Effective marketing in the digital age requires skill, finesse, a deep understanding of your target audience and, perhaps most importantly, sufficient resources to bring it all together. Unfortunately, few small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) and startups in today’s highly competitive sectors have the luxury of extra time, energy and financial resources available to employ full-time, dedicated content development and marketing teams. However, with effective use of even the most limited resources, businesses of all shapes and sizes can use efficient content and social marketing tactics to outperform the competition.
Content marketing and social media marketing are two distinct avenues which, if used wisely, can drive increased traffic, enhance customer satisfaction levels, generate potential leads and, ultimately, resonate with clients to help your business soar. Although each format requires a unique approach to be effective, there is a sweet spot between the two which SMBs can leverage to reach clients in both arenas simultaneously. Before jumping into this space, let’s take a look at some of the unique aspects of content marketing and social media marketing, and examine how your startup can maximize resources to move forward in both mediums simultaneously.
Marketing in the Digital Age Via Social Media
Social media marketing, as the name implies, focuses on harnessing the inherent reach of leading sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, even YouTube to inform your target audience and inspire them to take action. Successful startups frequently engage in social media marketing behaviors including:
- Commenting routinely on feedback left by customers
- Posting frequent updates
- Responding promptly to customer inquiries
- Expressing sincere appreciation to users who leave positive feedback
- Engaging unsatisfied customers directly and attempting to resolve issues
- Monitoring feedback received on a daily basis
- Adjusting tactics, as needed, to boost user engagement numbers
Unlike content marketing which relies heavily on developing engaging articles, blogs, infographics and other formats of varying length for your website, social media marketing tactics must work within the context of the forum in which they operate. For example, Twitter thrives on short, bite-sized chunks of data currently limited to 280 characters per post. Reaching your target audience via Facebook often requires a short, attention-grabbing and actionable line of text combined with an engaging video or infographic and a call to action.
These are just two examples of how SMBs need to tailor content, and messaging, for social media platforms to effectively reach clients. At the end of the day, your SMB’s social media marketing efforts sink or swim based on the level of engagement they receive.
Keep Your Content Marketing Strategy Relevant
Content marketing, in contrast to social media marketing, focuses on strategizing, planning and developing content to populate your website or websites. When working through strategies to craft this content, keep in mind that today’s netizens may be immediately turned off by poorly written articles, meandering blog posts and overtly “salesy” headlines, calls to action, and more. Instead, your content writing style, tone and grammar should be clear, clean, concise and genuinely engaging.
It is also important to keep in mind that the relevance, readability and value of your site content to a user weighs heavily on where you rank on search engine result pages (SERP). Although search engine leaders, such as Google, assess your site’s value based on a wide range of factors, user relevance appears to currently be at, or near, the top of the list. Delivering content which users, and search engines, deem relevant includes a wide range of tactics such as writing authoritatively on a subject, creating an article that a user would deem shareworthy or crafting a blog post built on personal experience.
Effective content marketing also needs to be optimized for easy discovery when users search for the products or services you offer. Site owners can leverage a wide range of search engine optimization tactics to aid this effort. Some of the most popular strategies include:
- Embedding well-researched keyword phrasing judiciously throughout content
- Using effective linking strategies between content on multiple site pages
- Adding links to authoritative sources of information in your content
- Making use of well-written meta descriptions to quickly capture a page’s content
- Creating content which is easily readable via mobile devices
How to Stretch Your SMB’s Resources to Leverage Both Marketing Avenues
If you do not have the resources to devote to developing a holistic content strategy or employing a full-time social media marketing team, you’re not alone. According to a recent study of over 350 SMBs conducted by Outbound Engine, nearly 50% of U.S. small business owners have no marketing plan at all for this calendar year. Of the half that have a plan, 60 percent spend five or fewer hours a week on marketing. Additionally, 25% of startup owners feel greater stress this year than in previous years. Why is this?
Based on the data from this study, business owners stated that the reasons they fail to develop a marketing plan to reach new growth opportunities are:
- Current severe staff shortages
- Not enough funds available to devote to maintaining on-site marketing
- A lack of time to research and develop comprehensive content strategies
- No readily available resource to help determine which approaches would be effective
Some best practices you may consider to maximize resources and, potentially, locate the critical space that intersects between social media and content marketing include:
- Share positive customer reviews left via social media directly on your site
- Trim long articles down and post the most important snippets to social media
- Repurpose content and integrate into other formats
- Develop actionable content which could easily translate among a variety of formats
- Deliver consistent brand messaging via social media and site content
- Link social media contact pages to a website homepage or contact page
- Develop appealing calls to action applicable to both forums
Although the two marketing arenas are quite different on the surface, even SMBs with a shoestring marketing budget can leverage the two to achieve results. With just a few hours each week, startups can plan, develop and create content which intersects across both marketing domains.