Content marketing orthodoxy is very much oriented around larger
businesses, leaving many startups to figure it out as they go along. There are
few hard and fast rules for content marketing, especially at the start of a
business (since everyone starts out in a different place), but there are a few
bits of advice we can give.
Do React & Approve Content Marketing Quickly
When you're small, you've got to play to your strengths. One of which is speed.
Don't be shy about striking while the iron is hot. Don't overthink. When you're
a startup, you're starting from zero, so you have little to lose. Take advantage
of that in your content marketing.
Do Respect SEO If You're A Startup
When you're a startup, you're starting from zero on the search engines. You lack
domain authority, and you need to build it. One vital way to build it is through
content. Now, I don't believe content should exist purely for SEO. You'll end up
creating boring stuff that nobody wants to read if you do (thus undermining the
SEO utility of what you're trying to do).
But SEO best practices should be used when choosing topics, and in the writing
process itself. And you don't have to be an SEO expert to do this. An SEO novice
using the right tools for SERP determination and SEO writing can do this.
Do Experiment With Content
And speaking of having nothing to lose, remember that even though the textbooks
say that you should be consistent, it's hard to know what the best thing to
consistently be is without trying out many different things first. Some types of
content will perform as well as you expect them to, while others will surprise
you, and experimenting is often the only way to sniff out those good surprises if
you're a startup.
Do Repost Evergreen Content
Don't post and forget with evergreen content. If you write a blog, post it at
least twice, with a different creative/copy angle each time, at least three months
apart. And there are other ways
to get more mileage out of your blogs as well. If
it's something longer and more valuable, like a whitepaper, you could do it
several times with several angles, at least a month apart. This is a good way to
have stuff on standby in case something scheduled is delayed or falls through.
Do Be Strategic, But Flexible
When you're a startup, you have to be strategic from the beginning, meaning you
have to make choices and have priorities. Otherwise you'll be stretched too thin,
and nothing will get done well. This is a common problem at startups. Your
content person gets pulled in too many directions, and this can really sap their
productivity because content comes from the flow, which requires focus.
Do Curate, But With Perspective
Feeding the content beast can be hard at a startup, so don't be shy about
curating some industry news. This is especially useful if nobody knows who you are,
or what problem you solve. But don't simply share it, add some perspective and
hopefully some value. Let people know why you're sharing it. And what you want them
to think about it about this content.
Do Separate Content & Social Duties If Possible
If you have an in-house content writer creating your blogs and most of your other
copy, it might not be optimal to have that person also running the social channels.
The reason is because content writing is flow work, and social can be something of
a distraction from that, creating a perverse incentive to do less on social media
(if you're doing both jobs) than you might otherwise. And since most startups can't
produce enough social content to justify a full-time hire, consider outsourcing.
Do Look For Startup Experience When Hiring
Ideal in-house content and social people for a startup have a mix of large company
(or agency) and startup experience. The former will give them at least some
knowledge and exposure to best practice, while the latter will shorten their
learning curve for working with you, because they'll already know how the rules
are different in startupland when compared to someplace larger.
Do Accept That You Can't Measure Some Things
One of the issues in startupland is that you might not have all your key marketing
positions filled out yet, and therefore you might not have all the means and tools
in place to measure things at every stage of the funnel. This can either lead to
the people who are hired being held accountable for metrics over which they don't
have a lot of control, or it can lead to a situation where you'll just have to
trust your gut on some things.
The latter is better, especially since it is a funnel
, and you don't necessarily
need to be taking precise measurements at every stage of the funnel to know if
there's a leak. If you have clean numbers at some of the stages, what's happening
at the other stages can be inferred, at least qualitatively.
Don't Expect Followers To Flock To You Immediately
Social media followers are largely a trailing indicator of real-world buzz. So
don't expect a lot of them to show up immediately
, especially if you don't yet
have a product to sell. I would put up at least two to three months of content
before even starting to worry about followers, because that early content is
like your company's resume or portfolio, and you'll need a complete range of
work to maximize your chances of winning a following.
Yes, you can put paid efforts into growing followers at launch, but such efforts
work better if you have that portfolio already out there. Brand advocacy can also
be very effective at certain types
of startups, in the sense that the personal
reach of your employees will often be much larger than your company's barely
existent reach at the beginning.
Don't Publish Too Often Immediately
Also, because few people are following you at launch, and because you may not
have much street-cred established with Google yet, don't rush out a lot of things
immediately. You'll only end up with a lot of disappointment. Take your time.
No more than two major content pieces a week. And anything of high quality or
high priority should have paid behind it to maximize impact, since you won't have
many organic followers to spread the word.
Don't Report Too Often If You're A Startup
When it comes to content, and especially social media, it's very easy to get
sucked down the rabbit hole of watching the numbers all the time. This is a
dangerous habit, and it shouldn't be encouraged. Monthly reports are fine, but
not weekly (though biweekly might be okay if you are very UX-dependent). You
won't learn anything meaningful from reporting every week, especially if you're
When you are near zero, blips can mistakenly take on huge significance. You'd be
better off spending the time you'd otherwise be spending on weekly reports on
making more content.