So this is happening. The average time spent per Facebook visit is around 20 minutes. Every 60 seconds 510,000 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated, and 136,000 photos are uploaded. That’s a lot of noise and not much time to make an impact. So how does a business create content that cuts through and gets seen? This is one of the most important questions facing all marketers and businesses alike.

There’s every indication we’re moving into an era of digital marketing that will reward quality content but I’m not sure we’re ready yet. For years there’s been a push for businesses and marketers to focus on quality content but inevitably we end up with the same half-baked articles that serve little more than making it appear like we care. The truth, sadly, is it ends up being just a thinly veiled attempt to grab audience attention before asking them to buy something.

There are two reasons to shift your thinking moving forward. The first is because of the changes to almost all the big digital platforms. Facebook and Google, in particular, are putting an emphasis on surfacing only the best content that meets the requirements of their complex algorithms. They know that great content is what people read, so they’re making sure quality rises to the top.

Anyone that’s used sneaky techniques like buying followers, link buying or keyword stuffing are now suffering with the latest changes and it’s a fantastic result in my opinion. If you don’t know what these techniques are, consider yourself lucky and I’d suggest you avoid Googling them to find out. Do yourself a favour and stick to the tried and true approach to marketing — produce high-quality content that educates, entertains or inspires.

Every major digital platform rewards quality content over time but most people either want instant results or aren’t prepared to put in the work.

The second reason to shift your thinking is because audiences are more switched on now than they’ve ever been. Banner ads no longer work and Facebook click-through rates of below 1% are considered good. People have become immune to online ads the same way they’ve avoided reading the catalogues stuffed in their mailboxes.

People spend plenty of time on social networks but they’re generally there for only a few reasons — to connect, to be entertained, to be inspired or to learn something new. If you interrupt their viewing time with pointless ads pushing them to buy your product, you’ll only end up annoying them.

So what’s the answer for businesses that want to grow and get their products into the hands of consumers? It should be obvious but we need to educate, entertain or inspire. It sounds easier than it actually is so let’s address some of the issues and ways to produce great content, consistently.

I’m not good at writing or producing content

So you’re not William Shakespeare or Steven Spielberg? When people think of quality content most seem to think it has to have perfect grammar, Hollywood style video effects or the magic touch of a professional graphic designer.

While it needs to be legible, lots of viral content is shot on a smartphone or has spelling mistakes. Don’t be a perfectionist! The important part is focussing on a subject that’s valuable and worthwhile to your audience.

Here’s an example. Say you’re a local sports massage therapist in a medium-sized country town. You want to get more people in your area to know you exist and what you specialise in. You could post on Facebook about your services and prices and hope someone sees it and comes in.

Consider the way people fly through their Facebook feed. Do you think they’re going to stop on your post? Unlikely. Instead, you create a blog post that outlines some handy at-home recovery techniques.

You might be sitting there thinking this is crazy. Why would you teach someone how to do something that may make them less likely to use your services? Three reasons:

  1. They’re not going to want to do it themselves all the time, and they’ll realise they’re just not as good as a professional anyway. Additionally, this is not something that’s easy to do on their own.
  2. You’ve given them value. They now know how to do some of their own recovery. You’ve given them something without asking for anything in return. That’s building trust and brand awareness.
  3. You’re showing your expertise and that you know what you’re doing.

This brings us to our second issue.

Fear of giving away too much information

Businesses are scared that giving away information like this, for free, will arm competitors with their knowledge but also give their customers ways to do what they do and eliminate the need to use your services in the first place.

In reality, most competitors won’t see your content and even if they do, 90% won’t do anything about it. Do you have a friend that ‘invented’ Uber or eBay before it existed? Why didn’t they do anything about it? It’s the same concept.

Giving your customers practical advice they can implement themselves is positioning your business as the expert in the field. They might use your techniques at home some of the time, but when they really need a sports massage, they’ll know who to come to.

It’s also providing value and building trust in your brand. Who do you think a customer is more likely to choose? The one that constantly posts about their business hours and services or the one that teaches them?

I’m not getting instant results

Let’s not sugar coat this. It’s going to take time. If you want overnight results, be prepared to spend money to promote your content to more people. It’s that simple. If you’re like most other businesses, you’ll have a limited marketing budget so understand this is about long-term results.

Using the same scenario above, producing great educational content that helps customers will not see more people booking in instantly.

Understanding audience behaviour is key here. Someone might be playing a football game on the weekend and comes across the massage article on Monday. Are they likely to book in for a recovery massage that day? Probably not.

A more likely scenario is they play their next game the following week and wake up Sunday in pain and remember the article they read. If the content was good, maybe they try and do some recovery work themselves at home. As the season goes on, they feel they’re recovering better but leading into the finals they want to step it up a notch.

At that point, they get in touch with you and book in for a massage. This could be weeks or months after they first started reading your content.

I don’t think I’m funny

If you’re blessed with Jerry Seinfeld humour then inject some of that into your posts. Unfortunately, if you’re anything like me, the only person that likes your jokes is your mum (thanks mum!). Stick to what you’re good at. If you struggle coming up with hilarious posts or memes that go viral, focus on educational or inspirational content.

Just remember, you may not be roll-on-the-floor funny, but everyone has their moments. Take this post for some inspiration:

People generally don’t like being sold to. That being said, there’s a time for everything. If you’ve provided countless pieces of content that help educate, entertain or inspire, a post about your product or brand will be much better received. It’ll be even better if you add a little fun into it like the post above.

Gary Vaynerchuck has a book dedicated to this premise called Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. In essence, it’s message is simple and should form the basis of any good content marketing strategy. Give, Give, Give, Ask. Follow this approach and over time, you’ll build an engaged audience that will turn in to raving advocates.

Originally published here.