Every business needs content in order to be found in search, and to differentiate them from the competition. Without quality, helpful content (and lots of it), you’re lost in a school of fish that are all the same color. Who’s going to find you? Who’s going to pick you?
The trouble with content development is that it can be expensive. Website copy, blog articles, e-books, reports—they all take time and effort (and dollars) to produce. However without them, you really can’t do an effective job of marketing your business—especially in the social age. It’s the classic chicken-or-the-egg syndrome. The more social our businesses become, the more we need that variety of content that speaks to our listeners and helps them solve their problems so we can A: get their attention, and B: develop relationships with them.
The bad news is that most companies still don’t understand the relationship between content marketing and relationship building. Investing in content is absolutely essential—whether you’re writing it in-house or outsourcing it, and I personally believe bloggers create some of the most engaging, relevant, and worthwhile content for brands when managed strategically. The good news is that if you know who your customers are and where they look for and share content, you can use crowdsourcing to have others help you write the kind of truly helpful stuff that your market is looking for. Developing a steady stream of user-generated content isn’t free, but the BEST news is that this type of content is trusted by more people and produces better return than most advertising that uses “marketing speak.”
Here are a few suggestions for crowdsourcing content:
Blogger Outreach: There are two ways to approach this. I’ve seen some companies (like manufacturers or retailers) have their marketing directors research influential bloggers in their niche and pitch them on doing reviews of their products—offering to send a sample to use. However, this can be hit-or-miss, not very efficient and it does not incorporate story telling, or insert the product in the lives of the users. Another way to approach it (and the one I prefer) is to develop relationships with a set of bloggers, and pay them to create the content around a strategic set of goals and incorporated into lifestyle. Bloggers are micro publishers and deserve to get paid for their work. I think this approach to blogger outreach produces the best results if you want a constant stream of relevant, user-generated, authentic content. It requires a great deal of management, relationship building and strategy, but can be outsourced and managed with the right partner.
Blog Interaction: On your own blog, floating a concept or question about your brand and asking for responses can be a good way to encourage subscriber interaction. You never know when a really good response will trigger a connection and deeper conversation. I often find that asking and answering these kinds of questions (both on my blog and others) leads to more relationships, which results in more content-building opportunities. Always be thinking of ways to encourage response…. and make the questions, and the process, EASY!
Video/Visual Contests: Using Contests on social platforms such as YouTube or Pinterest can encourage user-generated videos or photo boards that portray your brand in positive light. I wouldn’t put all my eggs into this basket, but it can be a fun way to garner graphic and video content you can use in other places to build the kind of “social proof” that helps you win hearts and minds.
Co-authoring thought leadership pieces: This is where your relationship rubber meets the road, so to speak. Co-authoring books and e-books with a peer (or set of peers) requires that you have a solid relationship with your co-author(s), which will stand the stress of time-management issues and headaches that go along with getting published. However, the result of a successful collaboration here can garner wonderful results that would be difficult to achieve if you had to do it all yourself. We’re all stressed for time, so think of ways you can reach out to your peers and colleagues to crowdsource all kinds of thought-leadership pieces, such as case studies, white papers, e-books, books, webinars and videos.
You can see that all of these examples rely on collaboration—which is the cornerstone to getting the best Return on Relationship. In my opinion, planning a good content strategy should always include finding ways to crowdsource, whether it’s tapping your customers to find out what their needs are or how they view your industry, to building on your relationships with your peers to produce thought-leadership pieces. At the end of the day, your content should make everyone you deal with (your prospects AND your peers) comfortable with your brand—and using input from others to create value-oriented content can be a good way to make your brand more approachable (for more on this, check out the video (ROR: Return on Relationship™–Will They Buy from Me?).
There are lots of ways you can use crowdsourcing to build value in your organization, your personal brand, and enhance both. Don’t wait for a comprehensive strategy… start now.