Guest Blog: Create a Month of Engaging Content in One Sitting
We all know that content is the backbone of successful marketing. We’ve heard it time and time again, but what does ‘content’ really mean?
Whether you’re using it online or physical marketing such as a poster, flyer, or magazine, what you write, the images you use, the video you produce, is all representing your brand. That’s a scary thought, right? And probably the one that keeps people from producing the content that could change their business!
A lot of the struggle around content is people’s perception of what the end product should look like. If you struggle to create content then the chances are that you either don’t identify with your core customer, or you’re trying to write like someone you’re not. Let me explain what I mean by that:
If you’re someone who feels comfortable in a city-suit, has a napkin at the formal breakfast table, reads the broadsheets in 1st class on the commuter train, (because let’s face it - the Metro is too big to read in the new, tiny, standard class seats!) then writing like, and for, that person will come naturally to you.
If that isn’t you then it will be really hard to do; you’ll find yourself with a thousand reasons why not to do it and it will slip down your ‘to do’ list until it’s right up against the deadline.
Your customers feel your emotion and enthusiasm connected with your business. They won’t respond to you if you’re disconnected.
The key with content; be genuine, natural, and be consistent with it!
To quote: Melissa Cassera:
“You can’t build an audience of raving, obsessed fans unless you are gleefully excited first!”
Before we dive into batching let’s first eliminate the things that prevent us from creating content.
Four key excuses (often called ‘reasons’ ;-)) for not creating content regularly are:
I don’t have enough time / I’d rather do anything but create content
Something urgent just came up / I’ve pushed it down my ‘to do’ list
I don’t have anything to create content about / I’m so disengaged from my customer avatar that I don’t know what problems or pain points they have that I can solve for them.
I’m hopeless at creating content / all of the above apply so I’m blaming lack of talent!
Anything on there sound familiar??
What is Batching?
Batching is defined as ‘the grouping of similar tasks that require similar resources in order to streamline their completion’. In essence, Batching Content = Creating more content in less time and with less overall stress, effort and procrastination!
Batching neatly deals with all of these excuses AND gives you back-up content for the days when something urgent really does come up and you’re going to otherwise miss that deadline. It also allows you to tell a coherent story with your content, taking your audience on a purposeful journey that builds their trust and loyalty towards your business; it allows you to lead them to a sale.
Batching allows you to manage your time spent on content creation efficiently. It maximises your output by reducing distraction and giving your creative muscles room to workout. It takes away your ‘groundhog day’ experience of figuring out what to post, and makes your content less jarring to your audience.
What do we mean by Content Marketing?
Content marketing is all of the on/offline content that you create for you customers; past, present, and future. This could be your weekly blog, newsletter, ebooks, books, graphics, images, social posts - you get the picture!
It is the means by which people get to sample your business before they part with their cash. Like a free sample of a new snack bar that they ambush you with at the station, or a fragrance sample in a magazine (I’ve always thought those weird - when you see people in the doctor’s surgery trying to subtly wipe themselves with a foil packet…). Content marketing is your free sample. It lets your audience get to know you, understand how they will fit in your ecosystem, and what your business will do to enhance theirs. The better, more useful, and more regular your free content is, the far greater the conversion rate to paying customer.
Content is your communication with your customer. Thinking you’re no good at it just isn’t an option! Every time you speak to a customer, greet them, thank them, ask them a question, you’re communicating with them in just the same way as you should be creating content.
Now we’re clear on the need for content, and you’re committed to doing it, let’s make it easier!
How to Plan Successful Batching
Set the scene. You need peace & quiet, an uninterrupted workspace - no phone alerts, email pings, shopping deliveries - and a solid block of 3-5 hours to work on this. It takes around 15 mins for our brains to focus fully following a distraction. Think how much quicker things would be if we allowed ourselves freedom to focus without distraction!
Don’t set unrealistic expectations. Especially if this is the first time you’re trying to work like this! If you give yourself massive goals, chances are you will fall short and give up. If you’re realistic about what you’re going to do on your first outing with this, then you’re more likely to succeed and far more likely to do it again. The more you do it, the more efficient you will become at it!
Once you’re in your content-batching-cocoon, you can start with the good stuff!
Step 1: Planning
Take a year planner, or open a standard Google calendar dedicated to your content planning, and mark out key dates; these should include:
Your launches / shows / key dates for your business,
Key events relevant to your core audience,
Seasonal changes / events (Easter, Halloween, Christmas, etc.)
I focus just on the coming quarter for my actual content creation because it can be just too overwhelming to consider the entire year at once. If I have a key event or launch then I know that my content is going to build up to that.
