Introduction to content marketing
What is content marketing? You’ve seen content marketing everywhere, but maybe you haven’t put a name to it yet.
The blog posts, white papers, infographics, news stories, slideshows, how-to’s, and case studies you see shared by companies and nonprofits are all considered content marketing.
Advertisements appeal to you by making the brand attractive or desirable. Content marketing, however, provides you with information that is relevant to your interests and connects you to a company’s product or service.
Advertising is about trying to get you to meet their needs. In content marketing, the organization is trying to meet your needs.
A lot of things that work for businesses will also work for nonprofits, and content marketing is no exception. Content marketing for fundraising uses content marketing techniques to drive exposure and donations to your fundraising site.
Simply put, content marketing is any marketing strategy that uses the creation or sharing of content-based media to attract its target audience.
When you are giving people content that piques their interests and fuels their curiosity, they will keep coming back to you for more. This creates loyalty and community among your existing supporters, and attracts new people to your nonprofit. Done purposefully, content marketing can form the backbone of your online presence.
That’s why content marketing is being called the next revolution in marketing strategy and online fundraising: It turns nonprofits into storytellers and audiences into followers.
The benefits of content marketing
Content marketing scales up both the amount and quality of the content you provide. More quality content will bring you more quality supporters.
If you want to build credibility with your content, try turning your supporters into distributing authors: their stories add a personal touch and send the message to other supporters that their voice is valued and empowered.
More content means more clicks. With good search engine optimization (SEO) in your content, you’ll soon be climbing to the top of the search engine hit list, which leads to even more people finding you.
In each post, link to other content from your own website as well to spark more traffic. SEO also improves social media sharing via your supporters.
Remember though: you must have good content to begin with for SEO to benefit you.
Content marketing broadens your audience base and creates loyalty (via storytelling) among your supporters.
It will also increase your email subscribers and social followers. A strong base of committed followers gives you the opportunity to cultivate them into donors.
Four common types of content
As the name suggests, content is the core of content marketing. “Content” is a broad term, and can apply to just about anything you decide to create and distribute. To give you an idea of where to dig your heels in, here are four common types of content.
1. Blog posts
A blog is the primary platform from which you can disseminate lots of other kinds of content. Most blog posts are primarily written content, but other media can spice things up. Use your blog to share news about your nonprofit, success stories, and host experts in your field.
Example: Look at anything on our CauseVox blog, for starters!
Blog Post Best Practices
- Mix things up – Try to showcase different kinds of content on your blog, with varying lengths and visuals. If all your posts look the same, nothing will catch your reader’s eye.
- Be relatable and relevant – Your blog should make people feel connected to you and your work. Keep a conversational tone, and make sure the subject is on-point.
- Curate – Not all your writing needs to be original. You can share your partners’ content, host interviews, and share case studies or news items that are relevant to your work.
Infographics are visual representations of information. There’s a reason you see these shared all the time on Facebook. Visual information works effectively online, and if you can get important information across in a visual way, it’s going to have a huge impact.
Infographics Best Practices
- Show, don’t tell – This is the whole point of the infographic. If you were just going to write it out, you could do it in a blog post. The data needs to be represented in a visual way that tells a story.
- Don’t lean on text too heavily – Typography is awesome! But not everything you need to think about. Your header is a great place to create visual interest, but otherwise try to stay away from relying on just text to get your message across. Think about using icons, illustrations, and differences in scale to draw the reader’s eye.
- Use a pleasing color palette – In a medium that’s all about looks, it’s important to make sure your color palette contributes to that goal. The eye should flow easily along the graphic. If it’s an eyesore, attention will go elsewhere. If choosing is hard for you, stick to 3 colors: one for the background, and two to break up the content.
For free color themes that work, explore COLOURlovers:
Video really lends itself to storytelling and creating empathy with your audience. Good video content will make the viewer feel like they are a part of the story too.
Video Best Practices
- Be timely – Maybe it’s your organizations anniversary, or you’ve hit a milestone, or there’s something going on in the world that is relevant – your videos should have a reason for coming out when they do. Your audience will be especially interested if you can tie it in with current events, even if it’s the meme of the moment.
- Focus – Your video should revolve around a singular idea or story. Even though you may use videos less often than other content, that doesn’t mean you have to cram everything into one. Keeping it simple will strengthen your message.
