Develop a content strategy


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This article will help you to establish a content strategy, which is needed to ensure that the content on your community is also relevant to the people who are reading it.

Table of content:

  1. Getting to know your audience
  2. Content categories
  3. Creating a content calendar
  4. Measuring success

1. Getting to know your audience

Before you start creating content, you should take a step back and reflect on who your audience is, and what they want to read and talk about on your community.

If you had to buy your users a present what would you get them?

You should know your audience well enough to be able to decide on the right type of present for them if you were to send them something. Think about what type of gift they would enjoy receiving and why. How could this gift also represent you as an organization, while at the same time being something that your customers are, not only happy to receive as a gift, but also be truly appreciative the choice you made, when deciding what to give them. For example, if your organization is a tech company you may send wireless keyboards or a USB, deciding between one present and the other will depend on who your target audience is, not only based on their demographics but also their interests. Are your clients 18 to 28 years old? 30-50? Do they spend a lot of time on computers? Are they interested in the latest technology? Can they use it?

Research tools

Getting to know your audience means researching, here are a few tools to help you do so:

Google Trends

Google Trends is a service that provides insight on popular search queries. It can be used to analyze what subjects are trending online. Trending topics can be determined by how often queries are searched on search engines. The more often a query is searched, the bigger the relevance of the topic.

Competition analysis

Doing a market analysis of your competitors’ customer communities is helpful to determine what has already been done. As your customers will share common interests this is a good starting point, and is helpful to be able to differentiate yourself from what your competitors offer on their community. Creating a benchmark on content of your competitors’ customer communities is as helpful in determining what subjects are successful and which are not.

Facebook

Any Facebook business page with over 30 likes counts as an insights page. The insights page provides a similar data overview to the one of Google analytics, although in the former the data refers to the traffic and behavior of all users that visit and engage with your Facebook business page and all its published content. This data measures traffic, but most importantly it measure engagement that is captured through the amount of ‘likes’ and ‘shares’. Engagement related data helps you identify which content matters most for your audience and which one does less so. When beginning a community these can be translated into truly valuable insights on how different topics can be used to inspire, excite or motivate your audience.

Surveys

Surveys are an established way to inquire about the interests, questions and issues that your customers may have. A survey’s main advantage is its flexible methodology that allows you to gather both qualitative and quantitative data from your customers. Surveys can be used to measure topics of interest, perception of marketing communications, as well as establishing pain points and preferred channels of communication. Exit surveys are, in addition, often used to measure client satisfaction.

Call center

Call centers are a traditional touch point with clients, most often used in sales and customer service. Call centers can be used to gather important insights on client perception of a service delivered, as well as customer satisfaction and customer experience. Contact through call centers can also be used to deliver promotional information to selected clients, test the reception of different promotional content and similar data gathering activities, which can result on new insights on customer interests and preferences.

FAQs

Doubts over services provided, product features and functionality can often become popular topics within a community. Such topics can be summarized in a Frequently Asked Questions forum, which is intended to answer them and avoid customers getting in touch with client service representatives. In this sense FAQs, not only help to decrease costs related to customer service, but also become a prime source of information about customer needs. Insights derived from FAQs provide valuable information on customers, which can be used to generate and deliver more relevant content.


Interest of the organization

To determine the tangent of interests between what you want to say and what is relevant to your customers, it must be determined what subjects interest the organization as well. When determining those interests it is important to keep in mind the goals of the community, so that the content created is always in line with those goals. By also focusing on the subjects the organization does not want to discuss on the community can provide a clear context of the concept for the community. Therefore, it is advised to first define what you do and do not want to say or talk about on your community.

2. Creating a content calendar

Deciding on the type of content that would bring value both to the members of the community and the organization is the first step to a strong content strategy.

The next step is to make sure that enough well-thought-about content is ready in advance. A content calendar is a tool intended to give an overview of the articles that will be created and published. Having content organized in such a way is of great help for making sure that something new is always ready and of good quality for the community.

