As a prerequisite to this post, let me say that it’s quite possible to stick to free software for your content marketing purposes. WordPress accounts are free, provided you use a “.wordpress” domain. Social media accounts are free. Google Hangouts can host and record web seminars, and Google Docs will turn a minimally-designed white paper into a PDF – all for free.
However, when you stick to the free stuff, several parts of the content marketing process fall completely on you as the marketer. Each program is a distinct entity, which means you have to keep up with a great deal of administrative work. YOU have to be the one who keeps on top of deadlines, collaboration and research. YOU have to produce the content yourself. YOU have to market it, physically upload it to the Internet and take time to create social media updates to let the world know about your expertise.
It can be done — small businesses do it all the time, and I’ve heard this referred to as the “duct tape and chicken wire method.” However, if you’ve got the budget, you can significantly streamline the content marketing process by taking advantage of the vast amount of programs available. You just have to pick the right one.
Step 1: Figure out what part of your content marketing process needs help.
From my experience, there are three main steps to content marketing: Producing, Sharing, and Analyzing.
- Producing involves planning, scheduling, research, writing, recording, editing and designing. This step is likely to include the greatest amount of teamwork, as writers usually don’t work on design and vise-versa.
○ Look for content marketing programs that incorporate editorial calendars, collaboration features, deadline notifications, or the ability to assign tasks (check out Marketing.AI, Kapost, and DivvyHQ).
○ Other useful products include trend-tracking programs (Bottlenose or Radian 6) that help with research; audio/video editing programs (Adobe Cloud); and recording hardware, such as a camera or microphone (because a laptop camera will only take you so far).
- Sharing takes place after you’ve uploaded your content online. Social media and advertising play the largest roles in this step.
○ Platforms such as Hootsuite or SocialOomph make this process easier by allowing you to post to all your social media accounts without having to log into each one individually.
○ Use SEO optimization software (Moz, Scribe, Parsely) to ensure your content reaches your audience.
○ Advertising tools like OutBrain or Taboola can help spread your content onto other websites.
○ Finally, email marketing programs such as Bronto, MailChip or ConstantContact will help manage your mailing list.
- Analyzing is the final important step in your content marketing process.
○ Many social media management programs incorporate a form of analytics, but there are other programs that are specific to social media websites (Nitrogram for Instagram, Curalate for Pinterest and Instagram, etc.)
Look at your current content marketing process and determine which area you struggle with most. If you are the sole producer of content, there’s no need to invest in collaboration tools, whereas if you manage a team, an editorial calendar could be your best friend. If you have large audiences to manage, with email lists, social media followings, etc., it may be best to invest in a “sharing” program. Finally, if you’re good at posting and sharing, but aren’t sure how to measure your content’s impact, “analyzing” programs will likely be best.
Be sure to ask everyone on your content marketing team how they think the process could benefit. It will be easier to get everyone to adapt to the change if you ask for feedback before you make a move.
Step 2: Set a budget
Tools in each of these areas can range anywhere from free to more than $1,000 a month per user. Make sure you set a budget for yourself before you start looking, and you’ll avoid getting “dazzled” by all the bells and whistles.
Step 3: Research
When you’re looking at what programs to use, take note of three things: 1) What does the program do that I can’t currently do myself, 2) What does it cost, and 3) Is there a free trial? This will help compare programs after you’ve picked your top three or four. Make sure to read third-party reviews too.
Step 4: Use the free trial first
Even if all the reviews are positive, and even if you can’t find any flaw with the program in your research, be sure to use the free trial before you buy. At the end of the day, you (and ONLY you) will be the best judge. Nearly every program is license-based, and a free trial could keep you from getting stuck in a contract with a program you don’t use.