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Evaluating content marketing channels

In my posts over the past few months, I’ve covered the basics of content marketing, the importance of knowing your audience, and how to generate content ideas. So we’ve covered a lot of ground, but there are still some pretty big holes in our content marketing tool kit. One of the biggest of those holes is identifying and evaluating channels. You must evaluate channels for content marketing not only audience – clearly the top concern – but on format, frequency and tone.

We touched on this just a bit in our discussion of audience – part of knowing your audience is knowing where to find them and vice versa – but let’s take a closer look at how to choose the channels most likely to provide a healthy ROI.

Content Strategy
Photo credit: Intersection Consulting

Knock, Knock
Who’s there? That’s the first question you need to ask about any channel you’re considering. In the case of the big social media services, the answers are pretty easy: LinkedIn is a business crowd, Facebook is a consumer crowd (for the most part), YouTube welcomes anyone with a few minutes to kill and an interest in cute kitten videos. (That’s a joke, of course. There’s a whole lot more to YouTube than cat videos, but it is a very broad audience taken as a whole. It’s important to build your own channel within YouTube. That’s actually good advice for just about any of the big social media services.)

Other outlets require more vetting: a forum on wine may seem like a great venue for you if you build bottle displays for retailers, but if the audience is mainly consumers with just a few retailers listening in to learn more about their audience, you’re not likely to see results from the time you invest.

Those smaller venues are worth investigating, though, as they provide a highly targeted audience. Smaller numbers, but greater engagement. (Think of enthusiast magazines vs. mass market. You reach a lot more people in Time every week than you can in, say, American Rifleman, but if you’re selling shotgun shells …)

Content Preferences
Another consideration is the kind of content a particular channel demands. If you’re not equipped to turn out frequent long-form written pieces, you may have to cross of few options off your list. If you don’t have anyone who’s comfortable onscreen, video may not be an option unless you have the budget to hire talent. Be sure to start with things you have the resources to produce comfortably. An email newsletter is a great first option not only because you can tailor it to fit your capabilities but because it is frequently one of the best tools in a content marketing arsenal.

And don’t forget the need to match tone. If you’re running a small shop where all content is produced  by a single person, that person’s style better match the audience’s expectations for a particular channel.

How Frequently Do I Need To Show Up?
You can send an email newsletter once a month – even quarterly – and have it produce great results. Tweet once a quarter and you might as well spend the time watching those cute kitten videos on YouTube. The return on your investment will be about the same.

That’s not to say you have to Tweet obsessively to see a return from Twitter or some of the other fast-paced social networks. But you do have to keep communities expectations and practices in mind if you’re going to participate.

Uncovering The Unwritten Rules
Those expectations and practices aren’t always spelled out for you as you walk in the door. In just about any social network, you’d be wise to spend a little time taking measure of the room, just as you would in a real-life social situation.

You may also want to befriend the host or hosts, ask for pointers, tell them way you’re there and see if you can find out what does and doesn’t fly. Remember that really strong communities are tremendously valuable to those who have built them and who participate in them. Those people will defend their property, sometimes in pretty ferocious fashion. So learn the lay of the land to avoid walking – or being pushed – off any cliffs.

Fortunately, even though there are potential land mines, they’re easy to navigate around, and you aren’t limited to just one or two social networks or channels. Try as many as you can participate in fully to see which fit you and your goals best.

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Andrew Schulkind

Since 1996, Andrew Schulkind has asked clients one simple question: what does digital marketing success look like, and how can marketing progress be measured? A veteran content marketer, web developer, and digital strategist, Andrew founded Andigo New Media to help firms find a more strategic and productive mix of tools that genuinely support online brand goals over time. With a passion for true collaboration and meaningful consensus, his work touches social media, search-engine optimization, and email marketing, among other components. He views is primary goal as encouraging engagement. Getting an audience involved in your story requires solid information architecture, a great user experience, and compelling content. A dash of common sense doesn’t hurt, either. Andrew has presented at Social Media Week NY and WordCampNYC, among other events, on content marketing and web-development topics. His technology writing appears on the Andigo blog, in a monthly column on, and for print and online publications like The New York Enterprise Report, Social Media Today, and GSG Worldwide’s publications LinkedIn & Business, Facebook & Business, and Tweeting & Business. Andrew graduated with a B.A. in Philosophy from Bucknell University. He engages in a range of community volunteer work and is an avid fly fisherman and cyclist. He also loves collecting meaningless trivia. (Did you know the Lone Ranger made his mask from the cloth of his brother's vest after his brother was killed by "the bad guys?")

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