Creating a rhythm in a content calendar

While the content created should support the main goal of the community, it is also important that there is a good ‘rhythm’ in the topics that will be posted and that the topics varies and has a different message. This can be compared to turning the pages of a magazine. Every time a page is turned there is a new kind of article. Interviews, rubrics, reviews, etc. form a mix within the magazine.While there is a need for variation the tone of voice your company uses should always be present throughout all content. The content should be surprising and appealing, but also in line with the style of the company. It is advised to create a style guide in order to teach employees more about the tone of voice. Every organization should be able to create a list with words the organization often uses or on the other hand never will use in communication.Ways to vary:
  • within the range of themes and subjects
  • using a consequent tone of voice

Set up a content calendar

When the right rhythm is found, it is time to put together the content calendar. The content calendar can either be created on its own, but, if a social calendar is already in place then it is advised to combine these two together. By combining both calendars an overview of all content that will be posted through the different channels is created.The first step in creating a content calendar is to put down all the basic information about the topic, such as: the topic title, the content type, the body text, visual materials, the sub-forum in which the topic will be published, the tags that should be added and whether or not the topic should be sticky.

Next to that, there is the organizational aspect, which needs to be accounted for: who is responsible for the subject and is there a strict deadline. It is always useful to have topics in place which don’t have a strict deadline so these can be published later in case important new topics come up and need to be published first. It is also useful to have topics in place for special events or holidays that have strict deadlines (you can’t post a topic that is related to Christmas in January) to show that the community is up to date and able to respond to recent events and festivities.Last but not least it is good to make note of topics that are part of a follow up and if they are advertisements (not in the literal meaning but as a way to boost sales). The content calendar should make clear how the content will be promoted, for instance by posting the first sentence with a link to read more on social media.Below are the variables that should be added to a content calendar. The content calendar can be created in Excel or any other tooling that makes it possible to filter or create selections on one of the variables. Being able to filter on variable makes it easier to detect if there is not enough content to publish during a certain period or which types of content are overrepresented, etc.

  • Topic title
  • Body text
  • Visual materials (if needed)
  • Type of content
  • Forum
  • Sticky (yes/no)
  • Public tags
  • Who is responsible for creating the topic
  • Deadline for placing it in the community
  • Fixed/flexible deadline
  • Ongoing subject (yes/no)
  • Advertisement (yes/no)
  • Share on social media (if yes, fill in the type of social media)

Example of Community Content Calendar


Once the tangent of interest has been decided, the next step is to align these with the community objectives. Creating content that is aligned with the community objectives is necessary as these objectives are what will later be used to measure how well the content is performing.

Objectives

The objectives of the community can be set by using the OGSM approach. That is one of the most effective ways to ensure that a community is able to streamline practical actions with high level strategic objectives. Common objectives for a community may, for instance, include increased levels of employee and customer involvement with a company and its brand, increased level of customer satisfaction or savings due to call reduction. No matter what objectives are set for your community, it is important that they are clearly set and known by the team or people responsible for a community’s content strategy. A possible way of making sure all content created supports the community’s objectives is to create a pyramid as shown below:

Category sets

The first step to create the content pyramid is to decide on content category sets. Ensuring that created content is in line with the high-level community objectives is done by having local objectives, that is, by setting up specific performance targets, for example according to the forum structure (e.g. sub-forums, blog, ideation modules, etc.). Only once local goals are in place it can be possible to determine content category sets. Content category sets can be chosen according to relevant themes or business objectives. Relevant themes depend on the vertical or business category set and may be for example, in the case of a telecommunications company, information on services and products, phone brands and Apps. Content category sets based on business objectives may be, customer acquisition, upsells and customer involvement in product development.There are 3 general rules that must be take into account when determining the type and number of content category sets:
  • Start small: choose no more than 5 content category sets to begin with. This allows an organization to manage and share the same language, avoiding that content category sets can be defined differently by different people. In time more content category sets can be refined and extended accordingly (for example an initial category set on ‘product information’ can be refined to specific products).
  • Avoid overlapping of category sets: make sure that the chosen category sets are clearly distinct from each other. This means, not taking as separate category sets content category sets such as ‘general information’ and ‘product information’.
  • Content category sets are not topics or subjects. Confusing content category sets with topics occurs for instance when proposing something like ‘running apps for the iPhone 6’ as a content category set. On the one hand, such category set will be probably exhausted after 10 or 20 topics have been created and, on the other hand, it is only a small part of the audience interested in running apps, who will be specifically triggered by content on iPhone running apps alone.

