There are different ways to promote your works.
But I don’t know of one artist who doesn’t need to promote their works, even if it’s just starting a mass movement among fans.
Content marketing is largely considered the “modern” way in the business world and it can be incredibly effective. But why is that? And can it work for creatives too?
How You View Content Marketing Shapes Everything
It has been my observation that some creatives don’t even like the term “content” let alone “marketing.”
If that’s where you get stuck, then rest assured no progress will be made, and you will not effort to understand content marketing let alone recognize its benefits, utilize, and profit from it (“profit” being another term that could leave a creative feeling uncomfortable). Perhaps it would be best to pursue other channels.
To tackle this mindset issue, though, it’s important to understand a few things:
- Important ideas, through the ages, have been shared in the written word. If it was written before the printing press, and it has survived, it was clearly an idea worth keeping and spreading. Although I do not take it for granted that your content marketing efforts will land in the domain of blog posts, articles, or more generally the written word, the point is that content marketing is the sharing of ideas and knowledge.
- Content marketing isn’t new. If you’ve ever engaged with a piece of direct mail, a newsletter, a magazine, or otherwise, you were the willing participant in content marketing, which predates the internet.
- Content marketing is honest. It begins with relating to your target audience. Sharing about yourself, building rapport and trust. Talking about things that matter to your customer. Sharing valuable information that benefits their lives. Then, and only then, do you ask for their contact information, and eventually, the sale.
There are more points I could offer to convince you, but both you and I know you will not be sold on anything you don’t have an open mind about.You will not be sold on anything you don't have an open mind about. Click To Tweet
So, I leave the rest in your capable hands, to do your research and to come up with your own conclusions.
What can Content Marketing do for Me?
People sometimes ask how it is that I drive traffic to Music Entrepreneur HQ or sell my books. And though some find it hard to believe, most of it was built on the back of content marketing in the form of blog posts, infographics, podcast episodes, and videos.
I’ve experimented with advertising, sure, and have done my share of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) work too. Although, let’s be honest – much of SEO is predicated on the publishing of fresh content.
If this is still a little abstract for you, then have a look at how Music Entrepreneur HQ has done traffic wise in the last 30 days or so:
Sure, there was a rather obvious dip during the holiday season, but most days the traffic holds at 300+ visits per day, and even exceeds 400 some days. And this is largely based on work already done, not on the back of fresh content. Generally, I only publish once per week on Music Entrepreneur HQ these days.
If you don’t understand what 400 visits per day (or even just 200 visits per day) could do for you and your art, then I’m not sure I can help.
Why Content Marketing?
I saw others succeed with it. So, I thought to myself – “why not me?”
In 2007, I learned that Steve Pavlina had built an entire income on the back of blogging (no advertising). And in ensuing years, I learned about the likes of Darren Rowse, Pat Flynn, James Schramko, and many others who’d done amazing things with content.
I think what cemented it all for me was my reading of Content Inc. (affiliate link) by Joe Pulizzi, which still stands as one of my favorite business books. I was already knee deep into content marketing when I had read the book, but reading it made me present to the fact that the opportunity was even greater than I first thought it was.
Now, there are plenty of extraordinary claims about content marketing if you go looking for them. But I wouldn’t get too caught up in those, unless they offer actionable tips to help you improve your content. Generally, there are no shortcuts to success.
But if you stay consistent, continually improve, and publish on a set schedule, you will see results in six to 12 months.
This is exactly what many creatives don’t do, as they start and stop, and sometimes stop altogether after publishing once or twice.
It’s rare that anything works as rapidly as we wish it would, and if not done in a strategic way, content marketing will a) not work, b) attract the wrong audience, c) not build an audience whatsoever, d) disappoint people who started following you, e) not make you any money, or f) some or all the above.
Trust me, I know. I have made most mistakes you could name.
How to Make Content Marketing Work for You
You share your work, and people become interested in it. And that builds an audience. That’s the essence of content marketing.
If people don’t know who you are or what you do, it makes it much harder to gain them as subscribers or customers.
And that’s the “why” of content marketing, which is more important than the “how.”
But in this section, I offer some tips on how to execute.
Talk About What Your Audience is Interested in
If I’m starting to sound like a broken record, then remember that reinforcement comes through repetition.Reinforcement comes through repetition. Click To Tweet
Learn as much as you can about your audience. Keep notes on them. And be sure to talk about them as well as their interests in your content.
And be sure to share about yourself. Each insignificant detail matters (e.g., “I’m married and have two kids,” or “I was in the Girl Scouts”) as there will always be someone in your audience who can relate to it.
If you have been reading my works for any length of time, then you will know that I am fluent in Japanese, as I grew up in Japan!
