University alumni organizations have been around for hundreds of years and today they’re more important than ever. Effective content marketing is key to strong alumni engagement.
Colleges large and small depend on financial support from their graduates. Last year, U.S. colleges raised $40 billion through charitable giving. In order to boost alumni engagement and remain top-of-mind among potential donors, universities must expand their communications far beyond bimonthly alumni magazines. This is where interesting, original, engaging content published on the social channels where alumni interact comes into play.
Content marketing builds a vibrant, close-knit alumni community that supports both its members and the university. Show and tell graduates how the value of their degree reflects the accomplishments of their alma mater and its alumni. When you do, they’ll view financial support as a worthy investment.
Find Your Voice on Social Media
The dizzying number of social media platforms can make it tricky to find the ideal content marketing channel for a university. Each platform has its own structure and features that determine whom you reach and how you reach them. Consider how different types of media—like video, pictures or microblogging—affect your message.
Certain niche platforms are ideal for specific audiences and content:
- LinkedIn – This platform emphasizes business and professional content. A presence on LinkedIn is crucial for graduate and professional programs because it emphasizes your alumni community’s value as a networking resource.
- Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr – These and other picture sites are best for visual fields like art, design, architecture and fashion. If your university hosts a major art collection or museum, highlight it: this may be a key value point for wealthy donors.
- YouTube – A YouTube channel can be a powerful storyteller for certain schools and programs. The performing arts are ideal for this platform, while some music schools have found success with SoundCloud. When sharing educational content like lectures or symposia, high production values and thought-provoking subject matter are essential (this is why people love TED Talks).
Snapchat and Vine may be fun, but will they really boost your fundraising efforts? Take time to understand your audience persona in order to choose the right platforms. A demographic study by the Pew Research Center shows how audiences vary among major social media platforms. Facebook and LinkedIn are the most popular for college grads, but there are other characteristics to think about too, such as age, gender, race, and income.
Don’t Tell Your Story, Tell Theirs
Outside social media are the best way to bring alumni to the university’s blog and media pages. If your blog suffers from low readership, it could be a sign that the subject matter is focused too much on the campus and not enough on the broader community. Content should speak to the lives of alumni, not just current students.
Address trending news stories within the context of the university. If a former medical student is involved in efforts to contain a virus outbreak, do a feature about her important work. If a professor has published a book on American politics, interview him about the current election. Go beyond the projects, highlighting the people and their stories.
Content marketing is a two-way street. Follow the activities of your alumni and share their professional and personal achievements. When responding to alumni comments, always avoid generic form responses. Be your alumni’s biggest fan—they will likely reciprocate.
Of the $40 billion raised by American universities last year, nearly one-third of that amount went to just 20 universities. Donors’ loyalty to their university is only one major reason they give. Alumni donate because they believe in what their alma mater is doing, whether it’s providing innovative medical treatments, serving the local community, offering need-based scholarships or building a state-of-the-art science center. Tell these stories to strengthen alumni engagement and continually demonstrate the value of your university.
To learn more about content marketing for universities, check out our discussion of storytelling strategies to enhance faculty profiles.
According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 80 percent of Internet-using adult respondents go online for answers to their health questions. And a Google study indicated that the reputation of a facility was important to 94 percent of patients when it came to choosing where to seek healthcare.
In healthcare, creating custom content is imperative if you want to distinguish your brand from the rest. Content that is too broad or too similar to competitors’ offerings limits an institution’s ability to differentiate itself in the market. Custom content, on the other hand, resonates with people because it is tailored to their needs and interests.
When people need information, any information, they turn to digital sources for immediate answers and suggestions for next steps. This is increasingly true for those seeking answers to questions about their health – from what a symptom means to what they can expect in the course of an illness to where they should seek care. Hospitals’ and healthcare systems’ marketing strategies should emphasize custom content to stand out in a crowded industry and position themselves as thought leaders.
Building your brand through custom content (up-to-date medical web content, blogs featuring patient stories, physician advice pertaining to timely health topics, a social media presence, mobile health applications and more) is essential.
