One of the things that mystifies me the most when it comes to startups and businesses, in general, is how many entrepreneurs think that content marketing is easy and cheap. I suppose the thinking goes something like this: We have a lot of content that we can make, we think it’s interesting, when we post it they will come.

Unfortunately, usually, they don’t.

Building a business solely off of content marketing can be done but there’s no guarantee that content marketing will work. Going over content marketing, even the basics, isn’t something that can be done in a single post, or even in a single class, so for today’s post I am only going to focus on one example of content marketing.

What to expect from this post

The example I am going to go into here is about how one of my colleagues, after years of posting consistently on LinkedIn, turned up in a featured story on LinkedIn. That is quite the accomplishment and while you may not think that this kind of example, while interesting, doesn’t work for your business you are mistaken. The success that my colleague, Daniel Coats, met is the kind of success that can be powerful for an individual’s professional brand and for businesses as well.

What follows is a brief overview of Daniel’s post being highlighted by LinkedIn and some of my thoughts and advice on how you can better position yourself to realize this kind of success and maybe a little on what you could do differently.

The LinkedIn Spotlight – Content Marketing Victory

When big news hits, LinkedIn will pull together some of the best and/or most popular posts on the platform to give different perspectives on the topic. Last December, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) experienced its largest one day point gain in history. These posts generally receive a lot of views and, as you can see in the screen grab above, Daniel’s post was the first one listed. Being one of the “Perspectives curated by LinkedIn Editors” brings some cache along with those views (if memory serves, he had approximately 10,000 views on this post).

Content Marketing Lesson #1: Know Your Goal

For Daniel, his goal is to improve upon his skills as a writer and marketer as well as cover topics that are important to him so that he can position himself as an expert, not necessarily as an expert on the stock market but as an expert at putting together a good story.

Doing the research and identifying the hook for the story (that while that may have been the largest point gain for a day on the DJIA it wasn’t the largest percentage gain in a day) definitely counts as quality practice for improving upon his skills as a writer/marketer/researcher. The fact that the post did so well helped get his name out there as well and while that momentary notoriety may only have translated into a slight bump in the number of connections he has on LinkedIn Daniel can use it as evidence of his experience and success as a writer/marketer when talking with people. In other words, this post is good for Daniel’s resume and portfolio.

Content Marketing Lesson #2: Piggyback on what is Popular

The news cycle is fast and what was popular yesterday is barely remembered today. Take Daniel’s post as an example. Who reading this remembers that story? It was only a couple of months ago and I would daresay that most people have already forgotten about it if they ever knew about it in the first place.

If news stories and so much else in the culture are so ephemeral, why am I recommending you to piggyback on what is popular? It’s complicated, but the basic upshot is that if you do cover something that is in the news and you get noticed for it that will at the very least get you in front of new eyeballs and, while not all of those eyeballs will be impressed enough to stick around and follow your subsequent work some of those eyeballs will stick around.

While piggybacking on what is popular is a tactic that I think can work for you, you have to pipggyback on something that has some kind of connection to what it is that you are already doing. For Daniel, reporting on a news story makes sense because he is, in part at least, a reporter for Mihaylo College, which is Cal State Fullerton’s business school. As a subject, the stock market fits. On the other hand, if Daniel decided to write about the migratory patterns those round little birds on the last Star Wars movie then that probably wouldn’t have done him any good professionally (unless he wanted to switch his career to being the world’s first fictional ornithologist).

But lest you think that hunting for those popular stories is all you have to do to win at content marketing, think again! A big part of content marketing is being consistent and staying on point, which are the next two lessons.

Content Marketing Lesson #3: Consistently Post

Posting content, whether we are talking about the written word or photos or videos, takes time. The post I am writing right now has taken quite some time to put together but it fits with our organization’s overall content marketing strategy. But just because creating content can be difficult doesn’t excuse you from putting in the work.

Yes, consistently posting helps to keep people who are already following you up to date on what you are doing/thinking/selling but it also increases the likelihood that others will find out about you as well. Content, as the saying goes, is king, and there are still far too few people and organizations who are effectively doing this simple thing that there is definitely space for new people and organizations who are willing to come in and publish content frequently to come in and win.

And looking through Daniel’s feed on LinkedIn you can see that he posts… a lot. It takes time, and it is a part of his job but, if you’re responsible for growing a business or growing your own career then it’s worth it. For Daniel, he is getting noticed because he is consistently posting (good) content.

Content Marketing Lesson #4: Provide Value

Different people value things differently, so there’s no hard and fast rule on this but you have to provide value. In Daniel’s case, interesting information about the day’s news is value. For someone who is a professor of entrepreneurial management an interesting anecdote about becoming a better manager in a startup would be valuable or a creative take on an academic paper could be valuable. One sure fire way to provide value would be to offer to do something for free for people or give them something that is free (i.e. a calculator that will tell people how much money they need to raise to launch their business would fit into this category of “free”). Pictures of your cat could be valuable, it certainly sends a message about yourself, but if you’re creating content for your business then it probably isn’t a fit.

In Summary

This list is not exhaustive, not at all. But Daniel’s example does highlight some things that you should keep in mind when you set out to grow your business or your personal brand with content marketing.

Know your goal; keep focused on what is important.

Piggyback on what is popular; probably not the greatest advice but if you have something interesting to add to a popular topic then, by all means, jump in and add your two cents. Many people are looking into the topic and they can find you.

Consistently post; post content weekly and don’t be afraid to leverage your content by doing multiple posts on a single topic.

Provide value; if you want people to care about what you are doing then provide value to people who are consuming your content.

One additional tip: Incorporate a call to action in your posts. You don’t have to do this in every post you publish on your blog or on any social networks but it’s a good idea and it’s something that Daniel could have done. The call to action doesn’t have to be something along the lines of “Buy this Now!!!!”, it could be “for more information check this story out” and it’s a link back to an article that you wrote that you think is really good (bonus points if there is a powerful call to action on the post that you are linking to).

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