July 28, 2014

Creating conversation-worthy content

I originally posted this one six months ago, but it’s so relevant to recent online discussions around ‘content for content’s sake’, I thought I’d push it back to the fore.

In this age of social media, companies are slowly waking up to the fact that it is no longer enough to ‘broadcast’ a message to an ‘audience’. Today, a successful web presence is all about engaging people in dynamic, multi-way dialogue; driving and contributing to key conversations; influencing, participating and responding to the buzz around emerging trends.

So what makes content ‘sharable’? What turns a site visitor from passive reader to active participant in a conversation around your brand?

Here’s my take on the key requirements for conversation-worthy content.

Offer value

It hardly needs saying that sharing is a big part of social networking. If the average user sees something interesting, controversial, enlightening or funny on Twitter, the chances are they’ll want to re-tweet it, or perhaps Stumble or ‘Like’ it. Even more so if they feel that it’s something their friends/followers will like, too.

Conversation-worthy content is often that which amuses, breaks news, surprises, or sheds light on a known but otherwise complex subject.

What are you doing to ensure your content brings a benefit to your audience, well beyond simply learning more about your brand?

Create investment

We know by now that user generated content isn’t just a way to keep copywriting overheads down – where users have a vested interest in the content on a site, they are more likely to return, more likely to engage, and more likely to share that content with others.

From relatively simple site additions such as guest blog posts or caption competitions, to more technical or time consuming additions such as user forums or content that crowd-sources advice or opinions from customers, the more a user feels they have contributed to content in some way, the more invested they are likely to feel, and therefore the more likely to continue, and indeed share the conversation.

What are you doing to encourage user contributions to your content base?

Track and monitor

When visitors hit your site, where do they come from? And where do they land? Once they’re there, what do they do next? Which types of content are the most ‘sticky’, holding attention for the longest? Which content drives the most ‘shares’ on social media?

Whether you’re part of a large company with the funds to purchase highly detailed analytics software such as Omniture or a small company with access only to a free tools such as Google Analytics, tracking and analysing user response is essential and not to be overlooked.

At any time, you need to be able to confidently answer the questions: What does your customer base respond best to? And what generates the highest level of engagement?

Listen; gather feedback

Of course, key information isn’t only to be gleaned from visitor behaviour. The real action is probably happening far beyond your blog post, news update or shiny new home page; it’s happening on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Again, whether you have deep enough pockets for an all singing all dancing social mention tool such as Radian 6 or Meltwater Buzz, or whether you are sticking firmly with free tools such as SocialMention.com, the big questions here are:

What content is being shared, and how? What are people saying about your brand? What are you learning from the conversation? And what are you doing to drive it forward, positively, by being visible and responsive where appropriate?

Stay relevant

Clearly, social media monitoring has applications far beyond collating mentions for your own brand. By tracking key words and phrases, you can answer a whole raft of questions that will help keep your conversation relevant to your readership.

What is interesting to your target markets right now? What questions, concerns or excitement is growing around your industry?

And, most importantly, what are you doing to track, analyse and predict these emerging trends, so that they can be reflected in your own content?

I’ll leave you with a final point to note. The answers to all of the above questions will rarely remain static for long. It could be weeks, days, hours or even minutes before the conversation shifts, turns or otherwise develops, throwing a whole new light on your content strategy.

The conversation is ongoing, dynamic and exciting. Your content strategy must be, too.

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Comments

  1. Useful stuff, thanks very much.

  2. Hi Emily, Great post and thought provoking as usual :)
    It is hard work to create content that gets ‘remarked’ upon, and shared and sometimes it’s not the better pieces of writing that gets shared, liked and stumbled but the pieces that are quite simply from the heart and showing the owner of that piece of content as a person.

    I like your suggestions for listening and carrying on the conversation, businesses – all businesses should be made to listen to what their potential customers are saying and finding ways to reach them.

    • Thanks, Sarah. I know you’re a bit of an analytics addict like me :) It’s easy to just sit and watch the numbers move about, but as we’ve discussed before, there are real benefits to learning from those numbers and feeding them back into what we do. I actually think that awareness is one of the things that makes Birds on the Blog so strong.

  3. Interesting analysis, Emily.

    Something of a balancing act, really – and a very useful reminder that it’s never static.

    Thanks

    • Thanks for the comment, Ann. It did occur to me that the final reminder might serve to put a few people off altogether, but I think ‘balancing act’ is a good way of looking at it. Once you’ve put in the hard work to get things started, it’s not quite so tough to keep things spinning.

  4. Stay relevant. Agreed! And to do so, it is often necessary to use multiple forums. And in the case of Twitter, that means multiple accounts!

    Everyday I see business people posting “personal” tweets within their business space and thereby compromising their overall credibility and mission. I believe it is imperative to separate business and personal in social media. By not doing so you’re compromising not only your business relationships, but your personal relationships as well.

    (That said, I’ve referenced my personal twitter account on this post.) ;-)

    • Interesting take, Reyzie, thanks!

      I personally recommend to business Tweeters that they keep their tweets fairly ‘business-like’ but that doesn’t mean they have to be always ‘on message’ – rather, I wouldn’t recommend they tweet anything that they wouldn’t be happy to say in the office in earshot of the boss/a client. ;)

  5. Nice article Emily,

    Very good suggestions, and a nice thought at the end. Social media is extremely fast moving, and the conversation can just change instantly.

    Keeps us on our toes though :)

    • Thanks, David :) It is fast-paced – but that’s why we love it, right? As we’ve worked together in the past, I’ve no doubt you can cope with the pressure. Take note people – this is a rising social media star ^^

  6. Essential reading, Emily – I’ll be sending the Blogmistress fans over for a read.

    I love keeping an eye on key words/phrases – enjoying the inspiration for new blog posts that result from a regular review.

    • Thanks, Babs! Agree about keyword inspiration. I may even reveal my top ten (as gleaned from GetClick analytics) in a future post. It makes interesting reading.

  7. Many thanks for the Radian6 mention and sharing these great insights, Emily.

    Making content relevant is absolutely key and I think one of the things that companies venturing into media struggle with most. The move from messaging to conversing can be quite difficult, however I’m seeing this change happen more and more which is encouraging.

    I couldn’t agree more with your point on dynamic content something we should always keep in mind.

    Olivia Landolt
    Marketing and Community Manager

    @6Consulting | UK authorised Radian6 reseller

  8. The aim of a social media strategy is no just to engage individuals. It must have actually ‘recruiting’ them as (usually) unpaid brand ambassadors. Shared content is a great example of this strategy at work. It ties in with my assertion that in social 1+1=10 – as described in my recent article : Reputation War

  9. the Success Ladder says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this. I have subscribed to your RSS feed. Please keep up the good work.

  10. Thanks – this one? http://www.lesanto.com/pt/?p=259

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