Content marketers have a challenge. They’re tasked with creating content to attract, engage, and retain customers, but those marketers can never really be certain what specific content will resonate with their intended audience.
It is the case of telling someone to go make a viral video or write a viral blog post. It cannot be done on demand, consistently. To be viral, you have to be amazing, and amazing is hard to do day in and day out.
Moreover, content marketing doesn’t work that way. Content marketing is a marathon more than a sprint. It’s a slow burn, not a blazing fireball. You don’t scream to the masses; you engage individuals.
So what’s the secret? How do you make engaging content?
Useful, Informative, Entertaining
Instead of trying to make everything you publish a moonshot, aim for the steady accumulation of useful, informative, or entertaining content.
Remember that trio. You want to create useful, informative, or entertaining content. Each of those forms in some way focuses on what your audience — your customers and potential customers — wants.
Useful content is the highest order. It helps your reader or viewer solve a problem or learn an important task. It has instructional value.
Informative content may help your reader or viewer make a better choice or discover new topics of interest. Entertaining content distracts, relieves, and amuses.
Taken together, useful, informative, or entertaining content can meet some needs of a person.
Make It Personal
Since meeting needs are part of its secret, content marketing should be personal by design.
We need to be careful here. The phrase “know your audience” has become a cliché. It is the thing marketing and business “gurus” put at the top of lists, as if the phrase alone was a sort of panacea.
- “Want to write content that sells? Know your audience.”
- “Want to have emails that convert? Know your audience.”
- “Want big muscles and a slim waist? Know your audience.”
Yet, in spite of the overuse, it does matter.
“Great marketers have immense empathy for their audience,” according to Rand Fishkin, founder of Moz. “They can put themselves in their shoes, live their lives, feel what they feel, go where they go, and respond how they’d respond. That empathy comes out in content that resonates with your audience.”
Brian Clark, co-founder of Rainmaker Digital (think Copyblogger), puts it this way.
“When you create a well-rounded representation of your ideal customer, what you’re really tuning in to is the way your people view the world.
“And when you understand the worldview your prospects share — the things they believe — you can frame your story in a way that resonates so strongly with them that you enjoy an ‘unfair’ advantage over your competition.”
As you create content, have your audience in mind; write to them and for them; and take positions to guide or inspire them. If you don’t have an opinion or position, why are they reading your article or watching your video, anyway?
Part of the secret of more engaging content is taking a position.
Know Your Stuff
Taking a position can be risky. It means you have to do a little more work researching or experiencing the things you create content around.
If your business is going to have an opinion or is going to take a position of leadership, you’ll need to know you’re right or you are at least right for your audience. The good news is your extra work should pay off.
I’m getting close to another content cliché here. You want to produce “quality over quantity.” Better to produce one thoughtful piece — which is useful, informative, or entertaining for your readers — than to create a dozen bland posts that are the content equivalent of a soggy potato chip.
If the mental image of a wet Lay’s, drooping as you hold it, caused an emotional response, the “soggy potato chip” did its job. It demonstrated the final secret of engaging content marketing: psychology.
As you write, there are patterns or concepts that trigger known psychological responses. Good writers tend to hit these the way good musicians can pick up on a tune.
One of the easiest tools to employ is the rule of three.
“It’s no accident that the number three is pervasive throughout some of our greatest stories, fairy tales, and myths,” wrote Clark from Rainmaker Digital. “It all comes down to the way we humans process information. We have become proficient at pattern recognition by necessity, and three is the smallest number of elements required to create a pattern.”
This does require a bit of work since you will need to organize your ideas into threes. For example, ask yourself what kinds of content you should produce. If you answered useful, informative, or entertaining, you’ll recognize this technique’s power.
You know the secrets. Use them in your content marketing.