- Use an impact story – Share a client’s or a supporter’s story. Keep the focus on the issue you are trying to solve, and be sure not to talk just about your organization.
For more nonprofit video fundraising tips, check out our free ebook on nonprofit video storytelling.
Photos create visual interest on an otherwise plain page, and can be a lot easier (and cheaper) to use than video. Pictures, whether it is a simple title photo to a blog post, a part of your newsletter, or a slideshow, draw people in emotively and connect people in ways that words can’t.
Photo Best Practices
- Show faces – People will connect with and emphasize with the faces you show on your page, especially if it seems like they are making eye contact.
- Use photos to create visual relief – A wall of text is just that – a wall. Break up the barrier with photos to give the reader a quick way to skim and keep interest.
- Make photos shareable – By including a message on the photo or in the caption, photos can be standalone content. Share them on your Facebook page or create a Pinterest board.
Now that we know the different types of content, let’s look at how to make it impactful.
Characteristics of impactful content
So what makes content actually have impact? What makes it stick with someone? After all, if you are going to put all this time and effort into content marketing, your content should be effective and meaningful.
Chris Brogan and Julien Smith are co-authors of the New York Times bestseller, The Impact Equation. In brief, they claim that:
Impact = C × (R + E + A + T + E)
AKA, Contrast times Reach plus Exposure plus Articulation plus Trust plus Echo gives you, Ta Da! Impact
Basically, your content needs to stand out. If it’s the same old same old, nobody will register what you’re saying or why they should care. Contrast needs to be present in every other element of the equation.
How many people are hearing your message? At its most basic level, this comes from the number of your subscribers, viewers, followers, whatever; the more the merrier.
This relates to how often people hear from you. Do you reach them again and again? Once a week? Once a month? Or is this all just hit and miss? Consistency is important here.
Razor sharp wording makes you easily understood. People should be able to understand what you mean quickly and easily.
This one is tricky. But without it, people won’t give any weight to your content. Building trust takes time and respectability.
Echo is that feeling of connection – whether it’s reminding them of something in their past or of a dream for the future. It’s aligning with a value or belief the person already has that makes your message resonate with them.
Combining all of these elements will give you strong, impactful content that will make your content marketing take off.
Methods to creating content
There are a lot of ways to go about creating your content. You may lean on one in particular, or mix it up. Here are 4 ways to creating content:
1. DIY – You and your staff will create your content
Plus: You are experts in your subject matter and have inside knowledge of your organization and industry. You get direct control of the quality and the voice of your work.
Minus: Content creation is time consuming, and you’ve got a lot going on running your nonprofit and all. You might not be able to create enough content fast enough, depending on your staffing and priorities.
Pro Tip: Don’t tack this on as an extra on top of someone’s usual responsibilities. This needs to be a devoted part of the job description. Carve out time to make this a part of the agenda.
2. Hire a freelancer
Plus: Hiring someone will free up your time and energy. Professionals will do this well. You still get control through editing.
Minus: It gets expensive, depending on the amount of work you outsource.
Pro Tip: Audition writers before hiring them. Ask them to create a sample post on your subject matter, and if you end up using it, pay them for it.
3. Use writing services like TextBroker
Plus: This is cheaper than hiring a writer, and still saves you time and effort.
Minus: It might take a little longer to find the right fit and quality writing. You may spend more time editing this or have to throw out some submissions all together.
Pro Tip: Try a couple of different services to get the right fit. Don’t expect this to work perfectly right away.
Use your network of volunteers and donors to create content. You can use CauseVox’s content marketing tools to empower your supporters to create content on your behalf for fundraising.
Plus: Crowdsourcing gives you personal and trusted content. These stories come from real people who have credibility in their networks, increasing the likelihood of sharing. You get lots of free content quickly.
Minus: You might have issues with voice or clarity in the content as it is written by hundreds of different people. You also have to be sensitive to the editing process.
Pro Tip: Put a call out on your blog for personal stories: then you can pick the best ones. Alternatively, work with people you know and trust.
Content drives social media
Think of yourself as a publisher. A book or magazine’s cover page will draw people in – but if at the end of the day you don’t have something that people want to read, they won’t get past the glossy front. With content marketing, the content needs to be solid. That’s the force behind snazzy marketing tricks.
People share the things that resonate with them; they share the ideas they want to spread. At the core you need something that is compelling. Then you can focus on ways to make it easy to share.
