Does your content connect with people and encourage them to engage?
In this article I’ll show you 26 ways to make content that engages people, in an A-Z guide of tips.
#1: Authors Matter
Written content doesn’t exist without authors, whether constructing 140-character posts or 1000-word articles. Not only do you want people who can write well (e.g., clear points, proper spelling and grammar, active voice), you need writers and team members who can think strategically about the content that will resonate most with your audience.
We’ll talk about more specifics as we go down the list. For now, think strategy.
#2: Blog as a Spoke in the Wheel
A blog provides an opportunity to discuss a topic in-depth. It’s a place where you can offer explanations and suggestions, demonstrate how-to’s, show thought leadership and generously offer useful content for readers.
Kristi Hines offers these helpful tips for blog content:
- Analyze your competitors (topics, frequency of posts, who writes them, how they are shared) to see what works and what doesn't.
- Make your content valuable and unique.
- Subscribe to top industry blogs using RSS to keep track of the latest hot topics.
- Search for people asking questions about your keyword or phrase on Twitter.
- Ask your sales and support team what questions are asked most frequently by potential or current customers.
Is your blog’s content meeting your customers’ needs and expectations?
#3: Curate Selected Content
In the past couple of years, content curation has become more mainstream as businesses of all sizes and industries have started to adopt the practice.
Content curation is defined as “the process of finding, organizing and sharing online content.”
As Beth Kanter writes, “Content curation is not about collecting links or being an information packrat, it is more about putting them into a context with organization, annotation and presentation. Content curators provide a customized, vetted selection of the best and most relevant resources on a very specific topic or theme.”
Brian Carter offered his social media posting rule at Social Media Marketing World (SMMW13): Post curated content 50%, original content 30% and promotional material 20% of the time.
#4: Data Provides Direction
Social data can tell us a lot about industries, customers and prospects; what we should be doing more of and what we should do less of. Jayson DeMers says social data can provide five insights for businesses:
- Real-time market mood
- Relevant issues and content
- User interests
- Internal operational metrics
- Competitive research
How are you using social data? Where can you improve your processes?
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#5: Email and Social Media Work Hand in Hand
Do you think of email and social media as separate entities? Do you favor one more than the other? The fact is, email and social media complement each other quite well. They leverage one another. Help the other to be seen by an audience that may not have otherwise come across the message.
DJ Waldow offers these valuable tips for integrating email and social media:
- Include social icons in emails
- Ask email subscribers to share and connect
- Send a dedicated email campaign
- Provide incentive—for example, ask email subscribers to invite friends on Facebook to receive a discount
- Promote email sign-up via social networks
- Include “retweet this snippet” in email
- Build an email opt-in form on Facebook
- Don't forget SMS—text your email address
- Promote email marketing on your blog
#6: Facebook Pages Don’t Guarantee Engagement but are Good Candidates for the Job
The act of setting up a Facebook Page and publishing it for the world to see doesn’t automatically send people running to engage with your business. Engagement strategies should be tried and tested over a period of time.
Mari Smith offers these five factors that help contribute to exceptional engagement and measurable results:
- Launch creative incentives
- Post highly shareable content
- Build a tight community
- Have a quirky brand—for example, add humor and entertainment
- Give your fans plenty of excellent content on a regular basis
#7: Google+ Provides a Unique Blend of Features and Benefits
Whether you’re a fan of Google+ or not, you should know that it’s a force to be reckoned with. GlobalWebIndex recently reported that Google+ remains the number 2 social network in the world with 359 million monthly active users (Facebook at number 1 with 903 million accounts).
Sarah Bauer suggests that Google+ is rapidly becoming “the most important content publication platform for businesses with an eye on higher search rankings. The data in a piece of content posted on Google+ is immediately indexed for Google search. On Twitter or Facebook, Google has restricted access to the data and indexing can take a few days. AuthorRank, the digital signature for Google+ users, is also set to affect the ranking order for search results.”
Mike Stenger offers these tips for engaging with readers on Google+:
- Follow active people relevant to your business
- Take time to comment
- Participate in hangouts
- Publish high-quality content
#8: HootSuite Offers Ability to Listen and Engage
HootSuite, a popular social media dashboard, offers ways to narrow in on places to engage with users. As Pawan Deshpande suggests, “…subscribe to a Twitter search for a keyword of interest. Instead of paying attention to the tweets in your stream, keep an eye on articles, videos, and images that are linked from the tweets to uncover breaking content. Often you will find content before Google is able to even index it.”
#9: Instant Feedback Helps
Social media encourages two-way conversation, so why not take advantage of the feedback you can gain from users on social networks? Andres Traslavina offers creative ways to problem-solve and meet marketing and business goals:
- Collect product feedback
- Host an online focus group via Twitter Chat
- Conduct surveys and polls
- Ask industry experts
- Crowdsource blog content
- Develop personas
- Monitor brand mentions
The information you’re able to glean from customers and prospects will provide in-the-moment and future opportunities for engagement.
