Content marketing strategies for startup teams who have time but lack the budget for promoting their content via paid advertising options.
Startups are often seeking to attract users/customers and gain awareness among prospective partners and investors. Beyond this, they would like to build a community of fans around their brand that generates a virtuous cycle resulting in ever greater profits and business opportunities.
One way to do this is through content marketing. However, your team may not have any budget set aside for content distribution or promotion. In that case, if your team has the time, there are ways to maximize your organic (unpaid) reach. In this article, we’ll explain them and help you choose the tactics that will suit your brand.
What is Content Marketing?
Content marketing is a strategy whereby you create, publish, and distribute content for a targeted audience to establish credibility, grow brand awareness, generate leads, and make sales.
Your target audience should find your content to be valuable. This means that it is either entertaining, informative, or educational - perhaps a combination of one or more of these attributes. Ideally, the content would be so compelling that people feel the urge to share it with their friends, family, or business community via email or social media. The best content marketing is so good at this that it seems to spread like a virus, hence the phrase, “going viral.”
Effective content marketing results in your brand staying in your prospects’ minds so that when they need your offerings, yours is the first option considered.
Just because you make high-quality content freely available online doesn’t mean anyone is going to notice it. You first need to find ways to get it in front of their eyeballs. In today’s smartphone-dominated environment, that means that your content needs to be showing up within one of the top social media apps. To achieve greater reach, you have two main options: organic and paid methods.
What is Organic vs. Paid Reach?
Let’s imagine you have published a high-quality blog article that covers one or more topics of great interest to most members of your target audience.
It’s ideal if people visit your blog to read your articles because:
A positive impression will result in them taking an interest in who is publishing this incredible content, and thus they will wander over to your website’s pages about your products or services.
Another desirable outcome is their signing up for your newsletter, which, if well executed, will result in them coming back again and gaining further familiarity with your brand.
We’ll look at organic strategies to get this blog article in front of people’s eyeballs to get the process started.
Optimizing The Article Itself
Every element of the article must be optimized so that it looks worthwhile to click on.
Image: For some people who are more visually oriented, the image associated with the article is the most critical factor in deciding whether or not they want to click on a link. When choosing an image, keep in mind that it will appear very small when displayed on mobile devices and may be cropped on some platforms. Free pictures can be sourced via the likes of Pexels, Pixabay, and Unsplash. Be sure to include credit for the photographer.
Headline: For some people, the headline is the thing that stands out most to them. For others, it will be the next after the image. Writers for some publications have the habit of creating over twenty different headline variations to find the catchiest one. There are also headline analyzer tools such as CoSchedule’s. Regardless of your process, you will want to craft your headline carefully.
Excerpt: In anticipation of your article appearing in search results and social media shares, your blog platform should provide a special field where you can input an excerpt. This should back-up the headline in convincing your audience that it’s worth their time to visit the link.
Headings: While you always want to be writing for humans, and not search engine bots, do consider wording your article’s section headings to be descriptive. Search engines search headings to find keywords.
Image SEO: While the text of your article will be ideal, be sure to fill out the image’s ALT tag with keywords that describe what is shown in the picture. This way, people using Google Image search might find your article.
Optimizing Organic Distribution
Next, we’ll look at items that can help get the article in front of more eyeballs via social media platforms where your target market is spending their time.
Sharing the Article Link
Depending on where your audience tends to spend their time online, your brand may have accounts/profiles on various platforms. Share the link everywhere that allows it to be clickable (i.e., not Instagram - we’ll get to ways to do this later). Also, see if your team members can also share the links on their personal social media.
Hashtags: Most social platforms allow hashtags. However, there are several things to be careful of. First, you should only use relevant hashtags. Also, adapt the number and placement of hashtags to the platform. On Twitter, include just two at the end of the tweet. On Facebook, up to five at the bottom of the description. On Instagram, use up to thirty, but place them in the first comment of the post.
Description: This is where you take on the voice of the entity which is doing the sharing of the article. You don’t just want to copy-and-paste the headline or excerpt. Instead, imagine what you would say in only a few words if you were trying to convince someone to read it. Think of the mindset of the person who sees your post in their feed - how would you talk to them?
