What is content strategy (and what is “content”)?

It’s how businesses are earning attention, getting customers, and shaping their industry. It’s content strategy: a plan for producing and sharing information and media with audiences you want to reach, to achieve goals like customer acquisition and press coverage.

Three Quick (Fictional) Examples of Content Strategy

Lapadio Logo (Fictional Content Strategy Example)B2C: Lapadio, an online music company, wants to get more iTunes users to sign up and upload a list of their music library. They host monthly contests for users to build playlists for unique themes and add commentary, from their uploaded library. The content (and links to it as users promote their playlists in an effort to win) helps Lapadio rank for searches for playlists related to the chosen themes, and gets users promoting the service.

B2B: StudentStyle, a design and marketing firm for national student organizations, wants to convince more national fraternities, sororities, clubs, and professional organizations that they should invest in branding and marketing. They work with their existing clients to publish case studies tracking membership numbers, awareness on-campus and off, and alumni donations. They create surveys and compile the results to show low awareness from most students about what organizations exist on campus and what the benefits are. The latter content gets attention from campus newspapers and magazines, and the former is valuable material for StudentStyle’s sales agents.

Othello Pizza Logo (Fictional Content Strategy Example)Local: Othello Pizza, one of many restaurants competing for business in Harvard Square, is in an easy-to-overlook location. It wants to bring in new customers and keep them coming back.  Othello starts offering two unique promotions: every 100th customer can get their photo taken using one of the big wooden pizza paddles to put a pizza in the oven, complete with chef’s hat and Othello Pizza apron. Sharing these photos on its Facebook Page, they’re quickly tagged by the customer and shared with their friends. The second promotion is a weekly contest on the Facebook Page to suggest a design to do with pizza toppings. Fans comment with suggestions, Othello makes the one with the most Likes and posts a photo on the Page. Keeping fans engaged on Facebook makes sure Othello gets its less-engaging but business-driving updates (new pizzas, specials, etc.) seen by fans.

The “Content” of Content Strategy

Playlists, case studies, survey results, photos of customers, and product art — all different from the generic idea of blog post / website “articles” most of us associate with the idea of content, though text articles can be valuable content too. Content is any media or information being published / provided to a target audience. Content can be gathered from your existing business processes (aggregated, anonymized data from users / clients), contributed from your users (e.g. Yelp reviews and photos, customer surveys), or created by yourself.

Why Invest in Content Strategy?

Because content strategy is indirect (there’s not a clear “1 post = X new customers” line to be drawn), many businesses don’t see the opportunity; they’re too used to the simple propositions of advertising and direct marketing. Buy $X in ads, get Y in impressions, probably get around Z in new customers. But although content marketing doesn’t provide a direct output, it does provide a continuing output. If you buy an ad, you get a set amount of impressions or clicks. If you build a content channel, your content keeps getting visits, links, people sharing it, etc. long after you’ve created it.

Advertising lets you rent access to your audience; building a content channel lets you own access to your audience.

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