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MATTHEW McLAUGHLIN: We are all content generators 

Matthew McLaughlin

There is nothing new or novel about generating unique content as a complement to an organization’s overall marketing strategy.  In fact, as early as 1732, Benjamin Franklin began publishing Poor Richard’s Almanac as a means to promote his printing business.  In 1895, John Deere launched The Furrow, an agricultural magazine that is still published today. The 1900s brought an uptick in content development, ushering in not only written content, but radio.  For example, in 1924 Sears launched the “World’s Largest Store” radio program, which was used to keep farmers up-to-date on the deflation crisis.  Interestingly, it wasn’t until 2001 that the term “content marketing” was first coined.

What has changed in content generation, however, is the means in which we share and market our message.  In this digital age, we are seeing a decline in paid advertising and instead are seeing an increase in organic sharing.  So, how can we as content generators keep up with the demand to grow our businesses?  What advantages do new startups and entrepreneurs have above others in the content strategy market?  Those are easy questions to answer … because we go by our own set of rules. Essentially, we have the luxury of seeing what works best for us. 

Target audiences are becoming more engaged in content marketing; and as a result, content strategists must pay close attention to what viewers want and expect.  By way of example, when developing a professional message to share with my audience, I keep these three factors in mind:

• How can I elevate the community and drive thought leadership?

• How can I develop and share content?

• How can I think strategically about delivering the message? 

Elevating the community and driving thought leadership

While this strategy should always be the focus of your message, the content is useless if there is not an audience.  Entrepreneurs, for instance, are no strangers to asking their friends and family for help.  In developing a social media plan, this is no different.  Do not be afraid to ask people to follow, like, and share your pages.  This is the beginning stage of developing your brand’s community, and these are the people who genuinely want to see your business succeed.  Offer something to your community that sparks a conversation or encourages thought.  Create a system that encourages engagement.  Ask your community what information is interesting to them and what is important by their standards.  When needed, ask others to contribute content for a fresh opinion and perspective.

Developing and sharing content

Content is not about writing as much as you can and sharing it as often as people will allow it.  It is about developing a message that adds value to those it reaches.  Offering content that is interesting and well thought out ensures your reader will take a moment to absorb your message.  In addition, be sure your title or image is inviting and is something that begs to be shared.  Always be mindful that you are competing with other content readily available to your consumer and that you have mere moments to gain the attention of and pull in your reader. 

After you have developed your message, the most important step is how to share it. Your content needs to be visually appealing to encourage organic sharing – or else risk your target audience scrolling right past your post.  Pictures and videos are key players in ramping up your numbers on social media. This is where it is most important to have a simple, concise message. And, if you are sharing content on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, it is imperative to have different content for each site. Consumers will likely “unfollow” if they get bored with your content, so keep it fresh on each front.

Also, a clean, fresh website is a great way to share your content; however, if it lacks the “wow factor,” you may be losing out on serious traffic.  Think of your website as a storefront to your company, and you want consumers who need your product to come in a look around for a while.  Your website is the easiest way for your potential clients to make a quick assessment about your company.  And, circling back to driving thought leadership, a blog may be a great asset to your website.  This is where you can publish well written material that encourages thought.  A blog also provides an opportunity to invite community influencers to contribute as guest writers.  This, in turn, will inevitably raise your site visits due to your guest writers sharing the content they contribute. 

Think strategically

No post or content should be shared without first developing a strategic plan.  The book Killing Marketing, by Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose, provides an insurmountable bit of information on developing strategy.  The authors offer several “big picture” questions that should be answered when developing a strategic plan, such as “What is the challenge?” and “What if things go wrong?” The intent is designed to make you think big and get your mindset centered on developing your strategy.  Pulizzi and Rose then follow up these questions with more simplified questions while becoming more specific to what your audience needs are and how to best develop the content.   

Perhaps the most important thing about content generation is paying close attention to your analytics.  This is easy on social media platforms.  On business pages you can use the insight tool to see how your posts are trending.  If you have a wordy message with 47 views and a video with 150 views, you know your consumer base responds better to videos.  You can then develop your content around what your consumers respond to best.  Keep track of your website visits and make sure you have prime SEO to help drive your numbers.  Adjust your content as needed to increase traffic.

We are currently revamping our website and social media marketing at McLaughlin, PC, and these are all practices we are putting into place.  Our goal is not to simply exist as a business – instead, it is to also contribute to our community, invoke thought, and boost others in our area.   

Matthew P. McLaughlin is an attorney with McLaughlin, PC in Jackson, Mississippi, and serves as the executive director of the Mississippi Brewers Guild.  Matthew’s passion is working with creative and entrepreneurial-minded people and organizations, having worked with and advised hundreds of entrepreneurs, startups, and social innovators throughout the Southeastern United States.  He may be contacted at matthew@mclaughlinpc.com or 601-487-4550, or you may visit www.mclaughlinpc.com for more information.

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