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Why You Need a Content Strategy

By Ryan Sawrie, Author of Build Your Digital Strategy | Owner of Digital Zeal | Digital Strategy Sprint

Hundreds of brands every day are flocking to TikTok.

They’ve finally come to the realization that it isn't an app just for lip syncs and dance moves - and that their target customer might be spending hours a day on the platform.

But, here’s what the average brand’s TikTok account looks like:

Day 1: We’re on TikTok! Follow us and let us know what you want to see!

Day 2 - 60: (crickets)

The above scenario could be true for almost any new app or platform that a brand signs up for. The newness or enthusiasm for the platform is what gets a brand there in the first place. However, there’s no typically no plan for filling out the platform with meaningful content for a long period of time.

That’s where a content strategy comes in.

A content strategy is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to creating a fully comprehensive Digital Strategy.

Content strategy is the process of defining what content you’re creating, how it will be created and who it should be targeted to.

In my opinion, a content strategy HAS to come before you get too deep into deciding what social media channels or other digital platforms to utilize. Here’s why.

The "what" and the "how" need to come before the "where" and the "when."

Content strategy answers three major questions for your overall digital strategy:

● What are we creating?

● How will we make it?

● Why are we creating it?

You can't ask, "When are we posting to Twitter?" before you answer the question, "What are we posting to Twitter?" or even, “Why are we posting to Twitter?”

In my A to F Digital Roadmap process, the second step involves identifying the core audience you’re trying to reach. Knowing your audience well will help you to find answers to the question of "what" content you need to create.

When you know your brand’s goals and the audience you hope to reach, you start to uncover the messaging, benefits and story about your brand or product that your target audience needs to be aware of.

Next, you need to know "how" you will be creating this content.

The how can be one of the greatest hurdles to creating compelling digital content in today's marketplace. Most of us are resource-strapped - meaning, we can't spend $5,000 to have a single Instagram video for social media made like Nike or Coors Light could. Our content strategies have to fit within the realm of what's possible given the resources available to us.

The good news here is that new softwares and solutions come out every month that make it easier and more scalable to create high-performing social media content. Resources like Canva make it possible for the everyday marketer to develop decent visual content. Video platforms like Biteable or Animoto make it possible to create videos on your own, too.

Lastly, and most importantly is the “why” you’re creating content.

There’s possibly nothing more frustrating for a marketer than spending hours on a piece of content and feeling like it’s a waste of their time.

When the “why” of a content strategy is defined, that feeling should never occur. The goals, target audience and brand identity should inform every piece of content that a brand publishes to their digital channels.

That’s not to say that every post should try and sell a product or gain a new follower. However, every post should have some type of connection to the brand’s overall goals.

A strong content strategy allows you to post with purpose every time.

A strong content strategy allows you to have a reason behind each piece of content you publish.

When you've established who your brand is and who you're attempting to reach online, having a purpose for your content comes naturally.

This is a real-life scenario that happened for me once in agency life. A technology client that I led social media strategy for asked what we were posting for World Oceans Day. I don't think I've ever been more at a loss for words on a weekly client call than at that moment. There was absolutely no connection between the brand and World Oceans Day, nor did I know that day even existed before that moment. Despite my polite questions and objections, the client insisted on creating content for the day and we complied.

I'm guessing most digital marketers have faced a similar scenario. "What are we posting for #MayThe4thBeWithYou day?" Yikes. Unless your brand has something to do with space travel, geek culture or interstellar warfare, you don't need to create a post for that day. That might be a hard pill for some to swallow, but if your best reason for creating a piece of content is that it's cool or everyone else is doing, then I've got a lecture about not jumping off a cliff that my dad once told me.

If you've developed a digital strategy with a solid content plan that has buy-in around the company or with your client, then it will be easy to take on these kinds of off-the-wall requests. If it doesn't have purpose behind it, then you get to quote American Idol judge Randy Jackson, "It's gonna be a no from me, dog."

Paid social media might get you followers, but good content keeps them and converts them.

While a number of tactics out there will help to grow your following, none of them will do more to keep a quality audience coming back than a solid content strategy. Sweepstakes, paid social and influencer campaigns are all tactics I have used in the past, and might even come back to in the future, in order to grow a following.

But, as a thoughtful marketer who is thinking long-term about the success of your brand online, gimmicks aren't what will make your channels successful. Great content that resonates with your audience is what will make a difference in turning them from a cold audience into your brand advocates.

You want your channels to last for a long time.

A digital medium that has taken off in the last few years is podcasting.

In April of 2018, an estimated 18 million podcast episodes existed on different platforms like Spotify or Apple Podcasts. In April of 2021, that number exceeded 48 million, with an estimated 2 million podcast channels in existence.

While creating a podcast could make sense for a lot of brands, here's the difficult truth about podcasting. 90% of podcasts don't get past their third episode. That's around 1.8 million podcasts that don't make it to creating 4 episodes. Of those remaining 200,000 podcasts, another 90% won't make it past 20 episodes. That leaves only approximately 20,000 podcasts in existence that have created more than 20 podcast episodes. Make it to 21 episodes, and you're now in the Top 1% of podcasters when it comes to content.

Hurriedly jumping into creating a podcast without first going through the planning to decide why you're making one, who you're reaching and what exactly you will create will inevitably land you in the 99% of podcasts that don't create more than 20 episodes, or even the 90% that don't make more than 3 episodes.

There's an important lesson beyond content strategy and podcasting to be gathered while we're here.

When you have a solid content strategy, your competition isn't the millions of brands, companies and YouTubers that have a channel. Your competition is that 1-10% of brands who are working hard every day, not quitting, continuously planning and strategizing to produce great content that resonates with their followers.

Defining your content strategy is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to digital strategy.

However, it’s a big one! I hope this has helped you to find some clarity in defining a strategy that works for your brand.

Ryan Sawrie

Ryan is a digital strategist with more than 10 years of experience in digital marketing, and he has a passion for creating strategies and executing campaigns for digital media channels.

His experience in digital marketing has created opportunities for him such as: producing a web series for a major sports league, creating a national digital campaign around the nation's most popular sporting event and being named a Finalist for Digital Leader of the Year awards. He has a keen eye for how content strategy and social media can work together to take brands to the next level.

Ryan on THIS. with Shauna Griffiths. REAL TALK. REAL LEADERS.

In this episode, Ryan talks about:

-- The importance of being your authentic self, and the conflict that’s arisen when he strayed from that

-- Why he decided to start his company, Digital Zeal

-- Focusing on being an expert at learning rather than an expert in one thing within your field

-- The inspiration and motivation behind writing his book, “Build Your Digital Strategy”

-- The parallels he sees between distance running and digital marketing

...And much more!

Apple Podcasts 👉

Google Podcasts 👉

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