Content Marketing

Lessons in Branded Content Creation Through Community Participation

I’m learning some great lessons on branded content creation and distribution right now thanks to my work with Adam Schultz and Bold Interactive and I wanted to submit them to you for use in your work and for your feedback.

These lessons became crystallized, back lit and tightly focused today after I posted in a forum that has been a key source of knowledge, traffic, community acceptance and links thus far. Though I’ve been very successful developing content here in the past I recognized today that false steps can open the banana can faster than a hungry monkey.

One key difference is that I opened a forum thread to DISTRIBUTE content rather than to ask a question and start to GENERATE content. I did ask a question at the end of the thread, but my intention was partly to get a quick shot of traffic which in my rear view mirror now looks like a bad idea.

But only because I didn’t follow my new rules :)

So today I wrote out some guidelines for myself for future content creation on this current project and wanted to share them. I think they’re a great starting point for the development of a branded content aka link bait aka flagship content conversation.

1) Content must arise from a community need or passion.
Ideally this arises through your conversations with the community – I suggest you lurk in target forums and slowly start to participate by asking questions.

Once you can post questions – survey types of questions that get people chatting with each other – that get LOTS of responses you’re hitting on a hot topic that you should develop into content.

Be wary of taking something that’s popular on your site and pushing it at the forum though – these may be the same audiences but you may find there’s a world of difference in what’s valuable in those two worlds.

2) Content must provide value to the community.
And don’t guess or assume that content will provide value, or that by assembling a list of resources that you’ve created value.

The piece I tried to push recently was a huge list of links to resources that my audience found worthless, sort of like if I gave you a huge list of directories to submit to that don’t pass link value.

Live and learn of course, but if you can, test your content ahead of your link begging blitz… or before you push it to an audience.

3) Content must incorporate, cite, interview and/or champion key members of the community.
Ideally you’re creating content through surveys, interviews or other quotations of your target audience. Get permission if you’re quoting individuals who aren’t marketers or who aren’t naturally inclined to being quoted.

People like to see their names in print, plus they’re more likely to support you in general if they were involved in some way in its creation.

When possible, be a champion for content that’s buried in some way in the forum (or blog), or not getting much distribution. Look for ways to help folks achieve publicity or distribution goals that may also be interesting enough to get others to link to you.

An interview or survey can add enough to your piece to really generate attention.

There are MANY verticals that don’t have their very own SERoundtables that cover forum discussions and there are MOUNTAINS of great content that’s not getting distributed.

You will have to “edit” it by organizing it and adding resource links… and you will be better served if you are a participant in the forum/community because you will be a little more trusted.

4) Content must incorporate the language of the community (but not too much).
You will learn how to speak like your market by interacting with them. Don’t over do it, but DO look for jargon or slang that you can start to pepper into your site, article titles, and even your paid search campaigns.

And always ask about terms you don’t understand – let your ignorance be your guide if you’re new to a space.

5) Ask for permission AND forgiveness.
Mea culpa, humility, proof of change – those are your only tools when valid shit storms start. And always be upfront and transparent about EVERYTHING.

One note – learn to determine the stark line between valid criticism, as strongly worded as it may be, and abuse. The necessary response to valid criticism is change.

The only necessary response to abuse – name calling, slander, even cruelty, is to get yourself and your brand away from that person and possibly the forum as a whole.

More to Come
In follow up articles I’ll be writing about content distribution, link begging for your work (phone calls are acceptable :) , submission to appropriate social media and bookmarking sites for quick links and traffic trickles and whatever else has happened in the intervening weeks :)


Categorised as: market conversations, social media, social media marketing


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  1. [...] Lessons in Branded Content Creation Through Community Participation: A great piece on writing successful community content. The “online sociologist” in me squeals [...]