Whether your content marketing strategy is designed to sell houses or haircuts, the principles are the same. So why do we over-complicate things?
Whenever I feel tempted to leverage everything marketing and social media technology has to offer, I’m reminded of a valuable lesson taught me by an eight year old boy, who once asked me what I did for a living.
I explained I wrote stories to teach people how a product or service could help them, and what made it special. He replied, “That’s easy. Make it exciting and cool, a total surprise. You know, like getting a new Lego when it’s not even your birthday.”
Before I could respond, he added “But don’t pretend it’s real Lego if it’s not. Kids hate that”. It’s pretty hard to argue with that logic, so here are my 8 golden rules of content marketing, based on the wisdom of an eight year old.
1. Go for maximum impact
Don’t be vague or slow getting to the point.
Your audience must see immediate value or they won’t read past the first couple of lines and your efforts will be wasted!
Give them a compelling reason to keep reading, like a solution to a common problem, an interesting statistic or fact, an opportunity to learn something new. Use photos, graphics and video to entice readers into your article and give them a sense of what’s to come.
2. No such thing as a bad idea
Allow your imagination and creativity to run free.
The most successful writers and bloggers are popular because rather than conforming they innovate and disrupt. They don’t pause to ask ‘What will people think?’, they just do it. Writing content for business doesn’t have to equal dry and boring, or even strictly factual. Consider presenting written information in a more visual way, like a table or infographic. Or try a different writing style, like conversation or Q&A.
3. Let your personality shine through
It’s a common phrase, but one worth repeating: people do business with people.
Share a little of your everyday life and experiences with your audience – even when things don’t go to plan, or you appear less than perfect. Give the reader insight into what inspired a blog post, describe a challenge you’re facing or share something you’ve learned.
4. Mainstream isn’t always best
Your audience is already swamped with content from a multitude of sources that looks and sounds the same.
Consider what catches your attention on and offline: most likely it’s something that challenges convention, dares to be controversial or presents a new spin on an old idea.
5. Give everyone a voice
People look for content they can relate to.
Once the connection is felt, they’ll often want to reinforce the ‘me too!’ moment with a blog or forum comment, or by sharing across social media networks.
Your audience is much more likely to respond to a request than take the initiative, so encourage readers to comment and share, and make it easy! Broken links, hard-to-find sharing icons and comment boxes requiring too much information quickly discourage reader interaction.
6. Share, share, share!
Your audience is unlikely to see everything you publish, or frequent every social media platform you use.
Your content should be a conversation starter, not a statement – don’t just leave it sitting on your blog page, or assume that several social media posts linked to the same article will be regarded as spam. Valuable, relevant content will engage your audience, not annoy them!
7. Assume nothing
We all crave information, advice and guidance.
If something seems obvious, simplistic or everyday to you, don’t assume it won’t be valuable to your audience. A quick look at YouTube demonstrates how much people love to be shown, taught and explained all manner of things.
8. Be spontaneous
Treat social media like a face-to-face conversation.
The key is jump in wherever you can add value, rather than waiting for the ideal moment, or time to craft a perfect response.
There’s no better place to get feedback, respond to issues, identify interests and understand the challenges facing your audience. Great content marketing is about authenticity, connection and understanding. Be real, be cool, be creative – but keep it simple! Your audience are people just like you, so make them the focus your story. Let your customer be the hero!