Creating a content marketing plan — without any content

When somebody talks about “content marketing,” they’re really talking about “content engineering” — scientifically optimizing documents such as blogs, case studies and white papers to create search engine results and sales leads.

This can be an extremely complicated, time-consuming and expensive proposition! So I started thinking about this in the context of my friends and small business customers who simply can’t afford that kind of effort.  It led to this idea:  micro-content, or marketing content when you don’t have time to produce content!

Let’s examine ideas about micro-content that even a time-starved business owner should be able to master in 15 minutes a day …

Preparation

Like any marketing initiative, you must have a firm idea of your strategy, selling points and target audience.  Spend time thinking through a set of keywords that represent your business and your customer needs. You’ll need to weave these keywords into your micro-content.

LinkedIn forums

If you’re like most people, you have a profile on LinkedIn and haven’t done much with it. This platform is a goldmine of opportunity to create micro-content!

There are about 600,000 groups on LinkedIn covering every imaginable business interest. You’re sure to find one with like-minded people who might be interested in you.   If you are in a very specialized field, consider starting your own special interest group.  Make sure you use relevant keywords in the title of the group so people can find you.

Look for some Q&A sessions within relevant groups and get involved. Simply answering questions is providing meaningful content that can attract attention to you and your website.  I’ve personally made some fantastic connections and acquired my two most profitable customers just by answering questions in LinkedIn Group Forums.

Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete and helpful so people can learn about you.  In the “specialties” section of your profile, list your keywords!

Twitter

This is the ultimate site for making connections through micro-content. In this separate post, I’ve provided some helpful ideas on building a targeted audience through Twitter. It makes no sense to work on micro-content on Twitter if you have nobody listening!  Here is a suggested micro-content regimen if you’re just starting to tweet.

1) Create a habit of sharing — When you read something that interests you, share it on Twitter. It takes but a moment.

2) Leverage your network — If you’ve surrounded yourself with interesting people, they’re providing great content. When you find something great, re-tweet it! You don;t have to generate everything yourself.

3) Try following the “3 x 3 x 3 rule” — If you’re new and trying to figure what to do, tweet three times a day, at three different times of the day, on three different subjects:  a) interesting non-work-related information you saw, heard or read; b) news related to your business, market or industry (use keywords), and c) your opinion on an item in the news or something funny. Pass on links and snip your URL’s!

Remember that micro-content is still supposed to do the job of big content — drive people to action on your website. Of course you need to include your website in your profile and use your keywords in your bio.

Comments

Commenting on relevant blog posts, videos, and Facebook pages is a quick and easy way to deliver micro-content that links to your website.  Here are some examples:

  • A small business owner I know commented on a magazine’s Facebook site and was invited to send her product to the editor for coverage.
  • Adding your comment to relevant YouTube viral videos can create impressions with thousands of people who are interested in a related topic.
  • My comment on a popular blog post contained a link to my website which is still receiving hits nine months after I posted the comment. That’s not unusual since posts on popular topics can have a long “shelf life.”
  • Comments on my blog have resulted in new business partnerships, guest blogs, and freelance assignments for my readers.

I find that comments can carry even more impact when they’re “micro.”  People will read a few sentences, but probably scan a few paragraphs.

Re-purposing micro-content

There are so many great benefits to blogging but this is usually the place time-starved marketers stumble. Think about re-purposing your micro-content on your website as a blog, even if it only happens once a month:

  • Cut and paste answers you’ve already provided on LinkedIn and blog comments as new, unique posts.
  • Start a blog post with, “I found this interesting article on Twitter …” and share the great content on one of your tweets.
  • Share a relevant article, video or blog post from a trade publication and simply write a few sentences commenting on it.

In summary …

These are just a few of the ways you can effectively network on the social web with a “sprinkle” of content instead of a flood.  Obviously there are hundred of other ideas I’m sure you can share with the community but this is at least a start that a small business owner can work on 15 minutes a day.

All posts

  • As usual, I love your brain Mark! I need to do better at LinkedIn, thx for that! Love the 3x3x3 idea on Twitter and I do think what you choose to say matters (you are what you tweet~content defines). I also am a huge fan of finding good stuff and sharing! Key to success is to recognize and surround yourself with those smarter and better than you (shhhh…that’s my secret;)))

  • Mark

    @Amy — I’m afraid your secret is out! : ) Thanks for commenting, Amy!

  • Another great post, Mark. It’s interesting, the blog post I’m writing for tomorrow morning starts, “I found this interesting statement on Twitter…” so I guess great minds think alike.

    This post is amazingly helpful because it is practical and can be put to use immediately. The 3x3x3 Twitter rule was how I started, except it was 4x4x4x4 for me. You might have noticed that I added an extra 4 in there because I would add 4 people that I found interesting to follow once a day as well.

    I look forward to re-tweeting this.

  • I think this post would really appeal to small business owners. I recently had a chat with a guy that runs a small business locally (www.twitter.com/noosadreamboats) at a social media seminar and he’d figured a bit of this out over his first 5 months in business. The area for further exploration I think is your Twitter point 3b (news related to your business, market or industry) because what many people don’t realise is what scope they have to create content that is related to their business in an indirect way or comment in forums (bad word) that may not be directly related but could provide benefits. For example, if you own a luxury river cruise business, extend your focus to weddings, bird watching, environemntal activism, fishing, classic boating etc not just tourism. And obviously this is more than just a twitter strategy – it relates to your blogging perhaps more so. Thanks for the read Mark.

