I was hired to do product marketing, not content marketing. On my first day at DNN, we were two months away from a rebrand, a website redesign and a new product launch. It was an exciting time to join.
Around the time of this launch, our target customer shifted from web developers to business users. To attract new customers, we first needed to make them aware of us. That naturally led to the start of content marketing at DNN.
In this post, I’ll take you through my typical content marketing day. I'll detail particular tasks, including how long they take.
1) Early Morning
I start each day with coffee and content. I’ll consume content while sipping coffee and waking up. Lately, I’ve been reading books in the morning. It’s hard for me to fit in book-reading time, but early mornings work well. I’m currently reading "Impossible to Ignore: Creating Memorable Content to Influence Decisions" by Dr. Carmen Simon.
Image: I'm a member of several tribes on a neat service called Triberr.
Other times, I'll read articles I had saved away. I'll check my "Notifications" on Twitter and scan the Twitter timeline for interesting news or tweets. I'll then head over to Triberr, a platform where bloggers can join "tribes" and share each other’s posts. I’ll look for interesting posts, then schedule them to share on Twitter. More on how I manage my Twitter sharing later.
Image: Some of the podcasts I subscribe to.
To get ready for work, I’ll switch to podcasts. I use the "Podcasts" app on my iPhone and subscribe to podcasts about marketing, business and sports. I first check the "Unplayed" list for podcasts published in the past day.
If there’s nothing new, I’ll switch to the "My Podcasts" tab and look for episodes I may have missed. See my related article on why content marketers need to start their own podcast.
Before I head into the office, I'll check my phone for two things: my calendar, to see what meetings I have scheduled that day, and my inbox, to see if I have messages that require immediate attention.
Takeaway: You can get a lot done before arriving in the office.
Total time: 35 minutes reading, 10 minutes on Twitter and Triberr, 15 minutes on podcasts.
2) Arrive at Office, Check Email
I like to get email housecleaning done when I arrive in the office. I try to keep my inbox at 10 messages or less. I use the inbox as a todo list of sorts: messages requiring follow-up stay in the inbox, while everything else gets filed away.
During the housecleaning process, I focus on deleting messages and filing away others. If there's a long email thread, I'll file the latest reply, since it has the full history of the thread within it. I'll reply to emails as needed and if there are quick tasks I can complete, I'll take care of them.
Remove Email Interruptions
Last year, I implemented an Email Rule in Outlook that increased my focus and saved me time. I subscribe to 25+ email newsletters. Whenever a newsletter would arrive, I’d get sucked into the "incoming email distraction zone."
Outlook flashes a new email notification in the task tray. I can't resist the curiosity, so I stop what I'm doing and head to my inbox to read it. Before long, I've forgotten what I was working on. Context switching like this costs time and productivity. It's hard to focus back on what I was doing before the email arrived.
I created an Email Rule that moves all newsletters to my "Newsletters" folder. The rule is based on the sender's address. This keeps my inbox clean. Then, when I have 30+ minutes to spare, I'll read my newsletters in one sitting. I try to read newsletters once a day, but sometimes it's every other day.
Takeaway: Improve productivity by making email less interrupt-driven.
Total time: 40 minutes for the morning email check-in, 35 minutes for reading newsletters (later in the day).
3) Attend a Weekly Sales/Marketing Meeting
While I'd love to read and write content all day long, meetings are necessary. In fact, meetings can provide inspiration for new content. I might hear sales reps mention questions asked by their clients and think, "that’s a great topic for a new blog post."
We have a weekly Sales and Marketing meeting, in which Sales reviews the pipeline, while Marketing details active campaigns and programs. I like to be fully present during meetings, so I bring two things with me: a notepad and pen.
If action items arise during the meeting (i.e. whether they're assigned to me or I identify an action I need to take), I'll write an asterisk next to that item. When I return to my desk, I scan for the asterisks and determine whether to take care of action items right then or later. If later, I'll record those tasks in Outlook, so that I don’t forget them.
Takeaway: Meetings can provide inspiration for your content marketing.
Total time: 90 minutes for the meeting, which takes place once a week.
4) Plan a New Blog Post
Great content is not created by sitting down at the keyboard and hammering away. Instead, it’s conceived before the first word is written. See my related post about thinking first and writing later.
If a blog post takes me four hours to write, I'll often spend one hour planning it and three hours writing. I'll conceive the plan on pen and paper, outlining things like:
User personas (whom am I writing for?)
I'll then write numbers next to the main topics, which dictate the order in which I cover them. My plan for this post looked like this:
I rarely plan and write a post in the same day. Instead, it's a few days (or a week) between the time I plan the post and when it's written and published. In the meantime, I'm constantly thinking about the post and how to make it better.
I think like a reporter who's working a big story: what elements can I add and what new angles can I cover? If I come up with new things, I’ll write them into my planning sheet.
I write my posts in Microsoft Word. When I’m done with a first draft, I'll print it out, then do copyediting by writing on it. I'll then return to my Word document and apply all of the changes. Here's how the first draft looked for this post:
Takeaway: Great blog posts are created before the first word is written.
Total time: 45 minutes for the planning, though the process continues over the next several days.
5) Select Content for Later Reading
My own writing is informed and inspired by reading the works of others. I'll spend chunks of the work day looking for interesting content, which I'll read later. I subscribe to nearly 100 websites via a news aggregator called Feedly. Here are the different categories I use to organize my feeds:
Image: I group my blog subscriptions into top-level categories.
