A couple of weeks ago I had a great baseball experience. It was a beautiful Friday night in Gary, Ind., and I was watching the Gary SouthShore Railcats, an Independent Professional Baseball team (like the minor leagues, but not quite that official), and I was surrounded by my extended family, including my parents, cousins, siblings, and aunts and uncles, plus my husband and 3-year old son.  Our group was about 20 people ages 18 months to 70 years, with a mix of rabid baseball fans and people who just came for the family and the beautiful night.

The Railcats put on a fantastic evening of entertainment. The 6,000-person stadium was comfortable, without a bad seat in the house. On the night we were there, they had a well-known minor league baseball clown, Myron Noodleman, to entertain between innings, as well as the two Railcats mascots, Rusty and Rascal. Past right field is a kids area with a playground, bouncy house and bungee jumping contraption. Throughout the game, guests were invited down to the field for little prize-winning competitions. T-shirts were tossed by the announcer at the crowd during the 7th inning stretch. And at the end of the game there was a fantastic fireworks display.

The Gary Railcats have got their content strategy right.

What they’ve done is exactly what I recommend to anyone who is defining or revising their content strategy: broaden beyond your core. The Railcats know that they’re going to get baseball fans.  After all, they offer a local alternative to the Chicago teams, at a very reasonable price, in a beautiful, nearly new stadium. But for an independent team like the Railcats, who play in the challenging urban center of Gary (I’m trying to be diplomatic), they know that they need to attract more than just baseball fans. They have to appeal to many different types of people, in the hopes that they can convert at least a few non-fans into fans over time. Maybe 12-year-old Emma will walk out in a Railcats t-shirt. Or 3-year-old Gabe will decide that the Railcats are “his” team and he’ll still be fond of them in college. Or maybe mom will feel like it was a great value in family entertainment, so she’ll schedule her kid’s next birthday party there. Each time those things happen, kudos to the Railcats for opening those types of people up to their brand of baseball.

What can content marketers learn from the Railcats?  Consider this simple diagram.

Content Marketing Beyond the Core

Your topic, the topic you believe your business is most centered in, should be only a small part of the content you put out into your conversation streams.  In Twitter, Facebook, your blog, and even in video or podcasts, you should broaden your content in order to appeal to people beyond your immediate target audience.  You need to grow your audience around the periphery of your topic, and that broader content will help to attract people who might have never even considered your product or service.

An example: I have a client, a non-profit who provides a very valuable, but extremely niche, service for a particular community.  Reaching people in the niche community has proven to be very difficult, as they’re a group that doesn’t always self-identify within the niche. Our content strategy has been to help the organization create and deliver content that appeals to a much wider demographic, though still within their main community, with the expectation that we will build awareness for the non-profit through the sharing of valuable content.  By writing, Tweeting and posting only about the main service and topic, we’d likely bore people to tears and we’d very quickly hit a wall with regards to the available content on that topic; we also wouldn’t have much hope of bringing in people who hadn’t already raised their hands as fans of the organization. With a broader content strategy, we now have a mechanism by which we can spread the word about the service in a very helpful, and rather clever, way. And it’s in no way disingenuous: we are not going outside of our community interests for the content (that would be spammy), we’re just going broader than one might naturally think this organization could go.

You content marketers, be brave. Sketch a diagram with all of the tangential directions your content could go in. Go big, but also think narrow.  Imagine an editorial calendar which includes this new, broader content.  Convince the boss that this is worth a test; after all, you’re not spending any more if it’s the same amount of content.  Then stop writing three blog posts a week that all reference your company; start writing two out of the three on topics that you think could help you find new faces.  Fill your Twitter stream with interesting links that circle around your main topic, touching it only occasionally.

Give your new content strategy a while to work. New fans, and new customers, are not grown overnight. But I’ll bet that if you do this well, you’ll see a slow uptick in the number of followers, comments, shares of your content, and maybe…maybe even more sales or leads. This strategy is particularly useful if you are a B2B or very niche brand who might have difficulty finding your target audience.  The new follower you generate tomorrow may not be in the market for your product right away, but if you hadn’t attracted them with tangential but valuable content, they wouldn’t even know about you at all.  So when they are in the market for your product in six or twelve months’ time, lo and behold, now they do know who you are.

Take this broader content strategy out for a spin. Who knows what could happen. You might even see fireworks.

As always, we’d love your thoughts in the comments.

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About Stephanie Schwab

Stephanie Schwab

Stephanie Schwab is the Principal of Crackerjack Marketing, a digital marketing agency specializing in social media planning and execution. Stephanie is also the founder of the Digital Family Summit, the first-of-its-kind conference for tween bloggers and content creators and their families. Throughout her 20-year career, she has developed and led marketing and social media programs for top brands and has presented on social media and e-commerce topics at numerous conferences and corporate events. Stephanie writes about social media at CrackerjackMarketing.com, sometimes hangs out at Google+, and tweets @stephanies.

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.theskooloflife.com Srinivas Rao

    Hi Stephanie,

    This is actually a really great point. One thing that I’ve noticed about the blogosphere and the social web is that it’s a rather incestuous group. I interviewed a mom blogger for my podcast yesterday and she had mentioned how a guest post at Etsy of all places drove a ton of new traffic to her site. Most of us who write about social media marketing or anything along those lines would probably never think of the benefits of writing a guest post at a place like Etsy. But to your point that’s how we would reach people we might never otherwise connect with. I think of it as writing to the edge of your niche. 

  • http://www.secretsushi.com/ Adam Helweh

    It’s a simple concept, but so often overlooked. Thanks Stephanie.

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

    Hi Stephanie great post and on time when I was just looking for broadening my content. Thanks for the share and will always keep in mind while implementing it..

    Online Business
    Virtual Assistant

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  • http://blog.socialmediahq.com Nick Robinson

    I think one of the points that stands out for me is “stick with it”. I can tell you that we have stuck with our content strategy from the very beginning, and we are now starting to see results (almost 9 months later). Perseverance wins the content marketing game. It’s only one 1 factor, but very important in the grand scheme of things.

  • http://twitter.com/danortegaPR Daniel Ortega

    Hello,

    Thanks for the post! As a student it is great to see concepts that are shared by two completely different courses in different departments. I can relate this to my Social Media 509 (COM course) by the use of social media to reach your audience and sharing your content with your audience. I can also relate this post directly to my Entertainment & Sports Event Management 412 (MGT course) by this topic being a direct rule in Event Management called the “80%, 20%” rule. The “80%, 20%” rule means 20% of your audience is your direct fan base and the 80% is that rest of your audience who is NOT considered your direct audience. 

    Thanks again, 

    Dan

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  • http://www.education4military.com Joe_Cool

    The diagram is awesome, so simple yet effective, thanks Stephanie great post!

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