Our One in a Million Content Marketing Strategy that we just Totally Made Up

Today we held a marketing strategy meeting to discuss what we’re going to do with this blog. When you’re a digital marketer and run a social media marketing tool, you become immersed in an overwhelming world of content. You become surrounded by trends and buzzwords that you feel you should know, being an ‘expert’. After several years of consuming tweets, blog posts, tweets that link to blog posts, ebooks, podcasts, podcasts that recommend ebooks, podcasts that recommend webinars, webinars that promote conferences, conferences that tell you how to tweet…

Giphy / GIPHY - via Iframely

You begin to question reality and what actually works in the world of marketing. Not only this, you become desensitised to the whole thing and simply begin to ignore content that could potentially be offering you value.

So when we were coming up with ideas for our blog and how we were going to use it to benefit Swift Social, we wanted to rule out what we don’t want to create.

Which content we don’t want to create

1. Lists of Marketing Tips

We could and have produced content like this in the past, but if we’re honest, it’s not that fun to create, which means we never stay consistent at producing it and quite frankly we’re never 100% sure the “tips” always work. The only thing we do know for sure that works, is trying things out for ourselves and either succeeding or failing at them.

We’re pretty good at marketing, but we’re even better at building products that serve other marketers like us. We’re not ashamed to say that there are better marketers than us out there. So we’d rather not compete with them with similar content. For example, Buffer have a team literally 20 times the size of ours, who have the manpower to consistently churn out regular content that people find value in. We don’t see the point in producing the same content. We find this type of content very quickly goes out of date and we always end up producing the content ‘because we should’ or because we can reach out to the marketers or tools that we mentioned in our article in the hope of a backlink or retweet.

We want to throw out the sales and marketing agenda. If we’re only creating content for the sake of traffic and sign up conversions, we’ll never be passionate about the content we produce and will therefore not maintain it.

2. Industry News

Information moves far too fast on social media to be the first to break news, so creating articles on “Facebook’s newest features” on our blog will only be 30-60 mins that could have been spent fixing bugs or working on a new feature for Swift. The information will be covered by several other more established news outlets i.e. TechCrunch, Mashable and Gizmodo, so we don’t want to be the place for the latest tech and marketing news. The closest we’ll get to this is to tweet out any interesting and/or relevant news on Twitter.

3. Podcasts (for now)

We do enjoy podcasts in the office. But realistically, between a team of 4, when our product needs developing, marketing and customer service(ing), we simply don’t have the time, expertise or equipment to deliver a podcast up to the level that we would expect from a podcast with high production value. It’s something that if we were to do it, we would want to do it right and be proud of it. Writing content with accompanying visuals by just Joe and myself is more time efficient and requires less manpower for the time being.

Which content we do want to create

When we started discussing our new approach, we outlined our objectives of the blog:

Objectives of our blog

  • Build a community
  • Be a platform that asks the question rather than provides the answer
  • Be human
  • Be consistent
  • Get feedback
  • Create user-generated value

First and foremost, we want to build a community. Even if it’s a community of 5 people at first, we would consider that a win. We want to create content that encourages discussion, because that’s where the value will be. We don’t want to pretend to be experts in areas where others are better, so we’d rather build a platform for our community to contribute value so that we and others can learn from each other. We want to put the spotlight on our readers and champion you as the expert. That way, we’ll learn all learn faster from real knowledge and experiences. What we want to do is show where we’re failing. Mixed martial artist champion Conor Mcgregor had some noble words in his last defeat:

“You either win or you learn

This stuck in my mind and kept cropping up during the marketing meeting. Rather than trying to teach our audience how to market through untested methods that we don’t necessarily know from experience, but just researched through Google, we’d rather create content that explained how we failed. That way, we’re being honest, human and we think we’ll encourage feedback that can help us on our journey as well as others. We’re more interested in comments and discussion than shares, as there’s instant value for the whole community in feedback, rather than sharing numbers. Shares should be a by-product of quality content that offers value. If you see no value for your self or others in the content or discussion, then don’t share it. If you do, then invite relevant users to join the conversation to add further value to the discussion.

We asked ourselves which article would we be more interested in reading?

Richard Branson: My Top 5 Tips to Help you Achieve Success

Richard Branson: My 3 Failed Attempts Before I Finally Won with Virgin

We felt like the second headline would be the more interesting read, because it instantly humanises Richard Branson, and actually makes success seem more achievable, because you know that successful entrepreneurs struggle too. There’s fewer things more de-motivating than overnight success stories, so ‘quick-win’ articles are exactly what we want to avoid.

