Content. That word gets tossed around a lot these days. So what is all the fuss about, exactly? Why is content important? And as a business owner, why do you need to concern yourself with it in the first place? Because your company’s livelihood depends on it.
What is content?
First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page. Merriam-Webster defines content as, “the principal substance (such as written matter, illustrations, or music) offered by a website.” The principal substance. Wow. Powerful stuff. (Are you tingly now? You should be.) At its very core, content is the lifeblood of your online presence.
There have been multiple attempts to define content as it relates to companies’ efforts to increase their online presence. In his fantastic book Contagious, marketing professor Jonah Berger goes into slightly more detail than the dictionary and defines it as “stories, news, and information” shared by a business. That’s a great start, but let’s dig deeper.
In his article, “What is Content? Learn from 40+ Definitions” marketing expert Lee Odden asked his social media followers to define content. As you can see, the majority of answers fall into one of two categories: that content is “information” or it is “experience.”
Your Content Should Be Meaningful
It is crucial to recognize each one of these responses as valid when cohesive. Successful, engaging content is not one or the other—information or experience—it is both and in equal measure. To resonate with your audience, the news, stories, and information you put out need to mean something. They need to have a purpose, and that purpose must transcend your desire to make the next sale.
Consumer interactions with companies have shifted—from being told by advertisers how to think and feel about a brand to actively seeking out the knowledge, values, and emotional connections that impact their purchasing decisions. The information, stories, and news you share on your website cannot exist solely to sell your product or service. Your content must be credible and trustworthy. It must be captivating and relevant. It must exist to serve your target audience and meet them where they are.
When it comes to communicating with audiences, organizational psychologist Adam Grant said, “Good communicators make themselves look smart. Great communicators make their audiences feel smart.” Replace “communicators” with “businesses” and you have your motivation for creating meaningful content. Your target audience will remember which business made them feel smart and informed, not the one who made themselves look great. And people who have been made to feel smarter by you are the same people more likely to trust you and therefore, buy your product or service.
How to Create Meaningful Content
How can these new insights into the power of content best be implemented? Is it enough to post the latest industry news or reshare a viral story? Of course not. The important thing is to remember who you are as a business. Remember that mission statement and company vision you wrote when you were first starting out? Pull it out again and take a look at it from a marketing point of view. Think about your company’s most important goals, then relay those goals to your target audience through strategic, thoughtful content.
Develop a Positioning Statement
A great place to start thinking about how your business objectives should influence your online content is to develop and positioning (or branding) statement. If you’ve already done this, great! Use it to guide the stories, news, and information you share on your site.
If you haven’t, why not? At its essence, a positioning statement addresses the core concept of your brand. To create one, think about your target audience, what their characteristics are, the key benefits of your brand, and how you are different from the competition. This statement is the cornerstone of your content decisions.
Connect With Your Audience
Once you define your goals and branding statement, determine how those objectives inspire your current and potential customers to take action—action which, in turn, increases your business. You are the expert in your product or service industry. Your target audience is seeking out the information you can intelligently relay. How do you connect (and reach them before your competitors do)? You guessed it: your carefully considered content.
Create a Style Guide and Brand Standards
If you’re busy running a business, you’re probably going to have to outsource your marketing efforts. You may work with one agency, several freelancers, or any combination that works best for your goals and budget. No matter what, one thing you need across your content is consistency in communication. This is where a style guide or brand standards comes in.
A style guide is a set of instructions created by you (or with the help of a marketing team) to establish your brand’s tone and style. It helps everyone stay on brand, on message, and using one clear voice—no matter who is creating the content for you.
Brand standards may be included in your style guide or they may be a separate document. Brand standards refer to the visual identity of your brand, which includes logos, icons, typography, color, graphic and photography styles.
An easy way to think of the difference and why you need both—writers need style guides for written communication, designers need brand standards for visual communication. Don’t have these? We can help you with that. Think you don’t need these? Think again. Presenting your brand consistently can increase your revenue by 33%.
Remember, when it comes to vital communication via content, value to the customer is key. Move beyond indifference. Start thinking in terms of substance.