How To Build An Employee-Driven Content Strategy In 6 Simple Steps
Are you tapping into your employee base for content? Columnist Alison Zeringue explains why it's essential for a great content strategy and outlines some steps you can take to make it happen.
Social media feeds are whizzing by at rapid rates, so you don’t need me to tell you that quality content is one of the most crucial parts of successful social media marketing.
You’ve heard that “content is king,” but in a world of ever-flowing content streams and information constantly at your fingertips, the user is actually king.
The more users engage with your content, the more organically visible it is within certain news feeds, and the more likely it is to perform better if paid. The ultimate goal is to get a high engagement rate, and without the user, there’s no such thing as engagement.
Yet, even with some traction, organic reach is dismal at best for most businesses. In 2012, Facebook For Business claimed that on average, pages organically reached 16 percent of their fans. Three years later, in March of 2015, Adweek reported on a study by Locowise that indicated Facebook page posts had an organic reach of just 2.6 percent.
The good news for small businesses was that pages with fewer likes performed significantly better than those with more than one million likes, which performed the worst in terms of reach.
These data underscore a fact we know all too well: Facebook continues to make adjustments to entice businesses to back their organic social presences with advertising budgets. Without it, for every 1,000 likes on your page, you can expect only about 26 people to see your content, and that’s probably a good day!
Facebook has recently launched new post targeting options to help business pages better understand post engagement and reach targeted audiences for specific content. The goal here is to help businesses reach audiences who are more likely to engage with their content, not to amplify organic reach.
Now, instead of showing your content to a small percentage of all fans, these targeting options allow you to show your content to a percentage of fans who you’ve selected because of their interests. Many are theorizing that although page reach will not increase, engagement rates will.
Content Must Provide Value
But additional targeting options don’t mean much if you’re producing mediocre or useless content. Just because you put the content in front of someone doesn’t mean they’ll engage; you have to provide some true value.
Ultimately, ads perform best when they provide the audience with useful information, enticing them to interact. As soon as engagement rates pick up, it’s likely that the ad’s performance, and even organic reach, can be amplified.
In a 2015 Marketing Land post, columnist Jim Yu said it best: “Paid and earned media thrive when the owned media — the content itself — provides the value and engagement that customers seek.”
As the search and social industries evolve, all with a goal of focusing on the user, businesses need to focus on the convergence of different media in order to reach optimal performance.
But how do you go about producing content that truly speaks to customers? Is it possible to motivate employees to help with content production, even if they don’t understand the ROI (return on investment)?
Read on for six simple steps to building a content production machine using the staff you already have, and without having to spend big bucks on additional resources.
A few years ago, when my company was a bit smaller but growing rapidly, we often put our own marketing needs on the back burner. After all, we’re an agency, and the customers always come first.
We were pumping out upwards of 10,000 pages of content for our customers per month, yet we neglected our own website, blog and social media. We had a goal, however, of becoming known as an industry and thought leader in our space of SEO, social media and online marketing.
We needed to get creative.
I worked with our PR and marketing manager at the time to develop the start of a content strategy. Here are my top six tips for implementing this with your team and keeping them motivated.
Step 1: Define Your Audience(s) And Goals
Start by defining the personas you want to speak to with your content. This will become helpful later when you’re ready to back your content with ad budget and will make selecting targeting options easier.
When it comes to writing content, whether long form or social media posts, your writers need as much information as possible to know what will speak to your audience. Start with your demographics of each audience segment, and then move on to defining psychographics. Providing details about their interests will enable your team to get creative.
In our case, we defined three core audience segments we wanted to target and defined what type of content they may be interested in.
Step 2: Create A Content Calendar/Schedule
Most people thrive with some amount of structure. Building a content calendar and schedule is not only a good accountability practice for your contributors, but it also helps you balance and control the content you produce, which is especially important if you have multiple audience segments.
There are plenty of existing content calendar templates out there, so don’t reinvent the wheel. You can find many different options and ideas with a simple Google search for “content calendar templates.”
Pro Tip! Spend time setting up a solid structure for yourself and your team on the front end. Having a system that works can actually impact the quality of your content, so don’t skip this step. Be sure to check and adjust as you get going. You’ll likely want to make some adjustments as you go.
Step 3: Make Content Part Of Your Company Culture, And Set Clear Expectations With Contributors
When we first started out with our plan, we made it an ongoing expectation that nearly every employee was a content contributor in some fashion. Whether they supported us by writing blog posts, provided material for social media channels or blogged off-site (like me), everyone had a role.
If you go this route, you’ll want to make sure that creativity and writing skills are something you screen for when hiring. As we grew, we found that about 30 percent to 40 percent of our employees were truly interested in being ongoing contributors to our blog and content strategy.
Instead of forcing employees who don’t like to write to produce mediocre content, we adjusted our approach to allow those interested to contribute more regularly, and we adjusted their workloads to ensure they had the capacity.
Our PR and marketing manager started a volunteer-based signup sheet so that employees could sign up for a schedule and topic that worked for them and their interests.
It’s also important that you help employees understand the ROI in producing great content. In our industry, this was pretty easy to do, since we preach this to our clients and staff daily.
For other industries, however, it’s important to educate your employees so they become invested in the strategy and find the work and process rewarding.
Step 4: Let Your Team Get Creative
We let our employees bring a bit of their own personalities to their content, giving them the freedom to write about things that interest them but also fit with our audience segments.
For example, one of my employees is quite the One Direction fan. Allowing her some freedom made for a creative post about Twitter Hashflags that peaked her interest but also provided value to our social-savvy audience.
Pro Tip! Let your team members brainstorm as a group. Some of our best ideas come from group sessions and can result in viable wild ideas. Set some ground rules when brainstorming as a large group, especially reminding your team not to red-light ideas. For optimal creativity, anything goes during a brainstorm session.
One of our goals for our content strategy included recruiting new employees to start their careers with us. Giving our employees the opportunity to write about the thing they enjoy most, our company culture, produced some stellar content that was also great for team morale.
Pro Tip! Employee spotlights and content that features employee or fan interests are likely to get organic traction on social media. People can be a little bit narcissistic and are likely to share your content with their friends if they’re featured.
Step 5: Reward Employees For Engaging Content
Keep your team motivated by rewarding contributors who create highly engaging and successful content. In our company meetings, we give out gift cards to the employees who produced the top five most trafficked blogs on our site for the month.
Public recognition with the entire company gathered is a fun and easy way to keep everyone engaged and invested in the strategy. Plus, it’s always fun to add a little competition to the mix.
Step 6: Check And Adjust
You should always have a plan to check and adjust your strategy. Having clearly defined “SMART” goals on the front end will make the check-and-adjust process a breeze.
When developing your content calendar and strategy, pre-plan intervals for when you will do an evaluation of your calendar, quality of content and results metrics such as reach and engagement rates.
The thought of building a content strategy and producing a high volume of content can be a scary concept for the owner of a small or medium-sized business who has a lot on their plate.
Yet it’s clearly the only way to achieve in a world of converged media. How have you leveraged your employee base to direct a great content strategy?