The art of content marketing – and why you should try it…

Are you a small company or an artist looking to market yourself on a shoestring? True, making a name for yourself – no matter how talented you are – usually involves spending money.

But there are things you can do to engage your audiences without putting a strain on your poor, old, tortured wallet – like keeping active and interesting on social media. And an important part of staying relevant is making sure you share the type of content that people actually want to read, watch, or listen to. 

If you do ‘content marketing’ well, whether it’s on your blog, social media, YouTube, or a combination, it can be a great way to:

  • build audiences
  • increase brand awareness
  • establish yourself as an expert in your field
  • attract leads and collaborators

So, what is content marketing?

Content marketing, or ‘inbound marketing’, is a strategic approach where the focus is on creating interesting, useful and / or fun content that your ‘fans’ will enjoy, engage with, and hopefully share (linking back to your site).

The idea is to put your target audiences’ needs and wants first, providing them with content they’ll find interesting, in addition to any promotional materials, special offers, tour dates, and other sales messages. This can help you foster greater brand loyalty and generate a better return on investment.

Content marketing is the fastest growing marketing discipline after internet advertising. It accounts for 20% of marketing budgets and is seen by 70% of UK adults every month.

“Content marketing is the discipline of creating quality branded editorial content across all media channels and platforms to deliver engaging relationships, consumer value and measurable success for brands.”

Content Marketing Association

I found a great article on The Content Marketing Institute’s blog by Neil Patel, called ‘9 Mistakes You Might Be Making With Your Content Marketing Strategy‘. I’ve summarised the main points below, adding in some of my own, as a kind of crash course in content marketing.

1. Is your content any good? 

While good content can reward you with loyal punters and increased ticket sales, creating poor or irrelevant content for the sake of ticking the blog or social media box is usually a waste of time. Badly written copy and sloppily crafted content looks unprofessional and could put potential customers off. It might even drive them into the arms of your competition.

If you don’t have time to write decent quality blog posts on a regular basis, publish really good articles less often. Or switch to a different channel that takes less time, resources, and effort to maintain, like Facebook or Instagram.

instagram

Sense-check and proofread

Try to make sure your content is consistent in style, and always proofread, spellcheck and sense-check written content. If I have time and access to a printer, I tend to print copy out and go over it word by word (ideally with a ruler) – or highlight each word on the screen using the cursor – to check spelling, grammar, punctuation, and spaces.

Use good images

Using decent quality images is also a good idea. If you have your own photos; great! If not, there are several stock photo sites with royalty-free images, like StockSnap – but check the terms of use for any images you decide to download.

fuji-camera

You’ll find lots of great tips on writing good copy in this blog post by Splash Copywriters.

2. Are you thinking about structure and interest?

If you’re publishing copy – especially online – make sure you break the text up into small, manageable sections. Text-heavy pages with huge blocks of copy are visually off-putting and may cause visitors to move on before they even get past the heading.

To split the copy up, use the likes of:

  • sub-headings
  • lists and bullet points
  • text boxes and tables
  • images and videos

People tend to scan web pages in an F-shaped pattern, checking the heading and first line or two, then going down the way searching for keywords and points of interest. Make sure your intro is appealing and gets your main point across.

3. Is your content optimised? 

Following on from the above point, it’s a good idea to cover the words, phrases and questions that people are searching for or asking online, in relation to your content subject matter.

Using such ‘keywords’ in your copy is what’s known as optimising the content. If done well, it’ll help both you and your readers:

  • Your audience is more likely to find the information they’re looking for quickly and easily on the page.
  • You can use keywords and phrases to help drive readers towards a call to action (and hopefully convert them into a customer or repeat visitor).
  • Optimising content should help you rank higher on the search engine result pages (SERPs). That is; your content is more likely to appear closer to the start of the results on Google (or other search engines), when people search for terms you’ve included in your copy.

As such, a mix of keywords should be used throughout the content, and ideally in titles, headings, subheadings, calls to action, and hyperlinks.

It’s important to remember that the copy still needs to read well and look natural, though. So you should aim to find a balance between keyword optimising the text and making it flow.

  1. Start by doing some keyword research (there are several free tools you can use).
  2. Compile a list of words, questions, and phrases that people are searching the web for, in relation to your subject matter.
  3. Try to incorporate these seamlessly into the copy where it makes sense, as you’re writing it. Avoid awkwardly shoehorning them in for the sake of it.

4. Is your content useful, engaging and relevant? 

Before you publish content, think about the following:

  • What it is you want to say?
  • Why are you saying it?
  • Who are you saying it to?

Does your content tell your audience something helpful, that they want to know? Is it entertaining enough to appeal to the people you want to engage?

delores-edit

Try to understand who your audience is and what they’re interested in. It’s also worth thinking about which digital platforms they prefer to use. And which channels work best for different types of content. You may hate Twitter, but if many of the people you want to attract are keen tweeters, you’re missing a trick by shunning it.

