Simplicity is your ally here, especially if you’re working with complex ideas. (For inspiration, look to anything George Orwell wrote; his ideas were big, but his lexicon—sorry, his dictionary—was tight and concise.
The 8 Underused Components of Compelling Content That Readers Love
1. Set the stage with your headline
How BuzzFeed creates a curiosity gap: Buzzfeed is a site similar to Upworthy. Its whole business is based on curating content created by other people that didn’t get much attention when first posted and then applying the curiosity gap principle to the headline.
This is interesting to them because they want to see if they recognize all the struggles. While they probably could guess many of them, their curiosity would spur them to find out what the rest of them are.
Notice that the word “struggles” was chosen instead of “things”. “Struggles” is more specific (to make sure the gap isn’t too large), and as a bonus, it even taps into the self-deprecating nature of most resident Brits.
Although people are interested in the topic of Planned Parenthood, most only know about the abortion controversies. However, the author knows that Planned Parenthood also provides other valuable, non-controversial, services that help future mothers.
Using that short phrase has the same effect as saying “unexpected” or “surprising.” Now a reader can’t assume that they probably know what the article is about. They have to start reading it if they want to find out.
When you write a headline with a curiosity gap, you’re making a promise to potential readers. If you don’t deliver by truly teaching your readers what you promised (those services had better be non-controversial), they will feel tricked.
2. One dimensional is boring
So, onto the problem at hand. At least for the time being, your content is solely consumed. Unless you’re holding webinars or social media chats, content is produced by you and then read, watched, or listened to by readers.
Formatting is the simplest place to start. Write short paragraphs and sentences that are easy to digest. Use different font sizes, bold, and italicize to emphasize important parts of your article for scanners.
Going back to our analogy, interactive content is like a professor asking students questions. If it’s an important question that can encourage discussion, it’s a good thing. But if the professor is asking mundane questions, or questions every minute, it will get boring quickly.
3. Immersion is a solid state – don’t break it
However, the part that most bloggers get lazy at is editing. One of the most important jobs of an editor is to make sure that all parts of the article flow smoothly into one another. They should all logically connect to each other.
Notice that I didn’t just call this section Write good intros and subheadlines. Any skimmer will just say “duh” and keep scrolling. But when you suck a reader in, you get them to read your text—that makes a few good points—in full.
4. It’s not an article, it’s a story
Always remember that you are telling some sort of a story to your reader. I don’t mean like a fiction novel, but you are illustrating how what you’re writing about fits into your reader’s life, making your reader the “hero” of the story.
5. If you don’t back it up, your reader will click the “back” button
Thou shalt harken to past times
For instance, a cellphone brand could recall the evolution from the bag phone to the flip phone to today’s smartphone; or an education brand could relive the maddening experience of using microfiche and the Dewey decimal system.
People love themselves. It didn’t take the advent of the selfie for that to be evident. So create content that is customized to your audience. Use their names, their faces – anything that makes the content about them.
And then there’s Coca-Cola, which took a long-established product and increased sales by 2% in summer 2014 by slapping first names on its cans and bottles as part of its Share-a-Coke campaign. It brought back the campaign in summer 2015 and even allowed people to personalize and purchase their own bottle through the website.
Thou shalt incite commotion
Nothing gets a conversation started better than polarizing your audience. Cats vs. dogs, Apple vs. Android, Yankees vs. Red Sox, you name it. You don’t have to pick a taboo or politically divisive subject and you don’t even have to pick a side – just plant the seed and stay on the sidelines while people engage on their own. Travel site First Choice asked Pinterest and Twitter users which country was the most beautiful in the world. Red Bull used Facebook as a battleground for Xbox vs. PlayStation. What better way to get people to share content than provoking them to passionately argue their side?
Whatever kind of content you’re making, keep in mind one important consideration: You need a purpose. You’re trying to sell your product or service to an interested customer. You can make the greatest series of articles the blogosphere has ever seen, but if it has nothing to do with your product or industry, you’re going to face some difficult budget questions at the next board meeting.
The flipside to this is that your audience has a purpose, too. Usually, that means solving a problem (that, hopefully, your product is the solution for). People are looking for solutions, but that doesn’t always mean they want to be sold to at that moment (nor should you try to).
There’s a lot of nuance to creating a piece that’s good for both the customer and your company, but it can be done. Don’t underestimate the goodwill you can provide by creating a helpful piece of content that helps a potential client today, even if there is no purchase involved. There is likely to be one tomorrow, and you want to be the company the consumer thinks of first. Compelling content is about search results today, but goodwill in the long run; make sure not to bury your call to action.
