12 Most Worthwhile Rules for Creating Incredible Content

12 Most Worthwhile Rules for Creating Incredible Content

We all take in massive amounts of content on a daily basis. Even if you’re not a technology junkie and still believe in putting away your smart phone during movies and meals, you can’t avoid it.

Most of that content is produced by companies who have something to promote. I’m sure you’ve noticed that some of this content is great — helpful, entertaining, enlightening, thought provoking — and some of it is downright awful. If you produce content to market your own business, this list of 12 rules for creating incredible content will help you maintain permanent residence in the first group, and effectively avoid the latter.

1. Cater to your prospects, not your peers

It’s an easy trap to fall into: creating content that we think will be impressive in our industry. Talking about the latest techniques, the most advanced technologies, the most impressive approaches. But you need to ask yourself a serious question: does the content you produce attract your prospects, or is it only managing to impress your peers (aka: other people in your line of work)?
Chances are, the type of information your prospects want to get from you is entirely different than the type of content your colleagues will compliment you on.

2. Learn that everything you’re putting out there is content

A big mistake is thinking too narrowly about content. Blog posts, videos, podcasts, webinars, and infographics are popular forms of content, yes. But content is far broader than that. It’s the tweets you send out on Twitter and the comments you make on Facebook. It’s every email you send. It’s your business cards, your product packaging, your website, and your voice mail. Every interaction your audience has with something your business produces is “content.”

3. Write great headlines

Headlines are arguably the most important part of any piece of content you produce. Almost everyone will decide whether or not to read your blog post, watch your video, or listen to your podcast based on your headline. That’s a lot of responsibility. And a very good reason to learn how to craft stellar headlines — fast.

4. Have an opinion

Content that tries to appeal to everyone, all the time, is boring. Honestly, take my word for it. If you think creating vanilla content will help you avoid offending anyone, you would be totally wrong. You might not challenge anyone’s opinions, but you will undoubtedly end up offending anyone who values their time and despises being bored to death by content with no clear direction.

Of course there is a need for unbiased content (for example, news reporting), but if you’re trying to build a brand and distinguish your business, you might want to leave the “balanced view” pieces to someone else.

So go ahead. Let the world in on your opinions. You don’t have to (and really shouldn’t) rub anyone’s face in it or say anything rude or obnoxious. Just add a little substance. Take a stand on something.

5. Learn the art of the intro

After the headline, intros take on the most responsibility for convincing readers to stick it out to the end of your content. Your introduction needs to capture attention immediately, create curiosity, and also reveal just enough information to assure the reader that the piece is relevant and worthwhile to them, personally.

6. Banish buzz words

Nothing says cheesy and unoriginal like content laden with buzz words, catch phrases, and clichés. Contrary to popularly held opinions, using “industry speak” and tired-to-death phrases doesn’t make you sound like you know what you’re doing.

To connect with your audience (most likely a group of people who don’t know a lot about the type of work you do), say things plainly. Try to phrase things in a new way… in your own way.

7. Tell stories

Stories are powerful. They make it easy to grasp your message, they’re easy to follow, and they are just plain entertaining (when done right, of course). If you’ve been creating content with a strict “how-to” format, consider mixing it up and throwing in a compelling story every now and then (hint: personal stories are OK sometimes — yes, even in business).

8. Get people to engage

Online content is not a one way medium. At least, not if you want it to effectively grow your business. A primary goal of creating content for your company is to build relationships so that your audience will grow to know, like, and trust you. Have you ever built a good relationship without including the other person?

Aim to involve your audience — feature stories from your readers, ask people to send in their questions for you to answer, ask your readers to answer a question of yours, illicit opinions and ideas and conversations from your audience.

9. Aim to impress

Truth is, the basics have already been covered. Many, many times over. If you want to create content that really gets attention, you need to aim to impress. It’s OK if it takes longer — research your topic, reference sources, show examples, and back up your claims. Go the extra distance. Be incredibly helpful. It will pay off big time.