  • Mark

    @Joey — Excellent idea and advice. I’m glad you found the post useful!

    @Matt — Really what you’re discussing here is creating marketing adjacencies. That might be a blog post in its own right. Thanks for the idea, Matt!

  • Some interesting thoughts, Mark. I do think it’s possible to make connections and generate business through LinkedIn and Twitter but I think there’s more chance of success if your micro-content marketing is channelled to connect with a blog or website.

    Building trust – so people will purchase – is quite hard with micro-blogging unless people follow you.

  • Mark,

    Great post. Time for you to create and market a product/service solution around this.

    Marc

  • Mark

    @Jon — Agree that trust is key and that may be hard to do in 15 minutes a day but in reality, that may all some people have to devote to a social media effort. Also I believe the interaction may be more important than actually having a blog. There are plenty of people I have learned to like and trust through {grow} comments for example, that don’t even have a blog … or a website for that matter. Thank you so much for your micro-content today : )

    @Marc — Thanks for the counsel : )

  • This is a great post! I, of course have a LinkedIn page but don’t use it as often as I should. Will definitely take your advice and log in to LinkedIn more often than I have been. Also, I think your idea about the 3x3x3 Twitter Rule is a great rule to follow. I will definitely have to take advantage of this rule. Thank you Mark!

    -Marc Pickren

  • Mark

    @Marc — I find that LinkedIn is SO under-utilized! Check out this article from today: http://bit.ly/cNmsjk

    Demonstrates just how much potential there is. I’ve really received a lot of benefit from the forums in particular.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment Marc!

  • Mark,

    Great post. I’ve used a lot of the ideas you have mentioned here and like the way you have termed it as micro-content. One other thing I would mention is that if you produce the micro-content in blog form and the blog is an extension of your actual URL you can gain some really good overall SEO authority. As an example lots of small businesses only end up with a 10-15 page web site, which really isn’t enough to get you on the first page of a Google search result, however if you are knocking out one quick piece of content a few times a week your web site, at least in the eyes of search engines will appear to be very large, improving your search ranking.

    I actually posted something on that just today at – http://www.rapidinfluence.com/blog-0/bid/12639/How-important-is-blogging-to-a-good-content-strategy

    Thanks for your additional insights.

    Ed Loessi

    http://www.twitter.com/edloessi
    http://www.rapidinfluence.com

  • Mark

    Tremendous Ed. Thank you!

  • Mark,

    Great tips & encouragement for those wincing at the thought of the time committment that is integral to social media relationship building. I have used many of these techniques, but LinkedIn has languished on the sidelines for me. I’ll definitely be increasing my interactions there.

    Now, if only you had advice on how to tear myself away from Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn/ and all the blogs after only 15 minutes! (Electric shock therapy, anyone?)

    😉

  • Mark

    Yes, I need to write a post on this OPPOSITE problem. What’s the AA for social media addiction?

  • Well, there is a 12-step program, but the first 5 steps involve Tweeting about it. So it’s not very effective.

  • Maybe we can start a LinkedIn support group.
    😉

  • Claudia

    Mark, I’ve now read two of your articles and just have to thank you for making the penny drop! I finally understand Twitter now, thanks to you and am excited about finally feeling confident to use the tool, not to mention how to use it! I’ll be watching you from now on! 🙂

  • Mark

    Thank you Claudia. That is very kind of you to say. I’m very happy you found my posts to be useful. I look forward to having you as a member of the {grow} community!

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  • While I do believe a blog is a natural starting point for a business getting its feet wet in the social media world, your suggestions are awesome integration to that strategy. Finding differentiated ways of engaging people in your niche is the key to provide valuable (micro)content which people will find interesting.
    I made it a personal duty to retweet and socially promote (Digg, Stumbleupon etc) any post I comment on, as an example.

  • Mark

    @Gabriele — A great policy I think and a great way to leverage those little bits of content! Well said. Thank you!

  • Yes I will Mark create a habit of sharing after reading this post – Quote; – Create a habit of sharing — When you read something that interests you, share it on Twitter. It takes but a moment.
    Amplify is a great tool too for sharing content, you can share on twitter, you blog and other web 2.0 properties at the same time with just one click..
    Quote — “Comments on my blog have resulted in new business partnerships, guest blogs, and freelance assignments for my readers.
    Thanks Mark for the “Content Marketing Plan..”
    Patrick http://www.patrickbarnaby.com/how-to-write-attention-grabbing-headlines.html

  • You’re welcome Patrick. Good luck with it!

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  • Micro content is a big part of any good content strategy. One that I might add to the list is Yahoo Answers. This is still a very viable site with great search potential. It is a good way to generate some micro content and link backs.

  • Mark, this is practical stuff.  Great to-do list.  I’m putting it to work!

  • Mark

    I love your enthusiasm and spirit Harvey!

  • Mark

    Superb contribution Garrett. Well done.

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  • Nicole Crosby

    Thank you for the great advice, I will definitely put it to work.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours!

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