The details matter in content marketing. One of the peskier details that is difficult to get right is topic selection that can move the needle on your share of voice (SOV). When marketing to a technically savvy audience, this can become a particularly gnarly problem because it requires a certain amount of subject matter expertise to get right. And if you need your topic strategy to increase your SOV or share of conversation (SOC), you have even more of a challenge ahead.
One of the unsung virtues of disciplined and effective content marketers is planning. Creating a topic strategy to increase your SOV can be just the ticket to untangling your topic selection knot. Read on for Fixate’s take on how to unleash your planning superpower by creating a topic strategy.
Start with Your Customers’ Problems
It’s likely that the product that you offer solves a specific problem. Problems are like bunnies— They reproduce like crazy. Take some time to understand how one problem might be part of a whole problem ecosystem in your customers’ worlds, and from this exercise you will learn:
- Relationships of problems to each other and your customer
- Critical problems that are true roadblocks
- Root causes
Categorize what you learn into two categories—known and new. Frame your topic strategy around what will be new to your customer, not repeating what is known.
If you discover something no one is talking about, it can be unclear how to use language effectively so your customer can find this new knowledge. It’s great to be cutting-edge, but coining new terms can result in creating content that your audience can’t find. While great content is king, it is important to relate the new to the known so audiences searching for content can find it. This means doing some keyword research.
Do a little writing of your own. How does what is new fit into what is known in your product’s problem and solution space? Now, take a look at the words you chose to describe those relationships.
From there, select keywords that are known and new and do a little research. If you are in a very niche area, the search volumes may be low enough that the tools available to you for SEO and PR don’t elicit data. Use a search engine yourself to check and make sure that the terms you select put you in the same space as similar information.
Calculate Current SOV and SOC
For another gut check, try going deeper than share of voice to share of conversation (SOC). While tools like Meltwater and Cision can get you information about Share of Voice, we do our own calculations to get from share of voice to conversations. Mapping the new vs. known exercise into important conversations in your industry gives you an important lens to apply as you create your topic strategy.
Connect to Conversations
Once you are satisfied that you know what words to use to describe your topics, it’s time to do a little mapping. Having discovered the conversations you need to own, map topics to conversations. Topics may fit into more than one conversation. Overlapping impact in multiple conversations is a strength! These are your high-priority topics to focus your efforts.
Relate to Your Buyer’s Journey
Take a step back to examine your customers again. The buyer’s journey typically consists of three stages: awareness, education, decision. Content is usually mapped accordingly, with thought leadership (problem awareness), education (information about the characteristics of a solution), and product (product specific details).
Start with your high-priority topics and associate searchable and new keywords as well as words that help map them to each stage of the buyer’s journey.
- Awareness. Match topic words with words like “issues, problems, challenges, overlooked, difficulties.”
- Education. Words like “best practices, help, solutions, benchmarks” can be paired with topics related to solution pieces.
- Decision. Topics that include words like ” comparison, demonstration, example, specification, features, demonstration, application, evaluation”signal that a specific product will be discussed.
Bear in mind that different types of content can be created about the same topic and mapped into each phase of the buyer’s journey. By identifying the high-level topics, you can brainstorm specific topics (and titles) for each stage.
If you are using influencer content marketing, you are in an even better position, because you can allow influencers to write what they care about and decide where to distribute it to make it available to buyers in each stage of their journey.
Test Your Topic Hypothesis
Once you have determined your plan, it’s time to put it to the test. Pick a conversation you would like to dominate, take that initial SOC measurement, create content for topics that relate, then measure it again. You should see SOC increasing, as well as other relevant metrics. If not, try again.
Creating a topic strategy is an essential part of creating effective content to achieve your business goals. By beginning with your customers’ worlds in mind, it is possible to discover the topics that are most tantalizing to them. Taking the additional steps to gather a manageable dataset that checks searchability, share of voice and share of conversation is a good reality check before spending the time mapping topics to conversations and buyer stages.
Creating a topic strategy helps you select the best topics, conserve resources, and cascades to selecting the best influencers who can generate that content. Comparing metrics to your baseline data collected before you began your campaign lets you test your assumptions about the market, and adjust so you can create campaigns that succeed.