10. Learn how to edit

It’s okay if you’re not a grammar enthusiast (we all make typos). But really sloppy content will take your business down a lot of notches in your prospects eyes, so making an effort to polish up your content is a smart idea. Leave something overnight (or at least a couple of hours) before editing and publishing. If you’re not confident that you’ll catch your own mistakes, have a friend, business partner, employee, or family member give it a once over, red ink pen in hand.

11. Don’t forget you run a business

Over promotion is a real turn off, but most business owners don’t have to worry about that problem. In fact, most of us are guilty of actually UNDER promoting. While you’re busy creating content that your audience will love, find incredibly useful, and unbelievably valuable, don’t forget why you’re marketing with content in the first place: to get customers.

You won’t snag any customers if they don’t know you actually sell things. So make it a point to include info on what you have to offer when the time is appropriate.

12. Be yourself

Like we’ve already established, there is a bottomless pit of content out there. Do you want the key to standing out? I’m confident you already know about this, but a lot of us fail to use it to our advantage when it comes to marketing and creating content. The key to being notable is letting your personality take a front seat.

Forget sounding like a big corporation. Throw traditional “professionalism” to the wind. Kick stale, structured tones out the door. You know what makes your personality different from everyone else’s. Your friends know, your family knows. So put a hold on trying to sound like a “business,” and start sounding like you.

Putting your hard work into creating content for your business is only worth it if it helps you build an audience and sell your stuff. There is surely more than one right way to create incredible content, but there is also a straight up wrong way to do it.

What mistakes have you found detrimental? Join in the conversation by answering the question below in the comments.

Photo credit Big Stock Photos

Sonja Jobson

http://www.sonjajobson.com

Sonja Jobson is a copywriter, content marketer and blogger who helps make small businesses incredible on the internet. She shares her best online marketing advice in her free, weekly emails.

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7 comments
Kaitlyn Zurcher
Kaitlyn Zurcher

These are great rules to live by. I’m definitely bookmarking this article so I can refer to it in the future. 

In my experience, having an opinion when it comes to content creation is tricky.  I had always thought that it was best to stay on the neutral side in these situations (better safe than sorry), but you brought up some interesting points. Opinions add substance, and expressing them could be a better way of intriguing an audience and having them stick around.

BelindaSummers
BelindaSummers

Sometimes writers become too promotional on their content and by doing that, they're shooing their audience away. There will always be a right time for pitching in the content and like what this post suggest, tell a story. People love stories. Nice post Sonia. :)

WayneLiew
WayneLiew

This is a useful article and I would say, a must read for business owners who are trying to get started with content marketing. I like the first tip, cater to your prospects, not your peers, and I do see a lot of business owners falling into this trap too.

Another mistake that business owners do is not understanding their target audience enough and where their prospects are in the buying cycle to create content for them. For example, list posts get all the tweets and shares these days but they don't necessary appeal to your prospect who is looking for detailed solution on how to solve their problems.

sunidhi1128
sunidhi1128

There is much of it on internet lately. I think for the younger generation more of examples are required and not just pointers on what to do. 

BradShorr
BradShorr

Sonja, These are excellent tips. Everybody is always blathering about the need to create "epic" content -- but posts like this that explain HOW to do it are few and far between. The issue we fight most often is #6, buzzwords/jargon.  Often, writers resort to cliches when they haven't really thought through what it is they're trying to say. For instance, when a client writes, "... we create synergies ..." - we'll ask them what specifically that means. Sometimes we'll get a blank stare, but other times we'll find terrific selling points that nobody's spent the mental energy on to articulate. 

SonjaJobson
SonjaJobson

@BelindaSummers You're absolutely right: if you're overly promotional in your content, it's going to turn people off. But I think most (certainly not all) people are scared to promote anything on social media profiles, blogs, etc. because of all the advice against self-promotion.  It goes both ways, but there is definitely a balance to it!  

Thanks for your great input, and thanks for reading :)

SonjaJobson
SonjaJobson

@BradShorr Great points, Brad. Clarity is so important in online content (any content or communication, really) and buzzwords/jargon just makes things vague. 

I love how you pointed out that when you confront some of your clients about cliches they've used, you often end up digging out some great, original selling points. This is a valuable exercise for everyone!

Thanks so much for reading & commenting.

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