8 Content Marketing Best Practices You Need to Know in 2021
Whether you're an online business or on-ground one, you've probably heard of content marketing and how businesses across the globe are using it to rank on Google, drive traffic, and sales – among other things.
You may have even attempted to dabble in content marketing but not everyone has the time or resources to enter the vast world of content.
Although the focus on content began decades ago in the west, namely the United States and Europe, it's now making its Yeti-sized footprint in the Middle East.
It's literally taking the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region by storm with no plans of calming down.
Everyone wants a piece of the content marketing cake. But only few know the best practices that come with this type of marketing.
In this article, I'm going to dive into what content marketing is, the most widely-used types of content, and those elusive content marketing best practices.
What is content marketing?
As its name suggests, content marketing is a type of marketing that focuses on driving actions and generating leads through content.
The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) explains content marketing as "a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action."
Meanwhile, HubSpot describes content marketing as "the process of planning, creating, and sharing content with your target audience. It helps you generate brand awareness, convince customers to take action, and drive revenue."
You're probably wondering:
"But we've been doing marketing for decades! What's new?"
What's new is that unlike traditional marketing, content marketing is measurable and more importantly it connects with your target audience.
A company that creates content isn't just throwing words, images, and info graphs in space and hoping for the best.
No. Content marketing is about understanding who your target audience is, what they want, and delivering it to them.
Companies use content to educate, entertain, inform, and of course, sell.
This type of marketing isn't just for big brands. In fact, it helps smaller businesses and brands establish authority and build connections.
Even solopreneurs are using content marketing to reach their target audience.
And if you're wondering why everyone is intent on content marketing these days, well the answer is: It works!
Types of content
So what is content, really?
This blog post you're reading is content. Those posts you publish across your social media channels are content. That newsletter you read from a company you admire, that's content.
Content is literally everywhere. But more importantly, it's distributed based on audiences.
And there are best practices to consider when delivering content to your audiences. And we'll get to that in a minute. First, we need to debunk a top content marketing myth.
You see, the popularity of certain types of content over others has led people and businesses alike to believe that content marketing is just one thing. Or rather that it's just writing blog posts.
I'm here to tell you: That's not true.
Content – and accordingly marketing this content – covers all of the following types of content (with more to come in the future):
Blog posts and articles (Yes! Like the one you're reading now!)
Webpages (Your website's homepage, service or product pages)
Marketing and sales emails
Social media posts
Video content (Yes!)
Search engine optimization (SEO)
Search engine marketing (SEM) or Pay Per Click (PPC) campaigns
Templates and checklists (usually downloadable)
These are the 18 most popular types of content that businesses, large and small, use to attract clients or customers, drive traffic, and generate leads and sales.
Content marketing best practices
Now that we've got that myth out of the way, let's dive into those content marketing best practices for 2021 and beyond.
1. Delve deep into your target audience
Content marketing best practices necessitate that you understand who your target audience is.
Are they men between the ages of 25 and 40? Or women between 40 and 55? Or are they teens in the United States and Canada?
Even if you have a wide audience base, segment them into closely related groups. Use data such as demographics and behavior to analyze your audience's needs and create content accordingly.
Create buyer personas for each group. Ask questions and find answers for them. What are these customers' needs, problems, struggles?
The more questions you answer, the better your content will be and you'll know where to distribute it.
2. Use visuals
Using visuals such as images is of growing importance in content marketing. The thing is, your readers are people. And people are attracted to images before they can begin reading the text.
Content with images generally gets more views than text-only content. In addition, posts with catchy or appealing images tend to get more shares.
So, it's a double win.
Images include infographics, which are quite popular now and shareable.
According to Infographic World's 2017 report "The State of Infographics," nearly 90% of information received by the brain is visual. In addition, visuals can help improve learning and retention by as much as 400%.
3. Add more video
Did you know that video is overtaking blog posts and infographics in content marketing?
Data by HubSpot shows that video content is becoming "the most commonly used format in content marketing." In addition, 87% of video marketers said video helped boost their website traffic.
As for the type of video that’s most popular, HubSpot revealed that "promotional videos and brand storytelling" were the most common types created by marketers.
Engagement is an ever-growing and ever-popular content marketing trend. It's also one of the best practices that businesses have found to build a connection between their brand and audience.