Custom content how-to for hospitals
Here are some tips for creating custom content that resonates with your audience and keeps them coming back – both digitally as a health resource and in person when they need care:
- Tell compelling stories – Your patients’ experiences and satisfaction are the basis for your brand. But word-of-mouth marketing can only go so far. Work with your staff to identify patients who’ve experienced remarkable recoveries, found hope and healing through new treatments and technologies or established a special connection with one of your providers. Then highlight those stories through videos you can share on your website and social media, articles and blogs or even as components of radio, TV or print advertising campaigns.
- Monitor the news and social media for topics – When a big health story hits the news (think the Zika virus or superbugs), people turn to healthcare providers and established medical experts to find out the facts. They may want to know whether they should worry about infection risk in their region, what they can do to protect themselves and their families and what treatments are available. When you stay on top of these stories and the buzz they’re generating on social media, you find opportunities to release Q&A videos or blogs with well-versed physicians, highlight fact vs. fiction on your website and more.
- Use internal data to guide your content – Using website analytics tools that gauge what pages your visitors frequent (diabetes management, cancer prevention, depression, prenatal care) can help you create content that speaks to your largest audiences. Social media posts offering lifestyle advice for balancing blood sugar, a video of physicians discussing how quitting smoking and eating a healthy diet can lower cancer risks and blogs about signs of depression or essential medical care during pregnancy will help address your patients’ unique needs. Pay attention to conversations that develop from your posts to hone your topics further.
- Keep reader attention with infographics – People are busy and are often seek top-line information that will guide their next medical steps. Infographics are a great way to break up copy, quickly get your point across and give people a visual set of directions for recognizing symptoms, seeking care or taking steps to improve their health.
- Create seasonal content – In the summer, people are more likely to search for sun safety tips and first-aid for heat stroke and dehydration. In the fall and winter, they may seek information on preventing and treating the flu. And during designated awareness months, they may want to know more about mammograms, heart-healthy habits or colon cancer screenings. Providing timely content that addresses these topics will position you as a trusted source to which readers are more likely to return and patients are more likely to pursue.
Questions about custom content for your hospital? Reach out and ask us.
Sure, you know what a call to action is supposed to do: drive more leads and sales from prospects and customers. And you know how important calls to action are as part of your inbound marketing strategy. But could you be writing calls to action all wrong?
The answer is “yes” if you fail to follow these three goals when crafting each call to action:
Goal 1: Consider the business goal of your content marketing.
Your call to action, like your content, should align with your business goals. Your content marketing strategy defines that alignment. It outlines exactly whom you want to take action (your target audience) and it outlines the type of long-term engagement you want with this audience. Do you want your content to raise awareness of your brand? Generate conversations? Provide leads? That informs the type of content you want to write and how you will craft your call to action for that content.
Creating an effective call to action is both art and science. You want your readers to respond, so you must keep three things in mind as you write every CTA: your business goal, the goal of your content and your audience’s need.
Goal 2: Make sure your call to action meets a specific purpose.
Once you craft a call to action with your business goal in mind, then consider whether that call to action matches the purpose of your published content. For example, if you publish useful, authentic and original content to raise awareness of your brand, a call to action that asks a reader to “buy now” misses the mark.
Goal 3: Know your audience’s needs.
“You must understand your customer’s goals” so you can solve your customer’s problem, says Lee Odden, author of Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media, and Content Marketing. Your customer, or potential customer, needs something. The job of your content is to help meet that need. And the job of your call to action is to be the gateway to getting that need met.
Put it all together
Let’s put these three goals to work in a hypothetical case. Let’s say you’re the content marketing director for XYZ Community Bank in Northhampton. You write a blog post to raise awareness about your bank providing funding for small businesses. The audience you target is sole-proprietor entrepreneurs in the special event industry, so your post is about how to successfully apply for an SBA loan. Your call to action, which leads to a separate landing page testimonial, could be something like this: See why a Northhampton caterer, photographer and DJ love our small business loans.
This call to action works because it meets the business goal (raise brand awareness), the goal of the blog post (inform a particular audience about SBA loans at the bank) and the reader’s need (to learn how other people they probably know successfully got a loan).
