5 Steps For Creating a Content Marketing Strategy That Drives Business Results

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Here are five crucial steps your brand should take to create a content marketing strategy that grows your business and drives results. “Never ask for anything, and especially from those who are stronger than you. They’ll make the offer themselves, and give it of their own accord” — that’s one popular quote from Mikhail Bulgakov’s book, The Master and Margarita.

Even though Bulgakov didn’t mean that in the context of , that’s a generally good rule. Content marketing is one thing that provides the most inbound requests. In other words, make people come to you first and offer themselves.

According to , 78% of companies with a documented produced effective, meaningful content. Content marketing generates over three times as many leads as outbound marketing and costs 62% less. However, it’s essential to ensure your is creating content that’s useful to your customers and able to further your company’s long-term goals.

There’s an overwhelming amount of content available in digital spaces, so here are five crucial steps your brand should take to create a content marketing strategy that drives results:

Related: 4 Simple Steps to Creating an Effective Content Marketing Strategy

1. Figure out your narrative

The most memorable and successful brands have one thing in common: They tell an engaging, consistent story. Storytelling is the heart of a great content marketing strategy, so investing the time and resources necessary to perfect this aspect of your business is important.

Psychology Today notes that stories help humans increase feelings of empathy by releasing the “happy” chemical oxytocin and reducing the stress hormone cortisol. The right story still sparks that primal part of the human psyche that engages our emotions and fosters a sense of meaningful connection to each other and the brand telling the story. In essence, stories are how we think and assign meaning to our lives.

Anyone can create a meaningful story around their product or service, and 92% of consumers say they want to see ads that feel like a story. is a notable example of this. Buying furniture isn’t exactly the most exciting task. However, customers are incredibly loyal to Ikea, not because of their quality or prices, but because they’ve created an immersive narrative around experiencing the aspirational joy of designing your home with simple, elegant pieces that reflect who you are.

2. Research your target audience and channels

Before creating a compelling narrative, you must know to whom you’re telling the story. Generating leads and traffic is consistently one of the most challenging aspects of marketing, which is why it’s essential to research your target audience thoroughly.

Create an avatar of your ideal customer, and spend time fleshing out this person’s backstory. What’s their age? Gender? Average income? What kinds of careers might this person want? What do they do for fun? What type of personality do they have? The more three-dimensional you can make this avatar, the more intimately you can understand your target audience.

For an example of how this is done right, scroll through MoonPie’s Twitter. They have perfected their brand voice to reflect their target audience: Someone who enjoys quirky humor and doesn’t take themselves too seriously. As a result, they’re highly relatable to their audience and facilitate engagement in a seemingly effortless manner.

Related: To Reach Your Target Audience, You Need to Use These 5 Steps

3. Generate content ideas

Did you know that, on average, 35% of companies have zero dedicated content marketing personnel? This means that it’s hard to come up with consistently fresh content and stay on top of trends. Tools like UberSuggest, Google Trends and Buzzsumo are all great ways to maximize your content generation ideas when you don’t have a dedicated team, but there are other things your brand can do as well.

Depending on your goals and audience, there are plenty of ways to generate eye-catching, shareable content ideas. You can set up trend alerts on platforms like Instagram and to capitalize on viral videos and memes, or you can even turn to your user base to create a user-driven campaign.

Neutrogena is an example of a successful user-generated content campaign with their Neutrogena Studios platform. For this, they’ve allowed customers to create video content submissions focused on skin health. Not only does this utilize brand loyalty and provide an evergreen source of marketing content, but it also requires minimal resources for a great ROI.

4. Decide on distribution

No matter how great your content is, your time and resources are ultimately wasted if you can’t get it in front of the right audience. From ebooks, blogs and podcasts to graphics and webinars, there are countless ways to distribute your content.

Which channels you choose will depend on your goals and target audience. However, there are three main channels: paid (e.g., Instagram ads), owned (e.g., email newsletters) and earned (e.g., social media shares). In most cases, a successful content distribution strategy will be some combination of all three channels.

The optimal distribution strategy comes after defining your target audience and figuring out your narrative. These two steps inform the types of content you’ll focus on, which helps you determine the best channels for getting your content seen and shared.

A key component of distribution is ensuring your owned channels are optimized, because this is the avenue you have the most control over. Oracle Vitrue’s “Like Can Never Replace Love” campaign saw massive success because the company emphasized promotion through its owned distribution channels (e.g., staff, partners, influencers and customers).

