What is best to write about? How much do you need to write to attract readers and buyers? How long should posts be? And occasionally, still, what is a blog? One thing is for sure, everyone is looking for definitions and "how to's".
This is a slightly, if not totally different question you were asking yourself when you were considering a (more or less) static Web site.
Over there, you learned to be more minimal, embed keywords in titles and throughout the page and speak to the search engines.
By and large writing for the Web ended up being optimized towards making people take direct action onto something else via offer. The user experience crafted to make you take the most direct path from reading to buying or at least inquiring about a product or service.
Our session at MarketingProfs B2B Forum Developing Robust Online Content to Keep Prospects and Customers Engaged with Mike O'Toole, President and Partner, PJA Advertising and Marketing, Christopher S. Penn, CTO, Student Loan Network, Phil Juliano, VP of Marketing, Novell and moderated by Matthew Grant focused on writing engaging content for the next Web and the socializing of information.
Content-centered marketing is undergoing a transformation, one where the content is moving from:
- promotional to non-partisan - some call it thought leadership - the exploration of market trends, patterns in customer behavior, insights into the meaning of certain collective stories and attitudes.
- highly-controlled to less-controlled - I also like to expand this point to the thought of going from highly structured to highly flexible. Think about your content not in terms of the whole construction any more, but the bricks, each with the ability to serve multiple purposes in your prospective customers lives. More legos than logos.
- occasional to ongoing - it was always about the sum total of the parts in communications or integrated marketing for best results. Today with many social networks it is easier to see and aggregate the life stream of your business - from LinkedIn to FriendFeed to Facebook, they all allow a combination of feeds from many separate social media.
- corporate voice to authentic, personal voice - this is something that organizations struggle with. Who should embody the voice of the company and why them when they become popular? Have you seen the movie Flash of Genius? There is one memorable dialogue in the movie where the inventor is talking about using elements that already existed and combining them into a new thing - with new results.
- one-way to conversational - the one overarching concern remains that of message consistency. How do you keep that with such a messy medium that is conversation?
How do you go about it?
(1.) Start with a marketing strategy that is built upon business objectives. What are your success criteria? This will come in handy when it's time to measure results.
(2.) Make the content useful so that it elevates the person who is using it. What is more likely you will share - something that makes you look good or something that is really clever?
(3.) Use a consistent message even with diverse voices - one mechanism for that is story. Come back with me in time and think about when we did not have the written word. Stories were passed on from generation to generation verbally. The knowledge was part of the collective ownership and teaching. Our brain is engineered to respond to narrative, it's the shortcut it uses to retain lots of information in a smaller space in a way that makes sense to us - and occasionally saves our lives (survival).
(4.) Think situationally about content - it depends on the platforms where it is/you are and the people who are there and for it to work it needs to be always on. If you read fiction you will know that the best novels have a moment of tension where the hero/heroine and the other main character connect - usually they fall in love. That invariably happens in the midst of a shared experience, when they are both touched by the same circumstances. Engagement has a better chance when there is a strong shared experience and people go from immersed to involved.
The other side of platforms and people is to use the right voice and tone for the right medium and have consistency in commitment by the people who participate in those platforms. The first six months are probably akin to a honeymoon. You got started and are very excited at the prospect of working with this new thing. However, it is after that period of time that content really starts working for you, just about when you're ready to give the experiment a break.
(5.) Don't be afraid to lose control - because you never had it in the first place. In fact, the more you open up to feedback, the more the feedback you received is useful and honest. Fear is what makes your content uninteresting. You're so afraid to commit to it, to the passion that might come through, that it read bland.
Losing control of your content will seem like a ridiculously small cost when compared to losing your business because nobody is talking about you. Participation is also content. While much of this may not seem new, it is still very hard to do. Why do you think that is? What are the questions and concerns you hear about?
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