Calls to action are simple, direct statements that tell a person who reads your content what you want them to do next. A call to action can encourage a reader to make a purchase, download additional content, share the content and much more. Get creative. Be direct. And remember to craft your calls to action with your business goal, your content’s purpose and your audience’s need in mind.
To write a great call to action, you have to have an effective content marketing strategy. Get your fast 5-step tutorial.
We’re all inundated with content every day. A simple search leads to thousands – or even millions – of websites, articles, blogs, social media posts and more, all promising to deliver just what we need. But, with busy lives and shorter-than-ever attention spans, we don’t spend time reading all that content to find what we are looking for. Instead, we speed-read headlines. As per Copyblogger, eight out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only two will read the content beyond the headline.
That’s why great content can easily be ignored. If the headline doesn’t resonate, we just don’t read further.
A headline is the workhorse in your content stable. It’s what draws your reader in right away, enhances your brand promise and delivers value. Not putting time, thought and emphasis on headline development can easily wreck your content marketing strategy.
So, what separates the great headlines from the not-so-great? It pretty much comes down to three things.
Explain the value. Headlines that explain the value of the content that follows, work. Top-ranking content often features headlines that use appropriate value-centric words like “Gain” and “Increase,” or words that encourage, like “How to.” To drive more value into your headlines, think of them as mini articles that summarize the value found within the content.
Get specific. Too often, headlines go for more flash than substance and end up being vague. To make headlines more specific, it is critical to know the audience the content is designed for. What are their pain points and their needs? Assuming the content identifies and solves a problem, the headline should too.
Tell the truth. Headlines that are inaccurate, over-promise or mislead are easy to write, and do much damage to your brand and your reputation. Every headline should convey the honest value in the content and promise exactly what the content will deliver.
You put time and effort into writing your blog post, your email or your whitepaper. Why not take the time to craft a headline or subject line worthy of your content? Once your content is written, brainstorm headline options. Then, look for terms that will help you optimize that headline for search and social and apply those to your headline drafts. Make sure your revised options specifically explain the value of the content that will follow and that those options are truthful. Then, get a second opinion about the accuracy and creativity of your options from a trusted reader. Use that input to further refine your final-draft headline.
Relationships are the foundation of business. But for banks and credit unions, forming meaningful relationships is becoming more difficult as people often bypass branches in favor of online and mobile banking. Data show that in 2015, for the first time ever, mobile users outpaced branch users, according to the Wall Street Journal. But there are banks and credit unions that are successfully forming relationships and creating a sense of community via engagement on social media.
So what’s the secret sauce in leveraging social channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram, as well as website blogs? It’s a content marketing strategy that encompasses critical action items such as developing original, useful content that encourages conversation; using social platforms to connect through shared interests; and dedicating time to respond quickly to comments and questions that result from that content.
Create useful content
As a credit union or bank marketing manager, no one else knows your members or customers like you do. Put that knowledge to work by publishing original and useful content on your social channels. Social platforms are excellent places for content that answers questions about finance, provides guidance on budgeting, and delivers insight about the entrepreneurial process or local business trends that affect small businesses in your community. And feel confident about suggesting products and services that align with that content – just don’t make every post a sales pitch.
How do you build relationships with bank customers or credit union members, when fewer of them are coming into your branches? Take a proactive approach to social media. Create useful and interesting content, connect via shared commitments and authentically engage in and respond to the resulting online conversations.
Original, useful content works to drive conversation and increase engagement: Fully 63 percent of mass affluent consumers take action after using social media to learn about financial products and services, according to a study by LinkedIn.
Connect through shared commitments
All the content you post doesn’t need to be about finance and banking. Social channels are perfect venues for people to connect through shared interests. Use your social media platforms to align your credit union or bank with a cause or causes that resonate in your community. Show how your brand goes beyond banking and start posting about how you and your employees are involved in the neighborhoods you serve. Promote events that you sponsor. Publish photos of your employees engaged in community service activities. Post stories about how local residents have benefited from a community service. You’ll find that when you engage your audience in causes they are already interested in, you more effectively humanize your brand and develop community.