Pick a Channel & Stick with it
I plan to elaborate on this in a future blog post, but the key here is to choose from blogging, podcasting, or video and stick with one channel until you find success. Branching out is unnecessary, and marketer Russell Brunson even says you can make up to seven-figures by focusing on publishing to one channel. Which is probably more than most creatives even aspire to.
If you’re going to blog, Medium is the best place to be.
If you’re going to podcast, check out Anchor.
And if you’re going to run with video, you might assume YouTube is the best place to be, but you might try a platform like Facebook or LinkedIn instead, where video tends to stand out a little more. And you can always distribute or syndicate your content across multiple sites using a tool like Repurpose (affiliate link).
(By the way, any content you create should be backed up to your hard drive. You never know when these platforms could change or disappear completely, and I don’t advise building entirely on rented land.)
Based on my experience, I can only recommend blogging or video though. Podcasting tends to be an uphill climb to the tune of at least five years. I have been podcasting for over 11 years and haven’t even come close to my listenership goals (might be time to take my own advice and leave the “loser” behind).
Use Noah Kagan’s Law of 100 to determine whether you enjoy and get results from your chosen channel. Or, if you’re more daring, try publishing daily for a full year and see where it takes you.
I’m not asking you to be a robot or to do this perfectly. I’m just asking you to be consistent. Because content marketing, by definition, is the ongoing creation and publishing of valuable content.Content marketing, by definition, is the ongoing creation and publishing of valuable content. Click To Tweet
I know ambitious people who started out with the best of intentions and still missed some days or weeks.
With my podcasting efforts, I usually end up publishing 48 episodes per year instead of the anticipated 52.
But when and where possible, be programmatic in your publishing. If you’ve chosen Sunday at 7:52 AM as the day and time your content goes live, then keep publishing weekly on Sunday at 7:52 AM.
If you don’t do it, it will not work. But if you keep showing up, you will reap the benefits.If you don’t do it, it will not work. But if you keep showing up, you will reap the benefits. Click To Tweet
The more and longer you do content marketing, the more useful data you will have ready at your fingertips.
You’ll write pieces that you think should do well, that end up bombing.
And you’ll write pieces that you think are obvious nonsense but end up exploding.
The trick is to keep improving. Practice Kaizen – gradual improvement.
Keep an eye on the stats and figure out what’s working. Do more of it. And try to do less of what isn’t working.
Sometimes you will create simply because you feel like creating. Trust me, with thousands of pieces published online, I’ve been there.
But as I said, strategy is par for the course. Content marketing doesn’t work without strategy. Find and use whatever feedback mechanisms necessary to keep iterating and adjusting course, as necessary.
Don’t Worry About Search Engine Traffic
Don’t buy too heavily into tails of ranking in search and winning the instant traffic lottery. Yes, this is still possible, but unless you’re paying $99 monthly for a tool like Ahrefs, doing your keyword research and have a backlinking strategy, I can almost assuredly say this is a race to the bottom. Because SEO is a skill like anything else, and it’s tough to learn while you’re still learning how to create great content, which should be your initial focus.
In time, you will get search engine traffic. There are a variety of reasons why this is true, including the fact that you will begin to rank higher for your name, your projects, your poems or lyrics, your photos, or otherwise. In short, this goes a long way towards exposing why coining your own terms is a good idea.
And you will also be able to tap into organic sources of traffic like social media. To me, social media is mostly pointless without a content strategy though. Because otherwise, what do you have to share?
As you grow your email list, you’ll also be able to share your content with your subscribers and continue to build a relationship with them.
So, again, traffic will build with a lot of patience and tenacity. And it will come from various sources. But don’t count on it. Don’t write for search engines. Just make things that are interesting to you and your audience.
Have Fun with it
Content marketing, as with anything else, can become a bit of a grind given time. So, if you’re not having fun with it, it probably isn’t worth doing.
As an artist, you know as well as I do that people sniff you out if you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing. Why stick to anything you don’t have much enthusiasm for?
It seems to fly in the face of strategy, but this is mostly how I decide in what to engage in. Will I make a video about my blog posts? Only if I think it’s going to be fun!
Get used to thinking long-term because instant gratification with content marketing is rare. Focus on having fun, and the journey will prove more rewarding and you’ll stick with it for longer too. And it takes sticking with it to see any results.
Content Marketing, Final Thoughts
At the end of the day, content marketing doesn’t work all that differently for creatives than it does for anyone else.
What’s important to understand is its purpose. If you are unclear as to why you would do it to begin with, then there is no point in starting.
Content marketing adds value to your audience. And people who like what you’ve shared are more likely to become an email subscriber. An email subscriber is more likely to become a buyer. That’s what’s at the core of it.
Do you use content marketing to build awareness for your art? How have you utilized content marketing to benefit you?
Let me know in the comments.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.
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