Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: “We’d love to build content for our site, but would you please be so kind as to show us some numbers to suggest there will be a return on our investment?”
All of us in the inbound marketing business know that if you build good content and promote it to the right people, it will eventually take off. The problem is that we’re tasked with convincing those in control of the budgets that our theories will pay off before we have a chance to build data to support them. It takes a certain kind of business owner to buy into the content marketing hype right off the bat without some promise that they’ll see their investment come back as revenue. Unfortunately, unless you’ve been publishing reasonably good content on a regular basis for a while, the only thing you can do is cite theories and other people’s information.
Your CFO doesn’t want to hear about theories, he wants to hear the facts and the figures that will help him move the dial on his revenue growth for the year. So, how do you get the ball rolling on content development when you have a non-believer holding the purse strings and a pack of creatives chomping at the bit to get started?
Simple: show the non-believer that their existing audience demands content.
To pull this off you’re going to need a couple of things first. Mainly, you need an active Twitter account with a decent number of legitimate followers who care about what your brand has to say. If you haven’t built up your follower count already, you can find a ton of information on how to grow your Twitter followers in a meaningful way in these videos from SEOmoz.
You’re also going to need a list of active and influential profiles on Twitter who can’t help themselves but talk about what’s interesting in your niche. You should be following them, listening to what they have to say, and participating in the conversation whenever possible.
Got that? Now let’s get to the fun part.
Here are three different ways you can go about testing the demand for your content without spending money, building new pages on your site, or performing tricks that might draw unwanted attention from your boss. Perform all three of the following tasks and you can go into your next content development meeting armed to the teeth with fresh ideas that you know without a doubt are worth investing in.
Throw Ideas to the Crowd and Count the Re-Tweets
It’s time to put that Twitter following you built to good use. Put a meeting together of all the creative people on your team and start throwing content ideas up on a whiteboard. We’re talking articles they’ve dreamed about writing, videos you’ve been begging to film, games you want to make, anything you can think of.
Each idea should be less than 140 characters so that it will fit in a single tweet. Once you have about 50 of them, figure out when prime time is for your audience (this bit.ly study puts the best time for Tweeting around 1 – 3pm EST Monday through Thursday) and tweet 5 ideas per day in that time slot for the next two weeks or so. As you do this, keep track of the retweets each idea gets and make note of it.
Eventually, you’re going to have a graph that you can take to your next budget meeting that shows that your audience likes some ideas more than others, which ideas are good to run with, and who to reach out to once the content gets made so that you can start getting it shared.
Take a Poll of Your Fans
Don’t want to go through the process of coming up with ideas on your own? Not a problem. As long as you have a twitter following that pays attention to you, you can ask them anything you like. Start a discussion with all of your fans about what they’d like to see developed on your website. Are they hungry for video content or would they rather read articles? Do they want you to provide the latest industry news or are they just looking for how to make something or do something on their own? These types of questions can serve as insight into the minds of your consumer. Give them what they want.
Modern digital marketers often forget about the good old days of the advertising industry where focus groups and voting booths were the norm. Treat your followers like a gigantic cloud based focus group and you’ll never wait for good content ideas and budget justification again.
Steal Other People’s Good Ideas
Let’s say you’ve been slacking on building your twitter profile up and you don’t have a ton of followers to lean on. That means you’re not going to be able to get retweets for even a masterful content idea, and you’re not going to be able to take a poll from the ghost town that is your fan base. Instead, what you can do is follow other people (preferably influential ones) in your niche and let their conversations guide you.
Most of the people on twitter aren’t going to take the next step and build a page based on the things they’re talking about in their tweets. That means there’s an opportunity for you to swoop in and build content based on the good ideas they won’t use. To determine what’s a good idea and what’s a water cooler dud, simply count the retweets, @mentions, and other responses to their tweets. If a tweet is strong enough it will bubble up to the surface, allowing you to snatch it up and build a page based on it.
Listen to the Twitter-verse and Respond by Building Content
Look for tweets that get retweeted all over the place. Find trends and patterns in the conversations taking place. Seek out recurring questions. Jot down what seems to get a lot of traction out there and use that data to say: “We know all of these people are talking about this and we think that if we build a landing page covering it, we could get at least X shares, Y visitors, and Z conversions out of it.”
The more people you find on twitter talking about something, the more reason there is to build content for them to talk about. Don’t be afraid to use Twitter’s hive mind to get content developed on your site before you have your own Year of Year growth patterns to support the hefty investment for development.
About the Author
Matthew Proctor got his start in internet marketing by opening a freelance copy-writing and SEO consulting practice. He has since worked for local advertising agencies, in-house at start-ups, and on campaigns for Fortune 500 brands. Follow him on Twitter.