Engaging an audience is not a matter of typing down a couple of scribbles into a text field. It is an art and a science that takes long hours of research and work. But with content machines nowadays that produce tons of pages of generic work, it seems almost impossible for everything being written on the Internet to be widely read.
This creates an interesting dilemma for content creators. How can you create content that will make an impact on your readers if the odds are stacked against you? How can you deliver content that is both professional and casual without being too easily distinguished as one or the other? How can you produce work that people care about?
To answer these questions, let’s take a look at the primary reasons that determine people to read:
- To educate themselves,
- To solve problems that they have, or
- To search for entertainment.
These reasons actually make the key principles that content writers should consider before producing a new article or an e-book they’ve been planning for some time.
In this article, I will try to explain how to approach each principle, with examples that I encountered in my daily work. So, here they are:
Changes happen everyday in people’s lives, and their way to accommodate to these changes is through learning. So, whether they become students, or go to a new job, or they are simply lifelong learners who love being up to date with everything new in they area of expertise, for these people the Internet is an endless fountain of information.
To tap into the potential of these readers, you need to take an educational approach for the content you produce. You can do this with two methods, which can be addressed either separately or together:
- you can create a collection of information resources on a topic of interest (knowledge base, user guides scholastic works)
- you can bring your own application or interpretation of a newly emerged principle in your industry
This also includes giving examples, videos, diagrams, charts, infographics or any other representation of evidence that helps your readers solidify the information in their mind.
A good example of educational content in the SEO industry (that also helped me a lot for my work) is the Beginners Guide to SEO by SEOmoz.
When I started off in online marketing, this was the first guide about SEO stuff that made sense to me. The information contained in the text was (and still is, thankfully) supported with diagrams and suggestive images that made it easy to read and understand.
Next to education, solving problems is a very important part of human growth. This gives you the uniquely powerful opportunity to help people in your niche to successfully resolute the issues they are facing by sharing your expertise.
To meet the needs of readers in this category, you need to be sure that the content you are preparing to create includes the elements below:
- it defines the problem,
- it provides the methods and tools to solve it,
- it provides the sequence of steps needed to resolve the problem.
Just as for the educational content, you can easily integrate diagrams and embedded videos that enhance the ease of understanding the information you provide.
My favorite example for content that helps solving problems is the Kissmetrics blog (yes, the entire blog; I feel that mentioning only one article would not do justice to the others). The content published here illustrates perfectly the three elements in this section. Thus, at the end of each Kissmetrics article, I know where to start dealing with my problem and where to evaluate its resolution.
While it’s not as common, there are also people that read for joy. Adding a little bit of personality, wit or humor into your content will always help you provide your readers with an experience of diverse ranges of emotions.
This can be achieved by engaging people in a mental conversation with what they’re reading or seeing. Make them ask themselves questions and feel a sense of connection with the content you create. This will turn their activity into a memorable experience.
To entertain people, you need to be edgy, spontaneous and funny, and combine various types of content (written text with images or videos).
An example that I am very fond of is the infographic that my colleagues prepared for this Halloween.
It presents the logical sequence in using search optimization tools with a funny approach, assessing their difficulty level through comparisons with Halloween characters (my favorite is the Vampire aka “Links Analyzer” :)).
Creating content is an act of giving value, whether it is by educating, or entertaining, or providing answers that help solving problems.
It’d be interesting to learn what it the best combination of these three factors for different topics in your industry. If you were to write for a cooking blog, would you emphasize more on cooking tips or on funny personal experiences while cooking?
I’m looking forward to reading your comments in the section below.
Photo credit: Suvodeb