Recently, I was doing a Tag-Me Thursday (I do them pretty much weekly in my Facebook group, where you can tag me and ask me anything!) and someone commented:
Everyone keeps using these terms “Valuable content” “Detailed post” “Helpful content” – what do these even mean? What is valuable -How do you know if you have produced valuable post/content or is it all fluff?
I often think valuable has to be this life -changing thing, but I gather from your previous answers, it doesn’t have to be. I doubt myself after writing a piece and scrap it thinking “ah, surely everyone knows this.” And the cycle continues.
I often hear this problem from new bloggers; they struggle with what to write about or how to present themselves because they feel like it’s all been done before and not to mention it’s probably been done better.
So before we get into how we innovate with our content marketing, let’s define what content marketing is: By my definition, content marketing is any time you’re communicating with your audience with the intention of creating a relationship that will result in a sale.
It’s not just about getting eyeballs on things (although that’s important) but about engaging in a conversation and creating a relationship. It’s not about just throwing content at your audience, it’s about engaging in a quality conversation, and that conversation is what provides the value.
And now more than ever, it’s about providing value in a unique, interesting, or disruptive way so that you can stand out and grab and hold the attention you deserve, but also so that you can be a valuable resource for your audience.
Valuable content means valuable to YOUR READER. So don’t fall into the trap of thinking it’s too simple or not valuable because you are looking at it with your expert eyes.
Here’s my short list of what makes valuable or epic content:
- It’s useful.
- It’s in-depth or detailed.
- It hits an emotional button.
- It’s unique (not TOTALLY unique, but a new perspective).
- It’s different from what already exists in some way.
- It has a measurable impact for your business.
It doesn’t have to hit ALL of those, but the more you can hit, the more “epic” it will be. (This list comes from this post if you want to read more.)
Think about the people you follow most closely on social media right now or in your email inbox. What are they doing that keeps you interested and engaged? Let’s look at some of the trends I’m seeing that are keeping people engaged.
I belong to a copywriter’s group on Facebook that includes everyone from brand newbies to us old salty veterans (hey, 5 years in the Internet world makes you salty), and last week someone posted about an ethical quandary with a potential client: the client wanted to provide them with articles that were ranking well on Google and have the copywriter rewrite them with the hopes of outranking them.
Luckily, the writer’s instincts were good and she turned down the job. Unfortunately, this isn’t an uncommon practice. In fact, for years, this was a tactic top traffic and blogging gurus taught people to do to try to rank well on Google.
People are not going to stop scraping content. They’re not going to stop paying $5 a post for something that’s been rehashed from the top hits on Google.
But my feeling is that readers are getting savvier.
Readers are tired of the rehash. With the cultural awareness of “fake news” on the rise, readers (at least in my circle) are educating themselves and conditioning themselves to look at the source of their content. I think this will bleed over into other content that’s not strictly news or journalism.
One question I get asked often is what to do when you feel like everything’s already been talked/written about in your niche, and this is the answer: Write about the same topics, but from your distinct point of view.
Live and expiring content
Facebook Live, Periscope, Stories on Instagram, Snapchat — what all these channels have in common is that the content has an expiration date.
This flies in the face of conventional thought when it comes to content, in some ways. When we write articles, blog posts, websites, the hope is that many people will have the opportunity to find it and see it. And putting an expiration date on that content effectively limits the number of people who can or will see it.
But the times — and the trends — they are-a-changin’. Your audience is engaged with that live and expiring content, and what you get in exchange is content that has a built-in urgency factor and a feeling of exclusivity.
The important thing to remember here is that these new media channels can’t be treated as a gimmick — not if you want to see business results. You have to integrate them into your business strategy to create not just value for your business, but for the customer as well.
In fact, I’m giving this a shot this week. Instead of doing a traditional-style webinar with a JV partner, Rebecca Tracey of The Uncaged Life, we’re doing a Facebook live for her people, and I will be promoting my CIA course at the end of it. Neither of us knows if or how it will convert, but we’re excited to find out.
I think people often approach this kind of content with a shoot-from-the-hip attitude. They think that because it’s live or spontaneous, it doesn’t deserve to be planned out or integrated into a bigger content strategy, but I disagree. I think even if the content itself is spontaneous — as in, not scripted word-for-word — the purpose of it should be planned and understood.
