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Content marketing is one of the most effective strategies out there for building a rapport with your audience, but there are plenty of pitfalls that even the most experienced of us are guilty of falling into from time to time. When these blunders slip into your content it can often leave audiences feeling a sense of disconnect with a brand, bored, or otherwise ‘turned off.’
The good news is that every mistake represents a teachable moment, so we’ve collated some the most common marketing missteps along with tips on how you can fix them to make sure your content connects every time.
1 - Making it all about you, not your audience
Content marketing is all about building relationships with your audience. Ordinarily, when building a relationship with someone, you can expect both parties to put equal effort into getting to know one another. When it comes to relationships between brands and customers, however, marketers have a much more difficult challenge in front of them.
Most people are bombarded all the time by different companies trying to grab their attention and have grown accustomed to ignoring the ‘noise’ of all these calls to action. That means that unlike in a normal relationship where you can expect equal participation, the burden of effort is firmly on your shoulders to reach out to your audience and give them a good reason to engage with you instead of those five thousand other brands.
The way to do this is to research your audience and make sure your content is tailored to what is interesting and valuable to them. It can be very tempting to post about things that you or your brand are interested in, like industry news, or developments within your company - but this probably isn’t what your audience cares about, and it doesn’t offer much opportunity for them to engage.
It’s the difference between making content and finding an audience for it, versus finding your target audience and making content for them. Take the time to find out what questions they want answering, and lose some of the stuff centred around ‘I’ and ‘We.’
2 - Fixating on selling
Let’s be totally honest, you wouldn’t be going through the process of creating content if you weren’t trying to promote your brand and ultimately generate more revenue. Content marketing is a strategy for gaining business leads, but marketers often shoot themselves in the foot when they become too preoccupied with this end goal.
Traditional marketing strategies are the ones that push promotions and services - but content marketing is a technique that is effective because it has different priorities. For this strategy to work, your main aim should always be to inform or entertain, and selling should come secondary to this.
Audiences are smart and will quickly see through thinly veiled sales pitches. Not only will these not be very engaging, but worse - they can come off as disingenuous and make your brand seem like one that’s entirely fixated on profits instead of customers. Needless to say, this won’t help you build relationships with your audience, which are the things that will benefit your company far more in the long-term.
3 - Letting SEO dominate
Content marketing and SEO should certainly go hand-in-hand, but marketers can cause problems for themselves when they allow the latter to dominate. It’s all too common to see tweets from companies with reams of hashtags crammed in at the bottom, or in which almost every word in the post has been tagged in an attempt to get noticed.
Not only do these posts often become nearly unreadable due to all the extra characters and links, but they will read as spam to most users. They can also come off as looking a little desperate for attention, which is usually off-putting to audiences and will likely cause them to ignore such posts in favour of content that’s more relevant and useful.
Marketers sometimes make this mistake on website pages and blog posts too. Some examples are keyword stuffing, where content is filled with buzzwords aiming to get picked up by search engines, or excessive links, where companies try to increase their relevance by connecting themselves to other sites. Content like this is off-putting in its obvious obsession with SEO, and can do more harm than good for a company as it’s likely to be marked as spam by search algorithms.
Utilising a few key-words that are pertinent to the topic is fine, as is including a select few high-quality links, or 2-4 hashtags in a tweet. Just remember to keep them relevant and be wary of going overboard.
4 - Limiting yourself to the written word
Blog posts can be a great way to explore topics and create content that will be of interest to audiences - but you’ll find that your traffic and engagement plateaus if you don’t incorporate other forms of media into your strategy as well.
Visuals, in particular, are becoming essential for grabbing attention. Studies have shown that people are able to recall around 80% of what they see and do, compared to only about 20% of what they read and 10% of what they hear. Our brains are wired to process visual information extremely quickly - and research has shown that visuals significantly aid in encouraging people to follow instructions, or persuading them to buy a product.
Not only that, but a huge amount of traffic is now entirely dedicated to video - about one-third of total online activity. Video consumption statistics on every platform have been growing year after year because of its ability to grab attention like no other kind of media really can.
Written content is great - but you’ll be missing out on significant chunks of audience by not mixing your media. Attach images and gifs to your social posts to improve understanding, create some videos to encourage prospects at each stage of your funnel, and ensure you have plenty of eye-catching graphics to break up the slew of words.
5 - Failing to optimise content for the platform you’re using
It’s easy to make the mistake of thinking that a piece of content will work on any social platform - but despite having many similarities, no two social media channels are the same. Failing to optimise your content for the platform you’re using can really reduce its ability to engage the users of that site, and cause your brand to look out-of-the-loop.
On Twitter, for example, the character limit has always encouraged brevity and so the most popular posts tend to be those that share links and condense information into a basic overview. People also tend to follow more celebrities, influencers, and brands on Twitter as the short posts make having such a wide range of sources less overwhelming.
On Facebook, on the other hand, people tend to connect chiefly with personal contacts - and the post length can be longer. This means that the best performing content here will be things that people feel they can share with friends and relatives and that they can comment on in more depth.
On LinkedIn, the professional and more academic nature of the site has meant that longer, in-depth, written posts tend to perform better. Meanwhile on Instagram, aesthetic is king and content has to be visually attractive in order to be successful.
This can be a little difficult to get the hang of at first, but after some research and time spent exploring each site, it becomes easier to tailor your content to each platform. If it helps, create a cheat-sheet to advise you on things like post-length, scheduling times, and tone to remind you of the essentials.
Make it about your audience, not about you
Focus on informing and entertaining first, and selling second
SEO should never dominate your content
Ignore the power of mixed media at your own peril
Your content will be more effective if its suited to the platform