This means that I will map out the topics I’m going to blog about to take my audience on a focussed journey that exposes, addresses, and gives a solution to their pain points. It allows me to stay on-brand, write well, and deliver on my promises without feeling like I’ve got ‘blog guilt’ weighing heavily on my shoulders! For me, focusing in bite size chunks like this is more manageable and allows for greater flexibility.
Step 2: Mapping
Now you have your planner out and you can see the key dates coming up it’s time to build your content topics to lead up to those events. Brainstorm (sometimes I do this with a friend or colleague) ideas for your content topics and categorise them:
Content to attract your audience to interact with you (free)
Relationship / trust building content (free)
Promotional content (free)
This is an area where people get stuck trying to think of content ideas. It doesn’t need to be perfect, it doesn’t need to be polished. It just needs to be present!
Here are a few ideas to generate content topics from you:
What is it about your industry that you find frustrating?
What do you really love about your industry?
When was the last time you pushed yourself outside your comfort zone in your business? What happened?
Who do you look up to in your industry and what have they done differently to the majority?
What is it that really inspires you in your business?
What’s your backstory?
...and some from your audience:
What questions are they asking in your/other groups?
Look at your Google Analytics - revisit your 5 top performing blogs/posts and rework the content from those.
What are the influencers in your industry talking about?
What are the 3 biggest frustrations / pain points that your business solves for your customer?
Draft 3 or 4 topic headlines based around the answers to the above. All of a sudden you’ve got nearly 45 options for blogs!
Go through all of your headlines one by one until you have a solid response to this question:
“What is the question/problem/issue I am answering with this topic?”
Pick the one that excites you the most and just start writing! Don’t edit as you go along, and don’t worry about it making perfect sense. Get the words down as they come to you. The polish will come at the end.
Each published blog should ideally be 500-750 words. However, if you find yourself in the zone once you start writing, just keep going. You will inevitably end up with something considerably longer that can then be sectioned off into several separate blogs that flow really nicely.
If you’re working on a month of content and you have something in the region of 2-3000 words, then you’re done!.
Take a break from writing for a moment and find a bank of images that are relevant and relatable to your content topic (s) for the month.
Don’t forget that for your social posts you should still be working on a mixture of curated and created content, which means you don’t need an image for every day. We tend to do 3 of our own posts per week on Facebook, 5-7 on Instagram, and a blog on Google+. We use Twitter in our business but more for research purposes - we will send out a tweet to test a content idea; if it gets a lot of engagement then we know it will work on Facebook. If it is like tumbleweed then we don’t spend any more time on it.
Upload the images to your scheduler or folder, depending on which scheduler you use. ContentCal let’s you store draft posts without putting them in the scheduler which is a really handy feature for this.
The next thing we do is go back to edit the blog. We read through and find the natural break points, where it can be sliced up into different editions. Then we’ll top and tail each with their own intro and conclusion paragraph, check the spelling and grammar, make a cup of tea, and read it through on paper (wasteful, but I’m old school!). Sometimes the hubby goes at it with a red-pen, which is a really useful [read: annoying] way for me to see how someone without my knowledge understands what I’ve written. After a sulk or two (depending on the volume of red pen!) we’ll do the final edits, add the images and pop them in the scheduler for blog posting days.
For simple SEO tips for blogging, check out this article with some easy-to-follow enhancements.
Last, but not least, come the social posts:
Read through the blog again and highlight soundbites. These could be facts that you turn into an infographic, chart, animation, how-to guide, cheat sheet, or just a meme! Break them out and add to your image, ready to schedule.
Now I have my topics for the month and know how they flow, I can search for complementary information, posts, videos, or anything else from another, trusted, source to build the curated content. As I am searching ‘on topic’ this is far easier and quicker because the pool of content that is relevant is massively reduced.
And that, is it! Your content marketing for an entire month done, in less than a work day. Each time you do this it gets easier and quicker. It’s a process that becomes embedded in your business and works by buzzing away in the background while you get on with the day job. It frees up your time so that you can focus on engaging with your key customers on social media, rather than worrying about what to post next!
If you’d like a more in-depth lesson on how to batch-create your content, you can watch our free webinar - stay tuned until the end - there’s a great freebie that will change your content planning forever!
Author: Isobel Burns
Isobel Burns is a Digital Marketing Training Consultant who specialises in helping SMEs to master their social media marketing and integrate it with their wider business goals. This is acheived by either training companies to run their own social media, or finding an experienced social media manager to do it for them.
From developing your marketing strategy to implementing the processes, Isobel is an experienced coach with a history of building and growing businesses from start-up to sale. She has a strong background in business strategy, marketing, and sales.