January 13, 2017 Stephanie Wagle

The New Content EcoSystem

Grabbing users’ attention is easier than you think. Here, 5 rules for creating excellent content and a loyal audience.

“You’ll never guess…!”  “You wont believe…!”  “10 things you need to know….”

Today’s culture of click-baiting makes yesterday’s supermarket tabloid culture look boring and sad. And because of this fast-moving, socially-viral culture, competing for eyeballs on the web has become an exhausting game of constantly writing faster, cheaper, sexier, more.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Old school media outlets like the Atlantic and the New Yorker are still getting viral pass-along with good old-fashioned journalism. New media outlets go viral with just darn-entertaining and meaningful content – see President Obama’s interview with Zack Galifianakis on FunnyorDie.com, or anything Jimmy Fallon has ever produced. Better yet, readers still rely on search to answer their most pressing questions – like cures for the common cold, ways to improve their career, or how to find and buy a product.

In other words: quality can still win the day.

So let’s talk about your content, about reaching your customers wherever they are, whenever they need you – without playing the click-baiting game that makes you — and your customers – feel cheap and dumb.

Rule #1: Create content that answers your customers’ most-common questions.

When should I get the flu vaccine? Do I need an MBA to become a Director? What floor tile works with radiant heating?  By now people have learned to simply type their question into Google, and they expect the right answer to come back. So your job is to identify what those questions might be – and which questions your organization should answer, and create the content to match. Google loves content that contains common questions and answers in the title and text.

Rule #2: Know where your audience is, when, and why.

Do you need Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter AND YouTube? Yes, you might. But you don’t need to post everything to all of these channels all the time. The key is to understand, first, who your audience is, what they need from you, and when they need it. For example, they need an inspiring YouTube video on coping with a child’s diabetes diagnosis at 1am when they can’t sleep.  They’ll search, “My child has diabetes. What do I do?” and on your site they need to find a guide that answers that question with links to expert content, videos from other parents, discussion groups, and local support groups laid out on a Google map.  The key to success here is knowing what that user will search for, and optimizing your content for that search.

Rule #3: Know your strengths, and capitalize on them.

You can’t answer every user question right away. But you can start at the top, with the most pressing questions – as shown in your analytics reports. What sections or topics are the most visited on your site? These are the topics users trust hearing about from you. So make it easy for them – put together a guide to that topic, optimize it for search by giving it a question, and then announce it via social media, email newsletters, and your homepage.

Rule #4: The user is in control.

And they should be. Our job is to help you figure out where they are, when they need your brand, and what format they prefer. Video tutorials and testimonials, text messaged tips and tricks or reminders, long-form educational content, and interactive, supportive, social discussion groups.

Rule #5: Just be yourself – everywhere.

You don’t need to be snarky on Twitter, clever on Facebook and crafty on Pinterest.  No matter where you put your content, stay true to your brand and your voice.  If your schtick is cheeky, be cheeky on your main site, on Instagram and on YouTube.  If your brand is serious, be serious across all channels.  When he went on funnyorDie.com to promote Healthcare.gov, President Obama was still presidential while he sparred with Zach Galifianakis.  And consider the Dartmouth Children’s Hospital video cover of Katy Perry’s “Roar” that went viral this past fall. It featured nurses, doctors and patients proclaiming their strength, determination, and humor in the face of debilitating illness. Yesterday’s marketers wouldn’t consider a video cover of a Top 40 hit to be a good promotional tool for a health care brand, and yet today, what could be more inspiring and more on-brand for a children’s hospital?

There’s no question – we are all overwhelmed by the sheer amount of content — entertaining or not – on the web. It can be exhausting to keep up with it all, and even more so if you’re a marketer or a brand trying to get your message out or your voice heard. But here’s what’s nice about this crazy content eco-system: there are so many different ways to connect with your customers – it’s really only a matter of prioritizing what to connect with them about, when, and where.