Throughout the content marketing life cycle, the part where you strategize about growth is probably the least straightforward of them all.
After all, once you’ve snagged them into a sales funnel or pulled them into a mailing list, the next steps of creating engagement or retention strategies aren’t too hard to imagine.
But growth? Uncovering new ways of building traffic and expanding your leads? That’s where a lot of potential for innovation lies.
Of course, this idea isn’t unique – you’ll have to compete with everyone else in your niche trying out new things in the same growth channels, whether it’s in the social media space or in search engine marketing.
That means the key is in finding out proven and less-frequently used techniques (or better-kept secrets) that can help you drive leads!
Here are three of these growth hacks that you can try to power up your content marketing and send your leads soaring to the heavens.
Use Forum Engagement To Show You What Topics Are On Fire In Your Market
You can make the best content in the world, but if it’s not topical within your niche, it won’t be relevant to your audience and no one’s going to read it! The obvious key here is to create content out of topics that are currently being engaged with by your target market.
Of course, that leads directly to the question:
What are these topics?
One way of analyzing trending topics that you might be accustomed to is doing keyword research. After all, keyword volume can certainly indicate interest in a topic, and you can develop from there. However, keyword research generally only points you in the right direction and doesn’t give you the topics of interest themselves.
A more targeted way of uncovering these topics is to analyze forum engagement and check out what the buzz is all about lately. Forums are a (mostly) organic way for people to engage with each other on topics of interest, and by looking at the kind of discussions that are ongoing, you can slowly get an idea of what you can use to build topics for your own content.
Let’s look at some of the places you can go to start checking out forum engagement.
The first place to start would be forums that are dedicated to your niche – and there’s almost certainly going to be a couple that you can start with! Entire discussion hubs can be dedicated to every community imaginable, from audiophiles (Head-Fi; Gearslutz) to sneaker enthusiasts (NikeTalk; the late Sneaker Forum which died in 2017), and brands have been using the largest of these forums to get an idea of what their audience wants.
Similarly, you can monitor these forums and determine what the talk of the town is. In tandem with your keyword research tool, search top keywords within these forums and figure out what topics are potentially good fits for your content, and will engage the most with your audience.
Pay attention to forum threads with plenty of comments. Read what the comments are saying and build an idea of what to say based on the kind of information people want to know, or want to talk about.
Reddit is currently the #3 most visited site in the United States and #6 in the world as ranked by Alexa, with over 500 million monthly visitors. It’s also incredibly engaging with the average user, or Redditor, spending over 15 minutes each day on the site – more than any other site on Alexa’s ranking.
These factors make it perfect for doing forum engagement research, as you can be assured that some really engaging discussion is taking place over there.
To make it even better, Reddit is subdivided into boards called subreddits that often target very specific niches. Every post within these niches is self-curated through the upvote and downvote system, which Redditors use to promote the most valuable content and eliminate content that isn’t useful. On top of all this, moderators for each subreddit ensure that spam doesn’t make it through and that only topical content makes it through in the first place.
By browsing through the subreddits associated with your niche, you’ll get an idea of the kind of topics that you can talk about in your content. Arrange posts by “top” within the past week or month, and observe the most interesting threads and the discussions they generate.
Q&A community Quora is built around engagement, specifically around asking questions and providing answers within various topics. Like Reddit, the site self-curates through user upvotes and downvotes, which extends to the comment discussions on each question and answer.
Of course, given the format, Quora provides a unique opportunity to find out the kinds of topics on which users want answers. It’s a unique approach that can diversify the content you create. For example, if Quora has a lot of questions and answers within a certain field in your niche, you can craft an infographic that answers these questions for your audience, which will prove to be very valuable and shareable – and perhaps even evergreen!
Forum engagement research is useful but it can be a time-consuming process. With Zag’s Topical Thunder app, you can automate the research process, looking up hot topics by market and searching keywords or individual sites for these topics. You can even check out online discussions in real time and see what’s currently engaging your audiences, allowing you to take every opportunity you can to capture their attention with your content.
Topics within your niche aren’t the only trends you should be watching. Another way of shooting your growth through the roof is newsjacking, where you ride the wave of popularity associated with a trending news story to help boost your own marketing. Doing this usually involves making content that relates to the news story, either offering a valuable or interesting counterpoint or riffing off the trending situation in a witty and engaging way.
Newsjacking is a little less frequently used nowadays because of the risk-reward balance associated with it. Oftentimes, riffing off a news story, especially a disaster or a sociopolitical situation, is delicate, and the wrong move can be considered insensitive and hurt your brand.
Take Hurricane Sandy, for instance. All manner of brands tried to leverage the situation, but while some were able to come out on top, others left looking like they went through the hurricane themselves. Those that looked insensitive made the news and ruined their marketing efforts with social media backlash.
That said, the rewards are just as great and terrible as the risks are. If you manage to pull it off without offending anyone, you’ll be able to ride that glorious buzz to the top, garnering shares and engagement beyond your wildest dreams.
Here are some tips for newsjacking to help you maximize your gains.
Once a news story breaks out, you don’t have a lot of time to newsjack effectively. Your window simply isn’t very big. Start too early and not enough people will understand any of the references you’re making. Start too late, and you risk riding an old trend that’s already dying out in the public consciousness. This is one reason why it’s important to have a crack team of rapid-response content marketers who can churn out high-quality content at a moment’s notice!
The best time to newsjack is right when the story itself has gotten buzz, but before the articles have started coming out with the second wave of additional information. That way, people will be aware of the story you’re newsjacking, and your content will come out right around the time that the story gets an extra shot of relevance brought by the second wave of news.
Choose Your News
Not every news story is appropriate for newsjacking, and trying to make content out of it will probably end in failure. Certainly don’t try to newsjack a school shooting or a celebrity funeral, or that will be the end of your brand. Even on a lighter note, some stories just won’t be a right fit for your brand. Determine what works naturally and what doesn’t, and use that to your advantage,
An interesting side effect of doing a lot of newsjacking is that your brand might become well-known for it. You can use this image to your advantage to expand the kinds of news stories that are available for you to newsjack.
Automate Your Newsjacking
Newsjacking requires a rather intense trend-following regimen that is time-consuming and effort-heavy, and no matter how hard you work, sometimes things might slip through the cracks. Consider automating the process with a tool that allows you to search keywords across your niche, such as Zag’s very own News Rider app.
Amplify Proven Winners
If you have some seriously high-performing content from the past, or an evergreen work like an infographic that promotes a whole lot of engagement and conversion, then you can keep leveraging this content by mentioning it and linking back to it in your new content.
By funneling readers back to your proven “old” work, you can reuse the power of this high-performing content to build growth.
Of course, this means discovering and remembering high-performing content, if you haven’t already started recording it for future reference. This can prove unwieldy if done manually, so consider automating it with a tool like Zag’s First Impressions app, which can help you discover your historically best-performing content and allow you to leverage it alongside your new content!
Growth drivers are a wide and varied bunch, and you can’t target them all without a lot of manpower – or automation tools involved in the process.
With these growth hacks, though, you get a fighting chance at boosting your leads by getting unique insights into what your audience is talking about, and what would really engage them the most. Try these out, and when you’re ready to smarten up your growth, check out some of Zag’s apps to eliminate the guesswork!