By now you’ve probably heard of growth hacking, a phenomenon that prizes growth and engineered virality above all. It’s a marketing mindset and toolkit that’s been embraced by startups eager to take the lead right out of the gate.
Well, next up is “content hacking.” Content marketing, while all the rage, is already being decried by some as almost being dead or in shock. Not true, though: While the first wave of content marketing may be resulting in consumer exhaustion, we may be witnessing the emergence of Content 2.0.
It’s clear content works. But how to appeal to audiences increasingly saturated with ho-hum content? How to bring more visitors in and increase conversions? How to move beyond the average content strategy and drive real results?
Here are our top 13 content marketing growth hacks to get you started:
1: Leverage influence: Influence and social connections will get you everywhere in terms of generating more traffic to your site. Hire well known, by-line writers with their own social clout, and work on your organization’s networking in order to get to know people with authority and weight in your industry.
Who you know helps content sharing succeed — just as it does in life. Does your post mention another company or individual? Let them know about your piece and make it easy for them to share it with their audience.
2. Recognize opportunity. We know that brands worked feverishly to newsjack this weekend’s Super Bowl. Some of our favorite social media newsjacks have occurred during similar televised events with wide audiences. At other times, watch what’s trending on Twitter or Google and find ways to create timely content that takes advantage of what people are talking about.
The secrets to taking advantage of real-time hot and trending subjects? Be prepared, have a plan and content ready to go but be flexible, take a risk but don’t be offensive. And always point it back to you.
— DiGiorno Pizza (@DiGiornoPizza) February 3, 2014
3. Never underestimate headlines. A great headline is creative, captures attention, makes the audience need to know more, and urges them to click through. You can have the best, most informative and provocative piece of content ever, but if your header isn’t compelling, few will bother to read it. So do yourself a favor: Spend time on that headline. Read up on what makes a good one. Come up with several options. Then A/B test the best ones before you publish.
4. Amplify, amplify, amplify. Find different ways to share your content and boost traffic for it.
It’s not enough to publish an article or blog post and tweet it out once. Amplify it over multiple social channels, and then distribute it again (and even again) using different messaging.
Find other channels where you can comment, share and post. Look into sponsored distribution.
Ask people to share your content. For instance, statistics show that tweets with a “please RT” within them actually get retweeted more often.
Make your content easy to share by installing obvious and one-click solutions for people to do just that. Subscribe to content marketing suites such as Cision or Outbrain. Do everything you can to market your marketing!
5. Don’t limit content. Remember content is not limited to the written word: Video, infographics and images go viral more easily and more often than articles do.
In fact, Videos are shared 12X more than links and posts combined on Facebook, and 100 million users take a social action every week on YouTube. Did you notice that last week’s review of the top 5 tweets all were tweets with images attached?
A great example of an organization’s consistently viral usage of video and images is Upworthy (Note: They’re also great with headlines).
Look for ways to either illustrate your written content or take its place with visual analogies, clever illustrations, infographics, and unusual and/or eye-catching graphics. Or find a way to turn articles that have struck a nerve into a webinar or podcast for added legs.
6. Go mobile or go home. It’s always surprising/disappointing/maddening to land on a website that isn’t easy to navigate on a mobile device. Sure it takes extra development time. But have we not all seen the statistics clearly indicating that mobile is taking over the planet?
In this day and age, brands that haven’t taken the mobile web plunge are just begging to have their precious content be ignored by frustrated visitors.
Make your site responsive, test often, and watch your load time times. Test on multiple devices for validation. If you do not have access to mobile devices for testing try a service like BrowserStack.
If you are on WordPress, you can buy many inexpensive themes that are responsive. Elegant Themes has over 20 responsive themes now and is extremely affordable. Using a responsive theme should make this goal achievable for anyone.
Less a hack and more a foundational requirement, going mobile is something to have in place before posting and amplifying your content.
7. Content is for customers. Repeat after us: It’s not all about me. Now say it again. Any content that goes out should be optimized to be of interest to your customers and prospects — not necessarily how you like to talk about yourself or what you’d like to say!
So get to know them well. Learn what kind of information they’re seeking, how to speak to them, and what might tickle their funny bones. Know what sets them apart from people in other regions. Target and then micro-target your content until the day your desired and highly engaged audience discovers they don’t know how they’d get along without it.
8. Test. Measure. Adjust. Repeat. How, exactly, do you get to know what content your audiences respond to? Data, of course. Growth hackers are fiercely data-driven and experiment relentlessly for incremental improvements every step of the way. The growth hacker is willing to test and tinker with everything from graphic design and subscription forms, to tiny variants in language and content lengthy/type.
S/he is also wants to collect specific data on where traffic is coming from and who makes up that traffic in order to keep improving the variables that drive virality and growth. Metrics are your friend!
9. Sharing: Not just for toddlers. Content curation, syndication, reblogging, riffing off another article — sharing content (with proper attribution and linkbacks, of course) is a great way to tap into relevant subjects and a lifehack for time-crunched marketers. It goes the other way, too: Allowing other reputable and influential outlets to reblog, repost, or riff of your content (with proper attributions and linkbacks, of course) can also do amazing things for your own traffic and marketing — as can guest blogging for someone else.
10. Find your voice. While your content marketing may include multiple contributors, your testing (See #8) will reveal the stories, actionable advice, style and selling propositions that provide the most value to your users. Without a laser-focused voice and that value, no amount of clever hacks will help you manufacture growth. Also, Google and other search engines will come to rank you higher when you focus on creating quality content.
11. Define your strategy. In content marketing, quantity will go a long way in generating traffic. Jeff Bullas is a great example: The content on his site isn’t always the meatiest, but the sheer volume of his posts mean he gets shared far and wide every day.
But on the other hand, high-quality branded content engenders loyalty, trust and long-term search results. Likewise, quick-hit content allows marketers to create more quantity, while longer, more detailed content does better in search and loyalty.
12. Consider aggressive tactics. People generally dislike pop-ups, content blockers and such aggressive tactics, but guess what? Companies do it because it increases traffic. And people usually get over it. But test, measure, adjust repeat. Variables such as color, placement, amount/type of information requested, calls to action and offers will affect everyone differently.
13. Work on audience growth as seriously as you do on your content. Content marketing has been a huge buzzword recently, yet I do not hear many people talking about audience growth and cultivation.
As Jeffrey Rohrs (author of the must-read book Audience: Marketing in the Age of Subscribers, Fans and Followers) puts it, content marketing and audience growth are two sides to the same coin. You may have carefully followed these previous 12 steps, but if you have failed at creating a sizable and quality audience — your content marketing efforts will fail.
The takeaway? As in any growth hack, the secret is to question everything, stay open to ingenuity, learn all you can, and adjust anything needed to increase growth through content marketing. Market smarter!