back to the blog. A recent example, blog: https://t.co/wom7cBVhwl
Infographic attached. #contentchat pic.twitter.com/cptrKLdCXm
— Caitlin Kinser (@caitlinmarie89) April 22, 2019
A3: Necessity is the mother of invention, as a one-man show I often had to figure out how to do something if it was going to happen. One way out of a rut is to think of a type of content delivery you’ve never done before and read up on how you can make it happen! #ContentChat
— Derek Pillie (@derekpillie) May 6, 2019
Tip: Keep your content accessible.
Quick consideration for the above tip—if you’re experimenting with new content types, research best practices for that specific format before starting your project. For example, videos should have subtitles to not only keep your content accessible for individuals with hearing impairments, but to also allow the content to be watched and understood anywhere.
A6 Subtitles are a must IMO. A lot of consumption happens when you don’t have the luxury of sound. #contentchat
— Tweets by Eric (@nymelonballer) April 22, 2019
Tip: Cite data and research sources that are no more than five years old.
Data you cite should preferably be from the past year or two, with a maximum of five years depending on the topic and frequency of new research on that subject. That means if you link to an article from last year that cites data from 2002, you should find a new reputable source. It’s especially important to be transparent about data sources and to help your reader find the actual source of your stat, instead of forcing them to dig through linked article upon linked article to verify the validity of your sources.
A2. One of the worst culprits of unethical marketing is not sourcing properly (imo). Links should go to the *original* source, not just another source that is quoting the original source. #contentchat pic.twitter.com/w168oKlF6K
— PathFactory (@pathfactory) January 28, 2019
Tip: Break down departmental silos to boost your efficiency and results.
Marketing, public relations, sales, and customer success teams are serving the same (or at least very similar) audiences for a company, but each team has its own unique insights and resources for success. Encourage collaboration across your departments to gain deeper insights on your customers, learn how to better approach them with the content they need, and ensure alignment during quarterly or annual planning seasons.
A2 Here are three quick and easy ways content marketers can provide value to the sales team:
– Incorporate marketing content into onboarding and continuous training.
– Map select content to sales processes.
– Use content as pass-through materials for customers.#ContentChat
— Pam Didner (@PamDidner) January 14, 2019
can help sales
share value proposition
strengthen brand position
offer support @ each stage
of cust. journey
grow customer relationships
turn customers -> advocates#ContentChat #Marketing
— Bentley University (@bentleyu) January 14, 2019
A4: Ask sales what questions they get asked the most. Great fodder for content topics that will be useful to them and your prospects #ContentChat
— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) January 14, 2019
Tip: Use creative briefs.
We know, many marketers dread the thought of completing creative briefs. But, when it comes to staying aligned with other departments (or your clients), these briefs are the most efficient way to keep your whole team on the same page for any project. By having everyone discuss/review/agree on the brief, your team can easier understand the multiple priorities at play, the roles of each team, and the most efficient path to complete the project.
A2a: A creative brief is your opportunity to get everyone on the same page as to the goals of your content, and what succes looks like. It prompts you to provide details+resources for your content creator. #ContentChat
— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) February 11, 2019
A1: It’s amazing when not one SME has time to help you fill one out, but once it goes out for review, they are all there to say what’s missing. And usually CC the world. #ContentChat pic.twitter.com/gX1t3A4NPn
— Shawn Paul Wood (@ShawnPaulWood) February 11, 2019
A2. The benefits of creative briefs include:
Getting everybody on the same page.
Increasing the chance of getting what you want.
Being more efficient.
Having a defined process.
You can improve a process that is defined. #Contentchat
— Tod Cordill (@todcordill) February 11, 2019
TIP: Ask questions until you are satisfied, particularly on goals. A great @franklincovey tactic is to keep asking the client how you would consider something successful and then have them rank all the reasons they provided so we could focus on a key objective. #contentchat
— Derek Pillie (@derekpillie) February 11, 2019
Tip: Protect your ethical integrity.
As marketers, we have a responsibility to provide accurate and honest information so that our audiences can make informed decisions that impact their livelihood. Some business leaders or your colleagues could be inclined to stretch the truth or blur lines when it’s beneficial for the company. Or, they may use their positions of power to try and influence you to engage in unethical tactics. Know that it is always OK to say no, especially if something conflicts with your own moral compass.
— David Simanoff (@dsimanoff) January 28, 2019
Truth: Inspiration can strike anywhere, so bring a pen.
Marketers are usually juggling multiple priorities and tasks at any given moment, meaning random inspiration for that blog you just logged out of or a breakthrough idea for your social copy could pop up and then disappear, anywhere at any time. Make sure you can capture these ideas, whether it’s in a notebook, on your favorite note-taking app, through a voice message, or simply a quick scribble on your hand that you’ll transcribe for safekeeping later, so you never miss out on a great idea.
A1: I always have a notebook to capture blog post ideas when they come at me while I’m having conversations or just out & about. I also look at website search queries, @answerthepublic, @BuzzSumo etc. to see what folks are talking about that I can put my own spin on. #ContentChat https://t.co/0vOWmNTQtU
— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) April 22, 2019
Tip: Put paid promotion behind successful content.
