How to Create Engaging Content
What we are talking about when we are talking about engaging content? The concept of audience engagement is not new, but precisely how is it applied to the digital marketing sphere? We posed these questions to Patrick Delehanty, Digital Marketing Strategist at Marcel Digital. The article presents his reflections regarding how to stay inspired, and how to inspire your audience when it comes to creating captivating content.
I was recently reading an excerpt from David Byrne’s book, “How Music Works”, in Smithsonian where he discusses the human neurological response to music and art. In the excerpt, he touches on various ideas and studies that revolve around a human’s ability to mirror actions or emotions that are presented to them through different mediums.
It’s something that I have been rather fascinated with as of late; our body’s ability to respond to different environments and the messages we receive, whether from the written word, sound, or physical cue. We really are fascinating beings – our ability to love, become angry, be moved to tears, or mirror the feelings or actions of others is incredible. Messaging is an especially important aspect to attracting those reactions.
Now, the reason I bring up this article is because while David’s article tends to focus more on music and art, I feel a lot of what is said speaks to the process of messaging in marketing and content development as well. It’s really a universal topic that extends beyond mediums and should be considered in any real interaction, but marketers need to be especially mindful of the messages they are creating for their audience.
When looking at a piece of music or a piece of content, the idea is the same – you have a message, you want to present it in a way that is most fitting for that message, and you hope to create a response in the receiver of that message. In marketing, you’re hoping the response is an action being taken by the user. The issue here is that while the idea in and of itself is simple, the practice in marketing seems to be lost, along with the effect on the receiver.
Finding Your Value
I am a firm believer that if you don’t know what your exact message is then content shouldn’t be created. Silence is necessary when the message isn’t going to be effective or seems lost. Creating content for the sake of creating content is a massive waste of time for all involved – from your writers to your audience. The worst investment you can make is creating a piece of content noise that either 1,000 people have written before or an article that the audience has read 1,000 times before. Unless you’re adding real value to a conversation, don’t speak.
As a brand, in order to say something of value, you have to have your positioning down. In a study from 2013, you have roughly 8 seconds to grab a users attention before they move on, and more often than not, users can tell quicker than that if a piece of content provides value. Real value is provided by those who have the following qualities:
When a brand has the above, it’s because it’s found it’s positioning, knows who it is speaking to, and evolves with its audience’s needs. Audience members tend to give more attention to these brands because they have consistently developed content and messaging that has struck a chord within them. Your goal is to do the same.
The biggest issue with content creation is lack of purposes or direction. The best thing you can do as a writer or brand is take an honest, unbiased step back. Reflect on your highest highs and your lowest lows; what about those moments either made you shine the brightest or discover something new about you? If you’re still having trouble, bring in members of your team – they will have different ideas or ways of looking at what makes your brand different.
No matter what, have purpose and value in your content. Know what you want to accomplish and understand that the first step in any great content marketing campaign is a deep understanding of who you are as a brand and what you want your brand to ultimately say. If you don’t have that down pat, don’t write or create content until you do.
Finding Your Audience
Someone once told me that the best approach to marketing is “empowering, engaging, and embracing”. The thought process here being that you empower your brand to engage with it’s audience and embrace the changes that happen within your audience, allowing yourself to change as well. I really love this idea because in three words, it’s encapsulates so much. Positioning your brand and value allows you to motivate your employees or brand to push forward and spread your value. This is important, because when people have a vision they can get behind and be a part of, the results are amazing.
The idea of customer engagement is nothing new, but a lot of times it is last on the list of “to do” items. When you have an audience, one of the best things you can do is engage with them. This means actively participating in:
- Industry discussions or conferences
- Asking questions or taking surveys
- Email marketing
I underline “actively” because there is a distinct difference between simply showing up and that of actual participation. When you actively participate, these tools are goldmines for content ideas and when used effectively can help shape your content ideas and presentation. It also begins to build your brand awareness, creating connections in the minds of your audience.
Ultimately, your audience wants to know it’s being heard, and one of the best ways to do that is to be listening to their discussions or feedback and incorporating it into your content strategy. As humans, we love empathy and seeing our world mirrored to our beliefs. It gives us a sense of validation and makes us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. When our thoughts and viewpoints are replicated in messaging and content we are reading, we tend to focus more on it, thus creating loyalty.
By being a part of your industry’s discussions and communicating effectively with your audience, you can begin to see the overlaps in your brand’s goals along with your audience’s goals. This is your target audience – one where both sides (the message and the receiver) mutually benefit. You can utilize this overlap in creating a more fine tuned approach to your content marketing.
Finding Your Presentation
As important of factors as “purpose” and “value” are, another important often overlooked factor is presentation. What I mean by presentation is blog posts, articles, webinars, video, images, eBooks, etc. If you present your content or message in a way that doesn’t resonate with your audience, then the effective messaging you worked so hard to obtain is lost.
In engaging your audience, pay close attention to the type of content that they are interacting with. Pay attention to industry content and how it’s presented. Does your audience engage more with visuals? Try videos or infographics. Does your audience tend to be more data driven? Try data sheets or putting complex statistics into easy to read tables or charts, or source relevant studies. This effort has such a subtle subconscious effect on your audience – not only did you create content that aligns their beliefs with your goals, but your presented it in a way that they can appreciate, whether they know it or not. Give them little thrills like this, it will pay off huge!
Remember, marketing is a flywheel concept. Your first piece of content rarely, if ever, will become a viral phenomenon. And quite honestly, that should be the last thing on your mind. Your goal should be finding your voice and continuing to create content that speaks to your target audience. The way that you find your voice and continue to grow is by constantly writing and trying new approaches to your content marketing. Get your team involved, get your audience involved. Ask questions, be genuinely curious. Tweak your strategy when you find new opportunities or ideas that worked better than expected.
Brands live and die on their content strategy, it’s the most upfront representation of your brand you have that presents how you view your world. If that representation is broken or seems lost, your audience will recognize it and move on. After all, there are thousands of other pieces of content they can read – your goal isn’t to be part of that thousand or the best. Anybody can be “the best”, your goal should be “the only”. Finding your voice, engaging your audience, and continuing to evolve gives you that creative edge to be “the only” – keep pushing and you’ll continue to create engaging content. You only have one brand, don’t waste it.