Before we implement this content strategy, each piece of content has to pass our criteria checklist.

Content checklist criteria

  1. Does the content encourage discussion that promotes ‘community learning’?
  2. Is the content human/real/transparent?
  3. Is the content natural/non-promotional and not producing content for content’s sake?
  4. Will the content create value/a positive outcome through discussion?

If we can get our content to tick all of those boxes, then it’ll get the go-ahead on our blog. Of course we want diversify the content, so we’re also adding some other regular pieces to the blog.

Swift Bytes

Swift Bytes are small form articles that explain decisions we make on the development of the Swift platform. Often at times All the time in the office, we disagree argue about how elements of Swift should look, work or feel. If we’re undecided, we tend to put it to a vote. We’d like to make these decisions public by posting:

  • The Change (with a supporting graphic)
  • Why the change was made
  • The outcome of the vote

The purpose of these posts is 3 fold:

  1. Keep our users in the loop and take them along on our journey
  2. To be transparent and human and show that the startup journey isn’t all fun and games and often leads to disagreements for the greater good
  3. If we receive overwhelming feedback from the community against our vote, then we can change tac if needed

We’re also considering Periscoping some of these posts to make the content even more human and engaging.

Other types of content for the blog

  1. “View from an expert” series – Guest posting by invitation. We’re going to invite ‘experts’ who know a lot more than us about marketing to be interviewed and spark discussion amongst our community. (Get in touch if you’re this guy or girl).
  2. Important product announcements – anything important that you may need to know about changes at Swift Social
  3. Guilty pleasures – Fun posts that are interesting to us (and probably no one else) that gives us a place to be creative and mind dump any ideas.

Now that we’ve nailed the type of content that we’ll be posting on the blog, we need to decide how we’re going to deliver this content to new audiences to help build our community.

Content delivery tactics

  • Send an email to our mailing list
  • Laser targeting users on Twitter and LinkedIn who would have valuable feedback on the discussion at hand
  • Connect our Facebook page so that it only posts the latest blog posts

Initially, we’re going to be aiming to post around 2 articles per week. We know this isn’t very much, but we need to be realistic with our time. We know this isn’t just a case of creating the content and posting it. We want to take the time to produce quality content with in-depth case studies and supporting visuals. Outreaching to relevant people to contribute to the discussion and having ongoing discussion with the community on each post to continue to create value for our readers.

Why we are sharing our strategy

As well as the rest of the startup community, we admire Buffer’s amazing ‘transparency’ approach. So we wanted to take a leaf out of their book and felt it important to outline our content strategy so that you know whether this is the type of community you would be interested in being a part of. If so, pop your email address in the box below and we’d love to have your feedback and experiences on future posts. Let the discussion begin!

  • https://swiftsocial.com Joe Sturgess

    As the initial co-author on the blog, I couldnt be more excited by our
    new approach to a startup blog. We do struggle, we do fail. We are tired
    of having to hide those failures, they are the biggest lessons in what
    we do and to share that with a community really excites me. Expect GIFS.
    It’s gonna be emotional.

  • Concolor

    Great approach :D!

  • http://derric.link/rebrandly Derric Haynie

    Solid approach. I specifically love that you mention community and understand the value of building a community.

    Just to be clear to anyone else reading, a community can not be formed around blog posts. Blog posts are a tool for building an audience, and even though there is a comment thread at the bottom of the post, it is still about 90% broadcasting a message, with 9% feedback, and 1% interaction.

    In order to build a community, you have to unite your audience around a core cause, belief, problem, solution, product, or idea on a platform where they can facilitate discussion openly, without the participation from the business. Facebook group, Forum, Slack chat = community. Blog, Facebook post, Snapchat = audience.

    I think communities are a bond strengthening tool that every company should have in its arsenal, so I go around and speak on the subject to as many people as will listen 😀

    • Ian Chandler

      Interesting. As a content marketer, I disagree. I think it’s more difficult to build a community around blog posts, but it definitely can be done.

      I think what you mean is that some media have a more communal nature. A forum encourages community by design. But the whole point of comments on blog posts is to create interaction. Feedback is a part of that interaction––the author interacting with readers, and readers interacting back. I’ve connected with people from blog posts and had interesting conversations as well. After all, a comment section is, like you said, “a platform where [people] can facilitate discussion openly, without the participation from the business.” So here I am, facilitating discussion!

      • Arnis Lochner

        Hey Ian, thanks for facilitating the discussion! It means a lot. A forum definitely encourages community by design – great point. We even discussed that at one point, but decided on a blog as it felt more open and natural. We have discussed tactics to allow the value to escape the comments section such as a WordPress plugin that allows you to copy snippets of text and share directly to Twitter (similar to on Medium – well actually exactly like on Medium). Any other tactics are welcome.

