Art & DesignContent StrategyStrategies

Content Marketing Doesn’t Work If the Right People Don’t See It

Every January I teach an 8-week class about social media marketing to students enrolled in a graduate program at the Maryland Institute College of Art. The program, dedicated to the Business of Art & Design, is designed to help artists build the framework of their business.

Though the course is titled “social media marketing” the students usually spend the first 5 weeks identifying audiences and drafting key messaging. That doesn’t sound very social, does it?

I tell my students that the key to social media marketing, or really any marketing, is to make sure you’re speaking to the right audience in the right way in the right places. 

You may have noticed that the words “content marketing” have become the new buzz words of the marketing landscape. Everyone will tell you that content marketing is holy grail in helping your business grow. While they’re not entirely wrong, it misses the bigger picture. The reason no one is coming to your website or clicking on your links is because you’re not reaching the right audience.

To really know who your audience is, you must first define who you want to be your primary audience and then investigate who your audience actually is. When I meet with clients, before we even begin to figure out their social media strategy, the first thing I do is conduct an external audit. I look at their content across all platforms to see who is actually engaging with it. Who is commenting? Who is liking it? Who is sharing it? What keywords do they associate with your brand?

I then conduct an internal audit to see what staff, stakeholders and other internal audiences are saying about the brand and how they are interacting with content. Rarely does the internal audit match up with the external audit. This means if you’re tailoring content to the wrong audience or pushing out content on the wrong networks, it doesn’t necessarily matter how awesome your content is.

Students starting their own business have the luxury of defining their brand’s audience before it defines them. So what happens if your current audience isn’t the one you want? You need to figure out where your current audience is online and the behaviors that are generally associated with them. Are they inclined to share or do they just like browse? What’s the most important part of the customer experience — access or information? By identifying the traits associated with your audience, you can take your key messaging and tailor it to meet your customers’ needs.

Content strategy and content marketing help you better understand who you are, what you do and why you do it, but unless you know who your audience is and why they do the things they do, your content will struggle to meet both your business and customers’ needs.

Photo credit: Sunni Brown

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