“Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak” – Rachel Zoe
If you know me, you know I am not a fashionista. But just because I do not have a closet full of the finest clothes and shoes does not mean I don’t understand that how a person shows up will dictate how they are perceived. My fashion style is more aligned with my personality: relaxed and casual. The rope sandals that I buy from Bonnaroo each year are much more representative of who I am than any high heels.
The way we dress will affect the expectations that people have. Wouldn’t it be weird if I were in my jeans, t-shirt, and rope shoes but extra serious and all business? Or if I was wearing an expensive suit and Prada heels but was completely relaxed and careless?
The same is true for your online content. The first thing a person sees when they come to your site is the style you present. This includes the colors, the layout, the size and type of font, the number and type of images, and the number and type of advertisements and call-to-actions.
I may see an enticing headline but once I click on it if the actual site is not appealing I rarely stick around to read the content that drew me there. Even if the site is appealing, if the content is not laid out in a format that’s enjoyable to read, I move on. I am sure you do the same thing. Here are my 3 tips for creating content that represents who you are and appeal to the audience you want to attract.
You Do You
Your content marketing should differentiate you from everyone else. Let’s get real: Whatever you are writing about, there are thousands of others writing about the same thing. And if you think you’ve found a topic that no one is writing about, then that begs the question if anyone is looking for such content.
Your content should represent the story you have to share with the world. A good story is authentic, creative, makes an emotional and personal connection, inspires actions and takes an audience on a journey with the brand.
Although there are various design best practices and trends that you should follow, ultimately when you look at your site you should be confident that it represents you in the way you want to show up to the world and it communicates the expectations you want to set for your audience.
If your site was a person at a networking event, what would it be like? If you have a site that presents a reader with lots of pop-ups and advertisements as soon as they land on a page, then your site is like that annoying sales person who goes around shoving their business card in everyone’s hand. If the font on your site is extra small and condensed with lots of words, then your site is that person who stands in the corner like a wallflower but if you start a conversation with him he will talk nonstop.
Think about who you are and how you want the world to see you and then allow your content and its style represent that.
What Are You Trying To Accomplish?
Why are you dedicating time and resources to publishing content?
Are you trying to build a brand identity? If so, the total focus of your content is to align your brand–whether it is a company name, a stage name, or your birth name,–with what you want to be known for. Be consistent, be unique, and be engaging. Draw people in by connecting with them on an emotional level. Create content that aligns with what you and your ideal audience have in common. Make sure your site is dressed up the way you would show up.
Are you trying to find sales leads? Then your content should show your expertise and help your audience think through how to solve problems. Run a keyword search to see what questions people are looking for answers to and answer those questions but also provide a personal insight or unique idea. Perhaps present a boring answer in a fun and creative format. Whatever you do, do not be a salesperson. No one wants to be sold to. Don’t dress your content up with pop-up ads or lots of call-to-actions that demand their information. Instead, be a valuable resource that people are willing and wanting to do business with.
Are you trying to get people involved? Maybe you are trying to get people to advocate an idea or event or share their own opinions or insights. If this is the case then you need to write content that is conversational and includes your audience. Hit the points that are the emotional triggers for them and then allow them to include their own thoughts. Curate your audience’s information and talking points. Give your audience something to do. Perhaps you can choose an audience member to take over a social media account. The biggest difference between how you dress this kind of content is that people should recognize your site is a place of community collaboration.
Dress Appropriately For the Occasion
When using social media channels to publish content or promote your blog content, keep in mind that consumers go to Facebook and Linkedin with different goals and mindsets. Facebook provides a fun and entertaining diversion. It is a place where people go to see pictures from their friends and celebrate life’s little moments or to debate the latest political controversy. When you are on Facebook be engaging, be fun, and keep it light.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, is where people turn for career advancement. Content that helps users build skills for their current job, find vendors to solve business problems, or get another job would be well-received there.
Each platform has its own community rules and culture. Be sure how you show up does not make you stand out in a bad way.
