As the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, many marketers found themselves at a loss regarding how best to adapt their strategies to the new circumstances. This confusion is more than understandable. After all, the unfolding events were unprecedented (at least in our lifetime), and the sheer amount of uncertainty was paralyzing.
Some chose to continue with their previously laid out content marketing plans. Others chose to put everything on hold and wait for things to settle back to some semblance of normalcy. Others still tried to adapt their strategies and find a new way to manage their content calendars.
An entire year has passed since the first documented COVID-19 case in China. Today, we can offer advice with much more accuracy on how best to deploy varied content marketing strategies in the era of the coronavirus.
And while we’re certainly hoping that the pandemic winds down in the first half of 2021, the world as we knew it won’t be back to what it used to be overnight. Some of these content marketing practices will definitely be useful for some time to come.
Let’s look at four content marketing dos and three content marketing don’ts that will help your business get to the other side of Covid.
Do: Create Content for Real People
While this maxim should hold true sans pandemic as well, the truth is that many brands and businesses still create content just for the sake of creating content. This practice is best abandoned, especially in the era of the coronavirus.
What people want to see, hear, and read at the moment is truth. Above all, they are seeking out useful information, and not just about the pandemic. Content marketing practices aimed at outwitting search engines and trying to artificially rank well appeal even less to real people than before. Audiences simply won’t stick around to consume your content, even if it’s ranking number one.
Aim to provide valuable, relevant, and timely answers. Speak to your audience in their language and address their real concerns. Help them solve the issues they’re facing, whatever they may be in the grand scheme of things: how to take care of a loved one during the pandemic, or how best to choose a tie with a shirt and suit.
Here’s a great example to illustrate this point: Bay Alarm Medical publishes a lot of Covid-related content, which is only natural, given that their target audience consists of seniors and their caregivers. However, they have not used the pandemic as a way to achieve quick wins. They have stuck to their sincere and valuable content, and they don’t pander to their readers. They are truly there to help, not just to rank well for all the covid-related keywords that are trending at the moment.
Do: Create Content for Different Stages of the Buyer Journey
Another common blunder is creating content with little or no regard towards the stage of the buyer journey of the intended reader (or viewer). Then there are also marketers who create content that targets different stages of the funnel but fail to promote it to the right kind of audience.
A lead who has already had some contact with your brand and is informed about your products will not respond to content targeting a new lead who has yet to get to know you. And vice versa.
When planning the content you will be creating, devote some extra time to consider where your target audience stands within the funnel, what topics they will be most interested in, and how you can promote this content to reach them specifically.
Don’t use the same promotion channels for all of your content. Segment them according to the sales funnel as well as the target audience and their overarching interests.
Do: Use Real Data
The data you rely on will also have a huge impact on the success of your content marketing campaigns. A lot of marketing is about getting to know your audience, and the best way to do that is to trust actual numbers, as opposed to generalized assumptions or third-party evidence.
Luckily, you already have a wide variety of user data.
Start by looking at your Google Analytics and Search Console. What is your best performing content? Look at metrics such as time on page, number of impressions, number of clicks, and returning vs. new visitors.
Once you know which pieces have worked best, take a look at all the demographics and geographic information about your readers. Analyze what they are like, what they want to know, and how you can best serve their interests.
Also take a look at the data you have from your social media accounts. There are three key answers to reveal here:
- What kinds of posts work best?
- What are your click-through rates like for different types of content?
- What can you do to improve on them?
Do: Encourage User-Generated Content
During a global pandemic, perhaps it’s natural that people are a bit sceptical and more weary than otherwise. They are aware that there are companies out there who are ready and willing to take advantage of online shoppers, and they don’t want to become the victims of scams.
To alleviate these feelings, you need to inspire trust.
There are many ways to do this, but one of the best ones is showcasing user-generated content on your website and across your social media pages. UGC is one of the best avenues to take not only because of its immense effectiveness in inspiring trust, but also because it can serve other purposes as well, like increasing your reach on social media and acquiring valuable feedback from your audience.
User-generated content will prove to your new visitors and fresh leads that you are a brand others have had pleasant experiences with. It will provide examples of the use of your products or services and illustrate what it’s like to shop from you or work with you.
Reviews, testimonials, images, stories, videos – anything that comes to mind that has been created by a user and a consumer of your brand is a great way to start.
While you certainly still need to promote the content you’ve created (which is, after all, the point of content marketing), you don’t want to go overboard – especially not during a pandemic. What you would usually do and what you would usually expect from your target audience no longer applies.
Bloggers and influencers are certainly still ready to work with you. Large publications are still taking on articles. Ads are still being clicked on, and users are still engaging with all kinds of content.
However, they also have other things on their minds, and maybe they don’t want to see your daily newsletter in their inbox. Maybe they are preoccupied and would like to receive less email, in fact.
Depending on your niche and industry, as well as your target audience and lead pool, you may experience lower click-through and open rates or less engagement.
Your natural impulse is probably to step up your promotion – just try to do it in a way that is respectful to the hurricane of emotions your audience is experiencing.
Pandering to your audience at a time like this would be your worst choice.
They don’t need to be coddled. Yes, they may need some extra compassion and extra care, but they don’t need to be indulged. You don’t have to appeal to their baser instincts in order to get your point across.
Instead, take a stand, adopt a certain point of view, and stick to it. Be your authentic self as a brand.
What you should be doing instead of pandering is showing compassion. Whether it’s on social media or through your blog posts, be sensitive to the time we are living in. Show the human side of your brand.
You don’t want to take this overboard, either. If you are making donations, volunteering your time, or doing anything useful to relieve some of the effects of the pandemic, by all means, share the information with your audience and ask them to get involved. But don’t play that up expecting to get some brownie points and make an extra sale or two.
Don’t: Limit Yourself to Your Blog
Or any other content format, for that matter.
Variety is important, with or without the pandemic. Your audience will appreciate being able to be in touch with your message over more than one channel.
The blog is definitely a content platform you should retain and invest in – but try video too, try doing podcasts, or using social media more. Try doing longer content forms instead of just blog posts.
If you notice a specific content format is not working, you can abandon it and move on. But do give it your best shot and give it some time, too. You can’t expect results in content marketing overnight, so you will need to wait a while before you can completely write a tactic off.
Experiment and try out different content marketing channels. You can’t really know where your audience is spending their time now that their lives have been so massively altered.
Content marketing in the era of a pandemic is challenging, uncertain at times, and very effective at others. Take our advice into consideration before crafting or promoting your next piece of content, and hopefully, 2021 will be a better year on all accounts for all of us.