Related: 4 Content Marketing Strategies to Boost Your Business

5. Measure your results

Every content marketing strategy needs goals and measurable KPIs to determine whether or not a campaign was effective. KPIs like content impact, engagement, traffic and sentiment are great starting points. Still, these can be further divided into more nuanced metrics like unique page views, conversions, top exits, bounce rates and social shares. Remember that the metrics will differ for each distribution channel, and understand that figuring out the proper baselines and metrics for your brand will likely take time (and some adjustment).

In the case of Casper, a sleep startup that has built its brand on content marketing, those metrics could be features in top-tier magazines that entail recognition among a broader audience. Despite its financial problems afterward, Casper had first grown rapidly, generating $30 million in revenue and expanding its team from five to hundreds of people in less than a year.

The company was featured as one of the most innovative companies by Fast Company in both 2016 and 2017. “The brand made a splash on social media, releasing a series of creative Snapchat and Instagram stories,” they wrote. Casper also hired journalists and announced the launch of its own editorial venture focused on all aspects of sleep. So, no matter what, Casper has its own identity and a foothold in brand history.

Related: How to Craft a Content-Marketing Strategy That Works

Remember that your content should be emotionally compelling and purposeful. Great content marketing strategies allow brands to establish genuine connections with their audience. Don’t be afraid to explore what will work best for your brand and try different options. Ultimately, it’s essential to recognize that content marketing strategies are dynamic, ongoing processes that will shift and change over time. So, it’s wise to start dedicating time and resources toward it now to get a jumpstart on the future.

Source: 5 Steps for Creating a Content Marketing Strategy That Drives Business Results

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Big Tech Employees Are TikToking On The Job — and Their Bosses Don’t Always Like It

An illustration of a woman holding her phone up, selfie-style in a conference room while a meeting appears to be happening. Several co-workers are seated at a long table, watching her record a video.Jarett Sitter / The Verge

A day in the life of a 20-something on TikTok who works in tech might look something like this: start the day with free breakfast and a latte. Immediately go out for a multihour lunch break. Return to the office and wander around the spacious, light-filled space, visiting the nap room or the Harry Potter-themed meeting space. “Finish up work.” Then head out at 5PM.

A LinkedIn employee’s workday includes making face masks for “a little self-care moment,” followed by eucalyptus hand towels and kombucha in the office. A Google employee’s day involves scooters, rooftop views, hanging out with a dog, and meeting up with co-workers.

This is the “tech girlie” side of TikTok, where lifestyle vlogging has given rise to a cottage industry of creators who’ve made working in tech — and showing followers the ins and outs of their workday — a key part of their personal brand. The videos often follow a standard format: cheery, upbeat background music plays over quick shots of meeting slides, themed workrooms, and snack drawers.

Viewer comments oscillate between contempt and yearning, with many mockingly pointing out how little work is shown in the videos. But invariably, dozens ask: are you hiring?

Tech employees have racked up millions of views on these glossy aspirational videos. But messy boundaries around filming at work have led to HR warnings and even firings from tech firms that creators say are ill-prepared to navigate the influencer-slash-corporate employee. Corporations, meanwhile, essentially get free promotion — they just have to risk their influencers showing too much or revealing things they may not want the whole world to see.

“Me and my tech creators friends, we all have been flagged before at [our] company to be like, ‘Hey, don’t do that,’” says Chloe Shih. Shih, a YouTuber with over 51,000 followers, says creators must balance crafting their own brand and free expression with demands from their employers that limit what can be shared, either through explicit policies or implicit fears.

What’s allowed and what isn’t isn’t always clear for either side, and companies are “trying to be as stringent as possible” while building out policies and expectations for influencers, according to Shih.

Some companies are more strict than others, forbidding the filming of lobbies, entrances, and security measures like badges. Others bar filming at desks even if the computer screen is blurred — revealing even hints of what you’re working on is off-limits. But creators regularly toe the line in their content, resulting in conversations with HR, co-workers, or managers. Some creators, for example, have shared videos giving tours of offices and workspaces after seeing other creators post similar content, angering security and safety teams.

As Shih has cultivated her own brand of tech industry vlogging, she’s developed tactics to deliver content to followers and keep her employers at least mostly happy. She avoids talking about her compensation, and if she’s currently having trouble at work, she opts instead to discuss it after the fact — as she did in her most viral video, a 14-minute breakdown of all the reasons she quit her job at TikTok.

Shih, who has also worked at Meta, Google, and is now a product manager at Discord, has made videos like “What’s the Discord HQ like? // office tour + meet the team!” and “First Week at Discord as a Product Manager” (the latter sponsored by HelloFresh).

Discord employees who are also creators and influencers are expected to “uphold their responsibilities as shareholders and to each other,” says Lucy Anthony, senior counsel for employment at the company.