Engage and respond
Your social media strategy shouldn’t be all about getting something published. Instead, the content you publish should be crafted in such a way as to encourage response. How do you get people to respond? It’s like any person-to-person conversation: Ask for action. For example, a blog post about retirement planning tips and a short story about how a customer or member is reinventing retirement could ask readers to submit their own retirement reinvention stories. You could post to Facebook or LinkedIn about a branch job opening and ask fans to share. And you could host a “caption this” photo contest on Instagram with public recognition of the cleverest responses.
No matter the social channels you choose to use to engage with members or customers, responding promptly is critical. You need someone or a team of people to monitor all your social channels in order to respond quickly to inquiries or comments. In addition, be sure those of your staff who are responsible for responding understand the importance of quality responses. People who comment look for acknowledgement, so never go the route of a canned response. Use the name of the person who comments and bring new content to the conversation, like a link or a video. Responding promptly to customer stories, ideas or complaints deepens relationships. This is the human side of social media and the foundation for creating community.
Social platforms present an excellent opportunity for banks and credit unions to establish and maintain relationships with community members in an age when more and more people are managing their banking outside of branches. The key to success in using social media as part of your content marketing strategy is to make sure those communications are authentic and relevant. When your blogs, posts and videos meet that criteria, you’ll see a jump in engagement through likes, shares and comments. That kind of relationship-building will improve your marketing effectiveness and increase leads and sales conversions.
When your business is content marketing, you tend to be hypervigilant in identifying good and bad examples in the consumer marketplace. The last place I thought to be delighted by solid content marketing was my Volkswagen dealership.
I had taken my Jetta for its regular service. I knew to expect a call from the service manager sometime later, explaining what had been found and the estimated cost to make repairs. What surprised me was an email just after he called, with a video of the two problems discovered during service.
That’s right: My mechanic gave me a video tour of the underside of my car, all while narrating what I was looking at. You can see the video below.
For video to be a successful part of your content marketing strategy, it needs to be smart, sharable and personal. Get away from one-size-fits-all thinking and start creating videos that are targeted to consumers’ individual experiences with your product or service. The result will be deeper brand engagement and super-loyal customers.
What a great way to use content marketing to enhance already stellar service! I don’t know an alternator from an axle and typically just trust that my mechanic knows what he is talking about. He’s always been great about explaining what needs repair, but somewhere after “So this is what I found,” I typically zone out until he gets to the part about what it will cost.
But this video brings me into the world of auto parts and service in a very non-threatening and civilized way.
Imagine how that could work for so many other consumer experiences. What if a bank did videos of seniors showing other seniors how to manage online banking activities? Or what if a local hospital showed videos of how to check kids for ticks or lice and then how to deal with the problem?
My point is that this kind of video – personal and targeted to my and your experience with a service or product – does exactly what content market is designed to do: Engage us more deeply with a brand.
To learn more about what content marketing is…and isn’t, do a quick read of Simple Truths About Content Marketing.
A recent study found 76 percent of marketers plan to increase content marketing efforts, according to Curata. That impetus is likely due to the well-known benefits of a successful content marketing strategy: more sales leads, enhanced brand awareness and increased customers. Yet data also indicate that many marketers try to connect with their audience through content marketing but get lackluster response, including disappointing email open rates, flat direct mail campaign outcomes and low blog traffic.
The problem is often that the content for all those components is written to everyone. When you write to everyone, you write to no one.
To effectively connect with an audience via content marketing, you must know your audience and that’s where persona development can help. When you create marketing personas that intimately capture the personality of each audience character you want to target, you set a firm foundation for writing content that can attract current and potential customers and keep them coming back for more.
Shortcut your persona development process, and you risk lackluster email open rates, flat direct mail campaign outcomes and low blog traffic. When you write to everyone, you write to no one, and that’s yesterday’s marketing. Well-crafted personas are crucial to a successful content marketing strategy.
