When you first get started in the content marketing game, you only need to know the basics: how to write a decent piece of content (or source one), how to publish it on your blog, and how to distribute it through your social media channels. It’s possible to build a foundation for any content campaign this way, but if you want to scale up your reach or start seeing a significant return on your investment, you’ll need to step up your game.
For the adept or intermediate content marketer, there are seven defining skills that will help you create better material, improve your distribution, and ultimately see better results for your campaign:
The ability to research manifests itself in two applications, both of which are important to the quality of your content: primary and secondary research. Secondary research is easier, less intensive, and applicable to more kinds of content. It involves scouring the web for outside sources that confirm, deny, or otherwise complement the claims you’re trying to make. Finding more of these sources (and higher authority ones at that) makes your content better-rounded, more thoroughly documented, and of course, more trustworthy for the reader. Primary research is all firsthand research you’ve done yourself, such as a survey you’ve conducted or an experiment you’ve run. This type of original research takes time and money, but it’s important to incorporate into your material, as it tends to produce highly original, highly valuable work.
Flexibility isn’t a hard skill like research, because you can’t practice it or learn more about it unless you’re confronted with a situation that demands it. Flexibility comes in a variety of forms; for example, you might see a handful of user comments in a short period of time asking your brand for coverage of a particular event or subject you’d otherwise avoid. Responding positively may be a deviation from your core strategy, but it will give your users more of what they want. You may also find a new type of content or new platform surging in popularity; flexible content marketers adopt these new opportunities seamlessly.
As your content campaign gets bigger and starts to cover more ground, the need for a high organization skill increases. You’ll need to organize your schedule and pattern of publication, your research leading up to your drafts, your drafts leading up to your final version, and even all your past posts for future update and syndication needs. Without that organization, you may post inconsistently, or fail to follow up on key opportunities that could lead to a bigger, more loyal audience.
Persuasion becomes more important as your audience becomes larger and your content campaign demands a higher return. On a pure content level, persuasion is especially important for opinion posts or ones that share insights. You’ll need to use your words carefully, demonstrating personal experience and authority, emotional appeals, and raw logic to convince your audience that your views are correct (or at least worth considering). On another level, you’ll need to be persuasive in the calls to action you’ll periodically embed in the body of your content. Leading users to conversion, or another part of your site, is essential if you want to start cashing in on your efforts.
Good content marketers are able to respond to new trends with new strategies and a new frame of mind. Great content marketers are able to predict those trends and make changes before they ever get established. Because the content marketing game changes often and without warning, these changes are hard to predict, but if you look at historical patterns and pay close attention to marketing news, you should gradually build your ability to identify upcoming changes. Connect and engage with other influencers, and try to stay at least on their level—if not a little ahead of them.
Content marketing can’t be pigeonholed into serving only one function. It’s important and necessary for sales, for SEO, for social media marketing, for general marketing, for user experience improvement, and a dozen other applications. Knowing all these individual applications is overwhelming (if not impossible) for a new content marketer, but as you become more adept, it’s reasonable and expected for you to be at least somewhat familiar with them. Start talking to other experts in these areas and immerse yourself in all the different functions that content can serve.
It’s one thing to take elementary measures, like how many people visited your site compared to the previous period, but it’s another thing entirely to run a specific analysis for why a metric like that would have changed. You’re getting more people, but why? Did you rise in search ranks? Why? Did they come from social media? Why? Answering these questions isn’t easy, and it’s rarely straightforward, but you’ll have to answer them if you want to continue honing your craft. To guide yourself, start setting up your efforts in easily comparable experiments—at least until you get better at reading and interpreting the raw data.
If you’re looking to move from the level of a beginner to that of an intermediate content marketer, or if you’re just looking to brush up on some of your most important skills, these seven should be your priority. Like any skill, they improve with practice, so start using them as you produce and syndicate more content and look for any opportunities to improve your approach.