“Our policies support personal expression while also protecting the company’s confidential information and our employees,” Anthony says. “If employees speak about or on behalf of Discord externally, it must be in accordance with these policies.”

Anthony didn’t expand on what specific policies Discord has for creators. I think all tech creators do their best to respect their company, because that’s number one, they can’t get fired,” Shih says. For many, that means content ends up not actually reflecting a real workday; one creator who occasionally makes videos about their work at Google says they mostly film the food at their job because showing their actual work isn’t permitted.

“I’ve gotten backlash for filming too much food content and people questioning how much I work,” the employee, who requested anonymity to speak freely about their company, told The Verge in an email. “But in actuality, I just can’t show much of my real work!”

But tech workers who aren’t hypervigilant — even at smaller companies — have found themselves out of a job.

Michelle Serna, who goes by @brokeasshorsegirl on TikTok, makes off-the-cuff, unedited videos including documenting her life running a horse ranch and holding down a full-time job. Serna, who worked at health tech company Visionable, was careful to never disclose the name of her employer on TikTok, instead speaking about her unconventional path in the industry and her experience being a remote employee making a good salary.

In August, Serna uploaded a short video to TikTok showing coffee she had spilled early on a Monday morning. Serna says she didn’t realize until later that a company meeting can be faintly heard happening on her computer in the other room (the video has since been deleted). The video didn’t catch on like her others — Serna says it had only a few thousand views — but the next day, she was fired for negligence.

“When I tell you that I was truly shocked that I was fired, I was so shocked because I never was reprimanded for anything,” Serna says. “I was never spoken to about my content creation. I was never spoken to about my performance at work.” Visionable did not respond to The Verge’s request for comment.

Unlike other creators, Serna says she was never warned about her TikTok presence, which can be profanity-laden and straightforward and is part of her appeal. Visionable had even featured Serna in a marketing video sharing her post-work routine on her ranch, and Serna said the company had celebrated her TikTok presence internally, which grew rapidly this year to over 150,000.

While creators build followings from their tech jobs, the companies that employ them also benefit. When Serna shared the news of her firing on TikTok in September, followers were largely supportive. And though she admitted recording the video was a mistake, Serna says companies like her past employer aren’t equipped to navigate having employees with substantial internet followings. Serna says a few other creators working in tech contacted her after she went public about her firing, saying they were scared about how their companies might react to their content.

While creators build followings from their tech jobs, the companies that employ them also benefit from the viral videos showing happy, well-paid employees extolling the benefits of their jobs. An account strategist at Google praises the company for bringing rescue dogs, saying it gave them “an instant boost of serotonin.” A TikTok sponsored by LinkedIn follows a different Google employee from the office to an influencer event, with the creator expressing her gratitude for having “two dream jobs.”

Though Serna didn’t directly say the name of her former employer in TikToks, the information was easily searchable, she says, and followers regularly asked if her company was hiring.

“I’m like, ‘You wanted me for your good press.’ Because if you think about it, I am good press,” Serna says. “I come from a nontraditional background, I don’t have a college degree, I’m a young woman, I have a disability, I’m a remote employee making a lot of money.”

The proliferation of content that exclusively highlights luxurious perks and apparent light workloads can also obscure the reality of working a 9 to 5. Some people will purposely choose to film days when something interesting is happening, Shih says. Other creators are so busy during their actual workday that they’ll put on the same outfit on the weekend to record themselves pretending to work. The highly curated fluff content also doesn’t show that the seemingly generous office offerings can in fact have the opposite effect.

“Look at the Google campus, look at the Facebook campus, look at the LinkedIn campus — they don’t make their campuses that way because they love their employees,” Serna says. “They make it that way so that they can keep you there.”

Google didn’t respond to a request for comment. LinkedIn, meanwhile, has “clear internal policies that apply to all employees,” according to spokesperson Leonna Spilman, though Spilman didn’t outline what those policies are. “We make them available so everyone at LinkedIn can follow them, including when they choose to share their experiences in communities they care about,” Spilman says.

Still, the “tech girlie” genre of content can serve a purpose, especially for women, people of color, and other traditionally underrepresented groups in the industry who hope to land a job.

Nylah Boone, a TikTok creator who considers herself a micro-influencer, sprinkles in workday content with other unrelated vlogs, like travel videos, Trader Joe’s hauls, and follower Q&As. In April, while working as a contractor at Apple, Boone posted a video of her first day working from the Apple office, showing her morning routine and commute along with snippets of the building, an in-office pastry bar, and lunch with co-workers. The video, titled “Day in the life of a Black girl working in tech,” has amassed nearly 400,000 views, with hundreds of comments asking Boone for career advice and questions about her job and daily routine.

