As content marketers we spend much of our time working with clients to help them to create excellent and engaging online content. And if there’s one thing we know, it’s that no size fits all.
Clients can come along in all shapes and sizes.
Some clients invest big bucks to create awesome online content management platforms, which they then struggle to fill, and other organisations have had great previous success in traditional advertising and PR techniques, but are struggling to translate that success into an online realm.
So why is online content development so hard?
It turns out it’s not. But you need to stop focusing on the writing, and start focusing on the process as a whole, or you just won’t get it right.
Online content creators are not rocket scientists, and online content creation is not particle physics… but there is a bit of a knack to it.
So here are some no nonsense tips that will make online content creation and online publishing easier and, we hope, more enjoyable.
Step 1: Ask
If you’ve started off by asking, “How do I write online content?” I’d ask you to first to stop and consider not how, but why you’re writing the content in the first place.
Every second of every day several someones somewhere publish a blog.
Blog counters tick over endlessly, and the acceleration is only going to increase.
According to a LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community Report, 77% of marketers plan to increase their content output over the next twelve months.
It’s also true that most of these blogs will fail, often because no one stopped to ask why they were being written in the first place.
But to answer the question of why, you must first, invariably ask who. Who it is that you’re writing for?
Once you know why you’re writing online content, and to whom you’re writing it – get a picture of them and stick it on the wall above your desk. Every time you’re stuck, ask them what they want to know today? It’s an old writing trick to keep your focus on your audience – but it works just as well for online content creation as well.
Step 2: Plan
So now you’ve figured out who you’re creating online content for, you need to figure out what kind of content will work best, and where to actually publish it.
Let’s talk distribution: How to distribute content: It’s all in the delivery
Online content publishing is not an art, but a craft.
It’s often about taking content that may already have been created for one purpose and retooling it so it works in another.
Make it shorter, change the focus, add a photo, design an infographic, or write a dozen different headlines. Don’t wish for more, do something wonderful with what you have.
Step 3: Make some wow
So long as you remember who you’re talking to and you have a plan for how you’re talking to them, you can make something marvellous.
The trick here is to not fall into the trap of making something formulaic and boring. Drill down into the core of the story, look for the ‘wow factor’ and make that the lead.
You don’t have time to waste—this is not long-form journalism or the Great Australian Novel—this is about giving your audience delightful little nibbles of novelty. Make it memorable by crafting something that will move the reader emotionally. Above all, make it worth sharing.
And it’s not just writing, the same goes for video and visuals. Make it short, make it snappy, make it “wow,” and make it wonderful.
Find that core message which makes your eyes widen and your heart fly, focus on the point at which you lean into the screen and whisper “cool”.
Every story has an element of “cool,” and as an online content creator it’s up to you to find it.
Don’t be afraid to take the time to write less, or to edit a video segment down to the essential elements of the story. Leave your viewer wanting more rather than sitting back totally satisfied. Cater to their sense of curiosity and sense of wonder, and give them a chance to continue to ask questions because then you know you’ve left them feeling alive and engaged, not worn out and weary.
But no… there’s not a simple recipe for this approach to marketing, but you’ll know it when you see it because it will make you say “wow!”.
Step 4: Test
Once upon a time business happened slowly, and it happened in batches. This is because making stuff, moving and selling stuff took time. Marketing stuff also took time, and it was mostly one way.
Online content creation isn’t like that. It’s not linear, it’s circular and engaging.
When it comes to online content creation you need to be prepared to constantly launch, test, tweak, and repeat.
Make something small, see if it works, if it does—do more of it—if it doesn’t, try something else.
This is agility, which other areas of business are now adopting in order to be smarter and less risky than just about any other approach to business.
When it comes to marketing it means spending less time wondering what will work, and more time testing ideas in the wild, tweaking them and trying again.
Marketing departments can now become agile because the Internet brings us in very close contact with at least part of our intended audiences. This means we can design and test campaigns before they become large scale; we can try ideas, get feedback and then try again.
Agile marketing is less risky and more responsive, it’s less talk and more conversation, less guessing and more testing, and less failure and more success.
If at first you succeed, you’re stuffed. When it comes to online content creation, early success, apparent success, and easy success is the best way to end up with a false set of expectations and a totally irrational sense of adequacy, which will stop you from experimenting.
Step 5: Fail
Now that you know why you’re writing, who you’re writing for, you’ve got a plan, and you’re testing it as you go – it’s time to fail.
Yes you read that right, fail; be prepared to fail. Be prepared to test stuff all the time. In order to succeed in online content creation you need to be prepared to constantly test your assumptions, your writing style, your content mix, your social strategy, and so on.
Want to know more? Tricks of the trade: 5 tips for curating online content like a pro
Step 6: Go to step 1
What’s your secret weapon when it comes to creating online content? Let us know in the comments section below!