Pinterest for content marketing (someecard)If there’s one thing you take away from today’s post on content marketing, please let it be this: just because you build it, doesn’t mean they’ll come.

Content Marketing: a scenario

Scene: your client is super-excited about its new content marketing program (that you’ve been hired to design, and implement). You’re super-excited too – content, new client, money… what’s not to love?

So you put it together. You spent the first few months creating great blog content (in your opinion, and let’s assume, for the sake of argument, your opinion is spot on). Then you started distributing said content through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest… maybe other platforms as well. But three or four months down the road, your client is unhappy with the lack of shares and “engagement.”

Aaaahhh!!! What gives? Are they crazy and overly-demanding? Or is there something you’re not doing… or, worse yet, does your plan suck?

My guess is: a bit of both, without the extremes. Your client probably isn’t crazy, but perhaps a little under-educated on how all this works (which is why they hired you, you’re the expert). And your plan probably doesn’t suck, because you are smart. But you’re probably not approaching content marketing the social PR way.

And that, my friends, is the difference. You may have created great content, and you may have a good distribution plan, but shares and engagement are unlikely to come unless you have also focused on community building.

Any content marketing plan is incomplete if it doesn’t account for mechanisms to draw people in, as opposed to simply pushing the content out.

Here are four ways to do this, and we’ll start with the easiest first.

1. Play the “help me please” card, with your personal network.

Word to the wise: do this sparingly. It didn’t seem to matter as much a few years ago, and I don’t think people have become inherently unhelpful since social took off. But now, the sheer volume of content out there, not to mention individuals becoming well aware of their personal influence, means that every such request runs the risk of being pesky at best, and rude at worst.

If you have good relationships with folks who don’t mind helping with shares, by all means, reach to them. Just remember to say “thank you” and reciprocate when asked (h/t Betsy Decillis).

2. Automation and tools.

Mechanisms like Triberr (which I’ve written about before, and which I still use… sparingly) often work from the reach point of view, but usually not much else. But if you’re looking for sheer reach and shares, definitely check them out.

In addition, dynamic comment systems like Livefyre (which is what we have here on WUL) can integrate shares/comments from Twitter & Facebook. Every time you reply to a tweet sharing a blog post link, for example, Livefyre counts it as a comment.

You can also set up recipes in IFTTT to reply to tweets, and so on. But I will tell you – as I always do – please be smart about how you use tools, because they can really backfire.

For example, you know how, a while back, I used to say “good morning” on Twitter every day? Well, I’ve noticed some people automating similar greetings through IFTTT. I’d even toyed with the idea of doing it myself, but my visceral reaction to these folks was, “What? You can’t even say ‘good morning’ in person?” So I didn’t. And everyone who’s doing it: Please. Stop. It.

Translate this to the corporate plane, and the visceral reaction will still occur. If people start to think everything about your client is automated, they probably won’t like it.

3. Smart, active engagement.

This (and #4) is where I’d put my money first, if I were you, and only then go to #2, and then #1.

This means looking for the right places and conversations in which to participate (e.g. Twitter chats). Engaging with others without looking for something right off the bat. Commenting on blogs published by the kinds of people you hope will come over and comment on your blog. Looking for guest post opportunities. Etc. etc. etc.

4. S.E.O.

All your content isn’t worth a dime if it’s not also optimized – in as human a way as possible – for search engines. Here’s a post Sean McGinnis wrote a while back on using keywords to do this. Also this from Shelly Kramer on how to write blog headlines people will actually click on (and who reminded me that SEO’s really important as well, when it comes to content marketing).

Now, all these elements have to play together nicely, for your program to work well. Remember that Google’s bringing tweets back into search results, and on Tuesday, its new mobile-friendly approach goes into effect.

This means that if, as you’re working on your content marketing plan, you’re not also thinking of mechanisms to get people to engage with that content, and make it accessible and “engageable” (if that wasn’t already a word, it just became one) from mobile devices, you’re toast. Or soon will be, as far as The Goog is concerned.

In a nutshell

Pushing out content is all very well, but unless you build a community, there will be limited-to-no engagement with your content. And unless people are engaging with said content, it’s not going any higher in SERPs. And if it doesn’t go higher in SERPs, it’s not going to get shared, or further engagement.

Yup. It’s a loop guaranteed to drive you crazy… until you start putting all these elements into play.

So. You built it.

And while they won’t come just because you did, one thing I promise you: if you reach out, they will come. They may amble, rather than race, but they will come.

Thanks to everyone in the #soloPR community, which is where this question originated, where I first answered it, and without which this definitely wouldn’t have been today’s blog post!