When you have an asset that is performing well organically, put some paid social media promotion behind it. Social media ad campaigns can be incredibly cost-efficient, and when a piece is already performing well it could be a great resource to get in front of other prospective customers.
A8: My best advice is to take a piece of branded content that is already doing well on social and put some $$$ behind it. Boost a post to a look-alike audience for customers that you already have, or for people who already like your page. #contentchat
— Caitlin Kinser (@caitlinmarie89) April 22, 2019
Truth: Content is about more than customer acquisition.
Some marketers solely focus their content on customer acquisition, which is a heavily misguided approach. As we mentioned above, you have to keep your customer needs in mind with all your content. And those needs don’t stop after they send their first payment to you. Nurture your community with additional support articles, training opportunities, and surveys to gauge how you can improve what you provide. If you only focus on getting new customers, you’ll lose your current ones, and probably leave them with a sour taste in their mouth.
Yeah, so many are 100% focused on getting new customers.
It is kind of silly. Customer retention, cross- and up-selling should be a focus. Spend leftover budget on getting new customers.
— Tod Cordill (@todcordill) April 29, 2019
A7: I’ve been surprised at how many tech companies sell to me and then I never hear from them again until renewal time. I’d expect to see more outreach and communication, especially asking for referrals, reviews, etc. #ContentChat
— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) April 29, 2019
Tip: Break out of your comfort zone to perform at your best.
It’s easy to fall into a comfort zone with our professional life, but that regularity can stifle creativity or lead to missed opportunities if left unchecked. Challenge your routine by saying yes to projects you usually wouldn’t, reading or listening to content that is not related to your industry (that can include fiction books!), or attending conferences of any sort. A few examples and thought starters are below.
A3. Some ways to step outside of your comfort zone:
-Say yes to projects that you don’t normally work on
-Try a different content format instead of your regular (blog posts in my case)
-Read, read, and read (can be SO inspirational)
-Work in a different niche #ContentChat
— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) May 6, 2019
A3: Last week, I went out of my content marketing consultant comfort zone by attending a food blogging conference. Food blogging is a passion project of mine and it was intimidating to go to a new conference with more experienced folks! #contentchat
— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) May 6, 2019
A3: Read content that’s out of your niche (if you’re a marketer, read more about sales or content related to your customers’ industries); consume content in a format you normally don’t to get out of autopilot. #ContentChat
— Berrak Sarikaya | B2B Strategist (@BerrakBiz) May 6, 2019
Tip: Find a peer to bounce ideas off of.
It’s no secret that our best work usually comes when we work in teams to brainstorm and chat through ideas. That said, the always growing to-do list can bump brainstorms down on the priority scale, which shouldn’t happen. Prioritize time to chat with your colleagues or peers, whether it’s on the phone, online, or in person.
To piggyback on this, I find inspiration in talking to others – when you work from home & are alone a lot, you forget how much you can get just from a phone call. Or from Twitter exchanges. I take A LOT of inspiration from Twitter. #contentchat https://t.co/fca0WPLvjw
— Michelle Garrett (@PRisUs) May 6, 2019
— HeidiCohen #CMWorld 2019 Speaker (@heidicohen) May 6, 2019
Truth: A topic is only as “boring” as you make it.
No topic is inherently boring. Yes, certain fields may get very technical or can be heavily regulated and limit what can/cannot be discussed, but at the core of every industry are people with problems that need to be solved. When faced with a “boring” topic, revisit the people behind the story, the challenges they face, and a solution they can put into action. Also, bring in unique insights from your company executives to paint a better picture of a topic and make it more relevant for your readers. At a minimum, consider including visuals in any content to spice it up.
A1: Irrelevancy, no insights, no takeaways, no strategy, and no direction. If the content serves virtually no purpose or doesn’t say anything new, then it’s a boring (and possibly frustrating) topic for your audience and should not be written. #ContentChat
— Patrick Delehanty (@MDigitalPatrick) April 15, 2019
A1: Any topic can be wrapped in a ‘boring’ package. A topic itself is a blank canvas that can be dressed up in as interesting a palette as we choose! Adding a unique perspective, an interesting content format, or adding design/images/etc. can spice up any topic #contentchat
— PathFactory (@pathfactory) April 15, 2019
A3 I think identifying the pain points of the target audience helps. No matter how “boring,” if you speak to a solution or challenge, people should be able to relate. #ContentChat https://t.co/OIOqfsbEui
— Audrey AF (@audreybynature) April 15, 2019
A5: Take boring to extraordinary by looking at:
– New visual ways to showcase the content (interactive anyone?
– Tune to current pop culture
– Look at your imagery
– Display in a different context (an adult coloring book?)
– Keep them engaged (quiz anyone?)#ContentChat pic.twitter.com/GTyVHjGcy4
— Amy Higgins (@amywhiggins) April 15, 2019
Tip: Create industry-relevant reports by blending your proprietary data with findings from customer, partner, and thought leader surveys.
