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“If you really want to know about business, you should refer to Scott Steinberg.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin Group

Content Marketing: 7 Lethal Mistakes to Avoid

Just ask leading marketing experts: Learning from the past mistakes is always a good thing especially with regard to content and inbound marketing efforts, which rely on implicit reader or viewer participation. A key principle to remember about permission-based outreach efforts: They are only successful when you’re capable of enticing audiences into actually engaging with them and if they drive continued awareness and uptake. In the interest of helping you boost traffic, conversion rates and word-of-mouth awareness for your advertising and outreach campaigns, let’s reflect on the top errors the promotions pros would do well to avoid.

  1. Not knowing or understanding your audience. Every business and brand immediately wants to have a million followers and “likes”—or at least a number with more than two zeroes attached. But while posting big numbers is a solid goal to strive for, as marketing experts can tell you, it is more important to focus on driving audience interest and engagement. In order to achieve these goals, not only must you begin with the end result in mind and craft campaigns to bolster the KPIs, but it is also vital to recognize who your audience is, where they live online, and how to both reach and motivate them. All posts must likewise be tailored to meet their interests and provide ample incentive to drive consumption and sharing. It’s no secret that word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising. To spark conversation, it’s vital to know who you’re addressing, have something interesting to say, and understand how to say it in a singular manner designed to connect and resonate.
  1. Providing too much or not enough content. Your followers have “liked” your page, subscribed to your email updates or registered to receive your videos and podcasts for a reason—they want to hear what you have to say and develop a virtual relationship with you. Posting once or twice a week, or only when the mood strikes, tells them how little you value that relationship—it is therefore not a way to keep a loyal following, but rather one all but sure to make audiences forget about you. Understand that content marketing is a commitment: exchanges should occur on a regular, recurring basis with reasonable frequency. On the other hand, bombarding readers with content multiple times a day is a surefire way to get people to unsubscribe or otherwise avoid your updates. Establishing a proper cadence and posting frequency isn’t an exact science—experiment until you find the right mix. Make a plan to post on a routine basis, use analytics tools to observe how audiences respond, and adapt your strategy as feedback arrives to determine optimum timing and staging.
  1. Skimping on content quality. Posting any random point or piece of content just to throw something at the wall and see what sticks isn’t doing either your business or readers any good. Instead, employ a targeted vs. shotgun strategy and specifically design every piece of content or post to drive added value for and interest among your audience. Likewise, make a point to engage them, ask questions and solicit feedback so you can perfect your technique and give them something purposeful to read each and every time.
  1. Aimlessly posting with no supporting promotions. Ever hear the phrase “if you make it, they will come?” Forget it: Social media is called “social” for a reason. For example, say you post your newest blog on your business web page. Loyal customers may see it, but only if they are stalking your page regularly. What are the chances they’d have reason to do so, let alone in any significant numbers? Aimlessly posting without providing supporting marketing and promotions that broadcast to your audience that you have new, exciting content to read is like staging an amazing, roof-raising band performance at your local watering hole—fun for a few regulars, but unlikely to attract the attention of millions of prospective fans. Use social media as a tool for linking to and increasing engagement with people, and ultimately amplify the message that you have something new to say that must be read, re-tweeted and shared.
  1. Forgetting about SEO-friendly headlines and material. Amazingly, despite being one of today’s biggest buzzwords, “search engine optimization” is often overlooked while it is a key component in gaining new followers. Plugging popular search engine keywords into your title, headline, body copy and tags to increase visibility with search engines such as Google or Bing is extremely important in achieving visibility and growing awareness. In fact, ConversionChamp.com, a site devoted to helping businesses generate more leads and increase customer conversion rates, says that keyword research is still the most important aspect of SEO that you need to take into consideration before creating your content. In other words, start by selecting a topic, determining keywords that generate a crowd, then building headlines and material backwards from here.
  1. Posting, then becoming a ghost. Again, in order to succeed with social media, one must be (drumroll, please)… social. Words say a lot, but a picture says much more. Think about the one you’re painting through your actions and how important it is to be both present and respectful of others’ contributions. If it helps, this marketing expert often advises to think of social media as a running stream of conversation: you’re attempting to create dialogue. Imagine how it would appear if the exchange only worked one way or the other party suddenly stopped responding in the middle of the interaction. OK, so you don’t have time or 1000 words to waste waxing eloquent every day. Don’t be afraid to post photo galleries, infographics, stories or other material that you find engaging or visually appealing and that pertains to your business. Interact, answer questions, share interesting content you see, re-tweet relevant posts, etc. —in other words, just be there as an active participant. Not answering a reader’s question or acknowledging their response to your posts is the equivalent of not saying hello when someone calls you on the phone. The net result? A hang up.
  1. Not paying attention to details. How well we communicate online directly influences how others perceive us so pay attention to detail. Recheck your work. Then recheck it again. Proper spelling, grammar and presentation techniques should be utilized: Failure to add polish inherently subtracts from the perceived quality of the end work. Technology is more ever-present in our lives these days, but there are still human beings behind the screens and you know what they say about people and first impressions. Make a point of always comporting yourself professionally, creating content with comparable polish, and talking to individuals with respect. You will create fans and followers for life. If you show up to each exchange (as important as any interview) looking unprepared, unpolished and unprofessional, you will be viewed as such.
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