In “Content Marketing for Ecommerce Merchants,” I suggested that merchants create relevant content for their shoppers throughout the buying cycle.
There are two ways to approach creating content that will support your social media, merchandising, and promotional activities: (a) Manage the process in house with the staff you have, or (b) Outsource contract content creation to professional writers or agencies.
Both approaches have pros and cons. You may not have a qualified writer on staff to compose interesting posts and content. But your staff is likely to have the subject matter expertise that an outside writer or agency may not.
My view is to keep this activity in house if possible. Your content will likely be more passionate. You will probably save money.
This article will offer tips on how to create interesting content — mostly in house.
Types of Content
Here is a partial list of the types of content ecommerce merchants should be creating. There are many other venues to consider, but this list is a good place to start.
- Product content. This could include images, videos, descriptions, specifications, options, and more.
- Promotional content. Promotional content can involve sales, free shipping, new merchandise, and seasonal items.
- Home page content. Create compelling content on your home page and refresh it often. Focus on seasonal themes and products. Images are more effective than text.
- Merchandising content. This includes category descriptions and landing pages for ads or promotions.
- Blogs. Post about your customers, industry, trends, products, your company, employees, and successes. Try to keep posts between 200 and 500 words in length.
- Newsletters. Newsletters can link to blog posts. Keep newsletters short and relevant, embellishing with images or video
- Twitter. Use Twitter to communicate customer service matters, promotions, and new products. You are limited to 140 characters or less, but images are welcome. Engage in a conversation if possible. Use hashtags to categorize tweets.
- Pinterest boards. Create new Pinterest boards that feature your products and showcase how they are used.
- Facebook posts. Write about trends. Post images. Engage in dialog with your followers. While not required, the 140 character limit is also a good target on Facebook, but you can extend this if desired.
- Tumblr posts. Tumblr is an alternative or an additional place to blog. Lead with images here if possible as Tumblr, like Pinterest, is visual.
- Ads. Pay-per-click text ads, Facebook ads, display ads all count as content. Keep your message consistent while tying in appropriate keywords.
Where to Start
First, think about how your prospects might use various types of content. A major consideration is where they are in the buying cycle. If you are trying to initiate a purchase through a promotional incentive, your potential customers may not be in that frame of mind. You will need to inspire them to take action.
If your customers are subscribed to a newsletter for promotions, deliver promotional offers that are concise and focus on savings. Be sure to include a strong call to action with crisp deadlines.
If your prospects are browsing Facebook or Twitter, they are probably not shopping. Your content should be informative and creative. Be concise and include images with your post. Try to encourage sharing with others to extend the reach of your message.
Newsletters can be used in many ways. Try to segment your email list by topics that might include new products, promotions, customer stories, and industry news. You will then be able to target your content.
Your blog should be used to tell stories. Talk about your experiences — personal and as a company. This can be a good place to build a deeper relationship with your customers by sharing your voice and expertise.
Regardless of the venue, once you have a topic in mind, let your passion and voice come through. You will likely know more about your products and industry than your shoppers. Share this information with them. You can write about why you selected a particular product or brand. Talk about its best features, value, options and so forth.
Try to write about things you feel strongly about.
Create a Plan
As you become more experienced with creating content for different purposes, begin thinking about integrating the content and coordinating its publication. Call that a “content plan.” Your plan should include your branding, a consistent message, and some type of topical imagery if possible.
For example, assume your company is adding a new women’s apparel line for the winter season. Here is a content plan.
- Write a blog post about your new products prior to launch. Tease your readers and tell them about your selection process. Tie it to an industry trend or position the products as a unique offering if possible. Introduce a “theme” for your new winter products. This might include a tagline like “Don’t let the cold freeze your fashion taste.” I have no experience with women’s fashion and this specific tagline might not be the best example. But you get the point.
- Mention your blog post on Facebook and Twitter. Post a few images of your new products on Facebook and ask your fans which ones they favor. This can help you identify the images to use in your promotions for the products. Facebook is a good place to test messaging and imagery
- Create a landing page in your store for your new products with images and descriptive content. Plan to reuse your images in several different venues as you launch your products. Your landing page should include images, descriptions, and a clear statement of your value proposition. In other words, why will your shoppers want to buy these new products? Make sure your landing page is mobile friendly.
- Announce your new product launch in a promotional email. Link to your new landing page and to your blog.
- Plan a series of posts on Facebook and Twitter. Post several times per day. Talk about a different product in each post. Include images or videos. Provide links to either the product detail or landing pages.
- Create a new Pinterest board. Promote these new boards on your blog, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
- Create promotional ads for ad networks. Link your ads to specific products or to your new landing page as appropriate.
- Consider some type of introductory offer. This offer does not have to be a discount. You can offer free shipping, upgraded shipping, or some other type of incentive.
The key is to reuse existing content whenever you can. Your posts to social media sites can be a short summary that links to more detailed information. The same thing is true about your newsletters. Even your home page can reuse the introductory text and link to more detailed pages.
Use tracking links wherever possible. This will allow you to learn about the paths your customers follow as they explore your content. You can track your referrals in Google Analytics. You can also use tools like bitly to track specific page links.
You can automate many of these activities with various tools. At the very least, use a tool like HootSuite to manage your social posts. This will also give you a dashboard to manage communications with customers who respond back to you.
More sophisticated tools like HubSpot and Silverpop will allow you to manage your blog posts, email, and social media from a central dashboard. They are worth investigating as your content marketing becomes more sophisticated.