One of my favourite business experts, Grant Cardone, says “success loves preparation”. It makes perfect sense that you’ll perform better in any given situation if you’re suitably prepared. Content marketing is no exception – the best content marketing is always well planned, executed with precision and highly targeted to the intended audience. This is the epitome of good preparation, right? But, it isn’t always possible to plan for every situation before it arises.
What if something unexpected happens? Perhaps a new product is released by a competitor, there’s a sudden economic slump or even a hot topic of discussion emerges among your target audience overnight. As content marketers, sometimes the only way we can take unexpected opportunities and swerve dips in the road is to adapt and respond quickly, if not instantly with relevant, valuable content.
Reacting and adapting to the audience’s world can make your voice more relevant and dynamic, but it can be a risky tactic, so you need to make sure everything we publish in “real-time” supports your strategy.
CREATING IN REAL-TIME
Sometimes an opportunity will arise that calls for content to be created from scratch. The scope for pay-off will be more risky because there just won’t be time to follow all of the usual planning and development processes. However, there are a few questions to answer before creating anything on-the-fly, including:
- How will the content specifically contribute to your big aim, goals or objectives?
- Will the topic still be ‘hot’ by the time it is ready to publish?
- Are there any legal considerations associated with publishing the content right now?
- Is the situation really time-limited?
IDENTIFY KEY CONVERSATIONS
What are the topics, issues and discussions you want your brand to be associated with? They might be conversations people are already having, or they might be new ones that we’re anticipating. Think about how you can valuably contribute to and fuel these conversations early on. How will this content help to bolster your voice among the target audience?
You can monitor the use of keywords and phrases related to the topics and conversations you’re interested in. The best way is to use social media monitoring tools and online keyword scrapers to sift through blogs (including blog comments), news articles and other user-contributed content. There are a large amount of systems available to help with this:
- For social media monitoring, my favourite system is Radian6. With huge data depths, this system scours the internet and highlights virtually every relevant conversation happening right now across the social web.
- Services like BrandWatch dashboard complex keyword searches across social platforms and beyond, with a high degree of filtering. Like Radian6, this is a paid option, but well worth considering if budget allows.
- The best of the free systems is probably Hootsuite, which enables you to identify the words and phrases you’re interested in across various social channels, all displayed in a series of real-time feeds.
- Google Alerts is a great free service that allows you to identify keywords and phrases and get real-time alerts when they appear in news and other online publications. There is also a special setting to include results from social media sites.
It is important that you’re ready to adapt to the market challenges and opportunities whenever necessary. Don’t be afraid to bring scheduled content forward in the content calendar if it’s particularly relevant to a current topic. Market need always trumps the schedule.
The same goes for archived and live content. If there is an opportunity to bring it back to prominence or reinvent it, go ahead and adapt, refocus, or republish. But be careful not to crowbar content into tenuously linked topics, as the lack of relevance will be obvious and will only devalue your voice.
We have already discussed how important key market influencers are. While it is crucial that you listen to how they are using their dominant voices, you must remember that every single member of our audience has the potential to influence others.
Some of the biggest companies in the world, such as Philips, take the time to respond and deliver bespoke content to audiences of just one person. There is no engagement like a one-to-one engagement.
Creating ad hoc content for individual customers might sound like a great deal of work, but it shouldn’t actually be an indiscriminate process. In reality, it is more about responding to individual customers in a very personal way with content that will also appeal to the rest of the audience segment.
ADD VALUE OR GO HOME
Although you need to look for content marketing opportunities around the hot topics you’re interested in, you don’t need to interact with every single conversation and related sub-topic. Only get involved with hot topics that are relevant to your audience and that you’re able to add value to.
DON’T KILL CONVERSATIONS
If you see conversations on websites, social media, blogs and forums that you want to get involved with, it’s important that you keep your contributions appropriate and highly-relevant. We want to position ourselves as part of the community, almost like friends sharing useful information. But, bear in mind that nobody likes that friend who won’t let anyone else speak; you can be that clever, understanding and helpful friend instead.
Remember, you’re not telling people where to go next or what to do, we’re just going with the flow of the conversation and helping with content where it might be useful. Avoid spammy interruptions!
For me, real-time content marketing is about heightening empathy by listening to customers’ rants and sharing their joys. If you aren’t watching, listening and relating to customers, they will quickly realise you are speaking at them, not with them.
Before you start publishing any content “on-the-fly”, it’s important to be sure it contributes in some way to the overall aims, goals and objectives of your content marketing strategy. If it doesn’t help you move towards your purpose, don’t publish it.