Thursday February 2, 2017

How to Look Past the Noise and Create Better Content

How to Look Past the Noise and Create Better Content

Has content peaked? It’s an interesting question. Studies over the last several years have found that 50% of content only receives eight shares or less. Why is that?

As more and more marketers have taken notice of this trend, a lot of theories have been floated around. There’s the “content shock” theory, which basically says that the amount of content being created has dramatically risen, while demand has stayed flat. Kind of like me opening a streaming service, spending 20 minutes scrolling through endless choices and feeling bad that I can’t stay up-to-date on everything, before finally settling on a Bob’s Burgers episode I’ve seen hundreds of times. 

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There’s also the idea that in the rush to create more content, most of it just isn’t very… good.

The truth is somewhere in the middle of both.

Yes, there is too much content. And yes, some of it just isn’t good. Still, you shouldn’t let this block you from investing in creating content yourself. Rather than scrapping this method entirely, you just have to change your mindset so you can build a new content strategy that helps you actually reach people and bring more leads into your business.

Let’s begin by complaining about the media – sort of.

Advice… to Ignore?

Much of the problem with low levels of content engagement, I believe, comes from the sharing of bad advice via the internet. Take, for example, the internet’s general response to one of the most basic questions any company might have about their content: “How often should I post in my blog?”

Google’s top answer isn’t especially helpful, seen here:

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Translation: however many times is fine, here’s some random numbers, whatever you think you can do (do you find this non-answer helpful? You don’t? Well thanks for searching anyway!).

The especially noteworthy thing about this answer is how it really sums up the internet’s reaction to content as a whole. Mostly, there are only prescriptive approaches. Have a problem? Alright, here’s my prescribed solution, no nuance required!

Understandably, these articles are not especially helpful and likely won’t assist you in your ultimate goal – creating high value content that attracts new clients to your business.

To truly accomplish this goal, you need to change your overall mindset when it comes to content. Rather than following arbitrary guidelines, take an in-depth look at your business and create content that fits both what you can do, and what your customers want.

Here’s how to go about doing it.

Have a Goal

One of the main problems I have with the general internet information exemplified above is that it refuses to take into account having reasons to do something. In the rush to get content out there, asking ourselves “Is there a real reason to do this?” is often lost.

And that’s crazy, right? If you’re going to commit hours to doing something, you better have good reasons to do so.

Set a broad goal for your content right off the bat. Not something granular; nothing along the lines of, “I want 20 shares for each piece of content,” or anything. That is something that you largely can’t control and may only harm your content development process by making you feel like you’re failing if you don’t reach this number. It’s demoralizing, so avoid this scenario entirely.

Instead, think of this more as an ideal that will guide all the work you do. For example, something like, “All our content will provide high level data and research to provide our customers with information they can use immediately.” It has to be something you believe in and will motivate you to keep working at it.

Use Data

The next step is to do your research and collect a firm set of data that can help you determine where you should target your content (social media platforms, email, etc.) and figure out what kind of content you should be making in the first place.

For example, the image below from Buzzsumo gives insights into which social sites particular industries are likely to share content:

shares-industry-network.png 

This is the type of information that you should collect to save yourself a lot of time down the road. Say you are in the financial services field; in this case you’ll know to invest in promoting your content on Facebook above all other platforms because it’s where your audience expects to find your content and is likely to share it.

You should also do some research to find if there are any other common factors between content that has high levels of engagement among your target audience. Are headlines structured in a similar way? Are infographics and other imagers popular? What does the design look like? Even taking note on the length of average posts can help guide your ideas. 

Choose What Works for You

Once you have your data set and general findings put together, take a look inward. Oftentimes this is where companies make their first big content mistakes. They see a bigger competitor who has a blog that they post in daily to some success and decide to just copy that directly. Only, they lack the internal capacity to either write the posts themselves or provide their external marketing firm with the insights they need to really make this content stand out. This is exactly how a business ends up creating half-baked content that helps no one.

Instead of trying to force a square peg in a round hole, be honest with yourself about what you are capable of. Maybe you can realistically only create one blog post a month. That’s fine! Just make that one post stand out by loading it with your research, data and figures, imagery and beneficial information. You can be the brand that provides really well thought out, expansive information. You can divide up the work among your team between research, promotion (social media, email, etc.) writing and design (finding imagery for the post or creating any necessary infographics). People say they want to be the “authority” on a subject all the time; by doing this, you just might be positioning yourself as one.

This is just one example, but the point is to focus on what you’re good at and to develop your own schedule you can reasonably stick to. Don’t go too far outside of your comfort zone – unless you have the needed support on hand or if your research shows there’s much to gain by investing in more content resources. Content formats like video and podcasts can be great ways to present information in a format that isn’t a standard blog post, but if you have no one on hand with the technical expertise, it’s probably a sign that you should try something else out.

On a side note, when you can, try to repurpose your content - but only for platforms your audience uses.

Quality Over Quantity 

Throughout all of this, remember that quality always beats quantity. There can be that feeling that you’re not putting out enough content, but remember that the internet is already clogged with content. More “stuff” isn’t going to help.

With that being, if you can create content at a greater frequency that is still high quality, then by all means do so. Just don’t fall victim to some random internet “expert’s” opinion on what you need to be doing. Instead, listen to your audience. Make decisions based off of the data and information you’ve collected. 

Your content should be treated the same way you handle your services and business offerings. It’s an asset you control. Get the most out of it.

Written by Scott Rogers |

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