The aim of content is to win people over to your business or brand.
To drive engagement and to generate sales.
But what makes for winsome content?
Short answer – personality, creativity, and generosity.
Long answer – it’s not that simple, so read on.
What works for one business might not work for another, which is why this post is not about tactics, but about the type of content that is likely to find resonance across time and time zones.
The direct business advantage of having content that doesn’t go out of style is that it will continue to attract new readers/viewers long after it was created. That’s impressive ROI.
Sound financial investment advice involves buying and holding on to assets that are guaranteed to appreciate in the long term, as opposed to just buying stocks that will remain slave to the vagaries of the market. Gold, for example, is one solid investment. Think of evergreen content in similar terms. The value it brings to a business will only increase with time.
So what can you infuse your content with so that it soars above trends and population mood-shifts?
Be of service to the audience
All the best and highly regarded content on the internet has one thing in common. It came out of a generous spirit. The creators liberally shared their knowledge to help their communities or the world in general.
They did not stop at simply giving us a taste of what was to follow, they served the whole dish at the right time and at the right temperature.
So don’t act miserly with your advice. This requires courage. But more importantly, it sends out a clear message to the target customers that your aim is not just to win their hard-earned money but to provide them with something that will be of direct value to them and in the process enhance their quality of life.
When content creators proceed from this mindset, it does a few things that help a business.
First, the content by the virtue of its quality rises above the torrent of similarly themed articles and videos. Everyone is sick of the content glut, yet the consumer appetite for quality content remains insatiable.
Second, it makes people want to share this finely created content.
Third, it may impact consumer decision to make a purchase with a business or not.
And fourth, by establishing itself as valuable this content continues to attract new people and consequently rank higher in Google search (which, in turns, attracts an even greater number of people). It’s a beautiful cycle that you totally want to be a part of.
Make research the bedrock of content
Entrepreneurs often get business ideas when they spot gaps in services and products available in the market. Research typically follows in order to flesh out these ideas.
Information is gathered about the need for certain types of products in certain demographics. At every point, accurate research has the potential to lead to products tailored to meet specific consumer needs.
The principle of research applies to digital marketing, in particular content creation, as well. To stand out, your business needs to understand the target segment(s) better than any competitor. When you gain insight into their needs, identify their problems, and propose practical solutions, they will listen.
Content that is created around pressing consumer needs will always find takers. There’s a reason how-to videos are still among the most popular on YouTube. By addressing a problem directly, simply, and thoroughly, your content adds value to the lives of target customers. Helpful content is a joy forever.
Here are some ideas that might work for your business:
- Beginners’ guides (in the form of articles or videos and updated regularly)
- How-to tutorials (particularly helpful for restaurants, beauty salons, solo artists, etc.)
Example: The owner of the Instagram account thebiteshot is a commercial food photographer who regularly shares detailed posts on how she gets impeccable shots of food.
On her YouTube channel Joanie Simon shares in impressive detail the equipment she uses for photography, the different ways in which she obtains the right kind of lighting, and how she creates her own props or where she gets them from, among many other things.
She pours her heart out for the followers who share a similar passion. This has resulted in a lot of evergreen content on her channel that one can revisit as one learns the fine art of food photography.
- Q&A (where a business can directly address customer queries)
With the right kind of SEO to back it up, in-depth content has the potential to rank high in SERPs regardless of the year it was originally posted in.
Share personal stories
Who doesn’t love a good story? Who doesn’t love a good startup story?
When entrepreneurs share their journeys with the genuine aim of helping others going through similar struggles, they are not just appreciated but also loved. There is a lot to learn from a person’s success as well as failures and those who run successful businesses have often seen their fair share of both.
Do not shy away from chronicling the challenges you have faced as a business (or an individual owner of a business) and how you overcame them. The human touch works magic even on the internet.
People love to know the face (or faces) behind a brand, talking like a human typically would (not in a wooden, rehearsed manner). There are numerous ways to create content with genuine stories.
Share your routine, take the readers behind the scenes, give your employees a voice and a platform, or simply talk to your social media followers directly in the form of a video. The owner of the cosmetics line HUDA Beauty (valued at over a billion dollars) posted a video earlier this year about how she struggles with self-love and that no amount of success can make a person happy.
Huda Kattan is known for speaking her mind and that hasn’t affected her brand or success at all. If anything, it makes her appear courageous and inspiring. That one video alone won her an even greater number of fans (and without doubt customers as well, though that wasn’t the point of it.)
If, however, speaking about personal challenges is not something you think you can effectively execute, it’s ok. Find something else. But don’t fake it.
This is not some get-rich-quick scheme that works by fabricating the truth or inventing challenges that did not exist to impress people and trick them into believing your lies to establish a brand presence.
The idea behind sharing personal stories is to be able to connect with others on a deep level, and you can only do that if you are truthful and passionate about it. Don’t push out content that is half-hearted or misleading.
