Content is everything. But at the same time, it’s not always enough.
Though content is a proven way to create a following, increase engagement, and develop a community—if your content is unoriginal and lacks the value your users expect, it cannot catapult your marketing efforts to the extent you may think.
In many ways, writing content is similar to making a speech. It’s every speaker’s worst nightmare to hear a heavy, resounding silence after a speech. The silence often reflects confusion, lack of satisfaction and sometimes even displeasure with what was just said.
The same goes for content. Effective content is measured by its ability to produce an enthusiastic response. Where speeches are met with an applause, great content should be met with shares, likes, comments and action.
All successful content writers know that content does not end with the last sentence of your piece. Instead, it should be the first step to conversation, connection, and engagement with your target audience. But we all know, that’s easier said than done, so here’s how to take the bull by the horn produce content that inspires:
Make It Relevant
Because we are in the information age, there is an excess of content everywhere we look. But that doesn’t mean it's the right kind of content. Your content has a purpose: to give readers advice about their lives, their work, their relationships, or whatever expertise is relevant. Therefore, the first step is to discover your audience’s pain points and find ways your content can help them solve their problems.
Thankfully, this is not too difficult. All you have to do is discover conversations people are having surrounding your offerings. You can either search for pertinent questions on sites such as Quora or make keyword searches using tools such as Buzzsumo.
The best way to attain content inspiration, however, is through your users themselves. So ask them via social media, polls, and short questionnaires what topics they are interested in learning about, the problems they are encountering, and the topics of advice that would enrich their lives.
Not only will they be attracted to the fact that your company cares enough about them to try and solve their problems, but you will also ensure that the content your produce is actually useful. Of course, this increases the likelihood that people will read through your posts and continue the conversation through comments or social media.
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Content should never be one-sided. Instead, it's all about inviting your users to participate in the action. They too have suggestions and experiences which can be added to the pieces you produce. Their input—whether they agree or disagree with the points in your article—will open up conversation and enrich your community by giving a range of opinions, information, and advice, that ultimately help people make better decisions.
Though we all know that getting people involved is every content marketer’s dream, many users may be hesitant to do so unless they are given encouragement. That’s why it’s highly beneficial to ask questions. Questions provoke thoughts while also giving users the green light to speak their mind.
I found that by asking users about what drives them to share and which technologies inspire them, I can generate conversation and input from users about their views on my industry and eventually get them to create a vibrant community of people engaging and sharing their insights about business and technology.
Aside for being informative, people are intrigued by content that provides entertainment value. Entertainment can be a range of things—from humor to video, to pictures and more—such features catch the eye and make participation a fun and rewarding experience.
Though humor can obviously be a great tool, make sure it comes naturally. If you try to force humor, it may not resonate with everyone. After all, humor is extremely subjective and if it doesn’t come naturally in the conventional sense, you may lose your audience instead of grabbing their attention.
For example, a former colleague of mine once tried to develop a conversation around a trending yet controversial topic in pop culture. However, because he made a so-called humorous statement that some found to be offensive, his actions actually repelled his intended audience.
To stay away from that danger, you can provide entertainment interactive content. Interactive content gives users an incentive to discuss through encouraging action. As we previously mentioned, content should never be a one-way street.
Therefore, by utilizing interactive content such as quizzes, infographics, polls, and more—you give people an opportunity to get involved and make it more of a social experience. By posting quizzes, for example, users may be interested in discussing their results. This of course ultimately helps you reach your goal of conversation and engagement.
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You may notice that some users are simply more vocal than others. Of course, though small in numbers, these particular individuals are of great strategic significance. Their voices are loud and their reach is great—making their input a tremendous value. However, if these active users don’t feel that their voices are being heard or appreciated, they may choose to get involved elsewhere.
So encourage them to keep posting by providing incentives such as prizes or even putting them in a special section of most valued users. This puts them on a pedestal and makes them more eager to continue to converse and stay active with your content.
Some great incentives which I have seen work wonders is giving out prizes for users who come up with great campaigns. For example, Starbucks recently launched the White Cup Contest which encouraged customers to use their artistic skills to color their Starbucks cups. The winner gets their design featured on 25 reusable cups as well as a $300 gift card.
Of course, this encouraged people to be creative with the brand, ultimately resulting in greater loyalty and increased engagement.
I am of the belief that businesses should create a “wall of fame” type section which highlights insightful posts from your active users, essentially rewarding them for their contributions and encouraging others to do the same. In my personal experience, I have found that doing so has enticed users to become more active and help sites grow to become more vibrant and successful.
Having social elements such as comments, chats, notifications, and newsfeeds can help make it easier for users to interact and take part in your content. After all, if there’s no easy way for people to discover the content that interests them or discuss it locally, there’s less of a likelihood it can make the impact. For this reason, Spot.IM and other onsite social platforms are growing in popularity.
Everything in life today is about accessibility and ease of use. Therefore, if you don’t designate specific places for conversation and make it easy to find, people will be much less likely to discuss your content and promote it to viral status.
I personally found that after setting up an easy and accessible online chat system on site, my users were more inclined to discuss content since it was an easy, and nonintrusive way of socializing about topics of interest. In addition, with notifications, people became aware of when content of interest was posted, which automatically drove them back to the site to check it out.
As you now know, silence can be detrimental to your content marketing goals. At the same time, however, creating content worthy of discussion is very much within your reach. By following these easy and strategic tips, you will be able to spark endless conversations and further engage your community.