        • Ian Chandler

          Hey Arnis, I think I may have been a bit confusing––I was responding to Derric’s comment that blogs can’t foster communities. I disagree, and I think that Swift is spot on with forming a blog-based community. I don’t use Twitter, so I can’t give feedback on that, but the Disqus platform itself is really conducive to discussion, in my opinion.

      • http://derric.link/rebrandly Derric Haynie

        You literally defined “audience,” as feedback and interaction with the author, which is specifically not “community.”

        A community requires the facilitator (author in this case) to be able to step aside and let others interact independently.

        While this may occasionally happen in a blog post, at least 99% of blog post comments are related to the core theme of the post and thus facilitated by the author.

        It may feel like I am being picky on the definition, but it is extremely important not to mislabel an audience as a community, because the true value of building a community comes from the ability for individuals to stand up and begin new conversations.

        Community is the future of building great brands and businesses, especially online communities. It increases Lifetime Value, lowers Cost per Customer Acquisition, and strengthens relationships between customers, customers and the business, and the business and the world. (that sounded corny…)

        • Ian Chandler

          But why are 99% of blog comments related to the theme? Because of the commenters. it is entirely possible for the facilitator to step back and allow for open-ended discussion. Isn’t that what’s happening here, Derric?

          I agree with you that community is a great marketing/brand building technique, but I disagree completely that community is impossible with blog posts. After all, have you considered that maybe readers have allowed themselves to only think of the comment section of a blog post in a confined way? Ultimately, it’s readers who impose these limits on themselves.

          • http://derric.link/rebrandly Derric Haynie

            I promise that I am not ascertaining an opinion, but laying out for you the difference between audience and community. Even though the difference is not clear at first glance, it is well defined.

            The pure concept of a blog post is written and started by an author, who is most likely an employee of your business, or a guest blogger, who is probably in a related business or field. But no blog post is ever freely started by a member of your community. Therefore your entire blog is completely controlled by your business. It is you preaching to your audience in a very one way method of communication (see web 1.0 in image), where your audience will chime in from time to time, making it back and forth, and then every once in a while a side conversation may be started, but it is still all stemming from that one string of communication that was started by you.

            I do agree that a blog post (and blog post commenting) resembles aspects of a community, but its an incomplete part of the puzzle.

            A community allows people to start their own conversations, around their own topics. Ask uncensored (mostly) questions that stem from any of the thousands of topics that exist in a category (not just the one solo topic that is discussed in a blog post). A community allows others to form small groups or threads of conversation which all eventually tie back to one overarching theme (see web 2.0)

            A blog post is like one of the dots in the web 2.0 image. But having multiple blog posts does not actually create the community, you need that way for people to interact separately from each individual post for a “righteous” community to emerge. Until then you have an audience, plain and simple.

            Put another way, think of reddit. Would reddit be a community if only the owners of reddit could start the topics, and then you could only comment on those topics. Not really. The power of a community comes when the user can start a conversation with other users, and your presence as the “owner” is can be removed entirely.

            I am leaving some room for holes to be poked in my “argument” but I will leave it at that. I’m obviously very passionate about the power and future of communities as a driving factor in business, so I get caught up in the semantics of what is what.

          • Ian Chandler

            You seem to be speaking from a self-assigned status of absolute correctness. I would hope that you would be open to looking at this from a different way, but it seems you’re not.

            You’re operating on a major logical fallacy. You believe that because blogs do not take the form of online communities, they cannot be communities. That is completely erroneous.

            By your logic, Reddit isn’t a community either. Who started Reddit? Not the community members. And now, isn’t Condé Nast the one facilitating the discussions? Redditors are simply using a platform that was started by its owners. Yes, there’s greater control for users, but that can exist on blogs, too.

            It frightens me that the idea of the blog (and preconceived notions about what it should be) are choking its growth. I’ll bow out here, since I don’t have time to keep this up, but I would implore you to read my upcoming post and open yourself up to different perspectives.

          • http://derric.link/rebrandly Derric Haynie

            Paragraph 1: I’m trying to say that I wasn’t actually asserting an opinion when talking about the difference between an audience and community. Those words were defined by someone else and I am pointing out that while the lines do blur between the two sometimes, you may be misusing the term “community” when actually talking about “audience.” I’m not open to debating the underlying terminology of those words, I think they are clearly defined already.