The consumer base today is very smart and spoiled for choice. “Fake it till you make it” sounds like terrible advice now. Abraham Lincoln summed up deception beautifully: “You can fool some people all the time, and all the people some of the time. But you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
Find your strengths and devise your own unique way of relating to the audience.
Create native content
Native content is content that is native to any given platform. In other words, it is content that is right at home on the platform it is posted on.
Businesses can no longer afford to create one post and share it across different social media channels. What works on Facebook may backfire on Instagram.
Content strategists and creators need to learn the nuances of each platform and the unique expectations of the audience from the platform in order to produce native content.
This extends to sponsored ads as well, if we are to consider that content, too. While ads are everywhere, and people have come to expect to see them, no one particularly likes their timelines being filled with businesses they haven’t heard of.
You do not want your brand messaging to stick out like a sore thumb in a stream of vacation images, for instance. When content is adapted to a platform, it blends into it seamlessly.
No one will grudge giving a business the time of the day when its content (even if sponsored) is top-notch and titillates the audience. Not just that, well-curated native content enhances user experience as well.
Take a stand on social issues
Businesses have long been criticized for not taking a stance on social matters, being too profit-oriented, and in general unwilling to use their voice for greater benefit.
They are also taken to task for being tone-deaf or completely out of sync with evolving sensibilities of the consumers. (Remember Dolce & Gabbana’s ‘I’m thin and gorgeous’ sneaker fiasco?)
Brands today need to profess their values to customers. And these values better be inclusive.
In fact, a report found that “two-thirds of consumers want brands to take a stand on social issues”, and that this is the era of the “belief-driven buyer”.
A business/brand needs to be aware of the voice it is cultivating via its content, marketing, and positioning, right from the start. All aspects of the business need to work together as a harmonious whole. Content and social media will take this message to the people.
No one expects businesses to be warriors but taking cognizance of people’s sensibilities, and publishing the right kind of content at the right time, whether in the form of a short video, a tweet, or a picture quote, is appreciated and remembered – and that is the aim of all content.
To grab people’s attention, to make a business recognizable, and to make it stand apart from the competition, all the while making people from different walks of life feel welcome.
Don’t wait for ‘perfect’
Perfection is the enemy of progress.
It’s one thing to want to generate a content stream to be proud of, and quite another to stymie the process by being overcritical in the hopes of producing the ‘best content ever’. (By the way, there is no such thing as ‘best content ever’!)
You know when you have produced quality content? When it fulfils a need. At the very base of it, this should be the aim of any content strategy. If you meet the needs of your audiences, the content is good enough and will get shared.
Content needs to be professionally edited with proper links, attribution, and images. But more importantly, it needs to serve a purpose and it should be a joy to consume, Quality content may have a method to it, but it is not formulaic.
Business owners should give content creators freedom to experiment with different voices, while content creators should keep the brand ethos and overall messaging in mind, and not get carried away with their own creativity.
It’s a fine balance to strike, but one a business would do well to learn.
Use a variety of formats
Going back to the financial management advice, any expert worth his or her salt will tell you to diversify your investments.
This applies to content creation as well. Different formats generate different degrees of engagement. And different topics may require different treatment.
The target audience is not a monolith. Even within clearly defined segments people have their preferences. Then there’s the consideration of lifestyle as well.
A big advantage of providing various types of content to consume is that people can do so on the go. One can’t always read a post on the train, especially if they are standing all the way, but they can plug in their earphones and tune into a podcast.
Similarly, sometimes it’s easier to cast a video to the screen at the end of a tiring day than hold the phone in the hand and read a lengthy article.
By giving people choice you make sure they have something or the other to grab their attention when they visit your page/website. You give them an incentive to stay longer on the page and continue engaging with the content.
Create content borne of engagement with community
Not only will you never run out of ideas, but you can also rest assured your content will resonate with people every single time. Because they gave you the idea! By publishing content that addresses community concerns you tell the followers that you are listening and that you care.
A business may or may not have a community yet, depending on how it started. In that case new businesses might want to see how their competitors are faring. Examine the content they are creating and how their audiences are receiving it.
Can you find a new angle? What issues are these businesses not addressing? What are their audiences still waiting for? Identify the gaps. It’s important to fulfil specific needs for content to find widespread acceptance.
As your brand starts to gain a following, keep a close eye on the comments they leave on your posts or the questions they pose. People are very direct in their criticism (as well as praise). That right there is a wealth of information to guide future content creation.
Bringing it all together
Researching the market, listening to the concerns and desires of the target audience, and engaging with them on a regular basis can provide a business with all the information and inspiration it needs to create targeted content.
If your content can enrich the lives of your audience and make people feel like they matter, they will love you back and spread that love as well.
Pratik Dholakiya is the Founder of Growfusely, a SaaS content marketing agency specializing in content and data-driven SEO.