It can feel impossible to start a content strategy as a business owner when you have limited capital and even less expertise in creating content. How do brands consistently create unique content that adds value, generates engagement, and grows their audience every day?
We'll show you how.
When you started your business, you likely set up your social media accounts, and if you were lucky, you also built a website. But now you find yourself at a standstill when you realize you don’t have enough ideas for content to post on our socials or to fill up your website. So you often end up posting irregularly — or not posting at all.
We’re going to show you how to start and implement a content strategy in 2022 in this deep dive step-by-step guide. Let’s dive in.
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There are nine steps for starting and implementing a content strategy in 2022:
1. Audit your presence
2. Determine your goals
3. Create a content calendar
4. Define your content pillars
5. Research & Concepts
6. Content Creation
7. Schedule your content
8. Track the performance
Step 1: Audit Your Presence
If you’ve been an established business or have at least had an online presence for some time, then a complete audit of your digital footprint is a crucial step to any customer-facing strategy. Check out all of the platforms you’re using, and make sure your brand is cohesive across them all.
When we perform an audit, we don’t just look at the platforms a brand is active. We look at the branding and all of the assets.
The logo and profile pictures often need refreshing or refinement, banners need redesigning, links don’t work, bios and about sections are unclear, and sometimes the target audience hasn’t been clearly defined.
We cut through the noise and define the target audience, modernize the branding, and properly communicate the brand’s vision, mission, and purpose. Without this fundamental step, a content strategy can often be fruitless.
Step 2: Determine Your Goals
Having goals is another crucial step in your strategy. Without goals, you’re not working towards anything in particular, and you can end up chasing your tail.
Some ideas for goals can be things like:
• Go from 15K to 20K Instagram followers by December 2022
• Host one collaboration with an aligned brand every month
• Grow email subscribers list from 4000 to 5000 by June 2022
• Contribute to one charitable cause per month
• Get 50 product reviews by May 2022
Those are just a few goals our clients in the past have set. You don’t want to make unrealistic goals, though. To help you, follow the SMART goals framework:
Choose a particular task, like “grow email list by X date.” Be careful not to make it too complex or vague to be achieved.
Make sure it can be measured, whether it be through tracking metrics or through achieving the goal. You can do this by working backward from the goal and having milestones.
So if you’d like to increase followers from 15K to 20K in 8 months, give yourself monthly milestones of attaining 625 new followers every month until December. Then build a strategy to gain those followers.
Setting a goal that is too ambitious, such as gaining an unrealistically large follower count in a short period, can set you up for disappointment, so keep goals realistic. You may need to do some research to see what is considered achievable.
Ensure the goals align with your brand and your overall achievements. For example, if you’re a makeup brand, you wouldn’t collaborate with a real estate agent because your audiences are entirely different, and there would be no benefit for either party.
Instead, you could collaborate with a Wedding Photographer and share some advice on how to do makeup for a photoshoot.
Setting a clear timeline for your goals will help you reach them. Without a time-bound plan, it will become aimless and difficult to achieve.
Step 3: Create a Content Calendar
Think of your calendar as a map to manage all of your content across all platforms. You can use a free tool such as Google Sheets or Google Slides; you can buy a physical diary or calendar where you write on sticky notes or a whiteboard. Or you can download our Content Editorial Strategy Template here.
Now that you have a content calendar, you want to populate it with holidays and important dates for the year. We prefer to do this initially because those dates won’t change throughout the year, and it’s one less task for you to do every month.
Another recommendation is to plan out all of the promotions for the next three, six, or — if you can — twelve months. These are not concrete plans, but it’s great to at least pencil them in so you have an idea of when you’ll be running promotions throughout the year.
Step 4: Define Your Content Pillars
Content pillars are themes or topics that your brand relies on to stay consistent in the strategy. They will help you amplify your brand while giving you some structure to your strategy.
Quite often, we use different pillars depending on the platform. For example, if you’re a makeup brand, your Instagram and your email newsletter may have five pillars:
3. Community (testimonials)
4. Company Updates
While your blog posts may only follow two pillars:
Content pillars should reflect your brand’s values and purpose, tone of voice, and your brand’s positioning. So if you are a makeup brand, it’s likely that you wouldn’t have a pillar for travel, for example. So if you had a blog post on how to care for your skin on long-haul flights, that would fit into the Skincare Pillar.
You want to rotate through your pillars so that they have structure, and you can also start to play with branded hashtags for specific days, such as #SkinTextureTuesdays. This is where you show a photo of real skin texture and educate your audience on how to apply makeup to enhance your natural beauty. You can go wild with ideas.
