Today’s guest post is written by Hilary Marsh. 

For your content marketing, you may be wondering what topics to focus on for your website’s home page, as the centerpiece and subject line of your e-newsletter, highlights on Facebook or Twitter, or for your next white paper or blog post.

To find the answer, consider yourself a DJ for your content.

What content will you play for your audience today? How will you mix it up so it’s new and fresh while not overly unusual? How will you know how much they like it?

Think of social media as your club floor, your blog as the radio, and your website as a wedding.

As a content DJ, you’ll want to do a mix of things:

  1. Play the favorites: Give the audience what it wants, whether it’s a series of posts on the most popular topics or reprinting popular posts from the last month or last year at the same time.
  2. Mix it up/add remakes: Reference or link to previous posts that make your point or other posts.
  3. Add in the new: This is where you show brand-new ideas and original perspectives.

In social media, you might want to devote a higher proportion of your promotions to new or experimental content, while on your blog you’ll focus on the mix and feature the most popular content on your website.

Start by identifying the “favorites. 

  1. Analyze the most-read topics over the past year using:
    • Google trends.
    • Analytics for your website, blogs, and social media channels.
    • The actions people take as a result of reading your material – call you, download a white paper, purchase your product, register for an event, etc.
  2. Look for patterns of usage – weekdays vs. weekends, time of day, monthly or seasonal.
  3. Weed out the one-time items – content spikes because of an event or situation that isn’t likely to recur.
  4. List the remaining topics in order of popularity. It’s likely there will be a small number at the top and then a long tail of others. The top topics are the favorites.

Will the audience get bored reading about this small set of topics frequently? Quite the contrary – audiences want to go deeper into the subjects that interest them the most. And there are so many ways to examine the same topics from different angles and different levels of specificity, using real-life stories, checklists, roundups, etc.

Music DJs, too, get bored by playing Kool & the Gang’s “Celebrate” at every wedding, Lady Gaga at the club, and “Somebody That I Used to Know” from Gotye on the radio. However, those are exactly what audiences want to hear most often right now.

That’s where the mix-it-up and the new elements/topics come in. While people do enjoy familiar territory, they also want to be surprised and learn new information.

Radio station program directors, who compile station playlists, make their decisions about what to add or remove based on what songs are being played on other similar stations (particularly what’s just getting started on smaller stations), what people are buying or downloading on peer-to-peer networks, and what audiences respond best to in surveys and focus groups.

These lessons can help you manage digital channels effectively.

  • Create “content playlists” for your website, e-newsletter, blog, and social media.
  • Put the popular topics into heavy rotation, the perennial favorites into medium rotation, and the emerging topics into light rotation.
  • Promote the emerging topics with the most popular content, and then evaluate whether it’s an emerging hit or something that should go into the clearance bin quickly.

What are your heavy rotation topics? How have you kept them both fresh and top-of-mind for your audiences? How do you introduce new topics and assess your customers’ interest? How do you evolve your priorities?

These are all part of a larger content strategy I will be discussing in the upcoming Spin Sucks Pro webinar on Thursday, May 31 at 11 am CT and at  Content Jam: The Secrets of Content Marketing, a one-day conference in Chicago on June 14.

Hilary Marsh is chief content and digital strategist at Content Company, a Chicago-based digital consultancy that works with associations, real estate firms, nonprofits, and corporations. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Slideshare.