Data is a goldmine for storyline potentials, it’s just a matter of finding those nuggets. Regularly survey your customers, partners, and thought leaders to learn what’s top-of-mind for them, especially as it relates to other trends or topics in your space. Use these findings to help inform your future content direction, and combine the anonymized findings (where appropriate) with other research or expert commentary to create an industry-relevant report. These reports typically have a long-tail return, as they will be linked to for years to come (if they’re high quality, so don’t just slap a company logo on a doc that’s filled with bullet points of raw data).
— Amy Higgins (@amywhiggins) June 3, 2019
A4: The advantages of publishing data-driven studies and reports can literally last for YEARS. We created data-focused content for a client of ours back in 2015, and I’m STILL seeing media coverage of it in 2019. It’s an investment worth making. #contentchat
— Amanda Milligan (@millanda) June 3, 2019
A5: The best research reports have industry professionals responding to the findings with their own stories. Your sales team is often well-suited to ID those people—be they clients or prospects. #ContentChat https://t.co/u0lH6Ai8SH
— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) June 3, 2019
Truth: Long-form content is needed (and probably welcomed by your customers).
Related to our comfort zones and specific industries of choice, marketers may be in a position where they exclusively create short-form content, or exclusively long form. While definitely more time and resource intense, long-form content is highly valuable for your audience, because it allows you to more thoroughly explore a topic or address an area they are interested in.
A2: Research shows blog posts over 1,000 words get more shares, Longer pieces convert 30-50% better. And posts over 1,000 words dominate page one in Google. Average word for the top spot: 1890. #contentchat
Sources all included here: https://t.co/X5JF1UIKl0
— Kristen Hicks (@atxcopywriter) May 13, 2019
A2. You need long-form content in your strategy to give detailed insights to your readers. Long-form is one of the best ways to solve your audience’s problem properly, addressing each part of it in detail. #contentchat
— Masooma | Content Writer (@inkandcopy) May 13, 2019
Truth: Multi-touch attribution is the only way to accurately understand the value of your work.
In the simplest terms, an attribution strategy is how marketers can measure how a piece of content is helping to lead to a sale. Oversimplification of the definition aside, nearly half of marketers are not using a formal lead attribution strategy, and another ~20% are using strategies that over-rely on “easy data.” Both of these are a major problem. More marketers need to adopt multi-touch attribution strategies to more accurately assess their content performance and needs.
So, for me, reviewing the research data, this was more than a little alarming from a marketing perspective. If you aren’t measuring customer touchpoints beyond first or last touch (or, at all), that means you are basing your marketing spend off “your gut”. #ContentChat
— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) July 1, 2019
Tip: Leverage user-generated content for authentic story ideas.
Whether you like it or not, your customers are probably talking about you online. Some of the time, it’s the dreaded internet venting, but there are also times where your customers are praising you, sharing their stories, and creating materials that showcase your brand in its best light (through the eyes of your customers). Build campaigns that encourage this type of content by leveraging custom hashtags so you can easily find and sort through this content.
We have a # on Instagram that we use and promote to our followers to use. Once every week or two we’ll re-post one of the user posts with the # and that always creates engagement and encourages more people to post because they hope that we’ll feature them. #contentchat
— Caitlin Kinser (@caitlinmarie89) August 26, 2019
Email – signature
Social – place the # in the bios
IG Story – include them in your story
Tweets – include it in your tweet
Add it to your brochure, event pamphlet, etc. #ContentChat
— Bentley University (@bentleyu) August 26, 2019
— Erika Heald | Content Marketing Consultant (@SFerika) August 26, 2019
And contests/Giveaways are always a great incentive. In a previous position we were promoting a new line of socks–so we asked people to post their most worn out old socks with our # for a chance to win new ones. It got great engagement! #contentchat
— Caitlin Kinser (@caitlinmarie89) August 26, 2019
Truth: Tod Cordill (@TodCordill) has some of the best content marketing jokes/puns.
If you’re ever on a Twitter Chat with him, you’ll likely see gems like this:
Q. Why was the SEO expert late for work?
A. Too much traffic#contentchat
— Tod Cordill (@todcordill) March 18, 2019
Since it’s holiday season…
— Tod Cordill (@todcordill) December 6, 2019
Q. Why don’t digital marketers like trampolines?
A. Because they have high bounce rates.
Welcome to today’s #CMWorld chat!
— Tod Cordill (@todcordill) April 16, 2019
Q: Why was the digital marketer banned from Broadway?
A: She kept trying to capture the leads. #cmworld
— Tod Cordill (@todcordill) May 7, 2019
Q: Why couldn’t anybody hear the #contentmarketing rock & roll band?
A: They refused to pay for amplification.
— Tod Cordill (@todcordill) January 29, 2019
Thank you to everyone who joined us this year at #ContentChat. If you want even more actionable tips—and in-depth discussions with other top marketers about ways to stay on top of the latest trends and perform at your best— join us Mondays at noon PT/2 CT/3 ET on Twitter with #ContentChat. Or, if you’re interested in sharing your expertise and being a guest on an upcoming #ContentChat, fill out this form with your topic suggestion. We’re excited to see you all in 2020!