RELAX... CONTENT MARKETING IS LIKE BUILDING A REPUTATION - IT TAKES TIME
Content marketing is one of those things that frequently freaks small business owners out.
They either freak out because they’re overwhelmed with all the information about what you should and should not be doing, but still haven’t even managed to get a grip on what it actually is and how it fits in with their particular business.
Or, it freaks them out because although they know how it fits in and what to do, there is no way in hell they’ve got the time to do it. So, it generally remains undone and somewhat murky. "We’ll get to it one day" kind of thing... but never do.
And I say, relax. Content marketing is just another way of building your reputation, so just like your ‘in real life’ reputation, it takes time. The reason I make this point is because I’m pretty sure that when you think about your own reputation and that of your business or brand, you totally accept that building awareness and reputation really does take time. It’s not difficult to understand and most of us aren’t expecting to be an overnight success.
And yet, when it comes to content, social, and pretty well all forms of digital marketing, we seem to fall into this trap, this false expectation that things will happen overnight.
That now - just because you’ve set up a blog on your business site - sales should boom.
That because you’ve been posting on your Facebook page for a month, you should have been ‘discovered’ by now. Plus, to make matters worse, it better happen soon, because you really don’t have time for this - you have a business to run!
The fact is, you’re building your reputation and that’s not going to happen overnight, not for most of us anyway. The truth is that you do have time for it and it is worth it, but you probably need to start thinking about your marketing more like building a reputation rather than a set of levers and pulleys that take an awful lot of effort for not much return.
YOU CAN’T JUST FAST-FORWARD TO THE GOOD BITS
If I said to you that realistically, you needed to be thinking about producing content consistently for about 30 months, would that be scary, or would it inspire you?
I know for some that would cause a total freak out, and I understand why. You can’t find the time, or even figure out what to produce for a week, let alone two and a half years - this sounds bonkers and I am clearly NOT helping, is what you’re thinking. Forget it, maybe content marketing just isn’t for me …
But hang on, we’re talking about building a reputation, remember? You have one of those, right? You’ve been building it since you went into business, and you’re fine with the fact that it takes time, aren’t you? Two and a half years to establish and build your reputation (and that of your business) doesn’t exactly seem crazy, does it?
And that goes for your content too. It’s the same thing, just a different format. The world is 'flatter' and more accessible on the web than it is in real life, but it’s still about human behaviour and human relationships. The extent to which you want to get involved and invest in the growth of that reputation will determine the results you get and the time it takes, but you can’t just skip to the good bits.
Whether you want to give it everything and go all-in, or whether you can only commit to a small amount of quality content each week, looking at it as a 30-month commitment from the outset will help you stay realistic.
If you wrote one blog post every month, that’s 30 articles in 2.5 years.
If you wrote two a month, that’s 60.
60 ways of expressing your expertise, sharing your opinion, connecting with people.
To put it into perspective: how long would it take you to attend 60 networking meetings in your local area?
…and by the way, 60 blog posts is a whole e-book series, 30 is too for that matter, and just 10 is well and truly enough to create an e-book out of the work you’ve already done (and that’s another blog post for me to write, on repurposing and creating flagship content).
IT TAKES... CONSISTENCY
It’s no good showing up sometimes, but then disappearing for months on end. No one’s going to issue you a fine, the reputation police don’t really exist, but it’s just going to take you longer to build something of value and see the rewards. It’s just human nature. People need to be able to get know you over time so that means you have to show up repeatedly, but you have to show up in a consistent way.
Your content is no different. Keeping your timing consistent not only gives people plenty of regular opportunities to hear from you and connect with you, but it also helps to develop trust when they start to realise they can rely on you. Think of a network meeting - the person who shows up every month is going to develop relationships more quickly than someone who only shows up every 6 months - it’s not rocket science, is it?
And the way you show up matters too. When you show up with consistent value, or entertainment, or connection, people start to expect that from you and your reputation expands. That doesn’t mean that you have to produce a 2,000 word blog post every week. If you can and you want to, great (that’ll be 260,000 words in 2.5 years - a LOT of fuel for reputation growth there!), but what’s more important is that you commit to what you can manage to consistently.
