Life is certainly no cakewalk for content creators these days. With all of the noise from blog posts, social media updates, videos, podcasts and more, the competition is fierce when it comes to getting your audience’s attention.
Thanks to the abundance of analytical data available today, it’s much easier to get into the minds of our audience to try to understand them. Yet, many marketing teams still struggle with creating content that gets read, viewed, shared, and liked. The same CMI report found that over a fifth of marketers do not believe their content marketing strategy is working well for them.
Whether you are a total newbie to the content marketing game or a seasoned creative mind, it never hurts to get back to the basics in nailing great content. Let’s discuss the five essential elements that are sure to encourage audience engagement.
Tell, Don’t Sell
Nothing turns a customer off faster than a pushy salesperson. A traditional sales pitch (think stereotypical used car salesman) actually results in a negative reaction from the majority of customers, with 59% stating it irritates them more than anything.
The best way forward, then, is the one espoused by Rand Fishkin of Moz:
Buffer’s blog is a great example of how to sell without blatantly selling. The social media management tool’s website does a really great job of creating insightful, actionable content without the typical, played out sales pitch. Each piece focuses on various features that correlates with their software, such as social media marketing tips and research. In essence, they are selling value before products.
When it comes to B2B marketing, most decision makers agreed that they would prefer to learn about the company through articles and relevant content, rather than bottom-of-the-funnel advertising. The same goes for B2C customers. Turning your content into one long sales pitch is practically a guaranteed way to lose their interest. Instead, focus on the top of the sales funnel by providing information on how your offerings can benefit the reader and solve pressing problems.
Sticking to the same old patterns likely won’t bring in new, substantial results. Plus, falling back on the same model of content gets boring for both the creators and the audience. If you want to grow your engagement levels, you have to be willing to branch out and try something new that will catch your audience’s eye.
For instance, if your content marketing strategy usually releases posts in traditionally written article-type blog forms, try diversifying your pieces by sprinkling in more exciting visual pieces, throwing in a how-to video every now and then. Four out of five customers would rather watch a video than read about a product, making it a surefire way to get your audience more engaged.
Experiment with creating infographics, podcasts or give webinars a shot to really expand your content. HubSpot is really great at this, with resources ranging from blog posts to ebooks, to online courses:
Create Something Truly Valuable
Your content must provide some incentive for your audience to engage. Creating pointless, senseless, useless content for the sake of production is – well, worthless. Each piece must provide something of value if consumers are going to actually engage with it.
68% of customers would rather learn something new from branded content than be entertained. Take the time to release content that teaches your audience something new about your industry. For example, if you’re in the ecommerce marketing business like me, you’d want to encourage people to try and sell more on the web by giving them tips on running side businesses. Whatever your niche, try to focus your content strategy around engaging topics that will give your audience something they’ve never heard or seen before.
Great content isn’t just limited to marketing but also to advertising. The fact that you’re paying money doesn’t mean you can go easy on the messaging, the value it delivers, and the emotions it invokes from your audience.
Neither does the format need to be constrained to text. For instance, a few years ago, bang in the middle of the “app boom,” Chalcot Audio and BBDO Guerrero came up with a unique idea for promoting the Jose Rizal mobile app. They created interactive illustrations with Bare Conductive ink and board that could be touched to play dialogues and snippets from Jose Rizal’s novel Noli Me Tangere.
The illustrations were then displayed in leading bookstores and museums, where thousands of young Filipinos were intrigued by the interactive portraits and tuned in to listen to the audio book. This audio-tactile technology enabled them to revisit and appreciate their history and century-old heroes.
A hundred and twenty-five years later, the book once again conjured up strong feelings of unity, loyalty, and integrity in the younger generation, thanks to the campaign.
Have a Good Time Making It
This step is pretty simple and straightforward: let loose and have some fun. If you are bored while crafting your content, chances are, your audience will be bored while consuming it. Although content marketing should always follow a strategy and a schedule, try to choose topics that you’re curious about.
Even if your subject is highly technical or business-focused, try adding in humor, pop culture references, or even a few graphics to make your content more fun and exciting. Ultimately, people like reading and watching stuff that appears like it was created by a person, not a robot. Think, for example, of how Buzzfeed News produces its more serious news-focused pieces. While the topics covered could be serious, the writers still include memes or gifs to make things more fun.
Content creation doesn’t have to be all work and no play. Have some fun and share this excitement with your audience.
Get the Community Involved
Don’t know what your audience wants to see next? Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. Reach out to your readers and followers to get their views and suggestions on what to do next. Try getting a little creative and holding a social media poll through Facebook or Instagram to do some simple market research and collect a few quick opinions.
Forums are great resources for finding out what subjects are buzzing in the community, too. Sites like Reddit and Quora are great jumping off points. Search keywords that are related to your industry and see what threads are receiving the most engagement. Not only will it help you brainstorm for new topic ideas, but also let you see what kind of questions your audience may want answered with your content pieces.
Finally, supporting a cause that your community deeply cares about is a surefire way to do wonders to your brand’s popularity. Again, social media is your best bet here. Creating compelling posts paired with trending hashtags on Instagram is a golden opportunity to tug at the heartstrings with visual appeals.
For example, Boxed Water took up the cause of preserving national forests. They created the hashtag #ReTree and enlisted Instagram influencers like Aidan Alexander (an Instagram model with over 800K followers) to promote it.
The campaign significantly expanded their company’s reach and resulted in 73,630 trees being planted.
Engaging with your audience is all about finding new ways to build a meaningful connection with them. Try to make your pieces more genuine by teaching and telling your audience something useful rather than selling to them. Diversify your styles, subjects, focus, and format, and try to pick topics that excite and fascinate your audience (and you too, of course)!
About the Author: Rohan Ayyar fits into dual roles at E2M, a digital marketing agency where he’s involved in web analytics and creative content strategy, and Moveo Apps, an app dev company where he steers the UX process with a focus on conversions. Rohan is an avid blogger, with posts featured on Fast Company, MarketingProfs, Entrepreneur, and elsewhere. Follow him on Twitter @searchrook.