The Internet is content.
Whether it’s that YouTube video you send to a friend, the journal article you share on Facebook, or the blogger you’ve been reading for the past seven years, it’s all content. Anything you read, see or listen to. And online content is powerful. It can give us a warm feeling when we read something special, or it can make us feel united by empathy and strong emotion while watching a difficult event unfold on the other side of the world.
Some content exists as news and is created by events, while other content can be written, engineered and sculpted as part of your brand. When you understand how to use content to your advantage it can be a powerful tool in shaping how your brand and business is perceived. Used appropriately, content can transform consumers into fans and provides a way to build the integrity of your business.
With that said, how on earth do you find the time to write and produce quality content amongst everything else that goes into running and managing your business? Time and time again, there will be vital things that come up that take precedent over creating content—even though content is so important. Or maybe you do want to develop content, but find yourself hitting a brick wall with inspiration, structure, or even how to create.
While we don’t propose to solve all of your problems in one fell swoop, we do hope to make creating content that little bit easier with some tips about content creation and best practice. Most businesses looking to engage a broader audience will elicit the help of an experienced digital marketing agency. However, for those that are looking to take a personal approach to their online content production, we hope that this article provides some insight to you.
The first and most important thing is that you need to have a goal for your content.
That is, the WHY of your content. Do you want to increase your brand’s image online? Do you want more subscribers to your blog? Are you launching a new product? Perhaps you’re after brand awareness, lead generation or you want to upsell something. Depending on what your goal is there is a certain type of content that is going to work for each. By knowing the WHY you can shape your content to suit (and you can track the results – but more on that later). For example, if you want to promote a product you’re going to want to show people what this new product does and why it’s so great.
If your product is functional, perhaps the best way to show it off is not with a writeup, but with a video demonstration. Conversely, if you’re looking to build the integrity of your brand a well-written and thoughtfully produced whitepaper would be a great medium for demonstrating the insight and depth of knowledge that your company has within a particular area.
One of the biggest problems facing businesses is how to get more eyes on their content.
You’ve gone to the effort to create something stunning, and you’ve got it online – but how do you get the views?
In today’s digital world, people are increasingly careful about who they share information with, so in order to get more fans you need to offer something of value in exchange for their personal data (i.e. their email address).
This could be a premium piece of content (like an ebook, a discount code, or an educational course for something that they would like), or something that works really well is an ‘experience upgrade’ where a portion of your website/content is hidden and can be revealed when they share their email address. This is an effective way to get people signed up while also offering them greater value. Value is integral to a better online experience.
When creating content you need to have a conversation.
For example, when we were creating this piece of content, we had you in mind. We imagined writing to a person who was obviously interested in learning more about how to create content for online use; we imagined that you’d probably love more hours in the day to get things done (hence why you’re reading this short piece), but you’re dedicated to your job. You might work in your own business or as part of a small team, you’re pretty up to date with all things tech, and you might be a millennial, or maybe someone from Gen Y.
By picturing you in our minds, we’re writing as if we are having a conversation with you.
Our ‘idea’ of ‘you’ is called a persona, and if you don’t know what personas are or don’t have then, then check them out here. Personas are pretty important for your business, because your content needs to be fulfilling the requirements of your customers – not your own ideas of what they might like.
Segment your content.
Just as you can’t please everyone all the time, you want to make sure that your content is suited to each stage of the user journey and match your content to the stage people are at. Content needs to match the audience you are speaking to with the stage of the user journey, as well as how that segment of your market consumes content. It’s important here that you don’t force your audience through a behavioural journey; move with them. You can segment a list on MailChimp really easily based on what interactions your users have had with your business or brand online, and create content that speaks to each segment.
Nail your CTA (Call to Action).
Every piece of content that you create needs to have a purpose, and while it doesn’t have to be BUY NOW, you do need to leave your reader with a clear understanding on what behaviour you want them to carry out – whether it’s to find out more or to share your content on social media. People actually prefer to have a clear direction, and we actually expect it. A call to action (CTA) is not only positive for the fact that it provides purpose, it helps because in getting your readers to make what is called a ‘micro commitment’ by responding to the CTA, they will be more likely to make a larger commitment later on.
Make an editorial calendar.
One of the biggest make-or-break elements of whether you’re still diligently producing content in six months’ time will be your editorial calendar (check this range of templates out from Hubspot). You need to have a calendar that is set out no more than six months in advance – that way you can stay agile. You can meet with your team once a month to confirm blog topics, to check the direction and to make any adjustments. A good content strategy requires that you stay on top of things, because it’s so easy to just push things back and before you know it your blog has lain dormant for a month. Not a good look for your customers. Make sure that your goals are SMART and can be tracked easily.
Make sure you are tracking your past content performance with Google Analytics.
This is vital, because you need to be able to compare year on year and see how things are performing so that you can make changes where you need to. Your editorial calendar needs to map every bit of content that you produce for your personas, your segmentation grid (for your user journey) and needs to be matched up to your content producer(s). You also need to include any relevant dates and publication information where needed. You could segment your content with tabs that might include: headline, content type, audience persona, content producer, due date, editor, channel(s), publish date, status (you can colour code this), notes and call-to-action.
Just like anything else in your business, good content requires organisation, planning, consistency and quality.
Most importantly, your content needs to be a valuable service to your customers. One piece of advice is don’t bite off more than you can chew straight away. While it might be nice to think that you can create one blog article a week, three social media posts, a short video and keep up with running your business the reality is that you might struggle. Then, if you fall behind, you can get disheartened which may lead to you giving up altogether.
Far better to start small: one piece of content a month, and a social media post every week.
Or, if you have a bigger team, spread the content out and track everyone’s commitment with a content meeting every month. Just stick with it, and you’ll start to see results.