“My followers or people that would reach out to me or comment were like 80 percent Black women,” Boone says. “That was important to me to be able to connect with other Black women as well to encourage them, ‘You can work in this industry or work in this role.’”

Shih, too, says she’s motivated to make content about her job to give others like her free career resources. After receiving an influx of pleas for advice, Shih set up a Discord server for tech professionals and hopefuls to meet and connect. Making videos like the one outlining why she quit TikTok is her way of being honest and transparent with followers, she says.

“I kind of did everything by trial by fire,” Shih says of getting her start in tech. “And if I could go back and tell myself to do stuff, it would have changed my outcome so dramatically.”

In May, Boone unexpectedly lost her job at Apple when her contract wasn’t renewed. She made videos about that, too — a trio of clips documenting her job loss has so far gotten around 150,000 views.

Boone has since moved on to a job at a marketing agency, where she’s able to continue making videos for TikTok while working. But she says tech influencers are an important way that companies are able to get in front of potential applicants, especially people who might not otherwise look for a job in the sector.

“Imagine if there were no POC creators or Black women creating the content about their jobs in tech. There are so many people on [TikTok]… like middle school, high school [girls],” Boone says. “If they have no exposure to it, they’re not going to know that there are other options out there for them.”

By Mia Sato

Source: Big Tech employees are TikToking on the job — and their bosses don’t always like it – The Verge

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How China Disciplines Its Tech Barons

Chinese internet giants have become compliant parts of the regime they promised to disrupt. For Tencent’s Pony Ma and other tycoons the future is fraught. In April 2022, a resurgence of Covid spread seemingly unchecked through the financial centre of Shanghai. The government imposed a strict lockdown, confining millions to their homes, triggering mass-testing on a scale unseen since the initial outbreak and outraging affluent urban residents who were increasingly sceptical about China’s Covid-zero policy.

In an attempt to control public opinion, the government told social media sites including WeChat – the super-app used by two-thirds of China’s population – to wipe and scrape posts deemed negative or critical of the policy. But the censorship backfired. There was an unprecedented public outcry, which became a virtual protest. A video documenting the dire fallout of lockdown began circulating online.

The six-minute clip known as Voices of April – a montage of audio recordings encompassing the cries of babies separated from parents during quarantine, residents demanding food and the pleas of a son seeking medical help for his critically ill father – resonated with the tens of millions in Shanghai and more across the country. The video was quickly marked as banned content and taken down from social media platforms in China. On the Twitter-equivalent Weibo, even the word “April” was temporarily restricted from search results.

Many deemed the video a neutral yet essential documentation of the human toll of Shanghai’s lockdown. A backlash ensued, as defiant users repeatedly shared the video in ways that could dodge web censors. Some posted the video upside down, others superimposed words or images or embedded other footage. WeChat censors tried to wipe posts sharing the video, but it was like a multi-headed hydra: no sooner did one get blocked, than another would pop up.

This seminal moment embodied the dynamics between the Chinese government and the country’s giant tech companies. On the frontline was Tencent, the entertainment and tech conglomerate that owns WeChat. For the better part of three decades, Beijing tolerated and even celebrated entrepreneurship. As the country leapfrogged into the digital age, China produced one company worth $1bn every 3.8 days in 2018, just a year after Tencent overtook Facebook to become the fifth largest company in the world.

The amount of money Chinese-focused venture and private equity funds raised grew nearly fourfold to $120bn. That bounty helped China transform from industrial backwater into one of the most dynamic and coveted markets on the planet. In addition to generating revenue, companies such as Tencent complied with government orders when it came to monitoring its citizens. For an authoritarian regime ruling over a population scattered across an area almost as large as the US, an app that dominates every facet of life proves enormously useful.

Some say WeChat should be called WeCheck, such is its capacity for mass surveillance. The early days of Chinese tech also saw the construction of the Great Firewall of China. One in five people on the planet using the internet access it through a filter that obscures Facebook, Twitter, Snap, Instagram, the New York Times and YouTube. In a sense, it’s a parallel universe, where nearly a billion people live and thrive – much to westerners’ surprise – on China’s equivalent of such mainstays. There’s Meituan for Deliveroo, Didi Chuxing for Uber, WeChat for WhatsApp and Facebook.

The services are often even better in terms of convenience and design. The Swiss army knife of a super-app, WeChat is the most deft at merging the functions of various western platforms, allowing people to chat, shop or order a takeaway. Domestically WeChat is known as Weixin, and the company has made a point of emphasising that it operates as two apps within and outside the mainland. China’s deficit of privacy controls means its companies and government have an edge when it comes to collecting the data that empowers the algorithms that screen, monitor, name-shame and, sometimes, imprison its citizens.