Here’s my Feedly workflow:
- Decide on a category
- Proceed through the list of unread articles from each site
- Scan the headlines. For interesting ones, open the page in a new browser tab
- Skim the article and decide whether it's worth reading
- If worth reading, copy the text into notepad, then paste it into a Google Drive document
- Alternatively, if images are important to the article, paste it into Word
I rarely read full articles during this process. Instead, I'm looking for great content to read later. 90% of the content I read is via the Google Drive app on my iPhone. Because I pasted the original article into notepad, the images and formatting are gone and all I have left are the words. That’s the way I like it.
Of course, there are posts in which images (e.g. screenshots) are an essential element. For those, I’ll read from the Word document or send it to the printer. Here are some of the subscriptions in my Content Marketing category:
Special Tip: Nuzzel
Sometimes, I'll scan Feedly and after 45 minutes, not have a single article saved for later reading. It’s not a complete waste of time, however, since I get to see titles and topics of articles published by other content marketers.
If I need a quick hit of useful articles, I’ll visit Nuzzel:
Image: The Nuzzel front page.
I follow close to 8,000 users on Twitter, so I do a lot of scanning in order to find a useful article or two. Nuzzel makes it easy: it connects to my Twitter account and identifies the most shared content from the people I’m following.
From Nuzzel's front page, I often save over half of the articles for later reading. Nuzzel is available via web, iOS app and Android app. Give it a try. Also, feel free to visit my public Nuzzel feed.
Takeaway: Find useful articles via manual selection, but use tools to complement your discovery.
Total time: 45 minutes for selecting content.
6) Publish a Blog Post
As I mentioned, I’ll rarely plan, write and publish a blog post in the same day. I will, however, format and publish a post submitted by one of my colleagues.
As a first step, I'll review the post and confirm whether it aligns with the topic and theme I had in mind. I don’t accept blind submissions; instead, we'll agree on the topic, title and details ahead of time. If the submitted post doesn’t hit the mark, I'll schedule a call to provide feedback.
Next, I’ll do some light copyediting on the submission. Recently, I read Ann Handley’s book "Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content." Ann’s book helped me simplify my writing. I also try to simplify the posts submitted by colleagues.
As I prepare the post in DNN's CMS, I'll already have requested images from my designer. Every blog post includes these:
- 800x300 header image
- 150x150 thumbnail image
- 500x250 for Twitter sharing
- 1200x900 for Facebook sharing
After I’ve prepared the post in our CMS, I'll re-read the post and add internal links to any relevant phrases. Lately, I’ve noticed some blogs go overboard, adding internal links to just about any phrase they can. So I'll insert an internal link when it’s relevant, but I don’t overdo it.
I’ll perform several addition steps before publishing, which I cover in this pre-publishing checklist I previously published.
Takeaway: Ensure that essential steps are completed before publishing your posts.
Total time: 60 minutes to publish a single post.
7) Schedule Posts for Social Sharing
Friends and colleagues think I'm on social media 24x7. While that's not the case, I use this combination to give the impression that I am:
- Schedule posts via Buffer
- Access social media apps on my phone
I use Buffer to manage scheduled posts for @dshiao and @DNNCorp on Twitter. For my personal account, I have posting schedules set up for:
- Monday through Thursday (20 shares/day)
- Friday’s (8 shares/day)
- Weekends (13 shares/day)
I have a separate schedule on Friday's because I see lower engagement from late morning Friday onward.
Image: The Buffer schedule for tweets from @dshiao.
For @DNNCorp on Twitter, I have a simpler schedule: we share 12 times per day for each day of the week.
To schedule posts for sharing, 33% of posts are brand new, while 67% are repeats. The brand new posts are based on content I find interesting. I make sure that I first read articles that I share. I need to understand the entire piece before I decide whether it’s share-worthy. We’re putting our reputation on the line with each and every piece of content we share.
You can read more about my thoughts on content curation in this CMSWire piece.
My target audience isn’t on Twitter all the time. So they may not see my 4pm tweet, but if I repeat it at 11pm, they may. So that’s why I’ll repeat tweets. I'll use Buffer’s analytics to spot popular tweets and choose those for repeating:
Image: Buffer analytics for a tweet that received high engagement.
Alternatively, I'll look for posts that I think my audience would find interesting, even if they’re getting low engagement. Sometimes when I re-share these, it sparks engagement, while other times, they continue to fall flat. I'll keep trying anyway.
Read this related post on how the Denver Broncos manage social media via Buffer.
Engaging with Your Audience
With the volume of posts scheduled, it’s likely that we'll receive likes, retweets, comments and questions. It’s important to engage with the audience. They'll appreciate the interaction and be more likely to share our content in the future.
While at my desk, I'll check Twitter notifications via browser. And while out and about, I stay connected via the Twitter app on my phone. Engaging with our audience includes:
- Thanking people for sharing our content
- Liking a tweet that links to our content
- Thanking for retweets (though I only do this occasionally)
- Responding to questions
- Responding to comments
- Thanking or commenting for a mention
Takeaway: It’s OK to automate your social sharing, so long as you're available when your audience engages with it.
Total time: 60 minutes to schedule posts and engage with our audience.
Why I Love My Job
Reading, writing, curating, sharing and engaging. I enjoy these activities and will continue to do them whether employed or retired. I’ll also engage in these activities during all hours of the day: when I wake up, while at work, during late nights and on weekends.
While some of these activities are directly related to my job at DNN, other activities I do simply because I enjoy them. So I may give the impression that I'm working all the time, but I’m really not. Or at least it doesn't feel that way.
Time to Write This Post
Here’s how much time I spent to create this post:
Planning and outline: 1 hour
Related research: 30 minutes
Writing: 3 hours
Sourcing and cropping images: 1 hour
Preparing the post in our CMS: 1 hour
Total time: 6.5 hours
Here's an example of a piece of content marketing we produced. Hat tip to the team at Ethos3 for the slide design.
10 Quick Tips for More Effective Content Marketing from DNN