Benefits of a Persona
A persona is a fictional character that represents a specific segment of your current and potential customers. Think fiction based on fact. By developing a persona – or customer profile – that represents a specific person’s personal and professional needs, pain points, habits and processes for buying your products and services, you succeed in creating a specific roadmap to follow when developing content.
But personas meet even wider needs in your content marketing strategy and can:
- Help corporate marketers understand what messaging and channels resonate with customers
- Give product developers insight into consumer needs
- Support R & D with direction for development efforts
Get C-Suite Buy-in
Creating a persona is a business investment. Time, teamwork and analysis of quantitative and qualitative data are needed to create a well-rounded composite of customers. Don’t make up something. That’s yesterday’s marketing.
For persona development to work, you’ll need C-suite buy in. Communication expert Linda Duyle has pitched ideas to major corporation executives for years. She advocates backing up your pitch with lots of relevant data. You can arm yourself with facts and figures compiled by Ashley Wilson-Rew that highlight how personas help the bottom line. Then explain that by gathering quantitative and qualitative data to create a persona, you can speak intelligently to customer’s needs, frustrations and goals and move them further along their buying journey.
Help executives understand how personas are used to create content that resonates with readers. Ahava Leibtag shared an effective approach at Content Marketing World 2015: Point out that in the persona development process, you’ll learn why customers choose your company over competitors. Those nuances will enhance business outcomes.
Get the Inside Scoop
After gaining C-suite approval, look within for insight to create your personas. Team members from departments across the company can share valuable customer insights, based on their interactions with customers throughout the buying cycle. This is valuable information, so be sure to record it.
As part of creating a persona for AARP, Jen Lee Reeves, the digital strategy and training manager, explained during the Social Media for Nonprofits Summit that she passed out sticky notes in all company departments. To distill AARP’s mission for speaking online to people, she asked employees, “What do we want them to feel?”
From the sticky notes, the persona Rhonda emerged – as in The Beach Boys’ “Help Me, Rhonda.” AARP found Rhonda is bold and takes risks. Now, AARP employees picture Rhonda and keep her personality, needs and wants in mind as they write content, provide customer service and develop new membership offerings.
Touching base with team members to gain customer insight is one step to gather information necessary to create a persona. You will also need to curate more insights from company data.
Explore your good and “bad” customers’ demographic information, feedback, surveys and blog responses. Patterns will emerge. Create categories of joys, fears, frustrations, how content is consumed and when, and buying patterns and considerations.
Let Your Customers Speak
Next, you need to actually talk to some of your customers to hear specifically what drives their decision to engage with your brand. Develop questions from patterns identified from employee input and hard data. Create softball questions about simple things like job titles and hobbies to help them open up. These will be the questions to lead your interview. Then dive in to ask specific questions to uncover their behaviors and motivations, including:
- Beliefs and values
- Family budget
- Daily time constraints
- News consumption habits
- Social media usage
- Favorite blogs
- Role in buying decisions
- Knowledge of your products and services
- Needs to be met that ensure they buy your products and services
Schedule interviews with customers and prospects by ensuring them you are not making a sales call. Offer an incentive for them to participate. Let them pick the interview time from a range of dates and times. Allow 20-30 minutes for each phone or in-person interview. Listen carefully. Ask follow-up questions. Probe. You may unlock a nuance, a golden nugget of insight.
And don’t just seek positive feedback. Ask customers what frustrates them about your product and services, pricing, customer service, content and website user experience. You’ll get an earful. Share feedback with management. If change occurs, write about it. That content can foster connection and loyalty because your audience – your persona – will know you are speaking to them.
Questions about content marketing strategy? Reach out and ask us.
When establishing a relationship with a bank or credit union, consumers and business owners are looking for experts they can trust for financial advice; lending, investment, and wealth management strategies; market predictions; and more. They actively search for answers to their questions, but often find more hype than help.
If your content marketing strategy is falling flat and failing to position your bank or credit union as a thought leader, consider these tune-up tips:
Help first and sell second – The content you publish should address consumer and business goals and interests. Your consumer content should deliver simple solutions to financial management concerns, like saving for college or retirement. Your content targeted to businesses should help them understand how to finance growth, protect their companies from fraud, reduce taxes and manage risk.
