When you combine the unique personality of your small business with great content marketing, the results can pay off big time. Engaging content like photos, illustrations and other visuals, can increase traffic to your website, boost awareness of your brand, and help your customers with their buying choices, making it an effective and easy way to promote your business.

Content Marketing does not need to involve extensive guides or even blog posts on your site. It can be as simple as beautiful photography or creative videos shared on social media sparking inspiration among followers and potential customers. Resources such as Shutterstock, EyeEm and Giphy are an easy way to get affordable access to millions of assets including royalty-free images, GIFs, illustrations, video clips and music tracks to accompany any type of content you are thinking about producing and distributing.

A proper content planning strategy is the most useful tool for your business if you are engaging in content marketing.

As you build an overarching plan for your brand — whether it’s a boutique clothing line or an innovative tech startup — you’ll need to develop a system for future blog posts, social media updates, shareable videos, photos and more.

Establishing a Content Maintenance Strategy

Your content is the first impression and first opportunity to build a relationship with visitors. Here are some simple guidelines to help you plan your content strategy.

1. Create a Content Calendar:
A content calendar will be your greatest organizational asset. Start by simply identifying the topics you wish to discuss and audiences you want to reach, take inventory of the content assets you have or that you need to create, and schedule a steady cadence to publish them. Staying ahead of your calendar and scheduling one or two months in advance will help you monitor your workflow and avoid overlap, while also uncovering opportunities for larger campaigns. A good content calendar becomes a playbook that you both consult and update regularly.

2. Identify Holidays for Potential Content:
Themed content is successful because it provides a narrative blueprint for your messaging. Keep holidays in mind when drafting a content plan. Holidays are one of the greatest sources of themed content because they come packaged with distinct symbols and narratives that are recognized across many audiences. Holidays often trend on Twitter and other social platforms, where brands and individuals alike take advantage of the collective experience. And don’t just stick to the major holidays – there are plenty of fun, more obscure holidays happening every single day.

3. Look at High Performing Content:
Any content you plot on a long-term timeline should be designed for your target audience, with a few finely honed categories, topics and keywords that strike at the heart of your objective. Analyze past successes – content with the most clicks, shares and engagements - to see which elements of your content are worth including in future efforts. Looking at previous wins and diving into what customers are sharing allows a brand to discover overarching trends and ideate unique content based on these trends.

Make Content More Sharable

Now that you have the framework for a content strategy, it’s time to talk about how to create content that people want to engage with and share.

Here are a few approaches to crafting content that is more relatable to a broad audience.

1. Tell More Human Stories:
Although quick-read “listicles” about business, politics, pop culture, tech and more are very popular, there is still plenty of interest in stories about human experiences that connect with us on a deeper level. Whether it’s a story of survivors who made it through traumatic circumstances or a story of how a brand changed a customer’s life for the better, we are drawn to share content that moves and inspires us. Figure out what unique human-interest stories you and your business have to tell.

2. Stay Positive with Content:
In today’s news landscape, there are many news stories fueled by negativity, violence and hatred that collectively burns us out. We crave content that not only entertains, but stirs the imagination and gives us an uplifting message. Think about the videos you see on social media: are they more likely to be depressing or hilarious? Even content that tackles heavy topics generally has an uplifting and hopeful message that people find shareable.

3. Offer Practical Value:
Users want to share media that actually has value — whether it impacts their work, provides insight on relevant topics, creates an emotional connection or keeps their friends and family informed. As a small business owner, you should have a wealth of wisdom to dispense in your area of expertise. Create content that showcases your knowledge while giving customers advice they can take action on. This is a great way to build your credibility and relationships with customers.

4. Compose the Right Headline:
You can have the best content in the world, but without a catchy headline, it’s likely to get passed over and lost into the content abyss. Smart headlines emphasize emotional value and stimulate action. This can be done with urgency, mystery, passion, humor or specificity. Assess the headlines for successful content on your site, and apply these learnings in future headline development. Of course, when creating headlines, stay away from sensationalized headlines.  Part of providing value is setting the proper expectations with your customers and followers.  

With your content strategy and creative concepts, it’s important to be flexible. You should keep an eye on the news and topics that directly impact or relate to your business. Remember, at the end of the day, you’re creating content to engage existing and potential customers, and you don’t want to upset them with insensitive content. Take the time to build out a solid content strategy, and put in the effort to produce high quality content that’ll keep your customers coming back for more.