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Memo to the Modern Marketer: How Long Does Content Marketing Take – And Why That’s The Wrong Question

Most anyone with experience in content marketing has heard the adage that content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. As humans, we love to get ahead of ourselves despite the endless slew of cliches and parables:  ‘don’t count your chickens before they hatch’; ‘Don’t try to walk before you can crawl’;  and  ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’.

Content marketing is no exception to the rule. You have to take time to nurture your content  strategy to see measurable results, but the amount of value it can add to your marketing efforts is priceless — if it’s done well. In our latest Memo to the Modern Marketer, we explore why asking  “How long does content marketing take?” is the wrong question, and look to finding the right way to make your content strategy successful. 

How Do We Build Trust?

In marketing, you hear things like “brands people trust” or “brand loyalty” ad nauseam. Trust is one of the cornerstones of a brand’s success and longevity. According to a study published in the Journal of Global Strategic Management, there’s a correlation between brand loyalty and gaining new consumers, reducing marketing cost, and creating trade leverage — but building that trust with content takes a lot of time. It’s similar to how you might earn trust with friendships. You learn about someone by talking to them and understanding them, demonstrating respect, being consistent with behavior, and nurturing positive interactions. Those things can’t be done in one meeting and they can’t be done with one blog post.

Producing strong content through your blog or social networks lends you an opportunity to start that conversation and appeal to your audience on an emotional level. What you publish gives potential customers information about you, your product, your values and your expertise. These are the things you should think about while you’re putting together your content strategy and as you start writing and creating content.

Walking Before You Run

If you’re publishing content, no one’s going to read it if you don’t promote it. If you don’t know where to begin, start with your employees. Employee advocacy can be very powerful – your team can tweet your content, pin it and share it.

It’s a built-in social network that’s already on your side. Chances are that someone in your colleagues’ networks wants to read what you’re writing and buy what you’re selling. Getting that content in front of them is exponentially easier when your employee is already an entry point.

Global data collector Nielsen reports 84% of consumers surveyed value recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising, and 77% are likely to make a purchase after hearing about it from someone they trust.

Consider the example of online retailer Zappos. It makes Twitter training and using social media part of the onboarding process. While we don’t know if there is a direct correlation between the employee advocacy program and the success of its content, Zappos significantly outperforms its direct competitors from a visibility standpoint.

Employee advocacy is especially important if you want to keep costs down for your Facebook promotion. You can pay for a boost in reach, but Facebook limits organic reach for brands — so if you’re sharing from your company page, even your biggest fans may not see your post. But if your team members post from their personal accounts, their Facebook friends may have a better chance of seeing it, reading it and sharing it.

How Do We Build Momentum?

If maintaining a blog is part of your content marketing plan, one of the most important actions you can take is to publish and share quality content consistently. When and how often depends on how much you can devote to your blog. To build up your momentum, posts should be published at a comfortable cadence for your audience. One reason is because most people are on a schedule and they have to build in activities like reading time, dinner time and exercise time to fit that schedule. Once they fit you into that schedule, you can stay on their radar if you keep publish at a time they expect it. Then, when you have a hit, you can build on the momentum around it.

Broadcast TV executives mastered the scheduling strategy back when viewers had to wait to watch a TV show when it aired on its special night. Take Roseanne, for example. It’s set for a reboot this year, but it broke comedy ground in the 1980s and ‘90s, and it may not have been as visible if it weren’t picking up audience momentum from the already popular Who’s the Boss? on Tuesday nights. Roseanne then built up a bold audience of its own and became the highest rated show in the U.S. in its second season. It stayed in its time slot where it dominated TV ratings until its seventh season.

The media landscape was much different back then, but the crews behind the show are building up momentum with a lot of media hype ahead of its second coming. It will be interesting to see how the show’s 2018 revival will do with the internet and social media working to boost it.

How Do We Build Bridges?

SoulCycle bulldozed its way into the fitness industry in 2006 and, unlike some of its competitors, it made a point of combining a unique community experience with indoor cycling workouts. The soul society adventure started in the studio where members are encouraged to linger and mingle with other riders post-workout. Later, that spilled over onto the internet, where the content marketing team took over to bring participation online with different elements that clearly sets it apart from its competitors.

Music is an important component of the rides, and instructors from different markets share their Spotify playlists through the blog, creating additional opportunities to build bridges between the business and its community. That’s only part of its digital efforts; the blog has a robust set of videos on different workouts and positions for the bikes used at the studio. The blog also provides healthy recipes, inspiration through rider stories and general workout tips.

A look at SoulCycle’s Visibility graph shows initial success with the strategy. However, you can see a SoulCycle visibility decline as the year progresses, while Peloton’s SEO efforts appear to be gaining traction. This may be attributed to Peloton’s in-home, on-demand classes. That’s be something SoulCycle’s content marketing team may want to keep in mind as they refine their strategy throughout this year.

How Do We Build Credibility?

The best way to get on Google’s good side is to create quality content. The masters of the search universe have been trying to hammer this into the minds of marketers since the early days of digital marketing when keyword stuffing spoiled the user experience.

Search engines want users to be able to find information they’re looking for. Google and others encourage anyone publishing content to be an authority on information they distribute. To demonstrate expertise, it helps to incorporate information into content from trusted sources, and link back to them. For instance, if you’re writing a blog post on hacks for getting over a cold, include facts from the Centers for Disease Control like “adults suffer from 2-3 colds each year.”

The CDC is a government agency that is widely trusted by media organizations for facts and analysis on health. Including its information and a link in a blog post shows that you’re putting effort into providing solid information for your readers. Google picks up on this and will reward you in higher rankings than you might not benefit from if you didn’t include the information.
Technological updates and the internet may move fast, but marketers shouldn’t count on seeing a return on their efforts at the same speed. Taking the time and give attention to the details that get you to the finish line. The best strategies incorporate addressing the needs of  potential customers and tailoring content to fit them. Data can be a good friend in accomplishing both.