The dynamics between Chinese tech companies and the authorities are like no other. Before the pandemic I sat down once with an official and talked about the vicissitudes that startups and entrepreneurs endure. “No matter what kind of hotshot you are, we will always have a way of showing you who’s boss,” the person said, making an offhand remark about Tencent’s owner, Pony Ma. “Don’t think because you control a billion users and moved to Singapore or some overseas country that we can’t do anything about you.”

The official told me that when regulators felt Tencent needed to be taught a lesson, they would step up censorship efforts, block or shut down web services till the company got the message. The tactics were not always conspicuous. Given WeChat’s overseas ambitions at the time, they would sometimes disrupt its service for global users, delaying messages or transactions for just half a minute. “That small hold-up is more than enough to drive users crazy and make people ditch the app altogether,” the person said. “That’s how you show them some colour.”

The Wall no longer resides just within China. When Chinese people travel outside the country, the Wall follows them via their telecom providers. A person using a China Mobile sim card is barred from roaming on Google. Authoritarian nations in Africa, south-east Asia and Russia see the appeal of the model. They too want to create their own intranet. As the internet splits in two, aligning itself between the American and Chinese models, Tencent’s story offers a window into an alternative vision of what the global online sphere could become.

Tencent’s products are so convenient and intuitive; yet in the back of everyone’s minds is the knowledge that their every move, location and utterance is documented and potentially scrutinised. Nowhere is this contradiction more apparent than at Tencent’s headquarters, in the heart of southern Shenzhen’s hi-tech district.

Tencent’s office building took five years and more than half a billion dollars to construct. Ma handpicked NBBJ, the architect responsible for Amazon, Google and Samsung’s headquarters. But the billionaire wanted it to be more than a statement of financial largesse. With its twin gleaming towers of glass and steel, he turned the building into one of the world’s biggest laboratories for new internet services and connected devices. It features holographic tour guides, conference rooms that adjust temperatures based on attendance, and alerts for the best parking spots before commuters arrive.

What struck me was that within the halls of a building that serves as a towering paean to futurism and commerce, the Communist party’s influence is omnipresent. In its open-plan reading room, alongside books about the cosmos and the ancient Greek and Roman empires, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s book – tabulating his speeches and thoughts about how to govern – features on the most prominent shelves. QR codes in the gym bring up links to stories documenting battle victories during the Long March.

Even these demonstrations of loyalty are not enough. Common sense would suggest that the Communist party would be supportive of companies such as Tencent and encourage their expansion overseas. But Xi has chosen to make sure the aspirations of a rising class of immensely wealthy entrepreneurs are tamed before they turn political. It was only a matter of time before he went after these national champions.

A crackdown that started with the financial technology industry in 2020, has quickly expanded to engulf every sector from online education to gaming, and ride-hailing to food delivery. With footprints in all of these sectors via its investments in some 800 companies, Tencent has felt the pinch.

Despite Pony Ma’s reputation for being the most low-key and cautious of Chinese tech moguls, Tencent has not been spared. China halted its app rollouts for about a month in late 2021, has curtailed gaming time for those under 18, ordered an overhaul of its financial units, fined it for investment deal disclosure violations and suspended new game approvals this year.

The change in approach to the tech sector is underpinned by shifts in Xi’s priorities. It mirrors crackdowns in other sectors, including property. As China’s economy slows and Xi tries to increase the nation’s birthrate, the policies underscore the Communist party’s growing resolve to respond to mounting public dissatisfaction with hoarded wealth and narrowing avenues for advancement.

A phrase that has emerged in tandem with the crackdowns is “common prosperity”, which refers to China’s goal of becoming a modernised socialist society. The implications for China’s tech industry are far-reaching, and could shape the playbook for the next few decades.

There’s a Chinese saying “Li yu tiao long men” – “a carp leaping over the dragon’s gate”. Legend has it that if the carp manages to swim upstream and vault an arch atop a waterfall on the Yellow river, it transforms into an Oriental dragon, a snake-like creature symbolising imperial power. The story of China’s internet tycoons, like Pony Ma, for the past two decades is that of a generation of carp becoming dragons. The twist, though, is that these idealistic geeks, who ventured out to change the world, are now shackled and have become part of a system they wanted to change. Once self-made dragons have achieved the level of success they have in China, the more important question seems to be: when and how do they bow out unscathed?

Source: ‘We show hotshots who’s boss’: how China disciplines its tech barons | Internet | The Guardian

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