Places: Platforms that allow you to tag a post with a location include Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. This means that, if your post was tagged with San Francisco, CA, then people on that platform interested in that area might search and find your post among those also tagged for that location.
Aggregating the Article
You will be posting the original article on your brand’s official blog. However, sharing links isn’t ideal because:
People generally don’t want to exit the app they are currently in.
Platform operators want you to stay on their platform, so their newsfeed ranking algorithm favors "natively-posted" content.
For these reasons, in addition to link shares, consider the following two strategies.
1. Replicating the Article on Different Platforms
For example, we share our articles via our Facebook page’s Notes (FB has a blogging capability called “Notes”), my personal LinkedIn account (individual LinkedIn profiles have blogging functionality, but not company pages yet), and Medium. Always be sure to include a link to the original blog post.
On platforms which allow both link sharing and blogging (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), space the link share and article reproduction apart by a week or so. Also, consider writing a different description. This will help avoid annoying your followers and help people who missed it the first time to catch it.
2. Posting a Summary of the Article
Some platforms such as Instagram don’t allow fully-featured blogging or linking out to the original article, but perhaps you can post a summary. In the case of Instagram, you can post up to 2,200 characters in plain text. On Twitter, perhaps you could post quotes from the article along with a relevant photo.
Quantity vs. Quality
Long vs. Short: Shorter isn’t always better. For example, you have probably had the experience of feeling a three-hour movie pass by quickly because it was so interesting. Whereas, you have struggled to sit through a thirty-second commercial because it was boring or irrelevant to you.
Long-Form Advantages: Some of the most widely shared articles are long-form and highly detailed. This is because they make the person sharing them look intellectual and sophisticated. Another advantage of publishing long articles is that they can contain more relevant keywords.
Short-Form Advantages: Short posts such as Tweets can also be incredibly effective. There are influencers on Twitter who gain many thousands of Likes and Retweets on a single thoughtful and profound Tweet.
Conclusion: Take the focus off quantify and focus on serving your audience’s needs with high-quality content.
Gallery Grade vs. Casual Content
Online media where the posts can hang around for years should be treated with the utmost care - just like you would in curating an art gallery. However, don’t neglect the power of casual content.
SnapChat pioneered the format of “Stories,” short-form video in a vertical format that automatically disappears after 24-hours. Other platforms have duplicated this feature including Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. LinkedIn has been experimenting with the format.
Stories can be ideal for giving in-the-moment looks into what is happening behind the scenes. If you don’t want to reveal your staff’s faces or expose document or screen contents, consider using an app such as Visionn which can render the video into a cartoon before you share it.
You want to be sharing at least one story per day because it will keep your account’s icon at the top of the newsfeed. If you don’t have anything compelling to share, consider finding a free stock photo which your audience would like. Choose one that has a vertical/tall aspect ratio.
Several social platform news feeds are said to favor video content. However, producing quality video requires more skill and time. I’d advise you to give it a miss unless you can do it properly and create something your target audience will find of value. If you do want to go down this path, spend some time researching how your favorite YouTubers have produced their videos. See if you can fit out a room as a small makeshift studio.
The most essential elements are audio quality and focus. People won’t want to listen if the audio is poor. And, people will drop off if they have to wait too long before the video gets to the point or it has long breaks in between sections. Try to edit down parts where there are disruptions, long pauses, or rambling. If these points are well taken care of, then people will be more forgiving of the visuals being somewhat lackluster.
If your content is primarily people talking, you could consider ripping the audio and publishing it as a podcast. Check out tools such as Anchor.fm.
Similarly, the various platforms are also keen to encourage live streaming, and this can help you get more followers. You can also direct people to visit your website or blog. However, it’s only worthwhile live-streaming if you can provide something worth watching.
You can later take the recording of the stream and edit it down into separate segments for posting via the various platforms.
The skills you gain by optimizing your organic posting will be invaluable. If you are successful and eventually have a budget for paying to promote your content, then it will be that much better because you have maximized its potential. The key is to get started, learn by doing, and keep watching and learning from the top operators in your field.
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