Tag lines

From the objectives you should be able to come up with a tag line or a main story line that you want to repeat over and over again. Just as the category sets objectives it is likely that the tag lines may be similar as you are talking about one community.Presented below is an example of how community objectives, local goals and content category sets can be aligned. The better the alignment, the easier it is to adjust the content strategy and measure its performance.

3. Measuring success


Having set up the content strategy is only part of the creating successful content. To make sure that the content is supporting the community goals and objectives it is necessary to measure the content’s performance.

Engagement, participation and involvement being the main purposes of all created content; measuring these three user responses is done by measuring how well the KPI’s are being achieved.

Content Performance Framework

Measuring engagement, participation and involvement is done through KPIs such as shares, likes, views, comments and clicks. The Content Performance Framework (CPF) is a tool that allows content creators and managers to measure the performance of their content and optimize their content strategy accordingly. The CPF is used to create and capture the most important KPIs for your created content. The CPF entails two parts: 1) The Content Benchmark and 2) The Periodical Content Sample that is evaluated.The Content Benchmark gathers the most popular or successful pieces of content, at least 10 per content category set, so 50 if you have 5 content category sets. In the case of online communities the focus is on content topics, rather than replies. Each piece of content, so each topic, is categorized according to factors or KPIs that are deemed relevant for readers.In order to be able to measure the performance of the created content the ‘benchmarked’ content is used as reference and a sample of created content is evaluated periodically against this reference. The sample of selected content must be chosen according to the following criteria:
  • 5-10% of created content within the period of evaluation (e.g. total amount of topics created monthly, quarterly, bi-annually, etc.).
  • The sample of content should grow organically, this means it should grow in accordance to the content you periodically post using your content calendar. If, for example, you post one topic each day Monday to Friday and at the end of the month you want to create a sample of 10 topics out of the 30 you already posted. You need to select 10 consecutive topics. The reason for selecting topics in such a way is that if the topics are selected randomly you could end up with a bias sample (all topics could end up being Wednesday and Friday topics)
  • This allows you to evaluate your content flow—the way you push content on a day to day or week by week basis—as well as your specific topics. The sample should not be hand-picked. If the sample is randomly selected you cannot measure the performance of the flow (rhythm) of your content calendar.
  • Use your content calendar as input for sample and benchmark: from here you can get information such as content category set, tone of voice, type of content, whether it is activated in Social Media, etc.
  • Use the inSided exports and analytics as input for sample and benchmark: from the control environment of the community you can gather information on number of comments, likes, views, sub-forum, tags, time of post, etc.
  • Use an excel book to create your CPF. The inSided analytics tool next to Google Analytics will provide you the data you need to keep track of your content performance. Once the CPF has been created it should be updated on a yearly or biyearly basis, depending on the content volumes created in your community.
Why do you need to create a CPF?

  • Use your content calendar as input for sample and benchmark: from here you can get information such as content category set, tone of voice, type of content, whether it is activated in Social Media, etc.
  • Use the inSided exports and analytics as input for sample and benchmark: from the control environment of the community you can gather information on number of comments, likes, views, sub-forum, tags, time of post, etc.
  • Use an excel book to create your CPF. The inSided analytics tool next to Google Analytics will provide you the data you need to keep track of your content performance. Once the CPF has been created it should be updated on a yearly or biyearly basis, depending on the content volumes created in your community.

Should I include user generated content in the CPF?

It is possible to include user generated content in the CPF benchmark, but not in the sample as the latter should align with your content calendar.

Next steps

We recommend to take the following next steps.
  • Get started by defining clear insights on your audience’s interests and motivations. Align your company’s message with these same interests to make sure you find a shared space between your company and your audience.
  • Use your community’s objectives to create local goals according to forum category sets or sub-forums.
  • Based on your local goals define the content category sets that best fit the content you want within your community
  • Create and implement a content calendar, where you can plan and keep track of your content creation process
  • Use your content calendar as the basic input of your Content Performance Framework. Begin your CPF by creating a content benchmark.
  • Establish a start-to-end process for your content creation efforts that allow you to manage it, adjust it and count with the necessary resources to execute your planned strategy

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