Content marketing is an effective channel for generating leads, developing those leads, and turning them into customers. To scale your content marketing efforts, you’ll need to learn how to grow a team.
Since distributed content teams are becoming the norm, startup and big companies alike have adjusted to distributed content teams. I myself help manage a global team of 15 people as a marketing specialist at Ramp Ventures. The team runs a variety of marketing-related tasks including writing content for various SaaS sites (the outreach group), managing social media (the social media group), and managing pay-per-click advertising campaigns (the PPC group). In this article, I’ll share my tips for managing and growing a distributed content team.
- Set Clear Goals
- Use Tools to Facilitate Collaboration
- Define Your Preferred Communication Channels
- Respect Your Team Members’ Time
- Hold Regular Meetings and Sessions
- Find the Right People
- Pay Attention to Onboarding
1. Set Clear Goals
If you want to grow a successful team, you need to ensure your colleagues know what’s expected of them and how to collaborate towards a larger goal with accountability. You should set clear goals for every member of your content team. You also need to have a system in place for monitoring progress.
How many articles are writers supposed to submit in a day? How many words should each article have? What’s the required format? If you set clear goals, guidelines, and key performance indicators, you can expect your team to deliver and meet your expectations. If they don’t, you’re within your right to hold them accountable.
Your goals need to be Smart, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound, or SMART.
Source: Launch Space
So, don’t give a writer three 1,500-word articles to finish in one day. That’s not feasible even for the fastest writer. Set team goals based on your business goals, but base them, too, on what your team can do.
At Ramp Ventures, for example, we set monthly goals for each group that are relevant to their tasks. For example, the outreach group should be able to write seven guest posts a month for each site. The social media group, on the other hand, has engagement-related goals, while the PPC group has conversion-focused goals.
To monitor their progress, I hold weekly meetings with key staff members. We also use team management platforms to track their daily progress against the monthly KPIs.
2. Use Tools to Facilitate Collaboration
Collaboration is key to the success of distributed teams. According to Bit.ai, 75% of employers believe teamwork and collaboration are critical to reaching team goals.
Collaboration is especially important for distributed content teams. You need to ensure that your team members and you are on the same page when it comes to projects. That’s the only way you can ensure the team meets deadlines.
Fortunately, there are many tools available you can use. For example, the Kapwing Studio can help you edit an image, a video, or GIF in real-time with your team members. When a team member makes an edit, that change automatically appears on all the collaborators’ screens.
Source: Kapwing Studio
You can share multiple workspaces with specific collaborators. Just click Share to send a link to all the other people in your team who need to edit the same work.
Trello is also a great collaboration tool. On Trello, you can assign specific content to your team members. Just assign a color to each team member, and label each card containing specific content to be created with the color assigned to the one responsible for that content.
A tool like Trello can save you a lot of time. Since everyone has access to the Trello board, all they need to do is log into their accounts and check what they have to do.
For written content, you can use Google Docs to complement Trello.
Let’s say the writer assigned to write the article on YouTube metrics has finished the article. For editors to access the article, the writer just needs to paste the Google Docs link to the article on the YouTube metrics Trello card. The document should have edit access so the editors assigned to the article can click on the link on the card to do their work.
3. Define Your Preferred Communication Channels
Communication is key when you’re managing a distributed team. According to Salesforce, an astounding 86% of executives believe that ineffective communication is a major cause of failure in a workplace.
As a distributed content team, you need to choose your preferred communication channels. You can use tools like Slack for instant chat. You can use email for one-to-one communication. It’s very easy to create a new Gmail account or a business email account.
Set communication expectations, too. For example, tell your team how often you’d like them to touch base with you. Would you rather they shoot you an email on their work progress at the end of the week? Or maybe you’d like them to do that at the end of every workday?
Set a standard for the allowable response time to messages, too. You might say, for instance, that the members of your team should respond to work emails within the day, provided the emails were sent during work hours.
4. Respect Your Team Members’ Time
Even if your team members work from home and don’t report physically to an office, you should assume they work the same number of hours as an employee who does. That means you can’t send them a message at 10 p.m. and expect them to reply immediately. Your colleagues have personal lives. They can’t attend to those if they’re working 24 hours a day.