So how do you get to know your audience?

There’s a whole science to researching your target audience. But if you’re low on resources, a good starting point might be to invest a bit of time every week speaking with people you meet – online, as well as offline. Look for relevant hash tags and check what people using them are talking about. If people are tagging you or your work online, what are they saying about it?

5. Are you overselling? 

Remember that in content marketing, your messaging shouldn’t be (overtly) about you, your work, or selling tickets.

Unless a piece of content is created specifically to inform people about your brand (for example a web page about your show, current projects, or upcoming gigs) it shouldn’t necessarily mention your business or services until the final call to action.

While more traditional marketing tactics often place the brand at the centre of all marketing comms, content marketing gets people interested in your work by you giving them what they want, and positioning you as someone who knows their stuff.

Ask people what they’re looking for

Ask people who follow you online – and people you meet in the ‘real world’ – what they like or don’t like; what they’re interested in; what they need help with; and if there’s anything specific they’d like to see more of, that you can offer.

Work with other experts

To pull it off and look credible, it’s obviously important that you actually know what you’re talking about. If you want to produce content on a subject matter that doesn’t fall entirely within your area of expertise, partner up with someone who can help you fill any knowledge gaps or give the content more depth.

6. What do you want the content to achieve? 

When you’re planning your content, think about what you want each item to achieve and try to tailor it accordingly.

If the purpose is to make people laugh and notice you, a silly YouTube video that’s light on substance but hilariously executed, might be enough to grab people’s attention.

If you want a piece of content to demonstrate your expertise and knowledge, try to make sure it contains genuinely useful information that could help the reader solve an actual problem, or learn something valuable.

7. Is your content evergreen? 

Evergreen content can stand the test of time. It would typically offer a basic overview of something, or focus on factual information that’s unlikely to change much over time.

Depending on what you do and the type of content you want to produce, it might not be practical to make it evergreen. Sometimes, topical events and the most recent statistics will give a visual guide, blog post, or video relevance and help it reach a wider audience.

But the general idea is to try and create content that can be used, reused, and repurposed over a long period of time, without coming off dated.

An example of evergreen content could be your top ten tips to producing a show at a big, international Fringe festival.

  • If you keep it fairly general, this type of content can have a long shelf life, and be reused every year in the run-up to Fringe season.
  • It would also be easy to repurpose. For example, you could turn a blog post into a video; you could build a workshop around the tips; or you could create a fun, meme-style visual for each tip and share one at a time on social media.

8. Are you making the most of social media?

Social media is a great way to share content and reach more people, but make sure you’re using the right channels and tone.

If you’re looking to attract other people in the same line of work as yourself, for example, LinkedIn might be the best platform. It’s a less casual channel than for example Twitter and Facebook, so it’d be better suited for informative, expert content aimed at those with an interest in a specific subject matter.

Users on Facebook and Twitter like informative articles too, but these networks are less professional in tone, so you can get away with being a bit more tongue-in-cheek and casual.

Let’s look at an example of good content…

Our pal Abigoliah Schamaun is an awesome stand-up who’s been named one of The List’s ‘Top 5 Up and Coming Female Comedians’.

She has plenty of experience touring internationally and taking shows to big Fringe festivals around the world.

abigoliah
Abigoliah performing at The Big C in Edinburgh, August 2016

She’s created a series of videos on her YouTube channel covering a range of topics, like whether you should take a show to the Edinburgh Fringe as an unknown comedian, and how publicity works at this, the largest open access arts festival in the world.

In the videos, Abigoliah interviews comedians and other performers, as well as industry experts (including Barry, when he was still with the Fringe Society), who offer their views and advice.

The videos provides plenty of helpful information and tips, from a number of authoritative sources, that someone thinking about coming to the Edinburgh Fringe might find useful.

They also give Abigoliah a platform to showcase her skills and experience, without trying to sell herself or her show.

So, what’s next? 

It’s time to get your content on! Hopefully this blog has given you a good starting point from which to think about how your content could work harder for you.

Need more help?

If you’re an artist or arts company and want a hand with content, we can help you with marketing services and consultations – including copywriting, arts PR, and social media community management.

To find out more about how Civil Disobedience can support you, just give us a shout.

Cheers,
Joe x

Josef Church-Woods is a Swedish Kiwi living in Edinburgh. He’s been working in marketing, communications and content creation for over 15 years.

Note: We’re not saying that it’s a bad idea to create content that focuses on your experience, skills, achievements and art. Biographies, engaging showreels, and eye-catching promotional content about upcoming shows are all great – and should of course be part of your marketing mix. This blog post is about how you can enhance your content and build on your fan base with additional, regular content that aims to add value to your audiences.