Social media calls for content that is:
Social media is the place for short, simple content and ideas. Point them to your blog for longer reads.
A little bit of snark is good! Or that “wow” photo. Or that spin off of a current meme. Make posts that pack a little punch, but still point to something deeper.
Hit on a core belief or value, or expand on a familiar idea. Give your audience a point of connection for your piece.
Developing a content strategy
Creating & disseminating content that makes an impact won’t happen overnight or in a vacuum. Before you proceed with developing your content, you need to plan ahead by sketching and mapping out a bigger picture.
Content strategy is a blueprint that address the following simple questions:
“Because everyone is doing it” is not a good reason to jump into content marketing – or any endeavor, really.
You may have valid reasons to get into it, like you’ve got that one fundraising campaign that hasn’t gotten any traction. However, using content marketing as a stopgap for immediate needs usually proves counterproductive and short-sighted.
A sustainable, fruitful content strategy depends on a long-term, aerial perspective. When your content aligns with your organization’s overall mission and methodology, your short-term goals will be met along the way.
Before you determine the substance of the content you create and share, you need to identify your audience. Once you understand your audience – supporters, board members, donors, partners – you’ll know how your content ought to serve them.
Your content ought to serve your constituents because so much of your work relies on your supporters. And supporting your supporters – with educational, empowering, encouraging content – ultimately serves your organization’s mission.
When you’ve established why you’re creating content and who you’re creating it for, it’s much easier to figure out what exactly you’re creating.
For example, if most of your supporters are Millennials and younger, you would invest in the more visual kinds of content – photos on Instagram or videos on YouTube.
On the other hand, if Matures comprise the majority of your support base, then direct-mail print pieces – a monthly newsletter or quarterly magazine, perhaps – would better serve them.
The substance of the content may vary depending on season, or special event or campaigns. In those instances, intentional, strong calls to action are entirely appropriate.
But a broader content strategy that constantly asks supporters to give or do something will fizzle out fast. It seems rather counterintuitive but the more you give – that is, content that helps and serves your supporters – the more you get; the more you ask, the less you get.
How, Where, and When
Again, the nature of the content will guide you in how to share that content. You can refer to your preferred search engine to learn the best times to post content on each social media channel, the best time to send an email blast or newsletter, the best times to mail appeals to donors, and so on and so forth.
You’ll also have to determine which social media channels best fit your mission and audience, which will also determine the frequency with which you share your content.
Once you get great content, the next step is sharing it. You can use your own channels – websites that you host or own, or accounts you control. Or you can use a third party platform – a channel that is run by someone else.
Here are some examples of ways to distribute content on your own channels:
Use your Facebook page to share bite-sized bits of content, from infographics to status updates. Link to content on your other platforms as well.
Use your blog for longer posts and articles. This is where you can get some in-depth analysis going. Don’t forget to break it up with other kinds of media too.
Share to-the-minute updates, observations, and fun finds. When sharing links, use URL shorteners (e.g., tinyurl.com or bit.ly) to save characters.
Create a pinboard of photos from the field, or of things that inspire you.
Host your videos here for easy sharing.
Share life around the office and let people get to know your employee’s faces. Use this to share the experience of your large events with those who can’t make it.
This is where you want to put up news exclusively about your organization. Include milestones, thank yous, and campaign updates.
To break into new audiences, you also need to reach beyond your own channels. Try these third-party avenues for content distribution as well:
Do a guest post on someone else’s blog or newsletter. This will also strengthen your alliances with partner organizations.
Focus on getting covered and published in relevant press. It’s not easy, but it will definitely pay off.
Search engine optimization
The whole idea behind search engine optimization (SEO) is for your content to have higher rankings on search engines, which will lead to more clicks, more views, more followers. But there’s one very important factor that often gets left behind: you have to have good content in the first place.
You have to balance between writing for people and writing for search engines. Except when you write for search engines, you still have to be writing for people. So really, you’re always writing for people, but you want search engines to like it too. Make sense?
Basically, focus on creating good content. Then apply SEO writing principles to sharpen it up. However, don’t sacrifice quality, because at the end of the day no one enjoys reading something that was created for an algorithm.
Coppyblogger.com has some great advice on SEO principles. They offer five essential elements, outlined below:
Make sure your keywords are in your title and closer to the beginning. You should also try to keep it under 72 characters so that the whole thing is visible.
