“On the web, you are what you publish,” says best-selling author and marketer, David Meerman Scott. And he’s right; this new thing called "content marketing" has turned all of us into publishers, impromptu reporters, and self-proclaimed masters of our domain.
Without content the Internet would be empty, our businesses wouldn’t be found in search engines, and we’d have nothing to share via email or social media (not even adorable cat pictures!).
So you know creating content is important, but what does a content strategy look like for the busy marketer of a summer enrichment program, and how can you get started?
Know Who Your Content is For
As we noted in step one of our post on SEO planning, it’s futile to do anything until you know who your “buyer personas” are — the humans who will be searching for, consuming and sharing what you create.
In the case of summer programs, your content strategy will likely be geared toward educating parents, teens and school administrators on the unique value you bring to their lives.
Each persona will be drawn to different content based on their own personal challenges, so take time to research and write bios of each. These stories should be based on facts (age, gender, job title, location, household income) and educated guesses (hobbies, values, goals, challenges, fears).
Knowing who you’re creating for and why will make your content plan much more focused and effective.
Map Content to the Buyer’s Journey
Each of your personas has a special reason to look for your content, but all of us go through generally the same decision making process:
- Awareness Stage — I have a problem and know very little about it
- Consideration Stage — I’ve identified my problem and am researching my options
- Decision Stage — I’ve narrowed my options and need to choose one
Let’s say a teenager in the Awareness Stage searches for “east coast colleges for english literature majors.” You wouldn’t have that teen directed to a program signup page on your website because they're not ready for that yet.
Rather, it’s more natural for them to land on a blog post about the benefits of attending a literature immersion program before they apply to college. And then perhaps they’re directed to an interview with a literature major who went on to her dream college after attending your summer program. Have a YouTube video to go along with it? An Instagram feed? Even better!
Here are some examples of content variety you can try in each stage of your personas’ decision-making journeys:
- How-to blog posts
- “Why" posts
- Interviews with educators
- Commentary on published research / data
- White papers
- Interviews with alum
- Case studies
- Photos and videos of your program in action
- Program comparisons (it’s OK to mention “competitors” — your readers will appreciate the honesty!)
- Email newsletters
- Open houses – live or recorded
- Campus tours
- Financial aid information
- Housing information
- Special offers
As you build out the categories that will work best for your summer program, try to come up with possible titles for each piece of content. This will make it feel more tangible and it'll be easier to research SEO-appropriate keyword phrases (keywordtool.io is great for this).
Produce Your Content
Now it’s time to turn your plan into real marketing assets that will live on your website and serve as a 24/7 sales machine!
If possible, recruit members of your internal team – they know your program best and are used to fielding questions about it.
Instruct your team that all content should be 80% educational/persona-specific, and 20% sales oriented (decision stage). When you talk benefits and address the emotional desires of people, they’re much more likely to remember you and refer you to others.
Distribute in the Right Places at the Right Times
Each of your personas will search for your program in a different way – parents might be on Facebook and Twitter, while their children are using Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube. Reach each persona where they are, and always provide a way for them to share it with others.
Timing is important, too. All your readers aren’t going to be on the same network at the same time, so use automation tools that allow you to pre-schedule social media posts of your hottest content throughout the day on various channels.
What worked and what didn’t? Were they the right topics? Were your distribution channels effective? What about timing? Some of the analytics you’ll want to keep an eye on include:
- # of visits per content piece
- # of social shares
- email click-through rates
- leads generated
- inbound links from authoritative sites
- performance by author, topic, format
It would be silly to keep creating content if you didn’t know how well it was performing, so you’ll want to analyze frequently and keep refining your strategy. In no time you’ll be a content marketing pro!