If your team members are scattered across the globe, you have to consider the time difference. For example, there’s a 12 hour time difference between New York and Manila. That means if you send an email at 5 pm on Friday in New York, you’re unlikely to get a response before Monday.
5. Hold Regular Meetings and Sessions
Remember when I said teamwork is key to the success of businesses? Well, meetings are a requirement to ensure teamwork.
You don’t need to hold daily meetings. You’d probably run out of things to say by the end of the workweek if you did that. Once a week is enough. You can either hold it on Mondays, set the team’s content goals for the week, and brainstorm content ideas. Or on Fridays, just to see how everyone did for the week. Just make sure you set an agenda for every meeting.
There are a number of tools you can use for virtual meetings. Zoom, for instance, is great because it allows you to see your colleagues’ verbal and non-verbal cues.
Skype and Google Hangouts are excellent tools, too.
Your meetings don’t have to be too formal. After you’ve set the content goals for the week, you can, for instance, hold team-building activities. Team-building activities help assuage that feeling of isolation remote workers can get from having to work away from colleagues.
According to Buffer, that’s one of the top struggles of remote workers, after “not being able to unplug” and “difficulties with collaboration and cooperation”:
When remote workers are struggling, you can expect reduced productivity.
There are a number of team-building activities you can organize for members of your distributed content team. Here’s a list from Time Doctor. You can ask your colleagues which ones they’d like to play.
6. Find the Right People
If you see a positive return on investment from your content marketing, you might decide to grow your team. Before you go about hiring more people, determine your goals. If you want more articles to be written, for example, you’d have to hire more writers. Since a writer’s output needs to be edited prior to publication, you might have to hire more editors, too.
Let’s focus on how to hire writers.
Since yours is a distributed content team, you can hire people from basically anywhere in the world. According to Content Grip, these are some of the best platforms you can check out to look for writers you can hire on a permanent basis:
Don’t hire the first person who submits an application to you. Creating quality content is extremely difficult. You need talented writers who can deliver even when given the most pressing deadlines.
These are some of the steps you need to follow to hire the perfect content writer:
- Check the writing skill level: Sample some of their work. If there are grammatical errors or spelling mistakes, they might not be worth your money.
- Look at the writer’s past experience: Has the applicant written for other publications or other websites? If they have, then they might be worth looking into. Chances are, after all, that you won’t have to pay too much attention to their writing once they start working with you.
- Pay attention to the applicant’s enthusiasm: Does the applicant seem genuinely excited about the idea of writing and working with you? Then you might want to consider hiring them. You need enthusiastic writers who will produce great content not because it’s required of them but because they believe each piece of content deserves all that attention.
- Make sure they fit into your budget: Don’t hire someone you can’t pay.
It pays to be meticulous during the hiring process. You wouldn’t want to end up with a team member who doesn’t submit the work you expect, after all.
7. Pay Attention to Onboarding
Onboarding is important because you need to set expectations. Onboarding also helps new team members feel valued. When you welcome a new hire, you help them feel they have something to contribute to the team and increase their engagement.
So, welcome your new hire during their first virtual meeting in the company. Introduce them to your other team members. If you have the chance, have one-on-one talks with them at the end of the week to see how they’re doing. If you’re too busy, assign a mentor to guide them.
You want your new hire to be assimilated to the company culture and to form a connection with the team as a whole. The faster you onboard your staff, the faster they can contribute and help the team meet its goals.
A distributed content team that sees people working in different places instead of in a conventional office space can be more difficult to manage and grow. That doesn’t mean, however, that it’s impossible.
In this article, I shared with you tips on how to do just that. Just use collaboration tools to create effective and engaging content together. Pick the communication tools that work the best for you and your team. When communicating with your colleagues, though, don’t forget to respect their time.
Once you decide it’s time to scale your content marketing strategy and grow your team, make sure you take the time to find the right people. Onboard the new hire, too! You want your new hire to feel they’re a valuable part of the team so they can contribute and help the team meet its objectives.
Follow these tips, and you’ll manage and grow your content team the right way. The result? They’ll deliver and meet, even exceed, your expectations.
David Campbell is a digital marketing specialist at Ramp Ventures. He helps manage the content marketing team at Right Inbox. When he's not working, he enjoys traveling and trying to learn Spanish.