Think about your favorite musical artist. Now, consider the following.
Launching a new piece of content such as a blog, video, podcast, or an Infographic, is very similar to a new music artist debuting a single in hopes to get radio airplay. Just like any artist, they grind it out every day promoting their art.
Instead of thinking of yourself as a blogger of arbitrary words, think of yourself as a creator promoting your art and looking for airtime. Both you and the musical artists are creating something you want to reach people— you want them to listen, read, react, watch, and share.
Music is promoted through marketing, advertising, publicity and tours. Promotional videos (content) and merchandise keep a musical artist’s name in the public eye (just as you are trying to do with your content marketing strategy).
Artists use radio promoters to make sure their music gets played by offering fan meetings, appearances and visits to radio shows. This is just one of the ways fans will hear the music and want to buy it. You promote your content so fans (businesses) will want to purchase your services or products. The more an artist sells, the bigger his or her popularity is, and this helps the artist pursue and fund subsequent projects. Getting the picture?
Musical artists hit morning radio stations at 6AM and promote their evening shows (you hit networking events and conferences), they send out links to their Spotify stations (you send out LinkedIn requests), they build Facebook audiences and twitter followers, and hit sites such as PureVolume and quite a few still build a following on Myspace – anything to get more fans. While you probably shouldn’t be building out your MySpace audience, there are plenty of ways for you as a blogger to expand your readership.
The point – they need, and you need, exposure. You’re like them. You have a blog, brand, or business you want the world to discover. Your audience is out there!
We can continue the music artist/blogger comparison with content creation: the artist starts with some lyrics on a piece of paper, they lay down some tracks, they build a hook. They listen to their audience, speak from experience, refine their music, build out a single, a record, and promote. You listen to the market, build out a theme for your content marketing strategy, write your outline, construct your blog, and push out to the market.
But, how do you achieve exposure in a noisy, disconnected market with unlimited channels for gathering, consuming and sharing information? In other words: How do you create a content marketing strategy like a rock star?
1. Think like a musical artist – not a blogger
You might be starting with the questions: How do I create my art? How do I share it? How do I find out what matters, builds, and scales? The biggest acts in music operate successfully and long term by thinking from the business side of music.
Change your perspective and consider blogging from the business side, not the entertainment side. When I did this, I watched movies like 8 mile, Hustle & Flow, and VH1 Behind The Music in a completely different way (Personal note: I have no idea why I watched Hustle & Flow, except for it was on TV last week). My perspective has changed. This artist started like all of us. A guy/girl with some lyrics and nobody to tell a story too. We all need an audience. The best opportunity for building that audience today, is social media.
2. Don’t promote a bad track
It’s hard to recover from a crappy track (or crappy content) that has been over-hyped. Get feedback from respected people in the industry before releasing. Create a list of 20-30 colleagues in your network/community and use them as a test bed for content. Then work off the 60/40 rule. If 60 percent of them like your content, it’s a green light to market and release.
Why 60 percent? Think about this: 18 out of 30 respected tastemakers from the industry liked the blog, video, Infographic, etc. The odds of having 60 percent of your community liking your content and sharing it with their friends are high. Your goal for each piece of content is not to chase clicks, but to grow your audience and share great content.
3. Market to your target
Hip Hop artists aren’t wasting time trying to write music for opera fans or jazz enthusiasts. They write songs for fans of Hip Hop, because that’s what they know and that’s what they are passionate about. People find a bright shinny object and instantly start cranking out content (10 Things to Know about Pinterest, How to Leverage Snapchat, Be a Google+ Expert in Less Than 10 Days). Stop trying to be a digital marketing expert for everyone.
Some people can’t tell Vine from YouTube. Some people see it all as digital marketing. Be clear about who your target market is and where they live online. Get to know them, listen to their feedback, and tailor your message and your channel delivery to speak directly to them.
4. Don’t believe the hype
Musical artists know how the media works and they pay attention to the competition. They know that “making it look easy” is an illusion. One of the biggest mistakes in marketing is to get caught up in all the marketing noise made by others.
When you’re inside the bubble and paying attention to every announcement of your nearest competitors, it’s easy to be discouraged. When you see the competition get killer magazine reviews, or picked as a speaker for an industry conference, or featured on the evening news, it can be disheartening. It’s okay to be competitive, but don’t believe it’s all giltz and glamour inside the ivory tower.
Your competitors succeed through hard work, hustle, and grinding it out everyday – the “things you see as easy” are not. Be competitive and remember that what got you here – won’t get you there. If you understand your audience, work hard to make them smarter, and serve as a resource — you will grow your audience.
5. Your Competitors Feel the Same
One thing that upcoming freelancers, consultants, and agencies often overlook is the impact of competitors’ marketing on their morale. Every day you read about all of the great client releases, Facebook posts, or social media check-ins when they fly off to the next big conference. You’re reading their press releases or blog posts. Inside your mind, everything is going sideways, you’re becoming directionless, and you don’t know how you are ever going to make it.
That’s how it ALWAYS feels when you’re growing. You are still learning your craft, you don’t have enough gear, you don’t have the right access, your network of mentors is nonexistent, you have no fan base, the list goes on. Rest assured, that is EXACTLY how your competitors feel. And they’re reading your content, or seeing your new clients, or latest deck on Slideshare and thinking, “Wow, they have a good thing going on” or “Uh Oh! How did he get that gig?” Make sure you stay positive and confident.
Also keep in mind that consultants or agencies who started 5-10 years ahead of you aren’t the competition, they are your mentors. Respect them and ask them for feedback which, the majority will offer, if approached correctly.
6. Build Relationships
Many newbie freelancers or consultants striking out on their own make the mistake of thinking that they can simply approach a high profile web property like Mashable, Search Engine Land, or Copyblogger as a starting place to write, produce content, and gain recognition. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. The artist you see on stage – he/she grinded it out for years playing Tuesday night coffee house shows with twenty people in the audience.
High profile sites are constantly bombarded by over-eager blog writers. Go slowly. Get to know them when you don’t need a platform to launch your latest blog. Same thing goes for connecting with other freelancers, consultants, agencies or conference organizers.
Follow them on Twitter. Respect their profession. Subscribe to their content. Buy their services. Go to their conferences. Join their e-mail distribution lists. Understand how their jobs work. Understand that for every content piece they make, they need some support promoting it, and if you can help, do it. The more helpful you are over time, the more likely you are to get help when you need them.
Building your audience base and support network is a marathon, not a sprint. Any artist who has been around for awhile can tell you that the artists who last are the ones who build on their success over time – develop their voice, build their audience, creating their art. The artists who rise to stardom overnight, usually burnout just as quickly.