#10: Journalist’s Digital Media Pyramid Encourages Engagement
Benjamin A. Davis coined the concept of the “digital media pyramid” as an alternative approach for bloggers and other online journalists from the inverted pyramid used by traditional print journalists. Davis suggests that one of the features of the digital media pyramid is to “encourage the self-education of ‘users’ or readers, enabling them to quickly seek out balanced information on a news story through the use of embedded links, social networks and other sources.”
It’s during this “self-education” when engagement is ripe. As readers click on links, businesses can remind them via social sharing buttons and invitations to like, retweet, +1, mention and share the content on multiple channels. And voilà, before you know it, there’s a whole lot of opportunity for engagement.
#11: Keywords Help Find the Needle in a Haystack
The amount of data being shared online every minute can feel rather daunting. Consider these numbers reported a year ago by Domo:
- 684,478 pieces of content are shared on Facebook
- 2,000,000 search queries are made on Google
- 48 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube
- 47,000 apps are downloaded from the App Store
- 3,600 photos are shared on Instagram
- 571 new websites are created
What would help get your content in front of the people who would most appreciate reading it? Keywords, plain and simple.
As Jerilyn Soncrant suggests:
“When posting on your social media networks, include keywords in the following places while remembering they need to sound natural. If it feels obvious that you snuck in a keyword phrase, remove it or try again. Place your keywords:
- In the Bio or About Us section of all of your social networks
- In posts when you’re talking about that particular subject
- In the vanity URL you create for each social network
- In the titles of your blog posts
#12: LinkedIn's Role
- Leverage LinkedIn Groups to find engaging content for company followers.
- Post status updates often (especially every morning).
- Add pictures, files, questions, links and contests in status updates.
- Promote your LinkedIn Company Page badge and product recommendations on your website.
- Use LinkedIn Recommendation Ads.
#13: Mobile Content Meets People Where They’re At—In the Moment
If you’re running a brick-and-mortar business, mobile content offers a great opportunity to engage potential customers. Christina Zila shares these insights:
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“In general, smartphone users look for local information while they’re on the go. In survey after survey, smartphone users want to know if a close physical location is open. Content for these types of searches should include basic contact information—address, phone number and operating hours—as well as a short description of the location highlighting why a visitor should choose that location.
#14: Nurture Leads Through Social Media Comment Replies
Some businesses are looking in all the wrong places. They’ll tell you they’re not seeing any return on their social media efforts and then you find that no one has responded to the comments or questions a user left.
Scott Gallagher articulates this point beautifully: “Social media is all about sharing and discussion. If you post a great piece of content, there is a very good chance that you’re going to get people commenting on it. These are your leads, and you need to encourage them to become more. This is where many people fall apart on their social media strategies. They don’t realize that replying to the comments on media can be as important as the creation of the content itself. When someone comments, you must reply.”
#15: Objectives Are Key
Quick, if someone asked you right now to list your company’s content marketing objectives, do you know the answer? Marissa Peacock points out, “It’s not just about creating any old content; it’s acknowledging that in order to reach more customers, companies must increase their efforts to provide timely and relevant content.”
Timely and relevant content sounds like a good mantra!
#16: Podcasting Offers a Powerful Tool
Podcasting is experiencing huge growth. Mitch Joel explains ways it can be a powerful tool for engagement. “A credible podcast is a powerful tool in social proofing. Asking recognized authorities and industry thought leaders for a twenty-minute interview not only provides value to an audience, but it can also be used in other ways. A show of this nature is a great internal communications tool to help your peers learn more about the industry you serve.” Joel also said, “Podcasting is a way to network with your industry’s key thought leaders.”
#17: Quora’s Questions and Answers
You may hear mixed emotions about Quora. Some will say that it’s a great resource to see what people in your industry want to know. Elijah Young offers both points of view and highlights these benefits of Quora: “A great place to find content ideas and experts, opportunities for networking and joint ventures.” Conversely he says, “It’s the self-promotion capital of the world.”
What are your thoughts about Quora for engagement pre- and post-content development?
#18: Return on Investment (ROI) is One Part of the Equation
I know—ROI is often the elephant in the room. But it doesn’t have to be. It just needs to be kept in perspective. Nichole Kelly sums social media ROI this way: “One of the biggest challenges with social media is that we are trying to measure social media in the social channel, when in fact the business value tends to happen on the website or through the email list. You have to stop thinking in terms of one silo and look at social media as one part of the story.”
#19: Storytelling is About Connection
Storytelling has become one of the buzzwords we hear discussed in social media circles. Some interpret it to mean that the writer has to be able to tell a good story. And while that’s true, there’s something even more powerful about storytelling.
Monica Carter Tagore adds an important dimension: “…storytelling is about connecting with your followers, friends and circles on an emotional level. And when you do, you’ll have a deeper and more meaningful social media conversation.”