Otherwise, you’re just another fad.
Segmentation & personalization
Last year I wrote about adaptive content — the idea of delivering the perfect piece of content (or the perfect format for that content) for each reader. Mostly I was talking about how a small business can adapt content to multiple channels — say, your blog, Facebook page, Instagram, podcast, SlideShare, etc.
And that’s still important. But this year, I think you should take it a step farther, and start sending specific messages only to specific segments of your audience.
With modern email systems, Facebook ads, and other tools, it’s easy to show your audience exactly the message they need to see, when they need to see it. Modern email systems include the ability to tag subscribers based on actions they take, emails they open, links they click, and so on. But it can go well beyond emails. And I think you’ll see savvy marketers segmenting all kinds of content this year.
The idea is that niching down results in more of the right kinds of customers and make those customers happier. Imagine having three or four different customer avatars and, rather than choosing one to focus on for a particular product or page, you could create different funnels for each, with slightly different copy for the Facebook ads that draw in the leads, the landing page, the email sequence, and the sales page.
Alternatively, it may mean that only a segment of your list — the ones who are most primed and ready to buy what you’re offering — ever see a particular sales message. One of my mentors, Tara Gentile, told her community that she has done this on her last few launches with great effect.
Size doesn’t matter.
Another big trend I’m seeing is with list cleaning and reengagement, and the overall sentiment that “size doesn’t matter” when it comes to your email list.
Many of the highly successful marketers I follow are “burning” or “cleaning” their lists of hundreds, if not thousands, of inactive or unengaged subscribers, decimating the total number of subscribers on their list.
Because they’ve realized that speaking to a smaller group of highly engaged people is more effective than shouting in a room full of people who aren’t listening.
This means that rather than showing an offer to tens of thousands of people on your list, you might show an offer to only a few thousand that expressed interest. Yet the consensus seems to bee good: people are selling out programs faster than ever before, because their smaller audiences were highly engaged and interested in what they had to sell.
Just within my own circle of friends and colleagues, I’ve seen people in very different business niches — B2B and B2C — have great success with interactive content.
I think that’s because interactive content combines personalization, a live element, and a unique perspective. Rather than simply telling someone that they might like to go on an adventure vacation or what kind of project management software they might like best, you can let them find it out for themselves — through a quiz, an interactive infographic, a calculator, or similar.
We’re playing with a new quiz for an opt-in (if I ever get off my butt and finish writing the copy) that will segment our subscribers from the get-go into one of three categories, helping them understand their level of content marketing savvy, and helping us know what and how to help them best.
Other colleagues are using it to engage potential customers and move them into segments. Megan Roop of Quiet Adventures, designed a quiz to help women decide “what kind of adventurer” they are — and whether or not the quiet adventures program is right for them.
Based on their answers, they get a customized email sequence afterward, giving them the information they personally need to make a decision about Megan’s programs.
Interactive content is a great way to combine several of the other trends we’ve mentioned into one strong suite of content.
The biggest “trend” for me this year, may not really be a trend at all. Instead, it’s more of a mindset. When I took Sally Hogshead’s Brand Fascination Advantage test, my brand fascination is Innovation. I like to be on the leading edge, trying new things, experimenting, reporting back on what works and what doesn’t. My friend Michelle Warner put a great name to this: Pattern interruption.
Genius. Instead of trying to create a trend, we look at what’s working and flip it sideways, turn it on its head, dip it in glitter, do it backwards.
This is how you innovate with your content marketing.
It’s not about having to come up with something completely new; it’s about putting your own spin on something that already exists. Think about some of the biggest pattern interrupters of the last few years: Airbnb, Uber, Snapchat. Each took something that already existed (rooms for rent, taxi services, social media) and put a new spin on it — to outstanding results.
And that’s really what all of these trends we’re naming here today are doing as well. Because, in truth, everything comes back to content, and content doesn’t change. Whether you’re creating content for a print advertisement in a newspaper, a sales letter mailed directly to someone’s home, a website, a blog, a newsletter, a podcast, a Facebook live video, an Instagram story, a quiz or something else we haven’t even imagined yet, it’s still content.
And all the same rules of good content still apply.