Does your content sparkle? Is it memorable? Does it take aim, engage, and blow your readers away?
Or, do your website visitors click your link, take one glance, and then bounce off to the next forgettable distraction?
Creating quality content is a top priority for small businesses marketers worldwide. According to Forbes, 62.5% of content marketers were “much more” or “somewhat more” successful in 2016 than they were the year before, which was over double the number who reported the same at the end of 2015. This trend shows no signs of slowing, meaning that producing top quality content across social media and on your website has never been more important.
While this is good news for entrepreneurs and small businesses whose marketers use content to snare new leads and customers, it means that there is far more being produced. Digital marketing strategisers Smart Insights stated that there were 1,440 WordPress blogs and 500 hours of YouTube videos being uploaded EVERY MINUTE.
So, how do you increase your content’s traction, and make sure your audience sticks around on your website rather than dashing away as soon as they arrive?
The answers may surprise you…
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Pick your niche, starting with a single idea. It is a mistake to run before you can walk, trying to produce a million pieces at once, so choose the content method that you know most about, whether that is YouTube videos, blogs, articles, podcasts or Facebook Live, and run with it.
Next, get all the ideas out of your head by mind-mapping, recording or filming yourself talking, filling a wall with Post-It notes or whatever method helps you brain-dump, stream-of-consciousness-style, most effectively. Talk about the ideas you have for content and all your areas of specialist knowledge, returning to them when you need inspiration for future posts and uploads.
Then, ask your communities, message on forums, and send out surveys to find out what your customers and client base needs from you. What do you they want to know, what insights would relieve some of their pain, and what kind of content marketing could your small business give them that would make a difference in their professional lives? These are the areas that will keep your readers, viewers and listeners engaged, hungry to learn from you and stay nailed to their seats in the process.
Lastly, reach out to the top experts, authors, content providers and marketers in your niche. Read everything they produce, watch all their content, follow their social media profiles, listen to their podcasts and get inspired by their advice. Once you get a name for yourself, you could even interview them for future content!
Now that you know how small business marketers should be sourcing and structuring content, you want to ensure that it knocks people for six.
What every piece of content should be
- Professional – If you are producing a blog, make sure there are no spelling mistakes, no examples of poor grammar, and ensure that it is highly readable from start to finish. If you are producing a podcast, while you don’t need to lay out thousands of pounds for top-line equipment, you don’t want the recording to be fuzzy, echoey, filled with background noise or have awkward edits. Equally, if you are making a video, don’t use cringeworthy transitions, and certainly don’t edit in Windows Movie Maker!
- Unique – Even if it is repurposed from your own content into another medium, or heavily inspired by another company or entrepreneur’s work, you need your content to reflect your brand and your company’s personality. Essentially, don’t copy, and be yourself!
- Engaging – Ideally, you want your content to pop off the screen and leap out of the speakers in a way that grabs your reader, viewer or listener and never lets go. This includes content focusing on comparably dry subject matter, which should be clear and at the least very easy to consume.
- Longer – The average wordcount of a blog is increasing, and broke past the 1,000 mark last year – just see the graph below, as recorded by Orbit Media Studios. The trend is moving towards lengthier pieces of content that contain enough information to educate and inform.
- Helpful – Content should not be produced as an ego trip, and is not pure entertainment; content should help your customer base to solve a problem. This could be enabling them to sell more, to spot the best deals, to streamline their business, or solve any other areas of pain or discomfort.
- Actionable – Readers/viewers/listeners should finish your content with a clear understanding of how they can apply the information you have just given them.
- Valuable – Don’t simply regurgitate a piece of content that has been produced a million times before. Be specific to your own brand and your personal knowledge set, and offer insights and hacks that your potential clients and current customers can use to improve their businesses and their lives.
- Regularly updated – Once you start publishing great content, you want to continually update, and ideally at the same time each week or month. Search engines favour sites that are frequently updated, and according to the Kissmetrics blog, websites that have new content added regularly experience a far higher rate of unique visitors.
- Well titled – A great title can attract the eye while forcing readers to read and viewers to view. A poorly titled piece of content will just merge with the background and fail to grab a single visitor. Your titles should be clear about what the piece of content is offering, and present it in a manner that is either challenging or shows your audience why they simply can’t miss this piece. Digital marketing giants Hubspot recommend that good titles are accurate, concise, sexy and have great SEO. Typing your planned title into Google before publishing is a great way of checking whether your great idea has already been used before, and how it compares to other posts covering similar topics.
What formats should small business marketers use for their content marketing?
- Industry news – If you have insider knowledge or unique viewpoints to share concerning your industry, these make fantastic pieces of content. Once they realise how strong your content game is, your followers will want to know your opinions on changes within the industry, new contenders, new legislations that may affect the industry, and so on.
- Step-by-step guides – Show your audience how to solve one particularly problem or remove one type of pain via a guide they can apply to their own operations or day-to-day activities.
- Link it to something trending in the media or across social networks – If a new superhero film is about to hit the cinemas, or if your friends can’t stop talking about a particular celebrity, or if something has happened in the news that will interest your customers, use this to your advantage. Who wouldn’t want to read, “What Batman Can Tell You About Being a Leader”, or watch a video called “Why Tom Hardy is a Killer Marketer”? A word of warning though: if you use current events to put together a piece of content, keep it light. You don’t want to offend your audience; you want to inform them.
- Personal/professional anecdotes – If you have stories from your own life and career that may benefit your clients, mine into your history and retrieve the useful lessons you picked up along the way. Keep anecdotes light and engaging, and always bear in mind the point you want to make, otherwise you risk self-indulgence or waffle.
- Interviews – If you can speak to entrepreneurs or company directors whose views will interest you customer base, you can leverage their experience to attract visitors to your website or profile. A recognisable name will attract internet users from far and wide, and as a bonus, you will get to speak with some highly interesting people.
- Listicles – In the age of Buzzfeed and Huffpost, it could be argued that the list article has been done to death – however, there’s no denying that they often make magnetic pieces of content. Lists are scannable, they can be useful, and they can be consumed very easily. The human eye loves a good list!
- Mistakes to avoid – Offer observations on the industry practices which you know your followers should avoid, explain why, and suggest alternatives to doing so.
- Surveys – Many a powerful piece of content has been created off the back of a survey sent out to the right people. Questionnaires can reveal trends amongst customers and/or peers that will benefit your followers, so by using a website such as Surveymonkey you can easily create yourself an attention-grabbing, problem-solving piece of content from the results. While these can work well as blogs or social media posts, the most useful survey breakdowns can be used as ultra-valuable pieces of content to be exchanged for contact details.
- Guest posts – Content produced by people from outside of your business also has the benefit of being linked to from an exterior website. Similar to an interview, your followers may be interested in hearing the views and advice of someone else, while your website and company gets the benefits. Check with your SEO guru whether taking on an outsider will work alongside your main strategy first, though.
- Checklists – Teach your audience how they should be tackling a certain problem or career development as a step-by-step guide. Show them how to be more efficient, how to avoid the mistakes, and how to overcome the inevitable obstacles. Do this in the form of a checklist, featuring all the steps your followers need to take before succeeding in their new venture.
- Controversies – People love to be challenged and enjoy reacting to something they disagree with. Others love to hear a fringe opinion that they hold being reiterated by a key person of influence. If you take this route, keep your comments professional, and be prepared for some angry responses!
- Reviews – Discuss a product, an app, or an event that affects those in your customer base, and give your views on where it succeeds and where it fails.
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Thanks for reading, and let us know any content tips or suggestions you have in the comments!