Effective content marketing is a journey that best begins with identifying the audience you will need to reach.
If you haven’t done it already, it’s a good idea to get very specific about identifying the people you are trying to reach. Who are they? White collar professionals? Soccer moms? Generation X? What are their likes & dislikes? What are their habits?
Create an imaginary profile for each of your top buyer personas. This information will serve as a sort of roadmap to help you identify places to look for your audience as well as specific ways to reach them.
For instance, if one of your buyer personas is “a soccer mom” you may want to consider doing searches and possibly creating content on Pinterest – a platform known to be particularly attractive to us women.
Next, identify words or strings of words that signify topics or communities that are likely to be used in searches by your buyer personas. These words used in online searches are called key words or key word strings.
For instance, if your niche relates to transportation, “carpooling” may be a keyword you use in your searches. The more detailed you get with your buyer personas, the more useful keywords you are likely to uncover.
Conduct searches for your keywords on different social media platforms as well as on Google. You are likely to learn more about your potential audience this way. But finding active communities ( which might located in discussion groups, blogs, or identified with hashtags) is your ultimate goal.
Once you find these communities, bookmark them and go back again and again, to get more insight. These are the places where you will find recruits for your brand’s social media circle of supporters.
For example, you can find a lot of people who are talking about carpooling by doing a search on Twitter. These people may be following hashtags that indicate a related online community filled with people and conversations you may want to get involved with.
You can find groups directly that relate to carpooling when you do a search on LinkedIn under groups. You can join these groups, begin building relationships and sharing content that is useful to the group.
ALSO – if you have any questions about anything, Google it. You don’t have to pay thousands of dollars to learn how to market using social media. All the information you need is available at the click of a button. Use it!
A passive but very effective way to gather information about your audience and the communities in which they engage, is to set up Google alerts for keywords.
Just go to www.google.com/alerts and set up automatic searches that will alert you by email whenever your search term or word appears on the internet.
It’s also a good idea to set alerts up for the name of your brand name, names of key figures within your organization, and any competitors. Alerts are very useful for keeping you aware of what people are saying about you so that you can respond immediately if necessary.
A bonus of setting up Google alerts for your keywords, is that you are likely to be kept apprised of the latest articles about news within your niche. This can provide excellent content for you to share on your social media accounts.
Once you identify the communities that include your potential audience, do a little lurking. Pay attention to what people are posting. Check out their links. Attend chats or discussions and just watch.
Don’t worry about being sneaky or nosey. Lurking in online communities is how you test the water before jumping in.
Keep your buyer personas in mind and be on the lookout for information that will help add to them. Likewise, keep your eyes peeled for indications that the community is not a good place for your brand to engage in after all.
You’ll also want to monitor protocol or etiquette they are using, what irritates people and what charms them? This will help you fit in much more easily when you start to engage.
While you’re out there monitoring communities that you’ve identified online, I highly recommend that you begin to interact. It will give you practice in case you decide to commit to a social media marketing strategy. It will also allow you to start building beneficial relationships online.
Keep in mind that the most effective social media marketers engage, inform and recommend or retweet.
Be patient and persistent and over time you'll start to get feedback that will help ensure your content marketing is successful.
(Much of the content for this post was drawn from a presentation given to the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association.)
(Photo by Hash Milhan)