Over the last few years there's been a push to hire copywriters, journalists and editors to play the content marketing game. Why? Because brands need to become publishers, and B2B marketers have to transform into storytellers. And for the handful of brands that pulled it off, the rewards have come by the bucketful. (Thank you SEO and inbound marketing!)

But what about the many B2B companies just starting to sling quality content on a regular basis? Sure, we’re late to the party, but the whole content marketing game still works, right? 

Yes and no.

Compelling content that speaks to the pains, fears and aspirations of your target audience will always move the dial. But the bar has gone up … way up. Every marketer is now contributing to the tsunami of content that’s drowning buyers on a daily basis. So it’s getting harder and harder for your content to get discovered, let alone read.

The bottom line?

You’ll need to level up your content marketing game. Here’s how:

Focus on Growing Your Audience

Becoming a publisher is more than just producing content. It’s also growing a large audience of people interested in reading your content. That means ramping up your opt-in email database, blog subscribers and social channels. Make content offers more accessible and easier to sign up for on your website. Set up a “light box” to capture blog subscribers. Increase your social media activity and follow customers, prospects and influencers. Ask the question: “how can we build a quality audience faster” at every content marketing meeting. Audience growth must be a key goal in 2016.

Craft Awesome Social Content

Don’t make what you post on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook an afterthought. Instead, make it part of your content production process. Convert each blog post, white paper and webinar into multiple social updates and many different tweets. Then schedule and post them on an ongoing “evergreen” basis. 

And just like when crafting content headlines, use benefits, emotion and intrigue to make your social content especially engaging. Being creative will result in more shares, likes, follows, clicks and reads of your brand content.

Get Visual With Your Content

Surprisingly, many B2B marketers still haven’t gotten on the visual content bandwagon. Don’t they realize that a picture is worth a thousand words … especially when buyers are increasingly browsing content on a smart phone? Plus photos and videos are the most shared types of content by decision makers. Not to mention visual media drives more overall engagement on social media. 

Every blog post and white paper needs to include photos, charts, infographics or videos, to get more of your target audience attracted to your brand content.

Make it About Quality, Not Quantity

Enough already with trying to win the content marketing game with volume. You’re just adding to the content crush. And SEO is no excuse, especially since you’re not going to impress anybody when they actually read your content. 

Instead, strive to have something truly insightful, helpful and even controversial, to say from your brand’s unique vantage point. From a practical matter, this means its better to write one really good blog post than three “ho-hum” ones. Like with all great editors, make it about the reader.

Syndicate Your Content

Part of the new content game is publishing brand content where your users are, instead of always trying to lure them to your website and blog. For example, have your executives write bylines for industry publications, and then republish them on the LinkedIn publishing platform. Also, syndicate your thought leadership blog posts on other content platforms such as Medium and Business 2 Community. You may even want to consider creating a “magazine” for your brand content on Flipboard.

Embrace Social Advertising

While organic social media is great, the truth is that it’s diminishing in effectiveness and reach, given all the social noise and the tightening of Facebook’s algorithm. On the other hand, paid social media is improving rapidly for B2B marketers.

These days you can effectively advertise on Facebook (plus Instagram), Twitter and LinkedIn using budget-friendly, self-serve platforms. These social networks offer improving ad targeting capabilities that will get your content in front of business professionals. So don’t spend all your money on content production. Leave some for paid social promotion, too.

Understand What’s Working and Not

What are your top performing blog posts, white papers and webinars? Which ones got the most and the least social shares, reads, conversions … and why? And how are you incorporating this data into next quarter’s content marketing plan? 

Chances are you don’t have the answers to these questions. That’s got to change. Get your weekly and monthly marketing reports updated to reflect content performance. Then start every content planning session with these numbers at your fingertips.

Now It’s Your Turn

What worked best for you in 2015? What are you planning to do differently with content marketing in 2016? Share in the comments below …

Title image by Drew Patrick Miller