Perhaps you’ve seen the term “content marketing” floating around in the marketing blogosphere. It’s true: people are definitely excited about content, and for good reason.
Creating great content and getting it out to the people who will identify with your business most is a strategic method of building a thriving, sustainable customer community.
So, what is content marketing? For a thorough discussion on the definition of content marketing, pop over to Episode 58 of our podcast (in which we also learn that Jason’s colleagues call him The Blogfather, and that Catherine has a habit of mixing up old idioms. I swear, these two are more relatable than Jennifer Lawrence at the 2014 Oscars.)
In short, content writing is key to the creating great content part. Emphasis on great.
There is little sense in churning out the same listicles as every other business in your field. Your goal when creating content is to remember that your audience is just like you.
They are curious, hungry for knowledge, and compelled by stories with substance. They are intrigued by authenticity. To appeal to this innate curiosity in your audience, you have to write about things that are actually interesting. A different take, in your unique voice- backed up by evidence.
You won’t appeal to your audience by churning out copycat content. Don’t do it!
It’s also important to remember that your audience is likely busy, sometimes overwhelmed and exhausted. We don’t need to tell you why they want relief, comfort and community- it’s what we all want.
We want someone to meet us with some solid information that will be genuinely helpful.
Predict how the content you’re putting out there will meet your audience. Try to meet them with consideration for their life, interests and concerns.
Three places to start content writing
Let’s say you’re a business owner who has a website and a few social media channels, but you haven’t thought about content writing yet. Here are three places where you can just get your feet wet with content writing and practice creating great content.
#1: Pick a platform and write three longer, useful social media posts per week
A lot of people think that you need to keep all your social media posts short and sweet. On the contrary, we recommend you vary your content length to create contrast and keep your followers guessing. If your content lacks variety, they’re less likely to stick with it.
An example of a longer Instagram post by Bright Planning.
Contrast is a beautiful, secret element that is key to why art, writing and media compel us.
Sign up for a social media planning service like Buffer and write up three useful, 200-300 word posts ahead of time. Pair them with three photos (to minimize the hassle of your stock photo search, read our advice.)
Another example of how to use content writing on Instagram.
#2: Start a monthly newsletter
Pick an email marketing platform (like Mailchimp) and sign up for an account. Design a newsletter and practice filling it with brief, compelling content. Shoot for brevity. Let your voice unfold naturally into the writing, and then delete any unnecessary language during the editing process. Make it personal, but don’t lay it on too thick.
A screenshot from Bright Planning’s newsletter. When in doubt, go for a simple, clean design!
The reason we suggest a monthly newsletter for people new to content writing is that it’s relatively simple. We recommend going with a one-column, clean design for your sanity. Also, always include one photo that you swap out, and be sure to make that photo small enough that won’t cause readers loading times to lag.
Write a little 200-word note detailing a useful take on something in your field. Pepper it with a few details about your life, business updates, and so on. Add a few links at the bottom- perhaps a few articles you loved this week, a useful free service you want your people to have access to, or a link to your social media. Once you have more content up on your website (like a blog) you can begin to link to that in your newsletter.
#3: Start a simple blog
Starting a blog is last on our list because it requires the biggest commitment of the three recommended ways to wade into content writing. Consistency is key. Let’s say you spend some time feeling out longer social media posts and a monthly newsletter and find those to be do-able. Consider whether you’re able to add in one 500-word blog post per week.
Keep it simple and useful! Always keep how the content will meet your followers in their daily lives in mind.
What could your business offer people that enriches their lives? What do people what to learn from you? And most importantly…how are you different?
- You’re a little bakery. We want to click on a link that gives us a free, easy recipe for warm bread in December.
- You’re a hair salon. We want to see a blog post that highlights each stylist and a step-by-step of how to do their personal favorite hairstyle and where they go or what they do with that style.
- You’re a psychologist. We want your take on a few of the most affordable ways to integrate self-care into a busy week.
- You’re a marketing consultancy. We want a seven part series on compelling storytelling archetypes for marketing.
But, wait! Do this litmus test before you unveil your blog.
Admittedly, some businesses and services lend themselves to content marketing more naturally than others. A blog is a commitment, and we do not recommend starting a blog only to find you can’t update it on a regular basis. You’ll want to make sure you can publish once a week or twice a month. Can you decide on an editorial calendar and stick with it?
Before you unveil your blog on your website and social media channels, write up ten ideas for 500-word blogs. Pay special attention to choosing a unique angle or take on whatever you’re writing. If the ideas come pretty easily, your business probably lends itself to content writing as a marketing strategy.
When you’re wading into content writing, start small and take steps toward scaling your efforts reasonably over time.
Keep the following questions in mind to create great content:
- How will this content meet my audience?
- What angle am I approaching this information from?
- Would I find this useful?
- Is this content that could enrich someone’s life?
- Am I on topic throughout this piece of writing?
Content writing is a powerful marketing tool that harnesses your expertise and provides value for your customers. To learn more about the process of content marketing, or getting your great content out there for your customers to read, check out Episode 58.