Content and community should work together. Depending on your company’s size and resources, this may mean combining the two responsibilities into one role or integrating the two teams.
Breaking down barriers between community and content makes sense when you think about your marketing goals. They’re likely some combination of the following:
- Increase brand awareness
- Build credibility and trust
- Recruit new customers and/or community members
- Add value for current customers and/or community members (retention and loyalty)
- Drive leads (and eventually sales) by demonstrating value (illustrate benefits and overcome objections)
- Increase engagement (comments, clicks, shares, views, etc.)
Your content is created for your audience—your community—not for you. Therefore, your community should be the inspiration and the focus of the content you create. Easier said than done, right? You’d actually be surprised.
Here are six fairly simple ways to create community-driven content without driving your community bananas.
1. Create a Real Community Around Your Focus Topic
I love being a member of Kapost’s Content Marketing Academy LinkedIn Group. It allows me to meet new professionals with goals similar to mine, and they either know more than I do or are seeking to learn similar lessons. It has even allowed me to be helpful to others when I have insights into a question that has been asked there.
6 Ways to Create Community-Driven Content (Without Annoying Your Community) by @ShannnonB
More importantly, it has challenged me to broaden my views of (and approach to) content marketing by monitoring conversations around the topic that I may not have originally been aware of—things like “Thoughts on a Content Auditor?” and “Who is using an inbound marketing dashboard?”
I love it so much, that we (at Mention) have started our own LinkedIn Group for Growth Marketers as an attempt to learn more about our audience’s interests and needs regarding inbound marketing, growth marketing, and community building/management. We hope that the group results in new relationships formed and best practices shared amongst our community. It’s just getting started, but I am beyond excited to see where it goes and to discover new topics to create content around what will benefit our community.
These communities don’t have to take the form of a LinkedIn Group. I’ve seen successful Facebook groups and MightyBell communities as well. If you have the resources to dedicate, an owned group on your own site is always an excellent way to gather and mine important insights via conversations.
2. Listen to Your Audience
What’s a better way to know what your audience wants than to listen to what they have to say? By paying attention to what your community is saying to you, to competitors, and to each other, you can gather invaluable insights, such as problems they’re trying to solve, tools that they’re using, and what it is about your brand/offering they like or dislike. Given I’m biased, working for a media monitoring tool and all, media monitoring and social listening is an effective way to quickly pinpoint customers and potential customers’ interests, and then to provide interesting content around them.
Don’t take my word for it. Erin May, who heads content marketing for General Assembly, recently said:
“Despite the volume of content available online today, there’s a lack of a certain types of quality and curated experiences that we’re looking to fill for specific audiences. Listening to our audience for quality content ideas that answer their questions is a big part of filling that void.”
3. Give Your Community the Spotlight
One of my favorite things to do when producing a piece of content is to ask someone much smarter than myself to share their insights on the topic. These contributors are almost always a member of our larger community, and if not, they’re a potential member. Sometimes they’re customers, other times they’re content partners or friends in the industry. Inviting a person to contribute to your content is inviting them to become a member of your community.
As long as you make instructions and the purpose of the piece that you’re working on clear, potential contributors will be more than happy to help if they have the time. I’ve taken this approach to demonstrate the different use cases of social listening, and to gather insights for a Content Marketing Field Guide. Carrie Jones also recently did this in a post about turning community members into brand advocates.
This approach provides both you and your audience with a chance to learn something new, makes your content about your community rather than just your company (which, let’s face it, can start to get old), and allows for extended reach if your contributors are willing to share the piece with their networks.
4. Write for Someone, Not Anyone
Garrett Moon, Founder of CoSchedule, discussed this in the Content Marketing Field Guide mentioned earlier. When developing content ideas, try to have a specific person in mind. Have you segmented your customers or communities? By creating buyer (or community) personas, you’re giving yourself the opportunity to diversify your content while always providing value to someone, rather than attempting to be a one-stop shop for all. Try writing on one specific topic at a time that solves a certain need for a particular group and see what type of engagement you get.
5. Collect Opinions from Your Community
There’s no second guessing when you go directly to the source. One way to get your community involved in your content is by asking them to contribute their thoughts and opinions. Reach out to them for research. Kapost did this with their Content Marketing Hiring Handbook by emailing a survey to their database, asking questions of their LinkedIn group, and posting questions on social. It is now one of their most popular pieces of content to date.
6. Ask Your Community What They Want to Hear About
Send out a quick survey, poll your community on social, or reach out directly to some of your most active community members asking what it is they want to learn more about. As long as you keep the asks minimal, they’ll likely be flattered and happy to help, especially since it will benefit them in the long run. You can even go a step further by including a shout-out to them in the finished piece.
One thing each of these tactics has in common is a need to pay attention to what your community is saying, whether or not they’re speaking directly to you. Be in tune with them, and always keep an open mind to new content ideas from unexpected places.
How have you created content specifically for your community?