Finally, do not try to be everything to everyone. Each person and brand has its own unique style and each person has their own taste. Your goal should be to attract an audience that shares your style and taste which is the foundation of a solid, long-term relationship.
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There’s more to content marketing than writing blog posts, creating ebooks and promoting your content through advertisements and social media post.
To be successful, you need to be active and engaging and offer information people are looking for.
One of the biggest mistakes that brands make when they are creating content is to focus on sales and advertising. Their focus is on what they want their audience to know about them.
This was how marketers thought for a long time. However, content marketing is an evolving organism that changes alongside technology and consumer preferences. Not too long ago it was easy to create content or an outbound message and grab the attention of your target audience. Today, however, consumers are confronted by outbound strategies constantly through commercial interruptions, pop-up ads, junk mail, and unsolicited emails. Not only have people become numb to it but they are also using technology to block it.
To be fair, promoting content all about your brand is an honest mistake because the questions you start with when you begin to craft a strategy start with focusing on your business goals. When I sit down with a client I start with the questions what do you want your audience to know? How do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do?
If your content planning stops there your strategy will be very one-sided and one-sided relationships are never very successful.
The next step of developing your content strategy is understanding what your audience wants from you.
Without a holistic plan, your marketing efforts can be a waste of time – or worse a recipe for a failed relationship with your prospects and clients.
If you want to develop quality relationships with your audience, develop a plan to be there when they search for answers, be engaging, and inspire action. Here are a few ways to make that happen.
You Need to Know your Audience
Your goal is to attract the best potential customers, not just anyone with a pulse.
To do this you need to know more than demographic information of the people you are trying to reach, such as income, zip code, age, or gender. If you are looking to develop a content strategy that builds relationships which lead to sales and brand advocacy, you need to know their story.
To develop their story, look beyond the problems you solve for your customers and reflect on who they are. What are their goals? Who would they turn to for advice? What do they value? Who are they trying to impress?
Knowing these answers will help you to create content that is more than information. By knowing their story your content can create a picture of a solution that not only meets a need but aligns with their identity.
You Need to Stand Out
When everybody and their mother is able to create and publish content the Internet becomes a very noisy place.
A 2013 Nielsen survey showed that 27 million pieces of content are shared every day and according to the 2015 Content Marketing Institute survey 86% of B2B marketers and 77% of B2C marketers use content marketing.
So how can your content stand out?
1. Make your titles actionable or tangible. Let people quickly know what they will get when they tune into your content.
2. Be sure that your content is easy to quickly scan. Many people now scan through the content first before deciding to invest the time in reading your content or watching your video in-depth.
3. Make sure you are using the keywords that your audience is using. This not only helps you rank higher in their search results, but it also means you and your audience are aligned with how you speak about and think about the topic.
4. Don’t put obstacles in the way of your content. Don’t litter your content with several call-to-action buttons or advertisements. Your audience is giving you their attention to learning from you, not to be sold to.
5. Take your audience on a journey. Make sure your content is organized with a well-defined beginning, middle, and end that had valuable nuggets of information to discover each step of the way.
Bonus: Let your personality and personal stories shine through.
Right Time Right Place
If you spent your late nights calling on your daytime business prospects and then slept during the day when they returned your calls, your business would definitely suffer.
The same is true online. When you post your content, not just time of day but also the day of the week, time of the month, or season of the year will have an impact.
Knowing who your audience not only helps you write content the feels personalized for them, it also enables you to know how they spend their days, weeks, and months and what content may be relevant to them at a specific point in time.
Getting your content published at the right time is only the beginning. Through targeted advertisements on the various social media sites, you set your content to show up right when your audience is writing about or search for a specific topic.
With each piece of content, you publish and promote you can track various analytics to learn more about your audience so that you can make continuous improvements
The final step of your plan is to make sure you have not lost focus on why you are creating content in the first place. It is about supporting your business goals. Every piece of content you produce should have an actionable and measurable goal attached to it that is tied to moving your prospects through the sales funnel.
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