If Content is King, Community is Queen
In the second instalment of the ‘If Content is King...’ blog series, we’ll look at how identifying and engaging with relevant communities is crucial for the successful creation, distribution and potential impact of online content.
Do you remember when people would read physical newspapers and subscribe to magazines? They did so because they had a keen interest in the subject matter and the editor made it his quest to fill the pages with relevant, interesting and useful information that people would enjoy reading, referencing in conversation, sharing with their friends or – if they felt really passionate – responding to with correspondence to the publication’s Letters page. It was often the case that loyal readers were rewarded with a free gift or exclusive promotion. The publications’ loyal fan base (or readership) was that which kept the circulation figures high, attracting advertisers to keep them in print.
While the media landscape has undoubtedly changed, the principles are exactly the same with online content. Fundamentally, you must:
- Understand, and write for your audience;
- Remember your audience can be your biggest advocate (and thus give them content they’ll enjoy and share);
- Reward your audience and make them feel a part of your online community and;
- Listen to and learn from your audience to constantly develop and improve your content offering.
So how does one apply these principles within the digital world?
“... if there is one thing the Internet has taught me over the past 15 years, large engaged communities are incredible powerful things, both commercially and socially.” Fred Wilson, online venture capitalist, 2011
First and foremost, identify your audience
It goes without saying there is little point producing content without first considering who your audience is. Without this, your content will lack direction and its impact will almost certainly be diluted.
To determine your audience, consider your business objectives and how you wish to be perceived in your particular industry. This will help you to identify who exactly you need to get your message in front of. Understanding who you’re trying to engage with means you can plan the optimal content for your audience(s) with ease.
For example, you may wish to be considered an as authority in the fashion world but simply targeting“everyone who likes fashion” is not specific enough. Instead, break your audience down into several different personas and then tailor your content accordingly.
Give your audience what they want
It is not only wise to keep a close eye on the latest news headlines in order to produce topical content that will be relevant and of interest to your readers, but also have a look at what’s being discussed on the most popular forums relating to your industry. Spend some time on these forums and you’ll soon find out exactly what your customers are interested in and/or the current ‘hot topics’ and where you can add value to their online experience through your expert knowledge. Even better; this valuable market research is cost free!
Look at what content successful competitor sites are producing that you are not. Consider whether you are missing out on traffic as a consequence or whether you can take inspiration from their strategy to provide something unique for your own audience.
Lastly, let’s not forget keyword research. If in any doubt as to what content will be popular with your audience, take a peek at what they’re searching for! A tool such as Google Analytics will give you a raft of suggested search queries and their volumes, which will certainly help steer what content you could produce for your site.
Connect with your community
So we now know who our audience is and what type of content we need to produce for them, so what next?
The “Build it and they will come...” theory might be applicable to pubs but the same does not apply to online content! The effective use of social media is therefore imperative to ensure your content has impact.
Relevant Facebook groups and forums are not only useful for the identification of the current ‘hot topics' in your industry butthey are also fantastic for promoting your content. Be sure to actively engage with these communities regularly to build up a natural presence and to ensure your profile is not considered ‘spammy.’
“Simply put, if our brand is a story, our community members are the co-authors.” Georgy Cohen, founder of Crosstown Digital Communications, 2012
Twitter is a fantastic tool for identifying and creating relationships with your audience. Use relevant hash tags on Twitter to “join the conversation” on certain topics, for example, you might use #health for an article related to heart disease.
Just as there are influential people and publications in the ‘offline’ world, so there are in the digital sphere. Search for Twitter accounts for the particular sector you’re working in (Follower Wonk is great for this) and share your content with them by including an “@” mention in your tweet. For example, @mumandbabynews is likely to share relevant content on parenting with its followers. Similarly, @fredwilson might like to read this blog post so let’s mention him too.
If your content generates discussion on Twitter – and hopefully it will –get involved! This is especially true should anyone post a question or comment about your content as it could encourage further engagement.
Acknowledge and say thanks every now and again
If you’re retweeted on Twitter, acknowledge the ‘tweeter’ by saying thanks. Firstly it’s polite, and secondly it’s a great way to build a relationship with that person, who could become a real advocate of your work.
Many online communities love to be rewarded for their interaction. Bloggers love badges and forums love exclusive discount codes – these types of incentives can often give your content extra traction.
Don’t forget, your community will be your biggest advocates but also your biggest critics all at the same time. This is why we love online; you get instant feedback on the content you’ve produced to help point you in the right direction next time. Even if you get no feedback, the metrics are easily accessible to enable you to better understand and deliver upon the needs of your community.