Cue the eye-rolling — are you ready? "Content is king." Yawn. Yeah, we know. In this age of information overload, it's not even true anymore. High-quality, authentic content is where it's at. Learn how to use content to engage readers and draw potential customers to your brand.
By now, we’re all familiar with (and most likely tired of) the edict, “Content is king.” Legend has it Bill Gates first used the expression in this 1996 article, in which he predicted content was what would “propel the Internet forward as a marketplace of ideas, experiences and products.” Of course, if you ask Sumner Redstone, the majority owner of National Amusements and head of such broadcasting giants as CBS, Viacom and MTV, he’d say he first coined the phrase.
No need to debate who said it first — what matters is that they’re both only partially right. Not all content is king, not anymore, anyway. In this age of information overload, much of the content out there is noise. Junk. The mosquito buzzing at your ear.
You need to create high-quality, authentic content to drive engagement and earn new customers. These tips will help.
Authenticity Delivers Value
People want to engage with brands that feel authentic, genuine, less sales-driven. The blatant sales tactics of old are too brazen for the modern consumer, and companies have to find new ways to draw in audiences and keep them interested.
Content drives that connection. Take BuzzFeed, for example. The site launched in 2006 and by 2014, it was valued at more than three times that of the esteemed 140-year-old Washington Post, according to The Guardian. Its content offerings — and thus, its advertisers — reach more than 200 million unique viewers per month, more than half of whom are in the lusted-after 18-34-year-old demographic.
How do the folks at BuzzFeed do it? They create highly engaging, often informative content that is relevant to their audience. But consider what originally comprised most of BuzzFeed’s content: listicles, viral videos and algorithm-based quizzes. The brand became the media powerhouse it is today by publishing funny stuff that appealed to millennials. By producing content that its core audience found compelling, it was able to expand into news and current events and gain more readers from varying demographic groups.
High quality content reassures BuzzFeed’s audience that time spent on the site is worthwhile — and not all about the ulterior motive of making sales happen.
Providing Quality Content
Providing content with this sense of authenticity and connection isn’t as simple as throwing any old thing up on your website. Do these four things to ensure your content will draw people to your brand:
1. Know who your customers are.
If you don’t know whom you’re talking to, it’s tough to create content that will engage those folks. Track your most engaged customers’ ages, locations, interests and behaviors using a tool such as Google Analytics. Create solid metrics that show you what these people live for and what they care about. Then you can create content with a scope and tone that reflects and attracts more people with those same attributes.
2. Write with quality, not quantity, in mind.
In a recent survey conducted by the Association of Management Consulting Firms, 93 percent of respondents said high-quality content leads them to view the company producing it favorably. Relatedly, 94 percent said poor content actually hurts their opinions of the brand that produced it.
If you want real engagement, your content needs to be stickier than trendy, easily generated listicles and repackaged blog posts. Critical thinkers are drawn to substantial subject matters written with snappy, compelling language. Write about something important, and make sure it’s well-researched.
3. Keep your ultimate goal in mind.
The point of your content is to guide your audience somewhere, so be mindful of what you want them to do next. Identify a common pain point they might share, and then write about potential, relevant solutions.
Create subtle calls to action at the end of your pieces. Include backlinks to your previously published articles on related topics — but not too many, and make sure they’re the right kind, or Google’s algorithm might penalize your content in search rankings. Avoid publishing arbitrary, random content. You must engage consumers with some kind of purpose and intent. The more they read, the higher the chances they’ll engage with your product or service.
4. Expand your content library.
The strength of your content library will depend on how much quality content you can produce on a daily basis. My company has a staff of 30 people, and each of them writes one robust blog post a month, so we are producing fresh content every single day.
If you don’t have those types of resources, you can still grab your audience’s attention with shorter blog posts. Not everything you put out there has to a 20-page dissertation on strategy — just don’t post every whimsical thought you have. A blog is important, but so is balance. Read this post for tips on creating meaningful content from the executive editor at Search Engine Journal, Kelsey Jones.
Compelling content is how you’ll capture and keep the attention of your target audience. It’s how you’ll shape their perception of your brand and build trust with them. So, get to writing, and get your content out there. Content may be king, but an invisible king cannot rule — make sure yours is sharply dressed and has a little something to offer everyone.