In content marketing, consider your audience first

Content marketing is more than talking about your product; it’s about understanding your audience, knowing their interests and creating content for them.

“What can I provide to the consumer that engages them in the brand experience that doesn’t feel like they are being marketed to,” said Crista Finn Geary, owner, creative director, and community manager at Crista Geary Creative who did social media and content creation for Softlips lip balm. “It comes from Softlips, but maybe they don’t think about it coming from Softlips and they look at the brand and say, ‘this brand is me, they get me, they understand me.’”

Finn Geary and several other marketers discussed “Why Content Marketing Matters,” and how their companies use content marketing to reach and grow their audience, garner media attention and increase sales at an April 30 Ad Lab Event, a monthly education event created by the Advertising Club of Buffalo.

Why use content marketing?

“It engages the user to keep a relationship with us and the company and that’s what we are going for,” said Mitch Mirksy, senior social media and emerging tech marketer at Fisher-Price. “We are not going for ‘we have to sell two thousands of these toys tomorrow,’ it’s more of a softer sell, but it feels right. You have to know your target audience.”

Finn Geary said she varied her messages between ones where she “sold” Softlips products and ones where she was just engaging with fans on the Softlips Facebook page (who are 14 to 34 year-old females) about things that they liked. Since the fans were also really interested in nails and nail art, she said she would team up with a nail bloggers and post content related to nails.

“We would get a lot of engagement with that and it had nothing to do with Softlips at all, but we were showing them, ‘look, we are interested in what you’re interested in,’” said Finn Geary. “These kinds of posts would promote themselves; more people would then see our posts because they were more engaged with our page, so we would not have to pay to promote our posts.”

Garrett Smith, chief marketing officer at VoIP Supply, mainly a B2B business, says his company created guides and instructional videos to help customers. Customers can take all the parts and components that the company sells and put together a solution on their own. These guides also help free-up their sales people from constantly answering the same questions or demonstrating how a system works. Instead, the customer can access the guides for help at any time.

What should I post?

Think about your overall goal says Smith. “What is this content going to support? Maybe it’s a new category launch, new product or service. Develop campaign specific metrics: reach, traffic, number of downloads or direct sales.”

“Who’s the audience, what do they want? Use Google trends and keyword search tool to see what people are searching for and see what’s trending on Twitter.”

Your current fans or users can create and contribute content as well.  Mirksy says that Fisher-Price allows users to upload video, photos or even share a story on the Share Moments of Joy portion of the website.

“(It’s) a place where moms can go and share with us– their child’s first steps or playing with a toy, baby eating food for the first — share them with Fisher-Price,” said Mirksy. “They check a box that says ‘it’s ok to use this content for marketing’ and its real people’s content. Its letting them tell their story.”

You need to be constantly evaluating what you post said Misksy. About six months ago, text-based posts were more popular on Facebook and that changed. Now it seems that visuals (memes, photos, and graphics) get more response.

“We do a mix of what’s going to be engaging for people to talk about and have conversations– about 80 percent– and the other 20 percent is promotional stuff,” said Misksy. “Promotional in Facebook’s eyes is anything that takes people off of Facebook. If you do too much of that, you’ll get dinged by Facebook.”

Social media has made it easier to see what others are doing with content marketing and to gather ideas and not just from competitors says Perry’s Ice Cream Brand Engagement Specialist Elena Kunsevich.  She has borrowed marketing ideas from other companies and changed them in order to fit her company.

“We have a flavor conference in March and we actually created a bracket for it which coincides in time with March Madness,” said Kunsevich. “This year, we asked people to nominate the flavors for the bracket and it became an original thing created by our fans.”

Content planning and scheduling

Most marketers on the panel agreed that creating a calendar helped insure they had material ready and also helped meet their objectives. However, most cautioned that you should allow a certain amount of flexibility to react to real-world events.

Finn Geary and a co-worker planned out a calendar a month in advance with daily postings. She said posts received the most engagement from fans at 7 p.m.

Smith said he schedules on a week-by-week basis and checks metrics to know when the best time or day is to post.

“It’s great to plan this out and have metrics and goals, but the beauty of these outlets (social media) is things happen in real time,” said Smith. “Have a plan and some thought into this because if you don’t you will end up stopping. You need to be able to react in real time; pick up on national events, trends within your industry and be able to communicate with people.”