“Content is key!” We’ve all heard that ringing through the blogosphere. It’s the chic battlecry of the online marketing front. The only downside is that it doesn’t actually contextualize this glaring issue. What kind of content? Where do we turn for ideas? Geeze, where do we even begin?
It’s a lot to think about, and it only weighs heavier because of its increasing importance. Look around you, there are hundreds, thousands of armies fighting on this crowded battlefield. And to the victors go the spoils. In this case, we’re fighting not just for success but for survival. We’re fighting for the attentions of readers, customers, brand loyalists and more. This passive group sits on the sidelines, demanding that we entertain and engage them. If we fail, your competitor is but a click away.
Rising to the top of this arena takes an aggressive campaign strategy. This article is meant to reignite your fighting spirit and point you in the right direction, but you know your business better than us. You know your audience better than us. And if your data is lacking, it’s time to take a long, hard look in the mirror.
For inspiration, let’s take a dip into a different sort of battlefield, one that is just as barbarous as your online realm: the ocean, where the most cutthroat survivalist is the shark.
Approaching content creation like a shark proves to be a surprisingly effective analogy. As content creators, we’re like sharks. We need to stay agile and keep swimming. Being disappointed frustrated with customer interaction is one thing, but doing something to improve it takes action.
So how did sharks become the perfect underwater predator? Through evolution. As a brand, you need to be constantly looking for ways to stay on your toes, ways to change and adapt the content you produce. What are we doing to interact with our customers? What kind of posts are we making?
Make no mistake, content is still key. It’s still imperative for your business’ online strategy, but it’s also more challenging. Here are some tips to help you navigate these waters. Like a shark.
The Conceptual Stage:
Define Your Goals –
Sharks are focussed creatures. They exist to feed and reproduce, thus perpetuating their underwater reign. As a brand, you need to have a similar focus on a specific set of goals.
Some of these goals are obvious: you want to increase interaction, traffic, and profits. But can you make this any more specific? If you’re darting back and forth between different schools of fish, you’re never going to eat. Keeping your goals well defined allows you to monitor progress while tailoring your content to a precise target market. It’s easier to figure out what a particular group of people gravitate towards than it is to predict the purchasing habits and preferences of the entire internet conglomerate.
Define Your Story –
Once your goals are defined, you need to figure out how to attract your intended audience. What thematic angles will your brand focus on? What will be most relevant and applicable to your audience? Defining the rules and regulations of content creation ensures that your brand identity remains consistent — just make sure it doesn’t become a straightjacket.
It’s helpful to ask how your customers perceive your brand. Is their image something we want to reinforce or something we want to change? A lot of this hinges on the tone your brand uses to tell its story. Does your shark swim with grace or an intended rigidity? Would you benefit by adjusting your formula?
Here’s a good example: next time you’re out shopping, take a look at the hairstyling aisles. You’ll notice that some brands, like Bed Head, advertise their products as “super charged,” and “indulgent.” Your hair gel options are “Control Freak,” “Headrush,” “Spoil Me,” among others. There’s a palpable energy behind these product and they clearly want a high-octane audience.
Contrast this with Garnier Fructis, a brand that advertises “smoothness,” “control,” and “sleekness.” It’s the same basic product, but a completely different tone of voice. Each brand is adjusting their tone to attract the audience they want. They’re narrowing the pool and increasing their adeptness.
Along with tone comes Point of View. Your content needs to engage with your audience, not stand in opposition to them. How do they see the world? Is this reflected in your posts? If not, consider changing your approach. Provide them with something that they already associate themselves with.
Ensure Your Efficiency –
Sharks are the perfect hunting machines because they’re efficient. Their streamlined approach allows them to adjust and move quickly, and your team needs to operate similarly. This is where our trusted shark analogy falls a little short — we’re setting our sights a little bit higher than this oceanic predator. As the most efficient creature under the sea, they don’t have to worry about organization. Plus, they’re not exactly running a business. The fish we’re trying to catch are a little more cunning.
