The beginning of the year always brings industry predictions and forecasts. We do them at SPROUT Content too, mostly for fun, but also so we can take a look at them again at year's end and see who was right and who was off base. Nothing like a little friendly office competition, right?
I've noticed some recurring themes in content marketing trends for 2015, and one in particular makes me especially excited for the future of our industry. Jay Baer coined the term "cooperative content," which means:
"Cooperative Content: A triangle approach to marketing, where the company works together with its employees and customers to create high volumes of massively specific content against the widest possible topical array." ~Jay Baer, Convince & Convert
The idea is that content marketing is everyone's job, not just the marketing team. In fact, the best sources of content could be right under your nose: your employees and customers.
Adding more resources to your content team simply makes sense, as we all watch the world of online content becoming more crowded every day. In order to be heard, businesses are having to create more content, but leaving that content solely to the marketing department can be expensive and inefficient. Instead, plan to see more employees put on their blogging hats and contribute content ideas from customer reviews, emails and questions they handle on a daily basis. In fact, your sales team is your most direct communication with prospects. They know why customers end up choosing your brand, or not. They know your ideal customers and their pain points. Use that information to your advantage by having people on the front lines contribute to your content marketing process.
The same idea goes for your customers. User-generated content engages your audience and helps customers feel like they have a say in your company. They are now brand evangelists.
It's a win-win for everyone since having employees and customers contribute and distribute content increases your company's visibility and content volume.
So, how can marketers involve people outside of their department in content creation?
Here are five ways to encourage interaction with content:
1. Help them understand why content matters.
Explain to employees and customers the benefits of content and how it actually affects sales and the bottom line of the company. Use data to show that blog visits do actually lead to conversions and sales. When someone outside of marketing understands the effect of a content marketing strategy, they will be more willing to buy into it and contribute.
2. Show them the personal benefits of being a content contributor.
When employees and customers understand that blogging can enhance their resume or even open doors to future opportunities, they will realize they also benefit personally. Here are just a few reasons to give them to spark involvement:
- Create opportunities for yourself
- Grow your knowledge as you research topics for your blog
- Establish your credibility as a resource in your industry
- Build a writing portfolio
- Add to your resume
- You are paid
3. Be a cheerleader for your content team.
By reaching out to others for content creation, you are also improving employee engagement and satisfication. Employees who contribute content naturally feel more valued and involved in the company. Take this even further by recognizing their accomplishments to the rest of the company at your next meeting. Perhaps offer an incentive for the employee who has the highest views on their blog each month or an award for the most articles published. Do the same for your brand evangelists. Give them shout outs on social media or link to their personal blogs within a company blog. Letting them know their contributions are appreciated is key.
4. Encourage creativity and confidence.
Not everyone is a writer, so start by asking for volunteers and then support those contributors so that they are set up for success. You can do this by providing clear direction and/or writing or style guidelines. Be available throughout the creation process from brainstorming to editing so that your contributors feel supported.
5. Have a plan.
If you are going to up your content game by involving employees and customers, you need to have a solid plan in place. An editorial calendar keeps content development, publishing and distribution on track. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet, or as complicated as custom software. If you aren't sure where to turn or what's available, our Interactive Guide to Editorial Calendars is a good place to start.
In order to transform employees and customers into brand evangelists to create collaborative content, you will need to earn, as well as give trust. We dedicate an entire chapter to trusting others to do the talking for your company in our book Brands in Glass Houses: How to Embrace Transparency and Grow your Business through Content Marketing.