Content Strategy Lessons from the Fortune 500

A business doesn’t make it to the top of the heap without trial and error, growing pains, and evolution. So, it only makes sense that, when we want tips on how to grow our own businesses, we look to those that have already forged a path to success. Take content strategy, for example. Modern day companies that continue to thrive and grow have already learned how best to capitalise on web content. Smaller businesses need to look no further than the Fortune 500 companies to find tips and inspiration on how they, too, can develop a successful content strategy.

Spotlight on Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola is an excellent example of a company that gets its content strategy right. Falling in line only behind Apple and Google (two companies that have content strategy built into their DNA), Coca-Cola ranks as the world’s third largest global brand. As such, it doesn’t need to worry about building an audience. But, just as with other successful multinational entities, Coca-Cola does need to worry about retaining its audience if it wants to stay at the top of the pack.

So, how do Coca-Cola and other Fortune 500 companies maintain a high online profile through their content strategies? Many, including Coca-Cola, utilise a mix of tactics, including the use of social media sites, to gain and keep followers. Here are a few highlights.

Profile Your Customers

Without trying to get too personal with their customer base, big businesses glean as much information about their target audiences as possible. They create mock profiles that include gender, age, location, interests, and other bits of information, depending on the industry. The information obtained is then used to help inform their content strategy by guiding the business in planning what type of content would appeal most to their customers.

Direct engagement

Once the businesses have their profiles in place, they begin to create their content strategy. Not every bit of strategy involves arduous hours of brainstorming, however. For example, using Twitter, Coca-Cola tracks and replies to mentions. It’s a simple method of providing customer service and acknowledgement, while adding Twitter content and remaining active on the site. Smaller companies can use this form of acknowledgement to build customer loyalty and a Twitter following as well.

Another form of direct engagement used by many top tier companies involves the use of outreach in the way of surveys. Their customers gain a sense of belonging (strengthening their brand loyalty), and the company receives valuable feedback from its customers regarding their likes, dislikes and interests. The company can then use that information when planning future content.

Guiding the User

A tried-and-true tactic employed by big business, particularly as it is related to website layout, is that they try to anticipate the intent of their site visitors. If it’s a retail store, such as Walmart (number one on the Fortune 500 list), it will have a drop down or readily displayed menu on its home page that allows customers to easily access the department they want.

Number two on the list is ExxonMobil. They obviously aren’t a retailer, so, having profiled their customers, ExxonMobil has tailored its website’s home page to include drop down menus for subjects, including energy, engineering, current news, and the environment.

The goal in anticipating the need is to make it as easy as possible for clients and customers to navigate the website for relevant content, products and services. That makes it a more pleasant user experience and the customer goes away with a positive view of the business. It also reduces the bounce rate while increasing the time spent on the site overall.

Take the Plunge

Big business isn’t afraid to try out new types of content and sites. The myriad different types of social media sites is a perfect example. Going full circle back to the Coca-Cola example, they are fearless when it comes to ‘trying it on for size’. As a result, they have 2.7M Twitter followers, over 330K on Instagram, and in excess of 89M likes on Facebook. Those numbers don’t break any records, but they make an excellent argument in favour of using social media as a key content and outreach tool. The method Coca-Cola uses to integrate their websites and social media accounts through quality, shareable content (photos, videos, blogs) is emulated by countless other businesses, big and small.

Utilise Analytics

Even big business needs a road map. They invest a lot of money and other resources into getting their content strategy right, so they protect that multi-tiered investment by keeping tabs on its success. Using the results, they are then able to assess what’s working and what’s not. The information acquired from analytics includes such significant numbers as the bounce and conversion rates, and how much time customers are spending on each page of content. That information is then used to determine whether a particular piece of content should be modified or deleted altogether.

You may already be actively using many of the examples listed here, but perhaps you’re not reaching your goals as quickly as you’d like. If that is the case, re-evaluate your customer profile or ask your customers directly about their likes and dislikes. You can do this either through the use of surveys, or by reviewing the comment threads (which you should be doing – and responding to – already). If that doesn’t provide you with satisfactory answers, dig deeper into your analytics and modify your content accordingly.

Remember that companies listed in the Fortune 500 didn’t build themselves up overnight. It takes years, and sometimes decades, to achieve such stellar success. So, if you are confident in your customer profiles, and your analytics tells you that you are on the right track, just have patience with the process. If you’re following the same content strategy path as the multinational entities that populate the Fortune 500 list, it’s only a matter of time before you start seeing your business move its way toward the top of the heap.