Use of social media and other Web 2.0 tools peaked sometime in 2010-11. Does it mean that the euphoria is dying and Web 2.0 is already waning? A report on Information Week quotes a study conducted by Delloite in the U.K. stating that corporate interest in social media is waning. But hold on. Social media or Web 2.0 is not dead, yet! What you need is a strategy and content that offers value to the reader.

What this report suggests is that blind use of social media and blogging does not help anyone. But like every other technology wave, we all tend to jump into it and start running around directionless. After all, you don’t want to be that guy who couldn’t see the inevitable and jumped in too late.

My last post discussed the reason why you need a content strategy before you immerse yourself in the vast ocean of Web 2.0. A strategy helps you align your objectives with those of your readers and prepare a game plan for success.

The most important element of content strategy is the marketing objective. But that alone cannot help you prepare a strategy. A marketing objective will help you define the ‘call to action’. However, you need to be discovered and engage the readers before you can direct them to wherever you want them to be.

One of the primary aims of any strategy is to offer the consumers value. You buy a product of a certain brand over the competitor’s because you believe the brand offers more value.

So how do you offer value to the consumer through your content?

Rule #1 Offer Unique Information

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Information is valuable to your readers only if they want it. But at a time when there are thousands of content creators writing about the same topic, it is difficult to find content that is not discussed at all. The differentiator, then, is your opinion and perspective on the specific subject.

Easier said than done, I hear you. But it can be done. Say your business is to sell custom shoes. One of the topics you will write to market your product is ‘shoe design’. A Google search for ‘shoe design’ yields 44,100,000 results and you are competing with the likes of Nike, Adidas, and Reebok.

In this case, you can offer value to your readers by giving them information other than just the features of specific shoes. For example, talking about shoes in context of different body types. Perhaps get a medical opinion to back what you are claiming. This is the information that readers would find valuable as it helps them make the buying decision.

Rule #2 Write for a Specific Audience

What is valuable to me is not necessarily valuable to you. Your blog offers value to your readers only if you know who they are and what they want. For example, as a custom shoe manufacturer, your audience for the blog and other media channels is mainly the consumer.

The consumer, in this case would want to know about the features and benefits of the particular type of shoe and not the technology or machines you have used or how efficient your manufacturing processes are. These other topics would be more suitable for the B2B audience.

Rule #3 Current and Relevant

Almost everyone knows what happened a month ago. People come to blogs and hog social media networks to stay on top of what’s happening now.

Write about topics that are important at that time.

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Writing an entire post on some political upheaval somewhere, though current, may not be relevant to your readers. Your readers, people looking for shoes, would be more interested in a medical discovery related to the effects of shoe design on posture or a new training regime for runners.

Rule #4 Easy to Find and Access

The value of anything is always relative. Relative to the cost and difficulty of acquiring it. For example, I may agree to buy from a pricey restaurant near my house compared to a cheaper takeout place slightly away from the house in bad weather. Similarly, if cost is the barrier, I might compromise on a couple of features and choose a cheaper product.

You might generate great content, but it needs to be found easily. Even when you do generate traffic and get regular visitors, the organization and design of your website should be intuitive enough for the reader to find the content they want (ease of accessing the information).

And third, the content must be easy to understand.

Content Value and Cost

The more time I spend on each of these tasks ( because I can’t find the content or the writing style is difficult to understand), the higher the cost of information and lower the value. If I can find and consume the same information on some other web site more easily, I won’t be back.

Rule #5 Easy to Read and Understand

You must have heard this many times before, write for humans first and then machines. Ranking can get you first hits. But you should aim to get loyal readers – and that can happen only if your writing style is entertaining and easy to read.

Take additional care that you do not make grammatical errors and spelling mistakes. Short and simple sentences are easier to read and keep the ‘story’ moving. Errors interrupt the flow of the reader as they automatically tend to fix the word or the sentence structure. Frequent errors in your writing not only discourage the reader, but you lose credibility too.

Rule #6 Don’t be a Rock Star

Exactly! You are not the center of attention here. Aspire to make your readers a celebrity in their friend circle and social network. In this era of tweets and fast mobile devices everyone wants to have an answer for everything.

People read blogs to get information, make them the influencers. As Alex Weinstein says, this influencer will then spread your word to many more, on and off the Internet.

Rule #7 Give Specific Advice

I can’t stress this enough. People read for information. Most of the time they are looking for answers. Personal blogs can afford to ramble on about one thing or another. But if you are writing a business blog and want to offer something of value to your readers, don’t forget to make specific statements. Your post must answer “So What?” at the end.

Looks like I am going to end this at number seven again. These were just some important and, if you look around, the most followed rules to add value to your content on websites and other social media messages.

We would like to hear how you determine what’s valuable to your audience and how you ensure that your content offers value to the readers. Please leave a comment to take the discussion forward.