Last week I posted about the importance of relevance in content marketing these days. Relevance is a key component of modern search strategies - getting found via search engines, but the real impact can be found in discovery. You can't ignore the growing proportion of online users who would rather explore and discover than search and click. Browsable niche sites, like Pinterest, or content community sites, like Tumblr, are attracting people away from traditional search engines because they enable a more satisfying way to discover and curate great content. To be found on discovery networks, you have to think about the medium itself and optimize your content accordingly.
First, let's dive into this apparent debate between search and discovery. The essential idea is that the increasing popularity of discovery-based sites can be attributed to our desire to involve more of our senses in our online activities. Content with both visual and audio components trumps plain text. Just look at the ever-increasing popularity of YouTube or Facebook to confirm this trend. Of course, it depends on the purpose of your online session. If you need to find hard data or quotes to defend your blog post thesis, there's nothing better than a Google search. On the other hand, if you're not really sure what you're seeking - if you're just browsing the headlines or looking to amuse yourself for a few minutes, what could be better than Flickr, Tumblr, or even Google+. Clearly, we humans have a need for both types of content and both ways of finding it. What we may not be thinking about is how to make our content more "discoverable" on the browsable sites. Here are my top 3 tips:
The key thing here is relevance. You need to get inside the heads of your target audience and make your content desirable by them. Your headline or title is crucial here. Put yourself in your audience's shoes and ask yourself what would catch your attention? Don't be a slave to SEO. If it makes sense to use strategic keywords, use them, but don't sacrifice the headline to them. Do a search on your headline to make sure you aren't reproducing some else's content.
Next, find and include a great photo or embed a video that completely captures your subject matter and makes your reader/viewer think about it. Your image will actually become the headline in places like Pinterest or Facebook, so spend some time thinking about that.
Now write or produce great content that states your premise, supports it and draws a conclusion and invites commentary. Even a short blog post should have a beginning, middle and end. Remember, what you're doing here is presenting an idea or a story and satisfying the intellectual or emotional curiosity of the reader. Don't forget all of the requisite sharing buttons, links to other content and profile information about you. Those things help you spread the word.
If a tree falls in the forest with no one around to hear it, does it actually make a sound? If you want to be discovered on Tumblr or Pinterest, you have to join and get busy sharing content. As usual, you have to play by the unwritten rules of social media - share mostly other people's stuff, but pepper it with your best stuff every now and then.
I know, the big challenge is finding time to hang out in all of these networks, but the payoff can be significant. Ideally, you need a team of content marketers creating great content and spending time in the most appropriate places sharing, liking, commenting and generally being a good neighbor. The best content will rise to the top and be the most discovered. So most of us don't have that team. Either you need to find the extra bandwidth (goodbye nights and weekends) or suck it up and hire some people sooner rather than later.
Don't forget about all of the different kinds of content out there these days. There's Slideshare for your Powerpoints, Flickr for your photo albums, iTunes for your podcasts and, of course, YouTube for your videos. There's Quora and Focus for Q & A discussions. Then there's mobile content optimized for smartphones and geosocial media like Foursquare or Gowalla. Oh yeah, there's also Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. Can't ignore those either. For each of your social sharing sites, make sure that your profile is complete, accurate and up to date. Each one should have links back to your website and blog, that serve as a "hub" for lead capture and analytics.
As you can see, there's a ton to do in content marketing. You can't just think about the search engines, because people are finding you in so many other ways these days. This is going to taking creativity, planning, blood, sweat and tears. If you want the prize though, you have to play the game well.
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