One of the big buzz words in the digital world at the moment is ‘strategy’…everyone needs a strategy, be it a social media strategy, a mobile strategy, even a tea making strategy! But why has ‘strategy’ become the latest term to be bandied around by all and sundry? Probably because people are suddenly seeing the value in having a long term strategic idea of where they are going, rather than being reactive with no vision beyond the next couple of months. The recession has focussed the minds of many companies into really concentrating on what they do well and spending money only in the places that will work towards that and affect the bottom line in a positive way.
I don’t think everything does need a ‘strategy’, although I wholeheartedly applaud and encourage anyone who thinks in terms of the long game rather than only a few moves ahead, but one area that I think is important to look at both holistically and strategically is content.
Many people think they have a content strategy because they know what is on their website, they know what each page is for and they have taken the time to optimise the content for SEO, make it a nice consistent experience and generally ticked all the boxes on ‘building a website 101’. They even know how that content will change over the course of the next few months or years, great, but it doesn’t take into account the bigger picture. The problem is that your content does not stop at your website, or in your printed offline items, or in email comms to your clients. Content is an immense concept and it exists in what I coin ‘the content eco-system’.
So what do I mean when I say ‘content eco-system’? It sounds a bit fluffy doesn’t it, but it is relevant. In the modern age it is important that customers and potential customers encounter your brand consistently wherever they are. The reason for this is that you want them to know it is your brand no matter what channel they absorb it in, rather than having to work to recognise that it is you. Therefore the ‘eco-system’ that your brand operates in covers your website, printed assets, adverts, social media sites you engage in, even the conversations people have with each other about your brand. The latter might seem a bit odd to consider as part of a strategy but think about viral campaigns; the aim of these is to get people talking about your brand in a specific way…to create a buzz. Even if you can’t control what people are saying about your brand, you can guide the conversation in certain directions.
The point I am making is that your content strategy needs to cover every facet of where your brand is encountered. You need to build a consistency throughout these channels that allows people to instantly know it is you, no matter where they are, and allowing them to get a consistent experience. Why is this important? Because you want people to become advocates of your brand and this should be achieved through a consistent and enjoyable experience.
The aim is to put in place a 4 stage process that brings new customers to you naturally:
> A person encounters your brand
>They are interested so visit your site
> They identify with your brand and so become a customer
> They have a good experience so they tell others about it
If done successfully then once people become advocates and tell others about your brand, those others will engage, visit and become customers and in turn spread the word.
This will only work well if the content that you have on 3rd party sites, in adverts and other promotional content is consistent in experience with your own website and customer services. And it also needs to be appropriate to your brand and suitable for the channel it is in. There is no point having a blog if you rarely have anything interesting to say. If you have a Facebook page then there needs to be a reason for users to visit it regularly, to keep the community alive. There is no point creating emails for customers if the emails don’t have anything useful to say, then it is only spam. This is the type of thing that a good content strategy should do. It should consider when, where and how content is created and placed, when it is created and controlled by you and when it is the people out in the big bad world who do it for you. But the most important thing, is that it should make sure that the content created is serving the brand in the right way. If it isn’t then you are just wasting your money!