Step 5: Research & Concepts
Now that you have your pillars, you can now start researching. You first want to come up with one idea or topic for each piece of content. You can use free resources to see what questions people are asking about topics related to your brand, products, or industry.
Three free resources you can use are:
• Facebook Groups
If you’re an established brand, you could use your FAQs to create helpful content that you know your audience would appreciate the answers to. Or if you’re a new brand, you can use the FAQs from your competitors as a guide to creating helpful content for similar audiences. Just ensure that you never copy or plagiarize information directly from other brands.
For social media content, you want content that appeals to your audience. So again, looking to your competitors will help with inspiration.
It can take a little more research to get valuable content that people will want to spend time reading for blog posts. You can track trending topics in your industry using Google Trends, and there are plenty of paid tools you can use, like Answer the Public.
Since the internet is saturated with content, Google recommends blog posts should be a minimum of 2000 words to give your content the opportunity to deep dive into a topic and create more value. And always remember to include your keywords and SEO for better chances of ranking.
Step 6: Content Creation
Now the fun part; creating content. For social media, we often recommend creating the captions first based on your research, as it can be much easier to find a visual that goes with a well-written caption rather than vice-versa.
Content that contains educational information needs to be fact-checked and adequately cited. Especially today, with the amount of misinformation making its way around the internet, your readers are more diligent than ever.
When you’ve researched the content, you can draft it all up. We recommend content batching at least two weeks’ worth of content in one session, so you’re always ahead of the curve.
This is where you’d also research hashtags for your content and compile them into lists to save time with future content.
Step 7: Schedule Your Content
Scheduling content is professionals’ worst-kept secret. It’s a total game-changing time-saver.
For social media, upload your content into an app like Later, Hootsuite, or one of the many other apps available, and you can set the time and date you want the post to schedule. Most apps allow you to batch up to three months’ content this way and just set it and forget it.
Though, don’t just post and ghost. Make sure you are still engaging with your audience, new prospects and just being an active member to help with organic growth.
For blog posts and emails, most platforms allow you to schedule ahead of time. So determine your posting and email scheduling, and set those babies up. Easy peasy.
Step 8: Track the Performance
Tracking performance sounds daunting, but it is not as scary as you think. Most apps, like Instagram, Facebook, and website and blogging platforms, have an analytics section where it will tell you precisely what you need to know.
Once or twice a month, take note of the best-performing content and make more content like that. And then take note of worst-performing content, and try and see why it performed poorly.
It could just be the posting time isn’t optimal. Or it may be that the content isn’t appealing.
You can also repurpose popular content. For example, imagine you wrote a blog post called “5 Easy Eye Makeup Tutorials For The DIY Bride”. It ranks well on Google, so you then create a wedding series on Instagram and post about a different bridal makeup look every weekday for five days.
Then you set up an email sequence for brides-to-be who are doing their own wedding makeup.
You can go another step further and collaborate with a wedding photographer. Get them to share your series on their Stories every day while linking to your blog post, and you can then link to their website from your blog post. Pretty simple, right?
Tracking content performance is crucial, but it takes patience. It can take months to hone in on the type of content that your audience wants to see. But as mentioned earlier, look at your competitors for inspiration. What are they posting? How are they engaging with their audience?
Subscribe to their newsletter and take note of their emails and blog posts. Really deep dive into their content strategy and learn from them. We’re not reinventing the wheel here, guys.
Step 9: Repeat
Keep repeating this strategy to build momentum over the months. Repetition will help you stay consistent and organized throughout the year and reduce stress and overwhelm.
It’s important to remember that you need to constantly improve and adjust your strategy according to the metrics you report every month.
In a few months, if you feel things are not getting the traction you’d hoped, it could mean several things, such as:
You haven’t identified your target audience clearly enough, so your content isn’t speaking to them. You may need to complete a target avatar workshop.
Your content isn’t valuable to your audience. If it lacks value, your audience won’t spend time viewing it.
You aren’t using CTAs in your content. People need to be told what to do, where to go, what to click on, and how to do it.
You’re selling too much. Use the 80/20 rule. 80% value, 20% selling.
Or it could be something else entirely. Following this strategy should help you build brand awareness, customer acquisition, and customer retention, but if it hasn’t, you may need some help identifying potential roadblocks.
We hope you found this article helpful. For anyone who is still confused, I offer complete audits, content strategies, and content creation for small to medium-sized businesses.
Content is still King, my friends.
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