The Internet has sped up our lives – email has turned airmail into ‘snail mail’. Mobile Internet connectivity has made our lives faster still. We’re being robbed of the last shreds of time we had to think. The pace of life, and the profusion of different channels and distractions has sharpened our perception of the value of our time.
As marketers, this poses a challenge for getting our communications heard. Along with this heightened awareness, the audience has control of how they invest their time. With the growth in ad-blocking software, marketing messages face a challenge to be noticed. For us to achieve cut-through (landing our message with the audience), our content has to pass over a higher ‘is this a valuable use of my time?’ bar than ever. It has to provide genuine value to the audience, making their lives better for having interacted with it, even just a tiny bit.
Like so many of Tom Fishbourne's excellent cartoon's this delivers an important truth that is invaluable for marketers
Content marketing is about delivering ‘value’ to the audience. What do we actually mean by that? Marketing guru Seth Godin describes it as follows:
“…something that people would seek out, and that they would miss if it wasn’t there.”
In terms of thinking about your content, a simple guide to this is that the audience are looking for something that is TRUE; that is, timely, relevant, useful or entertaining. The better you understand your audience, the more effective the content that you create for them will be. Let’s look at what is meant by each of those terms:
Timing is key to effective content. Think about how successful Oreo was with its “You Can Dunk in the Dark” tweet, when the lights went out during the 2013 Super Bowl. It was picked up by the 23 million Twitter users who were watching the game, and ended up being regarded as the ad of the evening – a title that many companies had spent millions of dollars for a shot at, and failed. It goes without saying that what is timely for one viewer is annoyingly late for another – good advice 30 seconds too late is annoying.
As we touched on previously, the content has to be relevant to the audience. This almost goes without saying – we all constantly filter the information that assails us every waking moment. Because of this, your audience are keenly aware of what does and doesn’t apply to them. Think about what is going to be relevant for your viewers – this might now be directly obvious. For example, if you’re trying to market an apprentice scheme to school leavers, they may be interested in advice on renting a home for the first time. This information is obviously not so interesting to those looking to move job as an experienced hire. This underlines the importance of understanding your audience and what is relevant to them.
A word of warning here, according to research by LinkedIn, 44% of their respondents said they would consider ending a relationship with a brand because of irrelevant promotions. An additional 22% said that they would ‘definitely defect’ from that brand. Knowing your audience and making content that is relevant to them is essential.
"44% would consider ending a relationship with a brand because of irrelevant promotions.
22% would definitely defect"
One step on from being relevant is content that is actually useful. Providing how-tos, instructions, discounts and tie-ins with other products that they may be using are all ways of being useful to your audience. Once again, what is useful to your viewers might not be immediately obvious – look at the previous example. Home-renting advice is also useful to the target audience. These different types of value do not exist in isolation – each piece of content can be a combination of one or more things.
You must create content that your audience will actively seek out, love and share because it's great.
We all need a little entertainment from time to time. If you can get it right, this is a great way of drawing in your audience and winning them over. Tread carefully with this though – you have to make sure that whatever you share ties in with your brand. You need to earn the trust of the audience before making drastic departures in tone of voice.
The content you produce doesn’t need to be all of these things at the same time – any one or two will work, as long as it/they provide enough value in that given area. The more entertaining and relevant your work content is, for example, the more the chance there is that it will be watched, shared and loved.
There are different ways of skinning a cat though...
Google defines the different ways of engaging your audience with your content slightly differently:
- Inspire the audience with emotional and relatable stories.
- Educate the audience with useful information.
- Entertain the audience by surprising them, making them laugh or sharing spectacular content.
There is no right or wrong way of looking at these; they are just a different way of looking at the same underlying principles. I hope that seeing them from a slightly different angle will help you to understand them and use them.
If you found this interesting and would you like to learn more about how to make really great content?