Clueless- How I Fell Into Lean Content Marketing

I fell into lean content marketing before I even knew what it was. Have you ever heard the saying that necessity is the mother of invention? It was my need for results on a shoestring that led me into what I now know as content marketing.
I wanted to start an online ministry to let people know about God’s love. I could not put a lot of money into my labor of love. Although I have maintained a specialty,niche blog for many years, I wanted a greater reach so my message would get to a  broader and larger group of people. Should I write an e-book? Work on a video series of devotionals and post them on YouTube? Write a physical book and self-publish it?
Not exactly sure where to begin, I did realize that social media seemed to be everywhere and I found myself personally enjoying and benefiting from the knowledge and connections I made there. I also revitalized my blog using social media. I was hooked and decided to re-open my Facebook account I had closed some years ago when my children were younger.
Once I got back on Facebook, I had the idea of reaching people with my message with this tool I had never heard of but quickly learned about, a Facebook Fan Page. As I made connections and re-connections with friends on Facebook, I began to notice inspirational quote images in my newsfeed that I often shared with in my Newsfeed. As I traced these images to their origin, I saw they came from the Facebook Pages. So my idea to begin sharing my content about God’s love with the world through Facebook began.
I created a Facebook Page, decided on the name “Encourager Mom”, and began writing short devotionals to inspire anyone who would listen. I made good use of the “Share this Page with Friends” feature to get started. I quickly learned to use Facebook’s Page analytics to study who was coming to my Page and which posts they liked the best. Although my written posts were sometimes engaged on, I saw that posts with images were the most engaged, generally (there were exceptions). Could I create quote images like the ones I liked and shared from other Pages?
Although my husband is a photographer and we own Photoshop, I could not see myself taking the time needed to learn to use Photoshop and to create multiple images per day to post on my Facebook Page. But, I found amazing Photoshop alternatives that made creating lots of images fun and easy. And the best part of all, most of them were on my iPhone! I could efficiently create numerous photos with text that aligned perfectly with my mission statement. Best of all, I learned that I could schedule posts on my Facebook Page so that even when I was not available, I could consistently send out encouraging messages to the growing list of Encourager Mom fans. In just a couple of short months, I topped 1,000 fans and this continued to grow steadily. As I read about the demise of organic reach on Facebook, my posts were being seen by hundreds because they were widely shared.
Without realizing it, I had discovered and acted on the basic principles of lean content marketing:
What I learned about lean content marketing with social media from starting with no audience to grow to thousands of fans on Facebook:
  • First, discover your purpose and your passion. Why is it important for you to reach others? How important is it to you? This will set the tone of your work and enable to persevere through any hardships to get your message delivered to the right people. It will make you keep trying until you succeed at reaching those you feel are most important.
  • Find one social media platform to start with and just start! No need trying to spend weeks or months deciding on a “business plan”. Your business plan will fall into place as you discover what your target audience is looking for, where they are and how you can help them.
  • Get ready to fail quickly. I learned fast that generic “You can do it” quote images or popular images shared from other sites did not work for my audience. They wanted to hear specifically about God and God’s love. When I posted unpopular images or text, I learned not to repeat but to create more of what my audience liked. No sense in getting down about failed content or spending a lot of time analyzing it, just move on.
  • You can not grow your audience unless you know your audience. And you have to keep getting to know them over time, not only studying analytics regularly but conversing with your audience as much as possible. Get their feedback by asking for it. I invited my fans to submit prayer requests to let me know what was going on in their lives. This helped me realize the struggles my Page viewers were struggling with.
  • Use the lean concept of a minimum viable product to choose what content to share initially. In a software startup, the minimum viable product may  be a software still in beta testing (or worse). When applied to content marketing and social media, it means beginning to post easy-to-create content, usually based on the tools and personal skills you have available or resources that are readily available to you. This allows you to quickly and frequently post content so that response can be monitored and changes can quickly be made. For example, instead of spending weeks to have professionally produced videos made that may not catch the attention of your target market, quickly produce video content using off-the-shelf technology and test the initial response before moving forward. In the lean conceptualization of the content creating process, this causes a focus on maximum value for the consumer by developing wanted, desired goods in the least amount of time to reach the target most efficiently.
  • Use the lean concept of pivoting to refine your content marketing and social media strategy. A pivot is a course correction that may be needed as you develop your business concept. I initially viewed my project as a blog. I had been a blogger for years and enjoyed some success in that platform. So my social media efforts were just a beginning along my primary goal of an Encourager Mom blog. So after my social media success,  I started the blog. Very few people came. (So much for “If we build it, they will come.) My blog posts that I shared on the Encourager Mom Facebook Page almost never got shared despite having the same content. Yes, I tested this. I could not get blog visitors to comment or share posts. it was distracting for me to create and maintain the blog though I did outsource part of this. I had to re-assess my goal of turning Encourager Mom into a blog destination and determine a new course. I shut down the blog and started a simple, template-based website where I hosted articles, videos and printable prayers as well as prominent links to the Encourager Mom social media content. I then continued to put most of my emphasis on growing my social media platform and email list via those platforms.
  • Iterative changes in content marketing and social media involve editing your content to better reach your audience’s needs. These will be smaller changes than pivoting, quickly put before the audience for testing, For example, you may find that long-form content performs better than short form for your audience. Examine the topics that seem to most resonate with your fans and work to incorporate more of that in your content.
With a lean outlook in content marketing and social media, you too can have success in your small business starting with very little.
As others noted my success with my Encourager Mom social media profiles, I was asked for advice. So my Victoria Social Media business was born. As I began to work with others focused on increasing their success at social media, I realized how difficult it was to help others who did not have good content. My efforts worked best when I personally created or curated quality content for the niche to be reached. Otherwise, I could only be of limited help. Again, this was before I had heard the term “content marketing”. I just knew that a business had to offer something of value on to social media channel visitors for them to share, engage or return.
I saw first-hand the importance of good content in growing a business using social media.
Although I had long been a social media enthusiast, only more recently did I learn about the concept of “content marketing”. I happened to be in the right place at the right time: Cleveland, Ohio at the time of the Content Marketing World Conference here. I was told by two separate people, only days apart, about the field that may be of interest to me because of my social media business. One of those people was my husband- thanks Sam!
When I learned of lean start-up principles some months later, the terms and concepts resonated with me as a serial entrepreneur. I could look back at my successes and failures and see how the presence or absence of lean techniques impacted my journey. Raising very entrepreneurial kids, I knew the lean concepts were ones I wanted to learn, incorporate into my own businesses and teach to my children as they prepare to launch their own ventures.
When I saw how lean principles combined with a sound content marketing and social media strategy helped me and many others start businesses from nothing, I wanted to teach potential business owners how to do the same. Letting go of outdated, costly, time and labor-intensive methods of starting a small business could vastly lower the barriers of entry for anyone wanting to become an entrepreneur. And that is a movement I want to be a part of building.
Posted in Articles, Lean Content Marketing.