Believable and Trustworthy
Speaking of which—make your content believable, and thus, trustworthy. It is a part of your sales practice, after all. You’re establishing your company as an expert, one to be trusted with a potential client’s hard-earned money.
That doesn’t come easy. You can’t just pump out a bunch of empty and meaningless content to score better search results (Google has been weeding out those for years now). Invest the time and effort into quality content and you’ll become the go-to resource for ideas and products in your industry. Don’t try to “go viral”—aim to be an expert.
It’s as simple as that! Okay, these characteristics may not feel simple if you’re new to the content game, which is why you’re lucky to have allies available who know inbound marketing and content marketing. Partner up to get the lay of the land and learn how to make your content soar. But in the meantime, take advantage of that blog feature on your site and start building quality content based on these seven essential characteristics today.
Mike Lieberman, CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist
Mike is the CEO and Chief Revenue Scientist at Square 2. He is passionate about helping people turn their ordinary businesses into businesses people talk about. For more than 25 years, Mike has been working hand-in-hand with CEOs and marketing and sales executives to help them create strategic revenue growth plans, compelling marketing strategies and remarkable sales processes that shorten the sales cycle and increase close rates.
A strong start is the key to producing great content! What do we mean by a strong start? Before you begin writing, do your research and plan accordingly. Make sure you know your business and its niche well, and don’t be afraid to learn as much as you can about the art of effective content writing. Consider your brand voice, tone, and purpose, and plan to incorporate these consistent elements as part of all the content you create.
Creating Compelling Content for Social Media
Creating a social media post might seem simple, but there are many factors to keep in mind while you craft content for the various platforms. For one, your audiences differ across all social platforms, so when you are writing the copy for a post, you have to make sure you’re writing for the right people.
Content creation, as defined by HubSpot, is “the process of generating topic ideas that appeal to your buyer persona, creating written or visual content around those ideas, and making that information accessible to your audience as a blog, video, or other formats”. Although content creation can take on many forms, it wasn’t always that way when it came to posting on social media.
Over the last few years, creating content for social media platforms has changed due to the updates and redesigns of the platforms themselves. For example, Facebook used to be primarily text updates and statuses of what you were currently doing. Now, Facebook is used for events, video content, live video streams, fundraisers, and birthday reminders, just to name a few. To stay fresh and relevant, the platforms change and adapt with the times, which means your content also needs to stay relevant.
Why is creating content important?
Content creation is important because it allows you to provide free and useful information to your audience, attracting potential customers and prospects to your website, and retain existing customers. In fact, content marketing brings 3 times as many leads as traditional marketing and costs 62% less (HubSpot). With that being said, content creation is very important, but taking it one step further, creating compelling content is even more important. Quality over quantity.
However, to start creating compelling content, you need to have a plan and strategy in place to support it. A content strategy includes everything from brand and tone, to how you will promote and release your content.
With that being said, you first need to define your goals. What is the purpose behind your content? What do you want to achieve? Your goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. In other words, you should be crafting SMART goals that align with your overall marketing and business objectives. Once your goals are defined with a purpose, you now craft a customer persona based on your target audience and who you are trying to reach. Developing your persona also helps you identify the messaging and tone for your content, because, after all, you are talking directly to them! Ultimately, when developing the persona, you should be aware of their obstacles, pain points, challenges, and fears. Similarly, you should understand their best possible outcome, their dream solution. Create content that hits these pain points and expresses how you can help them solve their issues. This is how you can make your content resonate with your audience
However, there is more to it than just creating content for your persona. When it comes to creating the right content, you need to make sure you deliver the content to your audience at the right time to help them through the buyer’s journey. Each of your prospects follows a path to a solution — that path involves awareness, consideration, and decision stages. But each of your prospects is in a different part of that journey, so it’s important to use your content to appeal to each stage.
There are various content formats for each stage which can include videos, webinars, books, blogs, images, etc. But, as I mentioned before, you need to make sure you create content that will resonate with your audience during their buyer’s journey. So, what exactly does that look like? Here is a breakdown of some of the content you can create to help your customers through the journey.
The awareness stage is about getting in front of your audience so they know you exist. They are currently experiencing a problem or challenge. The appropriate content for the awareness stage would include blogs, ebooks, infographics, and social media posts.
The consideration stage is the point when the customer knows they have a challenge or problem and they are actively looking for a solution. At this point, it is very critical to hit those pain points with your content and share how you can help them. Do this with podcasts and webinars to show your expertise.