#20: Twitter and CEOs
In many companies, social media community managers monitor the business’ social profiles for company mentions and to share relevant content with their Twitter followers. And while they’re doing a terrific job at it, customers often want to know what CEOs and upper management are thinking, reading and doing in the industry.
Monica Romeri gives this piece of advice: “Encourage your CEO and other company leaders to contribute to your company presence on Twitter. A CEO can easily use Twitter on the go as a marketing and public relations asset. It only takes a few minutes in between meetings to share great content along with an insightful comment, so get your CEO and other executive leaders on board with Twitter engagement.”
#21: Unique Content is Crafted
Why does it seem at times that other businesses have more unique content available to them? The truth of the matter is that they started where you did—without content or maybe with a few old white papers lying around.
Stanford Smith says, “At the beginning of a social media engagement, you don’t have content. All you have are ingredients. These ingredients are combined into various types of content. An impromptu video of the factory floor is turned into a YouTube video. The sales meeting presentation is transformed into a captivating industry infographic. Customer case studies are turned into insightful blog posts.”
“Content is crafted, not harvested. You don’t know what you have and how it can be used until you understand your audience’s needs, what they value and share and how customers prefer to gather information about your product. Get these answers and content opportunities become easier to identify.”
#22: Videos Are Often a Top Choice
What is it about a video that captures viewers? For one thing, if done well it has a way of grabbing our attention, educating and entertaining at the same time. We’re taking in a lot of written content all day long. A video offers a few minutes of respite.
Joe Martin suggests, “Marketers should take note of the growth of video within social and mobile channels and look for ways to invest further in video content, and create an engaging experience for users on mobile devices. The ROI of social marketing is on the rise and our data shows that video content will certainly lead to better results than non-video content.”
We’ll talk more about video content in #25, YouTube Videos That Engage.
#23: Webinars Provide an Opportunity for Real-Time Engagement
Webinars, the unique blend of using online experiences for training seminars, have become so mainstream that I can hardly remember the first one I attended or how long ago. The ability to sit at your desk and tune into a training session conducted in another part of the country, or world for that matter, and be exposed to real-time content may be one of the most rewarding experiences that a business can bring to their target audience.
Allison King advises marketers to keep webinar content tightly focused. She says, “It’s better to go in-depth into a narrower topic than to skim the surface on a broader topic. Most webinars are about an hour in length for the presentation, followed by a Q/A session.” To keep your bases covered, Allison has two recommendations:
- Get the PowerPoint presentation from the speakers two weeks in advance to give yourself a chance to review it and ask for a revision if needed.
- Have a speaker prep session one week in advance, in which the speakers will rehearse their presentation.
In the image above from World Wide Webinars by ClickMeeting, you can see why people organize webinars.
#24: E(x)perience of Users
Nordstrom has been recognized for their customer service excellence. People care about their experiences with businesses—and that goes for online content, too. They’ll be more likely to notice when something isn’t working well, such as a poor navigation scheme, broken links and run-of-the-mill content. Bottom line, online users expect things to go well.
Blaise Lucey writes, “The best kind of SEO strategy, at its core, provides a seamless user experience when people visit a website. Take a step back and look at your website. Use Google Analytics or another analytics tool to see how people are finding the site in the first place. Then, do some backtracking by clicking that page and pretending you’re a visitor. What do you see? As someone who just came to the site to read a specific blog post, do you want to or feel compelled to click on anything else? Remember that people who are looking for specific information often have tunnel vision. It’s up to you to broaden their horizons with additional content that pulls them further into the site.”
#25: YouTube Videos Work With All Budgets
You don’t need to go to great lengths to create videos for YouTube. Even a small budget with an inexpensive video camera or smartphone camera will go a long way if you don’t have the means to allot more resources. Jeff Bullas offers these ideas for what to record on video and publish:
- Arrange formal interviews in advance with prepared questions and answers
- Do casual, impromptu video interviews at a conference
- Presentations either in part or in full and edited or unedited
- Video products such as clothes or items that you can publish to your online store that show the product and how it can be adjusted or worn
- “How-to” videos that teach
- Grab your smartphone and obtain people’s feedback or comments as they happen about your product, service or store. This will provide authentic and real testimonials that money cannot buy
#26: Zones and Social Media Posting
Social media is a local, national and global experience and knowing good times to post is critical.
For starters, Craig Van Korlaar offers this guideline: “For those of you in the United States who have a national audience, you will want to use Eastern time, as this is where nearly half (48%) of the U.S. population lives (Eastern + Central = 81%). If your audience is primarily local or regional, treat it as local time.”
He also offers a helpful plan and schedule for good times to post content, with translations in eight languages.
As you can see, there are many elements that go into engagement. Everything from A-Z, beginning with author and ending on time zones. And we could discuss much more. Now it’s your turn.
What do you think? How do you create social media engagement with content marketing? Share your thoughts in the space below.
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