Efficiency can be achieved through strong management and organization. This is the only way to keep your pool of content creators consistent with your brand’s stated goals. A shark is only a shark when it acts as a single entity.
Make sure you play to your strengths as well. Outline roles and responsibilities so your shark doesn’t choke while on the prowl. Make sure your best writers are the ones writing the most. Who produces the best social media content? Find them and assign them this task.
Organization also ensures that you’ll find well-populated waters. It’s a competitive ocean out there, and you need to figure out which platform will be most successful for your content. Is it a lengthy blog post? Store it on your website and give your customers links. Is it a funny picture? Facebook may be your best bet.
Where to Look / What to Think About:
This is all great advice, but where are you supposed to go for the results you want? Especially when they require more ambition, precision, and engagement than ever before. Creating content is only getting more difficult — audiences’ standards for engaging blog posts, witty tweets, and high quality video is only becoming harder to satisfy.
Yet the answer may be closer than you think. It comes back to point of view — how is your insight unique? What angle can you take that is different?
Before You Get Started:
You’re creating valuable content, but you want it to be branded content. Helpful information is at its best when it propels your business forward in some way. But remember, your followers and fans are already on board. They know the drill. What if you end up driving them away instead of attracting them? If you throw your net a little wider and put a little less focus on yourself, you’ll catch a more attractive variety of customers.
It’s a hard tightrope to walk. There’s a place for advertising and there’s a place for branded content. Your content needs to be educational, entertaining, and applicable, but not too self-aggrandizing. No one wants to share a traditional advertisement, so don’t approach your content in this manner. It’s an opportunity to serve, so keep your calls to action subtle or subtextual.
Here are some quick examples:
Charmin Toilet App:
- How does a toilet paper company engage with their clients? By providing a tongue in cheek service. They created the SitOrSquat app to help people find and review public restrooms. Unorthodox, but extremely effective.
British Airways #Lookup Campaign:
- British Airways’ #lookup campaign isn’t your typical advertisement either. Large screens show a Honey I Blew Up the Kid sized child pointing at an airplane flying overhead, correctly identifying its flight number and destination. We notice the ingenuity more than the brand, because it’s so interesting and new.
How much do we really know about any given job? What we’ve seen in movies? What we can logically deduce on our own? In the end, it’s probably a drop in a professional bucket. It may be helpful to tell your audience what you actually do. Providing personal stories about your industry or company can be great structural supports for long form content. What’s become commonplace for you is still a novel conceit for the rest of your world — and if your audience is interested in your company, your insight is bound to intrigue them. Not every fun fact will spawn a successful blog post, but insight can add a unique and shareable element to any piece of content.
FAQs and Professional Insight:
You’ve been doing this for a while. You’re bound to have fielded similar questions during your time on the job, and those questions will likely come up again…unless you create content to answer these questions in a new and interesting way. Customers almost always seek out information online before making a purchase, and you have the opportunity to fill their knowledge gaps before they even encounter a problem. In the end, it’s two fish with one bite — you’ll be producing informative content and reducing the time you spend answering common questions.
Just look at what Colgate was able to do with their Oral and Dental Health Resource Center: They’ve used their professional experience to create a convenient source for all things dental. Visitors will come with questions and leave with both answers and a very positive impression of Colgate.
What are Others Saying?
Even if your brand exists in a popular industry, you’ll have a different point of view than your competitors. Before you can express it you need to be aware of what these competitors are talking about. Social media is a great way to find out — what do they believe, who are they following, and what issues are they concerned about? More importantly, what are your customers interested in?
Believe it or not, auto-fill searches are great places to start. Typing keywords into Google, YouTube, and Yahoo will allow you to test the waters and see what kind of bait audiences are hungry for. It’s possible to repurpose content and information that already exists as long as you filter it through your own professional lens. You’ll be able to provide insight unique to you and your audience. Let this audience know how this information impacts them specifically. Why will they care?