Matt Youdale, Arch Communications
If you’re anything like me, you talk about your business all the time! After all, we’re proud of our teams, of what we’ve achieved and what we have to offer.
Producing more structured content can seem harder. We worry about finding the time and the right things to say. However, it’s necessary and doesn’t need to be that difficult…
Why content matters
Producing good content on a regular basis really matters. It builds your brand, establishes your expertise, helps you to be distinctive and gets you noticed.
In short, it boosts your online presence – and in doing so, brings you into contact with more potential customers. By reading or seeing what you’re putting out, people become more aware of you and therefore more likely to do business with you. This is content marketing.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that a fair proportion of your competitors will have already got their act together content-wise. If you’re not keeping up, you’re at a competitive disadvantage – especially in the B2B sector.
It’s not all the same
Not all content is the same. For a start, it obviously comes in different physical forms – words, pictures, audio and video – so you have options.
But content varies in type and frequency too:
- Social media posts – daily
- Short blogs or LinkedIn articles – weekly or fortnightly
- Longer blogs or presentations – monthly or bi-monthly
- Thought leadership papers or ebooks – once in a while
This means there are different layers of sophistication and depth you can achieve. However, this isn’t all about original content. You can also be active by responding to what others are saying.
So – what to talk about? Coming up with content ideas can feel like a challenge, but actually, you have a whole host of things to draw upon.
Remember that what you do every day (and see as routine or even mundane) is actually fresh and interesting to someone not in your line of business. The knowledge you take for granted can be precious to others.
Here are some content ideas to get you started:
- Your own news – everything from an event, to new contracts or an award win
- Information about products or services
- Special offers or promotional campaigns
- Your DNA – approach, values, USPs. What makes you different?
- Customer case studies and testimonials – keep them in one place so you know what you have to work with
- Profiles of you and your staff
- At work – snapshots of what you do
- Sharing expertise – tips & and blogs
- Charity fundraising or volunteering
- Did you know? – random facts about your business (great for social media!)
- Quirky things or funny incidents
- Topical reaction (more of this in a moment)
- Sharing – signposting or passing on other people’s content
- Repurposing – reshaping or re-using content (eg an old blog)
Whatever the content, always try to be relevant, useful, interesting and even funny (though not necessarily all at the same time!). Think of the audience – what will appeal?
Being topical allows you to join conversations which are already happening. Brexit and coronavirus are obvious examples, but there are always others.
Then there are things fixed in the calendar. These could be seasonal – Valentine’s Day, Children in Need, Christmas, the weather. But you can also tap into economic moments, by talking about the Budget, GDP figures or the latest survey on business confidence.
Government announcements or other news relevant to your business provide opportunities to establish yourself as a commentator in your field. But do ensure the relevance is there. We’ve all seen examples of people trying too hard to latch onto an issue when there isn’t really a genuine connection.
You’re never going to be truly effective at this unless you plan.
Create grids to schedule what you’ll say when. You can look ahead as far as you want, but start with monthly plans for your social media activity and a rolling timeline for blog ideas.
From here you can pre-schedule social media posts (using platforms like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite), so that you’ll be active online even at busy times when your attention is elsewhere. But make sure you’re mixing up your content to keep it fresh. You don’t want your followers to be bombarded with sales messages and nothing else.
You can take your planning further and devote half or full days to preparing content. It will force you to focus on it regularly and actually makes the overall workload more manageable.
Ideally, you’ll have one big content plan which feeds all your communications channels. Then you can get the most out of your content. For instance:
- If you’ve written a blog, promote it on social media.
- If you’ve produced a film that’s more than a couple of minutes long, can you also cut it up into bit-sized chunks?
- Tweets have a very short shelf life, so you can afford to repeat them at different times on different days. In this way, you only need half a dozen original tweets to post 4-5 times a day across a whole week.
Even with a plan, you should be spontaneous too. Your on-the-day reactions will simply give you an even bigger impact.
Don’t try and be too clever when creating content. Keep it simple:
- Be human. Avoid jargon and assume zero knowledge. Be yourself – show a bit of personality!
- Make it easy. People scan read online. Keep sentences and paragraphs short, use bullet points for lists.
- It’s a conversation. Talk directly to your audience, using “you” and “we”. Write as you would speak (“we’re”, rather than “we are”) and read what you’ve written out loud. If it doesn’t flow, it’s not right.
Remember that words are only part of the story. You should always think multi-media, looking for opportunities to enrich your content with pictures and video.
There’s also the issue of search engine optimisation (SEO) for blogs and other website articles. To ensure they show up in searches, give them enough weight (at least 500 words, ideally 1,000+), and embed key words and phrases.
To sum up:
- Understand the different types of content and use them to stay interesting
- Use what’s happening in the world to be relevant and topical
- Plan, so you can give your content the attention it deserves
- Persevere, because it takes time and discipline to build an audience
So stick at it, because it can make a significant difference – to your social media following, your web traffic, and ultimately to your sales pipeline.