With that background knowledge, you might be thinking, how do I know what to base the content pieces on? How do I start creating? Content creation starts with an idea or a topic, and you can get these ideas and topics through conducting keyword research, brainstorming with your team, or following along with current industry trends. Knowing what your audience searches for in search engines will be able to provide you with the direction you can take your content. Creating your buyer persona likely gave you some ideas about what topics to write about and what questions your audience might have, which is a great start.
SEO research — a.k.a. keyword research — will show you the search volume of a specific keyword phrase and whether or not it’s worth the investment of creating a piece of content around it. A good way to go about keyword research is to write down some questions that your persona might have based on their obstacles and goals. Then, perform some keyword research around those queries to see if enough people are searching for them. Some tools you can use to do this, are SEMRush, MOZ Keyword Explorer or Google Keyword Planner. Once you determine the keywords you want to base your content on, you can start planning content ideas.
Now that you have created your content based on your customer persona profile and customer journey, backed up with keyword research and various content formats, it’s time to promote your compelling content.
Posting your content on social media is a great way to reach your audience organically. A key to growing organically is to provide value to your audience. There’s a general rule of thumb you should follow that states 70% of your content should be an original value-add content, such as blogs. 20% should be curated content, such as sharing a trend article from an external source. And 10% should be content that sells your products or services. Following this guideline will help you build an audience that doesn’t feel like they are just being sold to, but given free value, which in turn will help you win clients or sell your products or services.
Call it king. Call it queen. Just don’t call unimportant. Whatever it is, content is arguably the dominant force behind events, especially virtual events. What your content comprises is crucial, as it determines engagement, retention and attendee return rates. This is the name of the game in the latest Smart Meetings webinar, “Backstage Pass: Producing Compelling Content That Drives Engagement,” which was also part of Cvent’s Bigger Future Ready webinar series.
Marketing Insider Group
In a survey of random internet users, when asked what drives them to share, the number one response is to entertain. There’s your answer – produce content that is entertaining. While 44% of survey participants listed entertainment, another 25% share to educate their social media friends and followers. 20% share content to express their identity. And, another 10% want to show support for a cause.
With the unstoppable power of inbound marketing today, you have to be able to come up with riveting content in order to get people interested in your blog and talking about your brand. Otherwise, there’s no way you’ll stand out from the competition.
Content marketing at its best will draw you in without you even realizing what hit you. Nowhere is the power of good content more apparent than in the unsexiest of industries – finance. It’s not overly challenging to make fashion brands or vacation destinations appealing. But tax accounting? Now that takes skill.
Define Your Buyer Persona (or Personas)
The second step to creating an effective content marketing strategy is to define the type of people you will aim your content at. This will most likely be your ideal buyer persona, a fictional representation of the type of people you want to target.
You can get this information from existing customer data, website analytics, competitor analysis, or market research surveys. Once you know this information, it will help you with all parts of your content strategy including the type of content you produce and where you publish it.
For example, if you want to generate leads targeting middle-aged professionals, you may find it is a good idea to write blog posts or case studies on LinkedIn. Alternatively, if you want to raise your profile amongst millennials, it could be a good idea to make daily posts on Instagram.
Plan the Types of Content You Will Produce
You then need to decide which type of content you will produce. This will be something that will appeal to your buyer persona while pushing you towards the overall goals of your content marketing strategy.
- Blog posts – Blog posts are probably the most common type of content website’s produce. This is because they can be effectively used to boost SEO and they can be quicker and cheaper to produce than videos, case studies, etc.
- Videos – Videos are another common type of content. Producing videos can take longer than writing blog posts and it can be more expensive if you don’t already have the required equipment. For more info, here is our guide to video content marketing.
- Case studies – Case studies will generally be used to show how your product can help businesses overcome a specific problem. By using a real-life example, they effectively show how great your product is.
- Infographics – Infographics and images can be used to highlight statistics about your product or industry. The great thing about them is well-designed infographics that contain useful data can be highly sharable.
- Online courses, games, etc: Content comes in many forms. Businesses have used everything from games to courses, to apps, to entire websites as part of their content marketing plan. Really, you can produce anything you think will help with your business goals.
It’s worth noting that some of your content ideas will work well in many different categories. For example, if you have a great idea for a blog post, you may also find that you can convey the same idea through a video or a podcast.
Additionally, a well-designed infographic will often benefit from a blog post to dive into some of the ideas in further detail. If you produce a case study, you could later split the findings into a number of blog posts and then use them to encourage people to download the full report.