2. Meta Description
This is a summary or “snippet” that will be previewed underneath the title in the search results. Using keywords here isn’t so much about getting hits, but giving the reader a clear and concise preview into what the content is about. Keep it under 165 characters.
Keep your content focused on your key subject matter. Tightly written content reads well and makes search engines pick it up too. You also want to have at least 300 words to rank well.
4. Keyword Frequency
Keyword frequency (the number of times you use your keywords) is important, but don’t overdo it. Generally speaking you don’t want the keyword density (ratio of keywords used to total number of words) to be more than 5.5% Otherwise Google can ping you for keyword stuffing. And it won’t make for an enjoyable read.
5. Page Links
Linking to other content within your own posts shows readers that you are aware of your context and shows search engines that you are “connected.” Link to other content early on and about every 120 words of content. Link to interior pages of your own website too to increase traffic.
There’s a lot more to learn when it comes to SEO, but these basic principles will get you started. For a more in-depth look, check out this guide from SEOmoz, Search Engine Ranking Factors.
Measuring success of content marketing
Now, in order to know whether what you’re doing is worth the time and effort, you’ve got to do some evaluations.
No single metric is going to give you the magic answer of how successful your content marketing has been. Instead, you need to look at a couple of key factors. Convince and Convert gives us four to watch out for:
1. Consumption Metrics
How many page views or downloads did you get? How many people saw your content? You can pull this easily from Google Analytics, YouTube Insights, or the like. Some people never look past this number, but it is not enough in and of itself.
2. Sharing Metrics
You know the drill – tweets, likes, Linkedin shares, Google + shares, Reddit upvotes, et cetera. These are often the “sexiest” because they are public. You can boost this metric significantly by making all your content easily shareable with linked social media icons so that all a viewer needs to do is click.
3. Lead Generation Metrics
This is where you start figuring out if you’re getting the bang for your buck. How many people who consumed your content actually completed the action item you asked for? This will also help you determine which content is the most effective.
4. Donation Metrics
You want to know which pieces of content someone consumed before actually making a donation. Then determine a projected amount this user will donate (lifetime value). Divide that up between content and you should know where the money’s coming from.
If you’ve covered all these bases, you’ll have an effective and well-rounded content marketing measurement system so that you can judge what content is working and what isn’t, and strategize from there.
Building the case
On one hand, content marketing isn’t exactly new. John Deere first used it in 1895 when they published a farming magazine. But these days it is frequently becoming the cornerstone of online marketing campaigns.
When you leverage these techniques for your nonprofit fundraising initiatives, you have the opportunity to go beyond just asking for donations to creating a dedicated support base that comes to you for knowledge and insight. You are providing them with a service as well.
In order to run a content marketing campaign, you need a plan and a strategy.
You need to decide what kinds of content you are going to focus on, where you will source it from, and how to distribute it. And on top of that you need to be set up to measure its success.
But all that planning has a big payoff! So put your heads together and launch that podcast, blog, or zine!
Using CauseVox for content marketing and fundraising
Still feel daunted? Need some guidance? CauseVox can help! CauseVox empowers nonprofits to build online fundraising campaigns based on content marketing.
We’ll walk you through how to start your campaign and how to integrate content marketing strategies to get you off the ground.
- Launch a fundraising site on CauseVox – Do some browsing on our website to see how to get set up.
- Rally your supporters to create fundraising pages on CauseVox – Encourage your base to start their own fundraising pages to contribute to your goal.
- They create content (blog posts, stories, videos, photos, etc) – Sit back and watch their creativity flow.
- Your get traffic and donations – Ta da! Mission accomplished.
Sound too good to be true? Check out this case study.
Case Study: One Girl Australia
One Girl is a startup nonprofit that works to empower girls through education. They run an annual campaign called “Do it in a Dress” (www.doitinadress.com) where supporters put on school dresses to raise funds for education. Basically it’s “Movember for chicks.”
In 2011, they raised $42,000 on CauseVox.
In 2012, they raised over $270,000 on CauseVox 2.0 with our content fundraising tools.
One Girl saw a 20% increase in donation conversion rates. Each piece of content posted was associated with a $109 increase in donations.
What are you waiting for? Get started now!
– Chess photo by Joe Philipson: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jphilipson/
– Coffee shop photo by Kevin McShane: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lobraumeister/