Over the past few years there has been a big surge in the use of the term ‘content marketing’. And really, the idea that your content IS your marketing. As social media usage has become mainstream, we’ve all become content creators. The impact this has for marketers is that promotional content is far less effective than it used to be. Brands are competing now with their own customers for the attention of new customers.
The reason being? Because customers are typically creating more compelling content than brands. Customers are creating value for each other via the content they create and the content they share.
But this idea of ‘creating value’ gets tossed around a lot, and pretty loosely. Along with its first-cousin, creating ‘awesome’ content/blog posts, etc. Today I want to talk about three ways to create content that creates fans. But I also want you to understand that these approaches create fans because they create a positive change for the reader. They are making the reader better by giving them a new skill, a new perspective, or simply inspiring them to take action and ownership. You create fans by moving them to take action. That action can be to help others, or it can be to help and better themselves. But it creates a positive change for the reader. As Kathy says in the foreword to Think Like a Rock Star, “Rock stars aren’t just making better fans, they’re making their fans better.” Ask yourself how your content will do exactly that when you create it.
Here’s three ways your content can create fans:
1 – By teaching. This one is probably the easiest to wrap your mind around because the benefit to the reader is so clear. If you teach the reader how to be better at something, then obviously your content has created value for them. You’ve given them a new skillset, a new ‘superpower’.
Where this becomes interesting is when you apply it to a blogging business. Many companies will say ‘well why would I want to teach my customers to do this stuff for themselves, then I am just blogging myself out of business!’ Actually, you’re growing your business. Teaching your readers not only creates fans, it establishes you as the expert. I am reading Jay Baer’s new book Youtility right now, and he opens with a great story of how Robert Stephens, the founder of Geek Squad, responded when questioned about how he was killing his business chances by creating videos showing his customers how to solve their own computer problems. He made this same point, that he was giving his customers a skillset, but that many of them couldn’t solve their problems as effectively as the videos showed, so they ended up contacting Geek Squad to help them. And even if the customers did learn how to solve their own computer problems as a result of the videos, that still creates positive word of mouth for Geek Squad. So either way, Geek Squad wins.
2 – By raising awareness. This one is tricky. You want to create content that raises awareness of idea, theory or belief that your customers and fans are passionate about. But at the same time, you want to give them ways that they can get involved to help affect a positive change, even if that simply means spreading the word to others. Remember that taking ownership is taking power, so if you can give readers an incentive to become involved and take ownership, that gives them the incentive to help spread your message.
An example of this is what Innocent Drinks does with The Big Knit. This is an annual event the UK company has that’s designed to give its customers a way to help the elderly in the winter months by giving them clothing and sources of heat. Every year Innocent Drinks asks its customers to knit hoodies and caps that will fit over its bottles, which are then sold and a portion of the proceeds go to provide heat for the elderly in the winter. The event raises awareness of a problem, and then gives customers a way to participate in helping to solve that problem. Participants then take ownership in helping to create the solution to the problem. And that’s empowering, which is one reason why the quirky drink company from the UK has so many fans.
3 – By inspiring others to take action. This can go along with raising awareness, but the key is that the action you are inspiring readers to take can often be for themselves. You are inspiring them to become involved in something, to make a different to someone, and that someone could be themselves.
A big reason why Tim Ferriss’ books are so wildly popular is because he is a master at creating a positive change for his readers. Just a few days ago he had a guest post by one of Tim’s fans telling how she applied his teachings on how to eat, cook and exercise to lose 100 pounds. This is incredibly powerful because this content isn’t coming from Tim, it’s coming from one of his fans. She is telling her story (with compelling visual evidence) of how Tim’s teachings created a very positive change in her life, and in the process her story inspires others to take action. As a bonus, note at the end of the post how Tim is creating a free support group for others that are attempting to reach similar goals as Briana. That’s another way that Tim creates fans because actions such as this show that he has their best interests in mind.
So there are three ways to create content that creates fans. But remember that the common thread running through these ideas is creating a positive change for the reader. You are giving them a new skill, or giving them a way to take action, or the inspiration they need to get started. You are helping them to move forward. If you can create content that does this, then you will also create fans.