We all want to produce content that’s so amazing that our audience—our target market, can’t help but share it, giving us tons of free exposure, but creating that content often seems easier said than done.
I think it’s safe to say we’ve all produced content that seemed like it was destined to go viral—right up until you hit the publish button, at which point, it fizzled out like cheap fireworks you bought at a roadside stand. The few paltry shares you received certainly didn’t feel worth the effort.
Sound familiar? Don’t feel bad. It’s happened to the best of us.
I have personally invested countless hours away from my family writing massive blog posts that went nowhere. I conducted meticulous research, compiled valuable data that was unavailable elsewhere, cited useful and relevant resources, and then painstakingly edited my posts. I even took the time to craft creative and unique images to use within the posts.
But when I clicked “publish” I was met with, well…nothing.
I thought “There must be something wrong!” as I repeatedly refreshed the page waiting for the share counts to increase. I would often even head over to Facebook and Twitter to see if I could find anyone talking about the article, only to be met with more disappointment.
Contrary to what some people think, producing amazing content—the kind that people will eagerly share, is not guess work, and it’s certainly not luck. It’s a combination of great storytelling, self interest (theirs, not yours), and consistency.
Tell a story worth hearing
Producing effective content depends on connecting with people emotionally, and to be blunt, most people suck at it. Don’t get me wrong—they’re great at connecting face to face or over the phone, but when they write a blog post their personality suddenly disappears and they come off as cold, impersonal, and technical. That may be fine when you’re writing an instruction manual for a toaster, but it’s devastating when you’re writing a blog post.
Don’t just tell your audience what they need to know, but instead, paint a mental picture in their heads that is so vivid that they can see, hear, feel, smell, and even taste the experience! Make them feel like they are experiencing it along with you. Be creative, be descriptive, and above all, be interesting.
Instead of simply presenting the facts, share you story of how you came to a specific conclusion, what you or someone else had to overcome to achieve a goal, or what you learned from a particular experience. According to Annie Murphy Paul, author of Brilliant: The New Science of Smart, when you engage with your audience through storytelling, you’ll activate the neurons in their brains as if they were performing the activities in your story themselves.
Make it about the audience
A lot of people struggle with this concept because they want to produce content that’s all about them. I have an ongoing battle over this topic with a great client who we’ve worked with for about a decade now. The former owner is still involved in the business, and he’s an older guy, so I have to remind him often that digital marketing doesn’t work the way he thinks it should.
Every so often, he would insist that we need to write a bunch of blog posts telling everyone how they are the best, first, biggest, etc., and I would have to remind him that simply does not attract anyone’s attention.
People are busily going about their day feeling short on time already, so they will tune out any self centered marketing with zero hesitation. You can certainly work details about the benefits of working with you subtly into your content, but the overall topic absolutely must be useful to your audience.
But this wasn’t just my opinion. Since we track and analyze all of their website traffic, I knew exactly which posts performed well, and which ones were ignored, and that data enabled me to prove my position.
So how do you produce the kind of content your audience will care about? Let’s look at a hypothetical home builder in Tampa, Florida to see how to implement this tactic in the real world. Some potential topics that would resonate with their audience—home buyers, might include:
- How to prepare your home for a hurricane
- 5 tips to save money on your electric bill this summer
- Which home remodeling projects have the biggest impact on home value
- How to host the perfect backyard cook out
- 7 home improvement projects you can do without a contractor
Be consistently prolific
Think about your own Facebook feed for a moment—do you always see the exact content you want from your friends, family, and favorite pages, or is your feed filled with a bunch of seemingly random and chaotic noise?
It’s not just you. Everyone today is buried in noise from family, friends, and marketers alike, and if you want to rise above it all to get their attention, you need to consistently produce original and useful content. This enables you to create brand awareness while increasing the likelihood of being in front of potential customers when they’re ready to make a buying decision.
The first step here is to consistently produce amazing content, both on your own website and on other, authoritative publications. This serves two purposes:
- It gives your audience valuable insight into your knowledge, experience, and personality.
- It gives you valuable content to share on social media to help build brand awareness and authority.
This doesn’t mean that you need to produce a certain amount of content each month—what it means is that you need to set a consistent schedule to produce new content, and then stick with it. People will get used to seeing it and will begin to expect it. For example, I typically post once per month on my own blog, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal and a couple more relevant, authoritative websites. That’s amounts to at least five articles every single month.
Your situation and industry may be completely different, and one article each month might be plenty, or five articles each month might be the bare minimum. You’ll need to evaluate what the leaders in your industry are doing, and then determine the best plan. It’s critical to never let quality take a backseat to volume though, because no one will share average content.