Become a Content Marketer: 7 Serious Skills to Conquer!

Author Zara Burke

Content marketing is one of the most in demand skills of the year. And its influence just keeps on growing. According to a recent survey conducted by SkilledUp, 50% of businesses plan to increase their content marketing spend by 2015, and yet 34% claimed they had a difficult time finding job candidates with content marketing skills.

That’s where you come in – with your editor’s eye, journalist’s ear and novelists’ heart. We reveal the top 8 content marketing skills to conquer to help get you started in an exciting industry begging and battling for talent. Counter-offer anyone?

1. You Have a Passionate Voice

Passion is one thing that you simply cannot fake. And unfortunately, passion is one of those things that can make or break your content. That’s because your readers can tell when you’re faking it. They can tell when you don’t care when you don’t believe your own words, when you wouldn’t take your own advice.

Here’s the thing: your passion is contagious. It inspires your readers to care, to get invested in your story, to feel a little closer to your brand. Your audience will start to feel what you feel and believe what you believe. Cultivate your voice carefully and lace it with passion – write with excitement and authentic enthusiasm. Use humour and don’t be scared to show that you’re having a good time. Because that’s the only way to shake your customers into action.

Top Tip: Do the world a favour and only write what you’re passionate about. Yes, that might mean being a little pickier about the jobs you accept. But it also means that you never have to fake your enthusiasm and passion.

Before you begin looking for jobs, make three lists: 1. things you’d love to write about. 2. things you wouldn’t mind writing about. and 3. things you’d hate to write about. Let this list guide your job search and allow you to remain true to your inner content marketer.

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2. You Have the Eye of an Editor

Every content marketer should be an expert editor. But it’s not just grammar and typos you should look out for. When creating a blog post, for example, it’s important to understand how your readers consume content online. You can then edit your content accordingly.

When editing your content consider the importance of creating snackable pieces that can be easily scanned and consumed on the move. This doesn’t mean you should move away from in-depth articles that add value for your audience – rather that you should learn how to break up your articles into bite-sized chunks of brilliance.

Top Tip: When you have finished writing your article, re-read it and look for fresh opportunities to add bullet points, insert additional images, include subheadings and break up paragraphs. Before publishing, think: How can I make this more readable, more scannable, more inviting? How can I make it less effort to read?

3. And the Heart of an Empathiser

The ability to understand and empathise with your target audience is arguably one of the most important skills you can develop as a content marketer. That’s because if you can get to the heart of what motivates people you can understand what makes them click, what gets them excited and what compels them to take action.

And it affects everything – from increasing your conversions to creating more compelling and clickable subject lines and creating a better user experience on your website. How your customers think and feel should inform every element of your content strategy from your KPIs and your topics to your distribution methods, tone and language.

Top Tip: You can only truly empathise with your audience when you seek to understand. Get to the heart of your customers wants and desires by creating well-defined personas and fully-fleshed out personas. Include these personas within your content strategy and consistently refer back to them when creating your content calendar, at the start of each fresh post and during your content brainstorming sessions.

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4. You are a Ruthless Researcher

As a content marketer it is essential to continuously seek ways to add value to your consumers’ lives. And there’s no better way to add rich and valuable insights than conducting some well-thought-out, carefully planned and thorough research.

Research is how you find those juicy links packed full of vital stats that support your claims, back up your arguments and add further value to your customers’ lives. For example, if you’re creating a how-to article but don’t have enough space to go into further detail on a specific facet you can link to an external blog article detailing the next steps your audience should take.

Top Tip: Create two spreadsheets – one for your favourite industry blogs and one for useful stats you stumble upon during your research sessions or simply when you’re reading up on industry news. These spreadsheets will be your research source of inspiration. Before you create a new blog post, for example, check your stats sheet to see if you have any surveys or figures to back up your statements.

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5. You Understand SEO & Inbound

To ensure your content gets found and ranked higher in search engines you will need to grab a firm grasp of SEO and inbound marketing. It is vital, for example to understand the significance of building relationships with key, powerful industry influencers to ensure your content amplifies its reach and captures a relevant and engaged audience.

You will need to learn how to write relevant, concise and targeted meta descriptions and meta tags and understand the significance of headings, unique URLs and subheadings. And although you will most certainly keep track of each new Google algorithm update you’ll never lose sight of this fact: you’re writing for people, not search engines. You will remember always: it’s users first to get found.

Top Tip: Whether you’re working for a big brand with a meaty content distribution budget or a smaller business with none at all, learning how to identify and connect with industry influencers is one of the most important things you can do to significantly propel your content’s reach.

Use a tool like BuzzSumo to help you identify influential experts to reach out to, ask for opinions and get help sharing your content. Read this article: ‘Influencer Cheat Sheet: How to Connect, Engage With and Get What You Want’ to find out how to build and run a successful influencers’ outreach programme based on building and nurturing mutually beneficial relationships.

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6. You’re a Social Media Superstar

Being a content marketer isn’t all about creating killer content. You also need to learn how to effectively distribute your content to ensure it achieves the maximum and most relevant reach possible. This means you need to understand how to grow and cultivate your social media following – how to keep your fans and followers engaged through well-timed and personal posts designed to capture their attention and add value to their daily lives.

Learn how to promote your posts, presentations and videos organically and through paid social media and native ads that appear in your users’ streams. Like search, social media algorithms change frequently – this is because the social giants understand the importance of keeping up with the demanding needs of consumers. Stay clued into changing algorithms as they can have a significant impact on your organic reach.

Top Tip: If you learn one thing from social media, learn how to listen. You will need to monitor online conversations in real time and respond to your fans in a timely and effective manner using a social media management tool like Hootsuite. Read this post; ‘Why Your Brand Should Shut Up & Start Social Listening’ to learn how to master the art of social listening and discover the importance of asking your customers what they want through social surveys and carefully-constructed questions.

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7. You’re Not Afraid of Analytics

Why do numbers so often terrify you creative types? Perhaps it’s because you often forget their power. A solid knowledge of Google Analytics brings a strength of its own – you don’t have to wait for your boss to tell you what’s working. Instead, you can delve deep into your own findings and check what’s performing well and what needs to be improved. You can investigate the types of content your readers are responding to and what they simply don’t like.

Get smart and only learn what you need to know for content marketing. For example, it’s important to know how to measure your page views, social referrals and conversions. At the start of your strategy you should set out measurable KPIs that address your content marketing and business’ objectives. These will determine which Google Analytics paths you need to master.3

Top Tip: Invest in a content analysis tool like BuzzSumo that removes a lot of the manual labour involved in deriving insights from Google Analytics. By simply entering your blog’s domain you can look at a series of content analysis stats displayed in a beautiful dashboard. You’ll learn how many social shares on average your posts receive, receive a breakdown of your best performing social media channels in terms of shares, discover your best performing blog topics and much more.

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3 Tips Every Content Writer Should Know – from Content Marketing World 2014
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Zara Burke