How many times have you heard the adage that ‘Content is King’? Great content is extremely important, but when it comes to actually creating great content, there are three questions you need to ask, and answer:
1 – Who do you want to reach with your content?
2 – How will your content help you reach them?
3 – What action do you want them to take as a result of your content?
Now before we get into these questions, I wanted to tell you about a couple of posts I wrote. The first post was a rant about the idea that ‘Content is King’. A lot of people believe this is gospel, but I don’t, I think community is as important, if not moreso than simply good content. So I wrote a post on this topic, with the provacative title of “The Idea That ‘Content is King’ in Blogging is Total Bullshit“. I thought this post was a home run. It got over 70 comments (at the time the most comments ever for one of my posts), and a few hundred ReTweets on Twitter. And the day it was published, The Viral Garden had a record traffic day, up 900% over avg traffic. In short, I was pretty damn proud of myself.
Then I got a letter from a friend, who said “I see you have created a lot of drama on Twitter today with that post. Let me ask you something: How many clients did that post get you?”
Shit. My friend was right, I didn’t get a single dollar’s worth of business from that post. It got a TON of interaction and engagement, but didn’t create any business for me. That’s when I realized that I hadn’t written it to connect with potential clients, I had written it to be a rant that would get attention, and that’s exactly what happened. But since my blog was a business development tool, that post missed the mark.
Another example is a post I wrote a couple of years ago on using Google Analytics to better track your blog’s statistics, so that you can improve your blogging efforts. I wrote this post specifically to help companies use GA to get a better handle on what’s happening on their blog, so they could improve their blogging efforts. The post got a couple of comments, and a few RTs. Very little engagement.
But a couple of months after I wrote that post, a potential client found it by doing a Google search on site analytics, and found the post to be valuable, and contacted me. I ended up getting a $10,000 project with their agency, and later got a second $5,000 project with them. Plus, the agency owner referred me to another business that has so far given me over $7,000 in work. So that one post, which was written to solve a specific problem that blogging companies were having, has so far generated over $22,000 in business for me.
The point in both these examples is that you have to consider each of the three questions above when creating content. Let look at each of them:
Who do you want to reach?
When you write that next blog post, when you create that next video, or even when you send that next tweet, think about who you want that content to connect with. If you are a business or organization, you probably want to connect with potential customer or clients or vendors or partners.
Which ties back to my first example. That post got a LOT of interaction and engagement, but the problem is that the engagement wasn’t with potential clients, it was with fellow marketers and consultants. My friend Beth Harte often says that too many people in the ‘social media space’ aren’t writing for clients, they are writing for each other. But a lot of us do this because we believe that we need to create content that gets a reaction. We need to create content that gets the RIGHT type of reaction, and that comes from targeting the RIGHT people.
How will your content help you reach them?
If you want your target audience to find your content, then you either need to bring it to them, or you need to give them a reason to seek it out. Recall my second example above of the post that I wrote that got me $22,000 worth of business. This is a perfect example of what I mean, in that case, a client found my content because they were seeking it out. They were looking for a solution to a problem they were having.
Which brings up another point to consider about engagement. Just because your post isn’t getting comments or Likes or RTs doesn’t mean there isn’t engagement happening. I had no idea that a potential client had read that 2nd post, till they emailed me. Not everyone will comment or RT or Like a post, and sometimes the ones that don’t, are the most valuable. Which brings up the 3rd question you need to ask…
What action do you want them to take?
Let’s assume you have figured out who you want to reach with your content, and that content has reached them. Now, what do you want that person to do? Let’s say you want that person to contact you about purchasing a product or service from you. That means that with your content you need to either ask for the order, or you need to make sure that the content makes such a compelling case for your ability to help them, that they decide to contact you directly.
Now I know that some of you might be a bit uneasy about adding a ‘Call to Action’ to your content. This can be something as simple as ‘Please leave a comment’ or more direct like ‘Call us now at 1-800-555-5555 to purchase yours!’ And I don’t think you need to add a call to action to every post, but you do need to give your readers some direction.
Remember this: If your content has created value for someone, then you have earned the right to add a call to action. Because if your content is truly valuable to me, then I am WANTING to see a call to action. I may not be ready to buy from you, but I probably want to subscribe to your blog, or at least want an option to share your content with my network.
So when you are creating content, keep those three questions in mind, who do you want to reach, how will your content help you reach them, and what action do you want them to take?
What about you? Do you have rules you follow for the content you create? Do you know who you are trying to reach and what action you want them to take?
Neicole Crepeau says
This is a great post, Mack. I see you cover some of the same points you made in my Friday Five’s last week. I see much the same issue that Beth Harte points out: social media people talking to other social media people. Of course, there is some value in that, building your reputation, etc. But your example of your GA article is perfect. Your content is out there for a long, long time. Writing content for your target customer is the best way to get more customers!
Greg Taylor says
Perfectly said. I use a series of tools when organizing content to make sure it’s as effective as possible. (http://www.scribd.com/doc/46430323/TMC-Blog-Post-Worksheet)
Lynn MacDonald (All Fooked Up) says
That was a pretty interesting read. For me personally, the problem is I’m not exactly sure who my target audience is or even, what my goal is. It did give me food for thought though.
Of course, I hate thinking and, in fact, quit doing it years ago.
Mack Collier says
Ha! Lynn I’m not positive who my target audience is either. If I have a good idea, then I think I have accomplished something 😉
Gabriele Maidecchi says
I believe not 100% of your posts have the chance to be aimed to your true business intentions. Sometimes, you write just to interact, to mingle so to say.
In the same way you don’t constantly try to sell when you go out to conferences or business meetings, you can’t blog just to actively close sales. It’s easier for blogs like mine, whose true aim isn’t direct sale, but generally speaking I don’t find anything wrong in writing posts like the first one you mention, it helps getting the buzz around, and even if the target may seem wrong at first, you don’t really have a sure idea of how far the stone you launch will reach.
I strongly believe in serendipity, and in apparently random chances that may show up at some point. Even a post targeted at the “wrong” audience can provide a surprising way to expand your business, besides, I bet you had a lot more fun writing the content post than the GA one, am I right?
Mack Collier says
Gabriele you are right the bullshit post was more fun to write 😉
Meredith Rabil says
Thanks so much for writing this blog! It’s encouraging that you and Beth Harte spoke about writing content geared toward your clients. If you don’t think this way, sometimes you’re really missing the point of having a blog in the first place. This is something I have to remind myself as I write too.
Mack Collier says
Thank you Meredith. I usually follow Beth’s lead when it comes to smart stuff 😉
But it’s right, we can lose sight of exactly who we are writing for, or worse, we don’t know ourselves. It’s too easy sometimes to just throw stuff out to see what gets a reaction. I don’t think that’s the way to go, obviously.
Solution to a problem. I think you hit the nail on the head. Great post and one that I will re read as we work on our new B2B site. Thanks.