If you hate writing, maybe try video. If you’re a bit of a comedian, don’t try to be too serious. If you’re a consultant, but you love windsurfing with your dogs, why not bring them into the mix? If you’re a mum running a business from home, your videos might be interrupted from time to time - let that be ok. The more comfortable you are with how you show up, the easier it will be to do it consistently and the more people will be able to really connect with you.
IT TAKES... SOME ABILITY TO PRODUCE SOMETHING OF VALUE
You may have the world’s best solution to do something. Something that you know will help people for sure and in which they’ll find genuine value. That’s good, but you have to get it to them as well and that’s the bit you might not be so great at.
For me, I have a lot of strategy design ideas, for example, that frankly are amazing, but it’s hard to illustrate that kind of thing to clients sometimes. I can talk and eventually get my point across. I can write and add some images and diagrams etc and it goes ok - I get them there in the end.
But for some complex concepts and strategies, what I really need is a designer to turn it into an infographic or flow chart - you know, something visual that a client can look at and understand much easier than wading through all my guff.
The thing is, I suck at making those things. I know the concept and may be slightly talented with content strategy, but I do words, lots of them and am totally crap at making all that visual. That’s why I stick to my abilities and use someone else’s ability where mine lacks.
What I’m trying to say is that your ability, or gaps in ability, shouldn’t hold you back. Your content doesn’t have to be perfect and if you can’t outsource a whole design job, or video production, don’t just not do it at all. Get help in the capacity and way that you can afford and need. Google and YouTube are amongst my own longest standing and most reliable mentors and teachers.
So in terms of building your reputation through content, the key is that it’s ok to be starting out - everyone started somewhere. You don’t have to have it all figured out and perfect before you’re allowed out onto the internet or a local networking meeting, right? Start where you are with what you’ve got and start growing, learning and building. You may have to fake not freaking out a bit, but don’t fake what you know - it’s ok to be learning and being real about where you’re at is good for your reputation and your content.
IT TAKES... SOME PROMOTION
It does actually. Sorry, but just ‘doing the thing’ isn’t really enough - you’ve got to lead people to it. If you’ve conquered those fears, stepped up, written an amazingly valuable blog post, or made a killer video, or even just sorted out your Facebook business page and got it looking pretty darned nice, don’t just sit back and wait for the hoards to come. They probably won't. Now that you’ve done that great work, you have to show them! (Don’t get me wrong though and go and spam and 'spray' everyone you can, right?)
When you share your stuff, just do it in a way that and from a place of genuinely wanting to help people. Make it personal wherever possible, and keep in mind that you’re building your reputation through each and every way you show up, not just through the content itself. That means that no matter how good your blog post, download or video is, no one’s going to care if you shove it down their throats. You’ll build your reputation as someone people should ignore.
Pretty straightforward really, isn’t it? Exactly like building a reputation in real life - we’ve all met *those* networking types.
IT’S... NOT ALL ABOUT YOU
When you think of the people you know who have great reputations, they’re not the people who are all about themselves, are they?
It's the same with content.
When you think about the people you follow online, your 'favourites', the ones you come back to time and time again, they're not just talking about themselves. In fact, they seem to making things and saying stuff that feels like it’s just for you. It’s so helpful and useful, and inspiring or entertaining, that it makes you feel good.
The fact is that content marketing is about building relationships, so just like relationships in real life, they don’t happen when it’s a one-sided gig. One-sided, or just boring, right?
That means that even though you might not be talking about yourself and your business, so you’re thinking you’ve got this covered, if what you are talking about is of little interest to the people you’re talking to, then that’s not much use either, is it?
Your content is about your audience, the people you serve - not you. Figuring out how to do that takes time. It’s a journey with dips and turns and course corrections, but in the beginning, you’ve got to be curious about what it is people want and how you can be of value to them. That makes sense in terms of real life reputations, doesn’t it? And it’s no different with content.
That’s why taking a long term approach and relaxing into your content makes a lot of sense. It’s not a quick fix / quick returns type of thing. Given thought, commitment and steadiness, over time you'll see it grow into something that’s invaluable and something that you’ll draw on time and time again.