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Before we polish off this two-hit bong of content marketing goodness, I have a question.

I've had a couple of appointments on the last two Fridays, delaying this email by a day, and I noticed something. There was a nice spike in open rates last week and I'm wondering if it was down to sending on a different day or the actual topic. So I've included a little survey here to try and establish which day most of you would prefer to receive this email. I wasn't very scientific when I picked Friday way back in January 2018, and only subsequently realized there are quite a few people in this space doing Friday emails, so your input would be appreciated below.

It's only one question and will take you like ten seconds! 

Note: clicking any of the options will take you to a web-based version of this email where you can continue reading after you vote.

I'm also aware that it could have been something else: the change of pace, focusing on non-advertising topics such as content marketing for a change. If that describes you, just hit reply and type MORE and I'll get that message loud and clear. 

There is a lot more we could dig into in content marketing itself, as well as other non-advertising topics in the world of marketing! I don't plan to stop covering advertising, it's too important these days, but I am curious.

Oh, and because I'm nothing if not a smorgasbord of possibilities, those who DO double-dig all the advertising hokum can get their fix this week over at my blog where I've answered a bunch of reader questions: BookBub Ads - What the FAQ?

CONTENT MARKETING 102

Last week we introduced the concept of content marketing, showed you how it specifically applied to the world of books and authors, and then dramatically revealed how you were probably doing it already even if you didn’t call it that.

Go read that episode in the Email Archive if you missed it.

We wrapped up that email with some suggestions about where authors should focus their time, as content marketing can be quite the time-sink. Blogging, for example, can be particularly time-intensive, but other channels like email and social media can be a more efficient. This should be of particular interest to fiction authors who usually get less out of blogging than non-fiction types.

So… email and social media. As you all know by now, the best way to retain readers is by getting them to sign up to your list. And the best way to keep them engaged over time is to keep in touch at least semi-regularly and make sure you are providing as much value as you can in each interaction.

That value you will be delivering, for the most part, will be content in some form or another.

Over at the other end of this pantomime horse, content marketing can bring you new readers too. I spoke about how to use a content marketing strategy on Facebook in Part 2 of my series on Facebook Ads, so head to the Email Archive to review that. As I said back then, regularly sharing content exclusively enjoyed by your audience is a great way to build your Likes over time.

This approach works for any social platform really, and indeed is the core of building a blog following too, but I think you get more ancillary benefits from pushing that content to Facebook. It’s certainly more efficient as you can share something quickly and easily on Facebook, without any messing around.

But what content exactly? Well, as I warned in that Facebook episode mentioned above, don’t fall into the trap of sharing content a general audience might enjoy. Your memes might be dank, and your cat is most certainly the cutest ever when he does that weird thing with his paws, but what you really want is content that only your target audience enjoys. You don’t want 10,000 people who simply enjoy the very dankest of memes as your Page Likes. It’s much better to have 1,000 people who actually read in your niche.

This means being disciplined. Restrict yourself to a very specific kind of content. Specialist content, if you like. The kind of in-jokes that others outside your audience just don’t get. The type of niche articles that only readers of that sub-genre will care about. True fan stuff.

“BUT WHAT SPECIFICALLY!” you might be screaming at the screen at this point. I think shouting is a little unnecessary, but whatever.

The kind of extras you get with a special edition DVD is a good starting point. In fact, you probably started thinking along those lines when publishing your first book: alternative endings, deleted scenes, side-characters’ backstories, maps, family trees, case files, spaceship schematics, mages' spellbooks, research notes, historical curiosities… really, you are only limited here by your imagination.

Like with many things, you need to put yourself in your reader’s shoes and try to think what kind of extra content they would find enjoyable.

But it’s not just stuff strictly related to your books, characters, or worlds. In fact, that type of thing will only be of interest to people who are already fans. Generally speaking, this category of content often works best by email, as most people on your list will be fans of your work already (or very interested in checking it out and already “warmed up”).

You also need a giant Ball O’Content which will interest prospective fans. Stuff which acts as a giant signal flare saying, “You and me, we’re not so different after all! P.S. I made this thing you might like because we have the same tastes.”

Content that will fit this bracket is one step more general – showing that you are a true fan of this niche. You don’t want to go too general or else you will loop in people who don’t necessarily like the niche you work in, and thus probably won’t be that interested in your work. But you also don’t want to tie it too closely to your specific work as they aren’t fans of that… yet.

For example, if you are a LitRPG author, your target audience will probably be interested in a news article about the forthcoming remaster of the World of Warcraft game. Epic fantasy fans will probably enjoy a meme dumping on the shoddy ending to Game of Thrones. Rabid consumers of time-travel themed historical romance will no doubt enjoy an interview with Diana Gabaldon. Thriller readers will definitely dig that New York Times piece from an English professor who shadowed Lee Child while he wrote his latest book.

You get the idea. More general, but not too general.

This kind of content works particularly well on Facebook (or the appropriate social channel of choice for your target market). It’s not that it doesn’t interest email subscribers, it’s just that it’s particularly good at attracting your target market and filtering out those who aren’t true fans of your niche.

I should note that you are probably doing some or all of this stuff already in one form or another, but there is a lot to be gained by being a little more disciplined about it, and, most important of all, avoiding the common trap of sharing that easy content which is too general, and will attract people outside of your niche.

The benefits can be huge. I’ve spoken before about the crazy difference I’ve seen in email growth and engagement from switching to a system where I regularly communicate with my readers with very focused content. I also see similar benefits on Facebook, where the organic reach of my posts is quite considerable. People regularly complain that the only way any of their Likes see their posts is if they drop a hefty sum in boosts. Whereas I’ll regularly hit 25-50% of my Likes without spending a penny because my engagement rates are so high – and that’s without posting every day or anything like that; I post when I feel like it.

Having a large number of engaged Likes who see your updates without you spending money is a great way to reach super interested readers when you have something important to announce like a new release. Having a huge number of engaged readers on your list who actually received and open (and care for) your emails is even better again, because the cost of reaching those people is so minor compared to the ever-increasing cost of advertising.

It’s not cost-free. It takes time, and sweat, and focus. But if you are looking for ways to reach readers that don’t involve advertising, or if you are looking for ways to augment your advertising efforts, then you should take a deeper look into content marketing… or just try and organize your approach a little better.

We’ve really only scratched the surface of this topic in the most perfunctory way, and there is so much more to it. If you want to hear more about Content Marketing, just reply with the word MORE and I’ll dig into it further in future emails.

Dave

P.S. Writing music this week is by Gillian Welch with the greatest song you'll ever hear about Spotify (not joking!).

David Gaughran

Broomfield Business Park, Malahide, Co. Dublin, Ireland

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