According to the fictitious research firm in the back of my brain, 90 percent of all branded content online needs a lot of help. Heck, it might be 95 percent. Why aren’t more brands creating engaging content?
If you don’t believe me, try finding a few examples of great brands that create engaging content. Go ahead; spend some time browsing through several top brands content on their Facebook, Twitter or company blogs. But don’t just look to see if they understand how to post content. That is not the question.
The question is, “Does the content make the audience stop and say, ‘Holy Smokes! That’s ____________ (insert adjective here).’”
Are they creating truly engaging content?
Your job as a marketer is to use content that elicits an emotional reaction from the intended audience, even if that emotional reaction is simply to inspire them to say to someone, “check this out!”
For content that has a direct response call-to-action goal behind it, the emotional reaction you seek is the result of great persuasion; customers click, download or buy. For content that is intended to inform, entertain or drive discussion, it delivers by making the audience feel something.
Now go back and find that brand you thought was creating engaging content and ask yourself this: “Does their content make me feel anything? If so, what? And does the what make me act on that content (like, share, click, etc.)?”
More often than not, you’ll answer, “no.”
If it’s your brand, you are likely too enamored with your own baby to call it ugly. So have someone else do the same review.
If you’ve figured out that you are not creating engaging content, what do you do?
Take your content to a new level by injecting some “Holy Smokes.”
Here are some ideas:
Engaging Content Tip 1 – Put User Generated Content To Work
The single-most engaging, and simple, content marketing strategy is to create a reason and method for your audience members to supply content. Whether you ask them to submit photos using your product or you’re posting an engaging question of the week and aggregating answers for a roundup blog post, you’re building in the emotional trigger: they are the content. When someone sees their own photo, their name and contribution, they share like a proud parent. It’s like your own “easy button” for creating engaging content.
Western River Expeditions has one of the most simple, yet efficient mechanisms to fuel its company blog. They send an email to recent customers asking them to share their white water rafting trip experience. The customer fills out a form, which is not an email that kicks to the marketing department, but rather submits the response as a post in its blog engine.
The marketing staff edits the post to add a little introduction and wrap up or call-to-action, and then posts the story – sometimes with a user-supplied photograph. Western River Expeditions then emails the user to say, “Guess what! We used your story on our blog!” Guess what the user does? They share with everyone they know!
Engaging Content Tip 2 – Think Beyond The Company Blog
Too many brands think creating engaging content is all about a blog at the company URL with posts closely related to the brand’s purpose. However, if you accept the idea that your blog is a media platform and your job is to create engaging content for a given audience, and detach it from the company website, you’ll come away with more freedom and probably a better blog and content.
At the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL – I serve on its Board of Directors), we knew reaching children with engaging learning content wouldn’t fly on a non-profit’s blog. So we created Wonderopolis, a site where a “wonder of the day” is shared to inspire parents and children to learn together at home, away from the classroom. Time Magazine called it one of the Top 50 Websites in the World less than a year after it launched.
Engaging Content Tip 3 – Become An Aggregator
One of the top advertising blogs on the web is AdRants. Its content mainly consists of case studies of great advertising executions from around the globe. AdRants’ content is reporting about other people’s/company’s content. As a result, it has become one of the go-to websites for advertising inspiration and case studies. Imagine if that same content idea were put to use on an advertising agency’s blog. Think they could generate a few leads? I’d bet so.
Engaging Content Tip 4 – Share Your Expertise, Not Your Talking Points
No matter where I’ve worked, there has always been an old codger in the building that knows fascinating stuff. It might be the janitor who can name every starter for the Green Bay Packers dating back to the 50s. It might be the CEO who served in Vietnam. Or it might be the secretary who has seen everyone in and out of the building for 30 years. Someone knows a ton and is just waiting to tell you stories.
At Doe-Anderson, an agency I once worked for in Louisville, KY, that person was (and still is) Ray Radford. Not only was Ray an expert in channel marketing and a whiskey aficionado, he was also quite the storyteller, exceptionally funny and had a little something to say about everything. When I needed content for my blog, I would sit in Ray’s office and turn on a camera or take a few notes during a 30-minute conversation. Task accomplished. Find your Ray Radford.
Engaging Content Tip 5 – Leverage Humor
Humor is subjective, so be careful. You’ll want to ensure you don’t offend your audience, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. A lawyer friend recently told me her firm had too many regulations to be creative in advertising. I responded with, “The Bar Association does not prohibit the partner appearing on television from saying what he says sans pants.” You may have to be creative to be creative.
The next time you write or create engaging content for your brand – whether it’s a blog post, Tweet or even a company brochure – put yourself through the rigors of asking whether or not the content makes your audience say, “Holy smokes!” If it doesn’t, try harder. Gather a creative team together and think outside the typical content buckets and box. Ponder how you can leverage input or content from your audience or the community around your company, or even in your company. Find those emotional triggers in your audience and push them.
If you don’t, your audience is likely to continue not noticing your content. As for me, right now, I’m hoping that if nothing else the title of this article has you thinking, “Holy smokes! Jason did not just pull this post out of his A$$, this is good stuff!” Or something similar…