This weekend, I delivered a talk at WordCamp Phoenix on several ways today’s bloggers can create compelling content. Now matter what you call it – blogs, stories, marketing, etc. — it’s content and you really need to stand out if you want to achieve results.
Regrettably, today’s content tends to be a pretty low-priced commodity. Blog posts can be had for $5 on Fiverr, so what are your words worth?
In order for your talents to not be replaced by an article spinner, you must consider what makes your perspective engaging to readers. This takes some time to discover and develop. Creating content is much more than words; it’s about inspiring people to take action. You have a perspective to share and that is why people gravitate towards you.
I believe that this is applicable to any content producer – be it for profit, non-profit or government. When you fully adopt these content creation ideas, you will feel like Neo when he first discovers The Matrix, but most importantly, himself.
Solve Real Problems
As a blogger, it’s important that you get into your audience’ shoes and understand the problems they face. And by understand, I mean really feel their pains so you can add perspective and be able to relate to them. You don’t necessarily need to have the answers (but those help), but you do need to be able to craft the content around a problem faced by your audience. When you know the real problems that you want to solve, you can attract a loyal and engaged audience who seeks your leadership and authority on the subject.
Curate Other People’s Content
When people think of blogging, they often make the jump to the conclusion that they need to write a lengthy post or that it must be an epic tale. The truth is that you don’t need to write huge blog posts for them to be effective and able to serve the needs of your audience. You can do this easily and helpfully by finding meaningful resources, link to them and share why you found that content useful to your audience. It’s never a good idea to simply copy and paste good content; instead, link to the destination and add details to your reader on what makes it great. As an example, Kristi Hines from Kikolani does a fantastic job of curating the best content found on the web for bloggers, small businesses and social media in her Fetching Fridays.
Share Your Own Experiences
Most for-profit and government bloggers tend to abstain from sharing their own experience. Often, it comes down to someone (internally) disagreeing with their views, slapping them down and telling them to stick to the approved talking points. It’s important to remember that your audience is there to hear from you, not necessarily your organization. Speak from your own real-world experiences – even if they are simple. A good place to start is to look at your own Twitter, Facebook and Instagram as sources for where you can share your own perspective.
Create Content for Your Customer Lifecycle
Many businesses tend to be focused solely on lead and customer generation, yet they neglect to author high-value content for their customers. This is yet another missed opportunity for you to be remarkable. Content creation doesn’t end when you get paid. In fact, it’s a social contract that you need to be vested in their success, so you need to produce helpful content that supports the sale, minimizes buyer’s remorse and ultimately drives your customers to use your product and services fully. It’s also a good to remember that the content you create as a great implicit way to attract educated prospects into your marketing funnel. My employer, Infusionsoft, has great content on Lifecycle Marketing so you can get a better idea of this and put it into practice.
React to Current Events
Without being evil, like hawking your business during a national tragedy, you can truly add value and perspective during current events. I discovered a really good example while at the WordCamp Phoenix after-party (don’t get any ideas)… is medical marijuana in Arizona. It’s a current event, controversial, and of real value to those who want to know more. If your business is at least loosely connected to the medical and/or the drug community, you can absolutely share an opinion about current events. What’s important here is that people will find your topic as well as the media. If you share a perspective in a timely fashion and you are positioned as an expert, expect an email or a phone call from a reporter who wants to get a sound-bite for their story. You don’t have to be right; you only need to have a perspective and give the rationale for it.
Feature Customers & Fans
This is an easy task to do – simply, you should invest the time to highlight, promote and put your customers and fans above your own message. If they are your friends, that’s easier, too. But if they’re customers, try a Q&A style format or if a customer is savvy with blogging, ask them to share their the real-world benefits or a topic that is core to them while casually making reference to your organization. For non-profits and government organizations, highlight the beneficiaries of your efforts. This means if you help the homeless, profile what a homeless person’s life is like. When people can see the result of their donations, you just might get more donors and a higher donation amount. As a blogger in this case, you need to act as the facilitator and help make your audience aware of them and vice-versa.
Recycle High-Performing Content
We have analytics, but do you do anything with it? It does no good to simply track traffic if you’re not going to act on the data. So, take a look at your highest performing content over the past few years and revisit those topics and add a fresh perspective to it. Similarly, look at not only traffic, but inspect the content that got you business results like leads and sales. (I know this isn’t easy for most bloggers, but I use Infusionsoft to make this reporting a cinch. Let me know if you want help with marketing and content analytics.)
Have a Perspective & Share It
People are tired and don’t have time for gobbledygook. People can find facts on their own, but they come to you for an informed perspective. While not offending anyone or any groups would be okay for public relations, having a perspective will net you media/speaking opportunities, attract the right customers who agree with you and will allow you to contribute more meaningfully to your industry. This requires that you become generous in how you approach your blog for informative and transformative purposes. Should you be writing about Joe Arpaio and immigration reform? Maybe, if that is a topic that is something that impacts your business and audience. Today, it’s safe to have a perspective and share it because you write the narrative. You always reserve the right to shift your views if you want and to expand on them if necessary.
Engage Your Competitors
While most non-profits and government organizations generally don’t have any rivals, some do. Even if you’re a freelancer or an entrepreneur, you could probably think of at least one rival whom your customers might be familiar with. The tactful way to engage your competitors is to report the facts about them and praise them. Depending on the social aptitude of that company, you may receive a response from their CEO or another communications professional. If you put them in a good light because you don’t have to prove you’re better, they may even promote and share your content with others. A good example in my industry is when Eloqua shared an informed perspective about Salesforce.com’s acquisition of Radian6. Their audience is likely to use Salesforce and would want to know how the changes would affect them. They did it tactfully, respectfully and didn’t need to disparage their rivals to do it.
Leverage Content Aggregators for Discovery
Let’s face it; there is a lot of data and content already out there. You could easily consume your entire day just reading it. Use the tools out there to help find the meaningful, rising, popular and valuable content for you. There are many free services out there to do it: Topsy, Alltop, Reddit, Techmeme, Hacker News, Feedly, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter – and if you blog for a business – listen to your sales and customer service teams. These are incredible resources that help you scour the web and take in rising content so you can engage and share among your audience.
With the best design or highly optimized SEO, it doesn’t mean jack if you don’t have good content. To illustrate my point, look at Maddox. He has a pretty dated design, but millions of people have visited his site because he offers engaging and entertaining content. He provides content meant for people and thus, people have shared his content time and time again. Another more recent example is The Oatmeal, who tells stories through hilarious infographics coupled with online activism, which is consumed by millions of people on the web.
With compelling content, you will reach your goals. Those goals could be anything, but could be traffic, leads, donations and even brand awareness. But the only way you’ll do it is if you create content that stands out. Don’t be mediocre. Push the envelope. Do or do not, there is no try.
I hear many excuses out there. Trust me, I’m guilty, too. But they’re excuses nonetheless: “I don’t have time,” “I don’t have traffic,” “I don’t have any interesting ideas,” and other complaints about not creating remarkable content. It’s all bullshit. Realize that because your blog’s popularity or interest may have faded, it’s up to you to change that. You can truly achieve great success starting right now.What is a better story to tell yourself? One that involves that you failed or one that shows that you learned and are getting back up and creating value for your audience again.
Only you can make that decision. All these ideas are great, but they are meaningless unless you take action. Hitting the big blue Publish button is what matters at the end of the day. If you found any of this valuable, go ahead, be adventurous and create some kick ass content for all of us to see.
I’d love to know your content creation challenges in the comments below. I know it takes a lot of work to feed the content machine, so if you ever want a second opinion or a fresh idea, let me know.
Photo Credit: Pixelsior