            Paragraph 2: I stated (previously) that they resemble an online community in that people can have a conversation around a topic, but they are not completely a standalone online community. My entire point is that it is incorrect to call your blog, “My community.”

            By my clarifications above it should be clear that Reddit IS a community. I believe you misinterpreted this line, ” But no blog post is ever freely started by a member of your community,” to mean that someone else would have to start Reddit itself. What I mean is that someone needs to be able to simply start a thread on Reddit (which they can do).

            No person reading this post (save you) can start a blog post on THIS blog. And that is one of the core reasons why a blog is not a community. So after that clarification, I believe we are in agreeance on Paragraphs 2 and 3.

            Paragraph 4: The notion that a blog is a community could drive people (and companies) to not further their development of a community. Since I believe (now moving into my opinion), that building strong communities around your business is the KEY to great business (especially online and especially in the next 5 years), I believe that by misusing the term “community,” when you actually mean “audience” could deal a small amount of “harm” onto the world. And I’m hoping my clarifications here encourage more community building.

            Yes this is a weird thing to be passionate about.

            All in all, we are in nearly complete agreeance and I think you are doing a stellar job. It’s only this one notion that a blog can be a community, when I am positive that it is not.

            And to reiterate the point, the number one reason that a blog is clearly not a community is the lack of the ability for any viewer of the blog to create their own “post.” They can only respond to “company” generated content.

          • Ian Chandler

            Sorry Derric, maybe you missed what I said––I’m bowing out of the conversation, so no further correspondence is necessary. Do let me know what you think of my upcoming post here on the blog, and who knows, you could even be part of a community.

          • http://derric.link/rebrandly Derric Haynie

            I recently got to talk with Michael Stelzner – from Social Media Examiner – about this subject. He had some great input that really got me thinking, so I thought I’d share.

            He says that there really are varying degrees of community, and having people unite and comment around a blog post is “part community” but clearly not as strong as online forums. It got me thinking that I should create a graphic about the varying degrees and how we go from “no community” to “full community.” And where blog posts lie in the middle of that.

            Also, heard a great quote from a Jay Baer webinar, “The difference between an audience and a community is which way the chairs are facing.” With blog post comments the chairs are mostly facing towards the blog, but they do turn in slightly towards each other, don’t they?

            I know we’ve been playing a little bit of a semantics game here, but I think we are on to something that is very under-discussed in our industry.

    • Arnis Lochner

      Some fair points Derric. As we were building the strategy, there was a recurrence in my mind that maybe all we’re trying to do is build another Inbound.org but on our terms. That thought revealed itself further when I posted this article on Inbound and it sparked discussion on there as opposed to the article itself. That’s the challenge for us I think; building a community we can call our own, where we can be the conductors. Even replying to comments on this article is a semblance of validation for our strategy, which makes me very happy and excited!

      • http://derric.link/rebrandly Derric Haynie

        I think you (and all businesses) can and should create your own “inbound.org” and I am doing something relatively similar.

        The key is to have your own content tilt, don’t just be the end all source for inbound, and go head to head with them (unless you absolutely thought you could), instead find your own angle, maybe its at the corner of content and social media, or maybe even more specific.

        The general idea of owning your own community is that each community will always be its own unique thing, slightly different than anything else. In this case probably smaller and perhaps more niche, which is totally fine.

        But people would prefer to post in your community because they look for your responses (and the other members responses), and they can’t get that anywhere else.

        Community is especially powerful when uniting people around your own products or services. So you may have 2 or more options, a community for everyone around a certain topic, a community for anyone you have done business with around a certain topic, or one community for the masses and one specifically centered around your products.

  • Ziv Shalev

    Wow, this is a brave post and one of the best I read recently, actually it made me want to follow you now!

  • http://mattmadecontent.com Matt Aunger

    This is fantastic!
    Seriously impressed with your laser focus on your content strategy. Too few actually go through this process, and if I’m honest, I could benefit from doing it too!

    Amazing work all involved. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this blog.

    • https://swiftsocial.com Joe Sturgess

      Thanks Matt, great to hear that we aren’t scaring off the content marketing community with this bold approach. I’m sure we will upset as many people as we enthrall with what we have to say! Keep your eyes on your email, we will be sending out updates as often as possible.

      • http://mattmadecontent.com Matt Aunger

        If that was a sly way of getting me to sign up for the email newsletter, it succeeded (and I appreciate the hustle 😂).

        Far from scaring off. I think this is a great route to go. If anything, it reinforces my own belief that you don’t always have to know everything. Sometimes it’s enough to be curious, and want to share your findings.

        Also, this alone is enough to convert me to a free trial! So good work to your content marketers! ROI box ticked!

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