The Most Important Ingredient To Your Content Marketing Strategy

April 7, 2014

You’ve been staring at that computer screen for hours, but nothing seems to be emerging from the creative center of your brain.

As content creators, we’ve all experienced the occasional case of writer’s block – especially if you only source your own perspective and knowledge. Nobody carries a fountain of endless concepts in their head, so those looking for more content marketing ideas should expand the search.

If the success of Kickstarter and Coca-Cola’s Content 2020 project has taught us anything, it’s that crowdfunding and crowdsourcing have fundamentally changed the relationship between businesses and consumers. It’s no longer a one-way, indirect funnel for content generation. Your audience is talking to you – and if you’re not listening, that vital resource may dwindle away.

Here are some content marketing tips to keep your ear to the ground and leverage your audience to fuel your content marketing strategy:

  1. Listen to key customers via social. This first step is essential for any marketer, because it helps identify relevant topics for future production. What is your audience talking about? What are they struggling with? Read comments and look at what your audience is sharing. Short of talking in person, this is the best way to see what topics are important to them. Plus, it’s a relatively easy step to get started, without needing to tap the audience quite yet.
  2. Share like your customers. Once you have a base understanding of what your audience likes, dislikes, and is frequently sharing, start sharing similar things that they might find relevant. You can’t expect them to make the initial move to spark a dialogue with you – they need a compelling reason and opportunity to start engaging with your brand. Sharing content, especially things that are useful and add value, is a great way to build trust and a relationship.
  3. Ask them to contribute. Now that you’ve established a social presence and taken the time to give without asking to receive, it’s time to work together and generate ideas. If you haven’t noticed yet, your customers love to give their opinions on relevant topics. Making the process quick and easy helps facilitate initial engagement. Polls and surveys are abundant online, and for good reason – they allow brands to collect audience thoughts without extensive time commitments. Poll your customers on a variety of relevant topics; it makes them feel like their opinions are heard and respected.
  4. Collaborate and create together. This step requires relinquishing some control of your content production – something brands can sometimes grapple with -- but the audience engagement benefits are undeniable. Recommendations from familiar people are far more successful than those from brands, and getting passionate people to advocate for your brand will open new marketing opportunities. In my previous role at Coca-Cola, one of the most inspiring user-generated content campaigns I ran asked Coca-Cola fans across social media to upload photos of their Best Summer Moments. The photos poured in, and we surprised and delighted select fans with Coca-Cola beach towels, inflatable surfboards, and coolers to help them create even more moments and photos to share. We celebrated these fan moments across social channels and were able to use them to fuel our content strategy.  For many brands, a UGC campaign is also ideal because of the financial benefits, primarily if your crowdsourced content can be produced at less cost than internal content.
  5. Create a topically-relevant LinkedIn group and facilitate the discussion.
    LinkedIn Groups offer a great venue for direct communication with your audience and serve as an open invitation for more than just brainstorming.  More than a survey question or poll, these groups provide opportunities for discussion and collaboration and you can oversee the entire operation. HubSpot’s LinkedIn marketing group is a great example of this process, where HubSpot has created a destination for inbound marketers and uses the group to connect with and understand their core audience.

Think about the common knowledge among your audience. What is driving them to interact with your brand? What do they care about? What motivates them? If you don’t know the answers, ask them. Not only will this open dialogue help you understand your audience better, but it serves as a great platform for content ideation.

How do you crowdsource content from your audience? Tweet us @LinkedInMktg.