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Deconstructing The Content Strategy Cycle: Phase One

It’s no mystery that we’re exposed to countless messages in one day (close to 5000). In a world full of meaningless ads, clutter, and fluff — it’s difficult for a socially responsible business to create a message that resonates with its audience.

Content strategy — what is it? Kristina Halvorson, founder of Brain Traffic, refers to it as the planning, creation, delivery, and governance of useful, usable content. To put her definition into perspective, an online business without content strategy is like going on a road trip without a destination.

Take BuzzFeed for example. An internet media company famous for their sensational and provocative content and describe themselves as “sometimes funny, sometimes serious, always sharable”. That holds true considering I can’t scroll through my newsfeed without coming across a BuzzFeed video or an article about the 10 ways to spice up my iPhone case.

Whether or not BuzzFeed’s content is useful or usable is up for debate, but with a following of nearly 10 million Facebook users and monthly website traffic of over 200 million visitors, it’s no question that their content strategy is successful.

It starts with the content

Buzzfeed creates emotion evoking content for a generation who likes to engage with ideas that they’re passionate about. Jonah Peretti, founder of BuzzFeed, discovered the power of creating content, after a radical encounter with Nike.

In 2001, Peretti placed an order for a pair of shoes through Nike iD, a program that allows customers to create personalized emblazoned shoes. He decided he wanted his shoes to say “sweatshop” on them.

Nike’s customer service then emailed Peretti notifying him that his order was cancelled due to criteria violation. You can view the full emails here. In summary, Peretti didn’t think his shoes violated any of their criteria and continued to politely provoke Nike — ultimately leading to this last email:

Dear NIKE iD,

Thank you for the time and energy you have spent on my request. I have decided to order the shoes with a different iD, but I would like to make one small request. Could you please send me a color snapshot of the ten-year-old Vietnamese girl who makes my shoes?

Thanks, Jonah Peretti

Nike didn’t respond to Peretti’s email. He then shared the conservation with his friends and eventually the exchange turned into an internet sensation, landing Peretti a spot on national television.

After this encounter, Peretti realized that people care about content that evokes emotion. Perhaps that’s why BuzzFeed is so successful. According to Peretti, he asks six questions to BuzzFeed’s content:

  • Does it spread internationally?
  • Does it work across multiple platforms?
  • Does it help people improve their actual lives?
  • Does it actually change government institutions?
  • Does it help make the world more open and media more diverse?
  • Does it help people connect with each other?

Buzzfeed’s website is constantly updated with new content and they make it easy for their audience to share it on social media. In addition, the company also uses their own social media to promote their content.

Now I’m not saying you can’t be successful online without a content strategy, but I am saying it is one of the key components to improving how your audience interacts with your brand.

Content strategy can be broken down into one complete cycle with four district phases.

Content Strategy Cycle

In this series, “Deconstructing The Content Strategy Cycle”, we’ll be discussing the following:

  • Why content strategy is important to your brand
  • How to create meaningful content for your audience
  • Tips to make your content better
  • How to promote your content
  • How to evaluate your content

Why is content important in the first place?

A website’s success is based on its content. Design and all other visual elements support content, but the content itself is what will drive traffic to your website. Good content sets your brand apart from the ocean of other brands.

At Manoverboard, we believe design is important, but good design will only be strong with great content. A remarkable idea deserves to be written and presented with thought, conviction, and purpose.

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The first phase of the cycle is the idea. From countless brainstorm sessions to walking back and fourth and banging heads on the wall — creating a good idea is extremely difficult, but an “a ha!” idea can come from anywhere.

Aimee Marks, founder of TOM (time of month) organics, is the perfect example of an “a ha” moment. She was working on a design project in high school when she became aware of the pesticides and synthetics used to produce tampons and pads. She made her decision to create feminine hygiene products while exercising social, ethical, and environmental responsibility. In 2009, TOM organics was born.

Defining your audience

To make the idea process easier, you must first define your audience. Having a well-defined target audience is one the most important pieces of information for any business. Mandy Porta of Inc.com wrote a great article explaining how to define your target market. You can read the article here.

In this article, Porta describes the importance of targeting and provides questions that will help you define your audience.

“Targeting a specific market does not mean that you are excluding people who do not fit your criteria. Rather, target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on a specific market that is more likely to buy from you than other markets. This is a much more affordable, efficient, and effective way to reach potential clients and generate business.”

Now that you have a well-defined market, you have a better understanding of what will work for your audience. When coming up with an idea, you must also choose an idea that relates to your brand and its values.

A great example is Better World Books. They are an ecofriendly, online bookstore that donates one book to someone in need for each book that is purchased. Since April is National Poetry Month, they are participating in “book spine poetry”, where they stack book spines on top of each other to make a short poem.

They actively use relevant hashtags, include the Better World Books logo on each post, invite their audience to participate with their own books, and even include a subtle sales pitch inviting people to visit their website if they’re lacking book titles to make their own book spine poetry. Book spine poetry is relevant for their target audience — who is interested in literature — and relevant for one of their brand values of repurposing books.

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