It's a busy time of year for marketers.
Between executing holiday campaigns, preparing for our annual reviews, and planning for 2016, not only do we have our work cut out for us, we're also forced to face our daily content struggles head-on as we make a plan to defeat them in the new year.
According to Content Marketing Institute's 2016 Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends Report, 72% of B2B content marketers identify one of their most prominent struggles as “creating engaging content”. This certainly comes as no surprise — engagement is a great indicator of the effectiveness of your content marketing efforts. We all know why engagement is important for content marketing, but we still seem to be struggling as to how to generate engaging content for our respective audiences.
So, I decided to turn to the experts — the content marketing leaders who are executing some killer content marketing strategies — to share their sage wisdom and help shed some light on how to tackle the engagement issue.
Read their top tips for generating engagement below!
1. Figure out how engagement will help you reach your goals
Michele Linn, VP of Content, Content Marketing Institute
"I would first consider why engagement is the metric you are seeking. How will more shares and comments help you achieve your goals (such as subscribers, leads, revenue)?If you do see a correlation between shares and your goals, I would use a tool like BuzzSumo to see which of your content — as well as that of your competitors — have had the most engagement on a specific platform. Are your readers looking for templates? Videos? Advice on a certain topic? I would then consider how you can produce more content in that vein."
2. Do your research
Steve Rayson, Director, BuzzSumo
"I think content marketers need to pay more attention to research, amplification and monitoring. However, the key is research. Ensure you know what questions your audience is asking and the issues that keep them awake at night. The real opportunity is before you create your content. Research will help you identify the content that works, what gets shared, the headlines that engage, how content gets amplified and where the opportunities are."
Get Steve's insight on the types of content you need to create to drive major traffic.
3. Start from step zero
Anum Hussain, Senior Growth Marketer, HubSpot
"Engage from step zero. Marketers are always thinking about how to earn a click, comment, or share once someone arrives on a post — but what about the medium through which they land on that post? Take subscribers for example. Most new subscribers begin receiving the next new post a blog publishes, regardless of if that post will be a success or failure. For the Sidekick Blog, we entered new subscribers into an email workflow that sent them our very best content the first few weeks they were subscribed (more on that here), leading to stronger engagement right from the beginning of our relationship. We found this led to greater reader retention over time."
Learn Anum's tips for how to accelerate the growth of your B2B blog.
4. Use content to "remove a step"
Jay Acunzo, VP of Platform and Content, NextView Ventures
"One major reason your content isn't engaging is that it's just not useful or interesting to your audience. Simple, right? But it's really hard to figure out what, exactly, would be the most engaging and most interesting.
To determine that, I turn to a great idea by Ev Williams, founder of companies like Blogger, Twitter, and Medium (so he knows a thing or two about modern, digital communication). He says that innovating online is about identifying a desire someone has, lining up all the steps it takes them to fulfill that, and then using technology to remove those steps. We can do the same with content!
Maybe your audience is struggling to secure more budget from their boss. An advice column could be okay, but if you notice a lack of engagement, ask what step you can remove from their process entirely — say, through a pre-designed, pre-arranged deck to tell a compelling story to their boss. Suddenly, you'll notice people not only engage with their content, but their nice comments start ending not in periods, but in exclamation points. Few things are better signs of a truly engaged reader, prospect, and customer."
Get Jay's insight on why content doesn't scale.
5. Get the conversation going
Matt Heinz, President, Heinz Marketing
"Most content is flat, one-dimensional and non-engaging. Even a simple blog post can turn those negative attributes around! Use your content to ask questions, engage your audience, and invite them to respond. Get them involved in a conversation, then engage right back! We all want to know people are listening, that our ideas and responses are recognized and appreciated. That’s incredibly easy to do with your content, and the impact it has on engagement, response, attention and trust is exponential."
Learn Matt Heinz's best content hacks for driving engagement and generating leads.
6. Think beyond B2B
Owen Fuller, Chief Evangelist, Movement Ventures
"Forget the phrase 'B2B'. That might be your business model, but shouldn't describe your communication style. Think person-to-person — 'P2P' — instead. In 2016, go for more segmentation and personalization. Don't know where to start? Talk with 100 customers this month in person or by phone, and you'll gather the insights that you need to hatch your master plan."
Learn Owen's tips and tricks for hitting your content marketing goals with quizzes.
7. Listen to your customers
Cassandra Jowett, Content Marketing Manager, Influitive
"Most B2B marketers struggle to create engaging content because their customers are not involved in the content creation process — at all. Start by actively listening to your customers' feedback: ask what they'd like to see as a customer and what would have been valuable to them during the buying process.
Long before you A/B test any subject lines with your whole database, you should be A/B testing those ideas with your customer base to allow the best ones to rise to the top. Then, find ways to feature your biggest advocates in the content you end up producing. If a piece of content isn't informed by and/or doesn't feature your advocates, you're going to keep struggling."
Get Cassandra's tips for crowdsourcing content from your advocates.
8. Do the unexpected
Barry Feldman, Owner & Creative Director, Feldman Creative
"Toss some sparks into the engine room. Really. Engagement means action. If you want people to take action, you need to fire 'em up. Present something passionate, opinionated, bold — something unexpected."
Check out Barry's presentation, 8 Keys to Creating More Meaningful Content.