The Year of Listening
The whole point of content marketing is that you get more bang for your buck than advertising.
Aside from the whole brand recognition, customer relationship development and search engine visibility benefits, the big idea is that people will take your information and share it with others - for free.
However, no matter how great your writing or how professional your video production values are, if you aren't publishing something that people need, or at the very least enjoy, you're not going to get the best return on your time.
What do people want to know?
One way to find out is to ask your existing customers, and while there is definite value in this I'm always reminded of the Steve Jobs / Henry Ford quote, to paraphrase: customers don't know what they want and if you ask them they'll send you down the wrong road.
What your customers know are the problems they are experiencing. It doesn't matter if you're a consultant, a plumber or a vet - customers talk about symptoms - not solutions.
Time to rethink Social Media
As marketers we think of social networks as content distribution platforms, as places where we can push our message to as many people as possible. We think in terms of comments and shares, mentions and re-tweets but we don't think of the real human beings who are actively using those networks to share what's important to them and their lives.
Stop and listen
Here's the big idea for this year. Spend some time just reading random people's streams on social media. Run searches around your product names, your business field, brainstorm what problems people experience when they need your product or services and use those words as search terms. Start with the network you're strongest on but also look at the others - Twitter search is amazing for finding out what people are really thinking about.
This is not about finding followers, it's about finding the right topics. If you can produce information about things that people on social media are already talking about, you significantly improve the chances of your content being shared.