Sun National Bank serves as a thought leader through blogs specifically designed for small business owners and commercial clients. Visitors to its site can browse weekly posts that offer insight and advice for business decisions ranging from routine to critical. These blogs are not promotional, but build trust in the bank’s expertise – which will ultimately encourage many readers to seek its services.
Content marketing is an effective way for banks and credit unions to establish themselves as experts in the financial field – building trust and encouraging deeper relationships with current customers and new prospects.
Commit to consistency – Effective content marketing can position your bank or credit union as a reliable source of important insight. To make that happen, you must publish high-quality content on a consistent schedule. In addition, you must take into consideration how often your different audiences want to hear from you. Then, organize when and where your content will publish so that it supports your entire communication strategy.
Through its regularly-updated Facebook page, Wilson Bank & Trust keeps customers apprised of its new and popular products and services; offers quick hits of timely advice for filing taxes, monitoring credit scores, and more; and encourages engagement with invitations to bank-sponsored events and contests.
Distribute widely – Effective content marketing means publishing original, useful content in a variety of channels, where your audience typically goes to find information. Once you understand the questions your audience has, consider how one type of message must be revised to fit the parameters of each publication channel. For example, you could take elements of a blog post and repurpose them for an infographic published in your online newsletter, as a Facebook post and as a direct mail postcard.
Minnesota’s AgStar Financial Services uses a targeted content marketing strategy to strengthen its thought leadership and advocacy of farming, agriculture and rural America. It publishes regularly in multiple channels, from its online AgStar Edge portal to YouTube videos and blogs, to meet the needs of its audience of younger members.
To learn more about what content marketing is…and isn’t, do a quick read of Simple Truths About Content Marketing.
In March 2015, employee recruiting difficulty for companies reached four-year highs for the 11th consecutive month. And that’s for companies of all sizes in the United States, according to the Society for Human Resources Management. If you suffer the hiring blues and have not yet tried content marketing as a solution, now’s the time.
Content marketing can attract good employees just as it attracts good customers. Used as a recruiting tool, content marketing can help you fill jobs by meeting the needs of today’s workers who want to know about company culture and who search for content about prospective employers.
In a crunch to engage, recruit and retain top talent? Content marketing can attract good employees just as it attracts good customers, helping people make the decision to launch or continue their career paths with you and not your competition. Make sure your recruiting efforts are underpinned by a solid content marketing strategy.
Lyft, the ridesharing company in competition with Uber, is a great example of how content marketing can be put into action for hiring. When the company needed to recruit more drivers to expand its transportation network, it hypothesized that like attracts like (people who ride Lyft are fun, gregarious and interested in conversation; Lyft drivers are, too). So the company focused its hiring campaign – and its content – on converting riders to drivers.
The company already knew that its content marketing strategy works well to attract passengers. Lyft’s fun and personal content marketing style helped increase ridership from 40,000 rides in December 2012 to 2.2 million rides in December 2014. Banking on the success of that content to increase the number of riders, the company developed content specific to drivers. It published information from actual drivers who answered questions about what it is like to drive for Lyft. It also developed ad content for Google Display Network publisher and partner sites and YouTube.
The content marketing strategy paid off in identifying and resonating with the in-market audiences most likely to convert to drivers. Lyft reported 400 drivers in December 2012, 7,000 drivers in December 2013 and 51,000 drivers in December 2014.
So how can you leverage a content marketing strategy to recruit top talent? Try these tips:
- Work with your human resources staff to identify the types of people your company needs the most, and make a list of how best to reach them. Would these prospects most likely read direct mail over email? Use an online employment website?
- Establish a careers page or online hub for your company. Populate it with interesting stories from employees, infographics about company benefits and photos of employees on the job.
- Update your company LinkedIn profile often with short videos of employees talking about why they really need another player on their respective teams.
- Do you have some dream-team candidates you want to hire who already work elsewhere? Get the conversation going by sending them a personal letter from your president.
Content marketing can make a difference in all areas of your business. To learn how, contact CrucialContent at 267.687.0990 ext. 651