An example of a mixed content strategy is a recent study by SEO tool Ahrefs that compared Wix SEO to WordPress. They used the results to produce an in-depth blog post, plenty of graphics showing data from the study, and a YouTube video.
Defining the Ambiguous
“When most people say it, they’re thinking about the deliverable, whether it be a blog post, webinar presentation or your session within an event,” Haddix said. “But when you think about content, you really have to start back a few layers and think about what your objective is or what the story is that you’re trying to tell your market.”
“Make sure that you understand why you’re saying what you’re saying, what you’re saying, what you want to say and what you want your audience to come away with, and that’s really what your content is,” Haddix continued.
“Content is a word that we all throw out,” Peltier said. “Everybody has responsibilities in terms of content; we all have our preconceived notions of what it is and what it could be at an event. It’s not just about words on paper. It is about how we bring that content to life.”
As the content creator for Cvent, Haddix admits she thinks differently from the event planner, which makes collaboration and communication crucial. “How I want the message to get delivered is impacted by our planning data, so it’s really important that we work together and make sure that we’re on the same page,” she said.
Tips from Experts
Faustine, senior manager of professional services for Cvent, talked about her experience working for Cvent’s professional services team and how to evolve beyond the PowerPoint presentation: “For the past year, I’ve been charged with not only pivoting our on-site team to facilitate virtual events, but I have also zeroed in on the advanced production part of our role, assisting clients in elevating their meetings and creating meaningful, memorable experiences.”
One of Faustine first encounters was with Cvent’s 2020 Connect. “I worked behind the scenes as a producer, knew all of the creative specs and scripts associated with our run of show, but when the day came and I watched Reggie [Aggarwal, president and CEO of Cvent] speak for the first time from my converted dining room table, I was blown away by just how engaging he was. This was not like a Zoom meeting. This was a performance. I laughed at his jokes. I got goosebumps when he talked about the resilience of our industry. It was a conversation over coffee. It was a celebration over drinks.”
Since then, Faustine has been working with customers to evoke the same feelings for their audiences. She calls it going “beyond-the-grid.” “Whenever I get on the phone with clients, I ask them what their goals are, and their answers are always the same: We don’t want our event to feel like a Zoom meeting,” she said.
Creating a virtual meeting that feels like more requires going beyond content. “I produced a session at [Cvent] Connect that was chock-full of animated graphics and funny GIFs. It was one of the most watched sessions, not only for its content, but for its comical one-liners and its supplemental imagery. Everyone loves a good meme,” she said.
“I think both planners and producers of live events learned a lot,” Stewart said. “We realized we can no longer choose specific sessions and presentations to highlight the [virtual event]. We learned how to showcase all our sessions virtually. We learned that we needed to create more clear, concise and riveting content,” she said.
Stewart believes there was a need to focus on delivering content that was worthy of our virtual audiences’ time. “We all had to start thinking about how we could make this engaging, so our audience tuned in, where they wouldn’t want to walk away and finish the dishes or jump up as soon as the doorbell rang to get that package at the door. Through this, we really started to master this virtual world.”
Luckily, we have now mastered the two components, live and virtual events, so there’s no need to create an entirely new plan, she said. “We simply need to modify the one that we already have with a special focus on each of our audiences.”
“The first is that the production value has to be there. While it is appropriate, in some instances, for our presenters to join from their homes spaces and focus on delivering the content, you should consider bringing on a producer or a production team to help these presenters with not only their recordings, but their live presentations,” she said. “They need help ahead of time, understanding how to use the technology in the best way possible. In many instances, your presenters need help adjusting their camera angles and their lighting. Working on their audio is well worth the investment.”
Stewart’s second piece of advice was to not try to take on all the responsibility. “I know that both event planners and producers have personalities and skill sets that really allow us to think that we can do anything and everything. We always find way to pull off the impossible.”
And while not impossible, Stewart advised against having one individual or team focused on both audiences. “It’s really important to have two teams that are giving their full dedication to the audience. Those teams will then need to come together and ensure the plans for each audience are complementary. You want to make sure you are staying in your lane, but that you also come together frequently to share ideas to make sure your goals are in line,” she said.
Lastly, Stewart recommended finding elements that will engage both the in-person and virtual audiences, so you’re not duplicating all the work. “You don’t necessarily need a completely different run of show for your virtual audience and another one for your event audience. Just add some columns and make sure that what you’re doing complements [the other],” she said. “Make sure that some things that you do are exciting for both audience segments and remember that sometimes your virtual audience actually has a better seat in the house, and they’re getting a better view based on those camera angles you use and how you’re producing the event.”