Neither of these friends was in a position, at the time, to hire a professional.
But a willingness and ability to spend time learning and implementing proven online marketing strategies is really all it takes, at least to dip a toe in the waters, and my friends had both.
I spent a full day working to get them started and, in doing so, identified what I believe to be the most necessary elements to focus on at the beginning. They hit the ground running, and I daresay what they learned helped them to improve their circumstances.
Here is the list of content marketing steps I came up with, updated to reflect recent changes in tools and recommended tactics:
- Determine your potential clients or customers.
- Search for them on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
- Identify and learn the vocabulary they use.
- Understand what they are talking about. What are their concerns and interests?
- Determine where they are talking. Is it a LinkedIn discussion group? A private listserv?
- Follow blogs, publications, and articles they share. This will inform and give you quality links that you can share with them on social media.
- Identify the best keywords to describe the service or product you offer. Use Google Adwords Keyword Tool to find the ones with the least competition and the most searches.
- Build your social media profiles, blog, and website, keeping the information you gain in mind.
- ENGAGE – Interact, chat and connect with potential clients where they are.
- INFORM – Share information that is interesting and useful to potential clients.
- RETWEET – Promote others by sharing useful information, always giving credit to the original source.
- Consistently implement your social media strategy, but in a way that is mindful of how people use each platform. Twelve posts per day would be excessive on LinkedIn, but not on Twitter.
- Employ tools, such as HootSuite, Buffer, or TweetDeck, that make the process quicker and easier.
- Create your own QUALITY content on your website (such as a blog) and share it consistently.
- Optimize your website for social media sharing.
- Employ effective search engine optimization (SEO) practices on your website, and adjust to Google algorithm updates.
- Promote others through recommendations, reviews, etc.
- Comment on other blogs in your business niche. (Not necessarily your competitors but peers, industry influencers, and/or friends.) This will add backlinks to your site and contribute to SEO.
- Guest post on other blogs for exposure to new readers. This tactic contributes to SEO by adding backlinks, and can also be used to link to landing pages that build your email list.
- Comment on Facebook posts in your business niche.
- Introduce people via email and social media, or in person. Helping others and being known as a connector helps to build your reputation.
- Join in on conversations through Twitter chats or LinkedIn discussions.
- Volunteer to moderate chats and/or discussion groups. This gives you more exposure and helps you become known as a thought leader in your field.
- Make use of analytics tools such as Google Analytics and Twitter Analytics, and adjust your strategy according to the data you gather.
- Look for opportunities to collaborate, and use tools like Skype or Basecamp that make it easier.
- Continuously learn about and implement new ideas and tools, in your social media strategy and in your business.
- Take your online friendships offline, particularly when people gather in large numbers at tweet-ups or conferences.
- Be patient. Success will not happen overnight. It usually takes many months before you start to see the kind of results you want.
- Be consistent. People will only learn to trust you when they see a serious commitment and consistent presence on social media.
- Have fun.
Step 30 may actually be the MOST important part of the process. If you enjoy what you’re learning and trying out, you will continue on your path to success. If you take things too seriously and don’t accept that you will make mistakes along the way, your actions will not be easy or smooth, and it will be difficult for people to connect with you.
You don’t have to know everything or be perfect as a content marketer. You just have to be honest, open, friendly, and genuinely interested in others. Your fallibility can actually be an advantage if you embrace it and honestly seek to improve.
Remember, above all else, content marketing online is about building relationships. So be yourself, but always be that self that is kind, considerate, and thinks the best of others. Such an attitude will only benefit you in your efforts.
(A version of this post was published on the Cvent blog in August 2012.)