5 Tips to Keep in Mind While Building your 2018 Content Marketing Plan

Successful content marketing requires both a content marketing strategy—the why of your organization’s content marketing efforts—in addition to a content marketing plan, or editorial calendar—the how you will execute on that why. They’re not interchangeable, as Content Marketing Institute preaches: An editorial calendar is not a content marketing strategy. If you’re anything like our marketing team at Spredfast, you’re currently in the throes of 2018 planning, and re-articulating your content marketing strategy as well as setting your content marketing calendar are likely on your to do list if your job title looks anything like mine.

So as I shore up what our best content life might look like in 2018, I thought I’d pass along five tips I’m using as guideposts along the way—two related to content strategy, three related to content planning. This time of year always surfaces predictions, trend identification, and collective chatter about The Next Big Thing, but some advice remains timeless. Happy planning:

1. SEO is Still Critical—and Still a Workhorse

A whopping 80% of web traffic begins with a search query. In addition, 70% of the links search users click on are organic, and 70-80% ignore paid ads on a web page, focusing instead of the organic results. In addition, 75% of users never get past the first page of web results. Google currently processes more than 40,000 search queries per second. That’s more than 3.5 billion searches per day, or 1.2 trillion per year. All of these numbers add up to one truth: content is more critical than ever, and truly SEO-optimized content should remain a top priority for your organization.

Google currently processes more than 40,000 search queries per second.

 

For our part, we like to mind the details we know still matter: We check keywords for each blog post or content asset title (this one includes “content marketing plan”, for example, because it fits the content of the post while also having more search traffic than my original guess or thought about “content marketing tactics” for 2018). You likely already know most of the tried-and-true SEO best practices by heart, but if you don’t, review one of these checklists and keep it handy until it becomes second-nature for your editorial team to implement.

2. As You Set Content Strategy, Consider Content Tilt

As I set about refreshing our content strategy for 2018, I did some digging to ensure that the strategic questions I asked myself last year were still relevant given the state of content marketing in 2018. I found a few resources worth their weight in gold, namely Content Marketing Institute’s piece titled “One Thing is Killing Content Marketing and Everyone is Ignoring It.” The one thing Joe Pulizzi means? Sameness.

The fact that content is king, and has been, means that competition for attention is stiffer than ever before. If you aren’t offering your customers and prospects information, entertainment, or education they can’t get anywhere else, they’ll go somewhere else. End of story. To ensure that your content marketing strategy will make a bottom-line difference to your business, ask yourself the following three questions:

  • Who are you trying to help?
  • What are the business goals you’re measuring?
  • How will you help your audience in a way that no one else can?

As Pulizzi explains: “The content tilt is that area of little to no competition on the web that actually gives you a fighter’s chance of breaking through and becoming relevant. It’s not only what makes you different, it’s so different that you get noticed by your audience. That audience rewards you with their attention.”

3. Give Someone Something (Don’t Sell them Something)

Related to content tilt, but worth its own bullet: to really ensure that your content marketing program is successful, make sure that you’re giving away all your best advice for free. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again—the benefit of content marketing is earning your prospects’ trust, and there’s no better way to quickly earn someone’s trust than to give them—without strings attached—advice, how-tos, or strategy they can implement immediately. When in doubt, ungate your content. When in doubt, reveal that hint that made a huge difference for you. (Related: See how I’m drinking my own kool-aid here?)

When in doubt, ungate your content. When in doubt, reveal that hint that made a huge difference for you. — @jaimenetzer

 

4. Take Good Shortcuts (vs. Bad Ones)

As a content marketer, it’s natural to always feel like you need more to get the job done –– more people, more budget, more resources. If your requests fall on deaf ears, you need to learn to get scrappy while still maintaining your standards for quality work. Curating the content of others lends itself well to this. Find a Wall Street Journal article relevant to your industry? Share it on social or write a blog post about it.

Campaigns that encourage user-generated content often reap the benefits of the time spent on them. At our Smart Social Summit, Airbnb’s Global Editorial Content Lead Caitlin Choate said that almost all of their content is user-generated. This frees up the content team to think strategically and make quick turnarounds when necessary –– like their first Super Bowl commercial, which they produced in a week.

Not every piece of content your team creates needs to be utterly original. In fact, engaging with your audience and your industry shows people that you’re both talking and listening.

Engaging with your audience and your industry shows people that you’re both talking and listening.

 

High-quality video production becomes less expensive as technology evolves, and this evolution doesn’t show signs of slowing down. It looks like the camera quality hype around products like the iPhone X was well-deserved, and that’s good news for anyone producing video on a tight budget. (Want proof? See below.)

 

5. Make Sure you Really Know Your Audience

Persona mapping is nothing new, but social listening allows for you to make it more strategic. What is the voice and tone your audience is using to interact with you? Find the human story behind their demographics, and then brainstorm around how your brand can build upon it.

Persona mapping can very easily devolve into stereotypes and assumptions, so the more qualitative data you can find on your target audience, the more accurate your persona map will be. Primary research may help you uncover tendencies and preferences of your personas that you (and your competition) never thought about before. Tons of people in the social marketing industry read Forrester studies, so the more insights on the real-life versions of your personas you can produce yourself, the better chances your brand has for disruption.

Want even more tips you can use in your 2018 planning? Download our tipsheet, 2018 Social Media Trends Predicted by Top Marketers.

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Jaime Netzer is Spredfast's Senior Content Marketing Manager, leading content operations. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly and reads constantly.