Any modern marketer knows that “content is king”.
Still, “content” is a pretty broad term, and not all kinds will generate the volume of response you’re looking for.
While it’s questionable to promise a client or boss that your content strategy will go viral (something that doesn’t seem to stop them from asking at every turn), there’s a big difference between a success and a flop, especially with the amount of time and resources that go into creating content in the first place.
So, what can you do to ensure you’re creating content that creates maximum engagement and value?
Let’s take a look at four successful approaches.
1. Keep it Short, Sweet and Scanable
Okay maybe not short necessarily, but definitely precise and concise. Why?
Today’s internet audiences are flooded with information, which leads to a whole lot of skimming. You can and should mitigate this problem by breaking up your meatier content with bolded headlines, bullets and other visual cues, or even separating posts into a series.
Whatever track you choose, you should also pair these efforts with forms of content that push you toward simplicity and quick and easy – yet compelling – consumption.
Microblogging is a great example of this. On sites like Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr, you can present information that’s not only instantly digestible but that’s also easily repurposed and shared by followers.
Microblogging is all the more powerful when it’s visual, with photos receiving far more shares than other medium type.
And while microblogging often happens on social media sites (which we’ll talk more about in a later section), you can also use it as a content strategy for your company blog, where you can post quick summaries of industry or company news, perhaps accompanied by a video or photo.
Alternatively, liveblogging, little snippets of company events or even special industry events happening, like with Wired’s SXSW 2014 Liveblog, is a great way to keep your audience engaged and to generate interest.
2. Make it Interactive
Overall, I’d argue that any kind of visual content is a big mover and shaker in terms of engagement rates, as audience members are much better at grasping big, complex ideas when it’s depicted for them graphically on the page.
But if we’re honest, the infographic market has become oversaturated, and it can be difficult for all but the most unique concepts to garner any attention.
Enter the interactive tool. Ranging from flowcharts to data visualizations, timelines and actual tools your followers can use, the interactive tool is by its very nature an engaging form of content.
Just take a look at this Dance Music Collaborations Flowchart from Concert Hotels.
Here, users get to discover how music evolves through artist collaboration. With the layered audio snippets of both artist and artist collaboration tracks, users are primed to stick around much longer than with a regular infographic, which they might look at once and then leave.
Another great example comes from Brandwatch’s An Interactive Look Back at 2013.
Just take a look at how users learn the biggest 2013 highlights from the company in an easy-to-navigate scrolling graphic.
Instead of writing a blog post to relay that information, as Brandwatch did the previous year, the company took an interactive approach that made interesting stats more digestible.
Not only is interactive factor good for both tools in their share rates, but it also makes it much more likely that visitors will click around the host website afterwards to learn more about what the company and its products are all about.
In this way, engagement generates interest, loyalty and respect, effectively drawing visitors deeper into the brand.
3. Freshen Things Up
Raise your hand: How many times have you seen an article entitled, “Top 5 [insert social media platform here] Marketing Tips” in the past several months? And how many, ahem, have you written yourself? (I’m guilty, too.)
While there is certainly nothing wrong with employing a commonly used technique or even rehashing old material, the central trait of truly engaging content is that it’s fresh in some way.
This could mean a completely new approach, perhaps in the form of the interactive content we discussed above.
It could also mean exploring a topic that your audience has always wanted to know more about, or new and interesting research findings that are important to your industry.
You can gather topics for this by combing through customer comments and questions as well as through industry Google alerts (ahem … or Brandwatch – Ed), or by inviting users to submit questions with a series like the radioshow Marketplace’s “I’ve Always Wondered That.”
Answering questions like these make excellent fodder for YouTube tutorials, Google Hangout sessions, infographics and—you guessed it—interactive content.
4. Get Social
Of course, social media is crucial for driving traffic to your content, as it’s pretty difficult to distribute new publications on your blog without tweeting out a link and making full use of hashtags.
Even as a form of content itself, there are few types quite as engaging as social. We saw this earlier with microblogging, but there’s far more to social media as content than just this.
Social media is, for example, great at generating community content, whether that’s in the form of reviews, product ideas, or contests.
Contests can be particularly engaging, whether you’re asking users to submit photos of your product used in creative ways like Sharpie, entering retweeters into sweepstakes, or issuing clues over your social media account for a city-wide treasure hunt with a big prize.
More than anything, the key to creating engaging content is to really know your audience.
What are their biggest questions? What surprises and delights them? What do they find helpful, and what makes them laugh?
From there, it’s time to put on your entertainer’s hat and your teacher’s hat, or to give them the tools to entertain themselves.
The real question is, how will you begin?