Where to Start?
Sources: Ask how these various constituencies consume content and what sources they get content from. Do they subscribe to newsletters? Read blogs? Listen to podcasts? Use search engines when researching a purchase or service? Do they visit company websites, read customer reviews on retail sites, and download whitepapers? Do they watch online videos? Follow links on social network sites or Twitter? Do they use their mobile devices or subscribe to RSS feeds? What online publications do they read? Do they participate in online user groups or forums?
It’s also helpful to uncover the specifics of these channels. Do they read blogs or not? If they do, which blogs or bloggers do they most avidly follow? What’s their favorite publication? Their must-see or must-read sources of digital information? These may or may not lie within your professional sphere; nonetheless, they will help when it comes to assessing taste, style preferences, and predilections.
How Much, How Often?
We’ve all been there: subscribed to a newsletter, or eagerly following a cool blog, until suddenly it became too much. Way too much. Creating too much content is an onerous task for you, but it also can quickly sour in the minds of your audience. That eagerly awaited weekly newsletter?
When the publisher bumped it up to twice a week instead of once per week, it started looking and feeling more like spam. You don’t want to create content so infrequently that readers forget about you. But you also don’t want to inundate your audience. It’s not impolite to politely inquire as to the frequency of content—and contacts—when assessing content needs.
Part of this assessment is “how much?” For many users, a whitepaper is too long. So is a video on YouTube that runs for over five or ten minutes. Some users will want the content equivalent of a snack; others will prefer a five-course meal. Many may want something in between.
(And all of this may be contingent on where they are in the consideration and buying cycle.) Scoping out content “serving sizes” is an essential part of content needs assessment.
Sure, lots of digital content just sits there, waiting for you to find it. A website, a video on YouTube, a whitepaper, a slide show. One of the wonderful things about the Internet is that you can access all these channels in your proverbial pajamas, whenever you want. But for some types of content (not to mention some consumers), it’s all in the timing.
Ask when people consume content: at home? At work? Over the weekend? The type of business or service you offer can play a big role in this. Mainframe computers are probably an at-work type of content affair. If you sell pizza or movies or skiing, you may be better off sending that newsletter or tweeting late in the week, perhaps after the workday is done.
It’s not that people never search the word “readers.” (It’s important to keep keyword research information in context.) The point is that when searchers are shopping, they’re not shopping for “readers.” This one nugget of information has made the company’s content marketing more effective, influencing the content and even the categories on its blog, the posts on its Facebook page, and even the tweets on Twitter.
Sure, you can always go with your gut when it comes to creating strong content for marketing. But backing up those gut instincts with research, observation, and hard data will always make a content marketing initiative that much more impactful and effective.