As a customer-centric brand, you want to engage with your potential and current customers as well as your fans across your different social media platforms.
Your customers or clients don't want to see content thrown at them. Rather they want to feel like you're talking to them, engaging with them, and supporting them.
If these feels like a big ask, then consider using chatbots in apps like Facebook messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
Chatbots have come a long way since they came on the scene and can help you engage your audiences.
5. Focus on your customers' experience
When customers have a good experience with a brand, they're not only likely to buy them or use their services again, but also they're likely to recommend them to others.
If you want to leave a positive impression with your clients or customers, make sure their experience is a great one.
In a SuperOffice survey of 1,920 business professionals, nearly a half (46%) of respondents said that their priority in the next 5 years was "customer experience."
Customer experience can take various forms. As a brand or business, you want to deliver a memorable experience. You can do that through engagement and content marketing by focusing on ideas and content your audience needs.
For example, if you provide financial services to customers, consider what the top financial terms that your customers struggle with and offer tips or an Idea 1 vs Idea 2 kind of post.
6. Personalization is your best friend
In e-commerce, personalization takes various forms. If you're a business-to-business (B2B) brand, you can personalize your messages to your customers via email, pop-ups, and your website.
If you're posting to social media, try to personalize by focusing on your buyer personas.
One of the top benefits of personalization is that customers feel appreciated and therefore interested in doing business with you.
7. Be flexible
Being flexible is one of the most important content marketing best practices out there. Why? Because being flexible means being adaptable. Which means you can take on any challenges thrown at you.
Even your content strategy needs to be flexible, meaning you can change and adapt your plans and content to ongoing events and circumstances.
In March 2020, nearly all companies across the globe saw their marketing and content marketing strategies tested when the pandemic overturned everything. Businesses and some factories closed, flights were suspended – everything was in shambles!
While we all hope there are no more pandemics in our lifetime, the coronavirus seems to be adapting faster than most content strategies! So flexibility is key.
8. Build a community
Communities are the latest growing trend in the world of marketing.
Whether you're a B2B brand or an e-commerce store, creating a community will not only connect you to your customers but also give you the opportunity to share ideas, ask your audience questions about what's working and what's not and use their answers to drive your content strategy.
As a brand you want to be customer-centric. A community is a great way to do that. It can also help you formulate and build your various types of content.
Adapting your content to a Middle Eastern audience
There's a reason why understanding your audience is one of the most important best practices for content marketing. Everything else falls into place once you and your audience are on the same page.
The situation is the same for the MENA region. However, the region offers diverse audience groups that you need to consider. While the majority speaks Arabic, there are many who consume content in English and French.
Not to mention, internet use and penetration differs by country. Those in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have some of the fastest internet speeds in the world. Think the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. Whereas countries like Yemen have a meager penetration rate of roughly 20%.
And don't forget spending habits, use of social media platforms, and types of content consumed.
For example, Facebook is a widely-used social platform in Egypt, but not so much in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The latter two avidly use platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.
Yes, content that caters to a Middle Eastern audience is scarce. The west has been creating and advancing in content for years and decades and most companies in the MENA region are just scratching the surface.
What this means is that there are some hurdles along with big opportunities for growth and creating unique content.
Wrapping up/Final words
Like other forms of marketing, content marketing is ever-evolving. And that's not a bad thing.
Every social media platform that emerges begins to provide best practices so businesses and individuals can make the best use of it.
The same applies to content marketing, albeit on a wider scale.
And now that you know the top content marketing best practices, it's time to set down your marketing budget and include content marketing within it.
Remember the 17 content types we mentioned? It's safe to say, they're not for everyone.
Every business is different. Some audiences prefer podcasts, while others prefer YouTube videos, while a third group prefers a mix of blog posts and YouTube short videos.
What you need to do is discover your audience's favorite method of consuming content and focus on that. How? Ask them.
And it's normal to target your audiences across multiple channels. Just be sure you don't spread yourself too thin or your content and budget will be diluted.
Remember: You're not the only one creating and publishing content. Many other businesses are.
So, which of the 17 types of content are you planning to start with?
Want to create content but don't have enough resources? Get in touch with the BarkB2B team for your content needs.
Guest Author Bio:
Nada Sobhi is a B2B copywriter specializing in SaaS, digital marketing, Human Resources, and finance. When she’s not working, you can find her listening to music or reading a book or 3!