I’ve got a confession to make. This blog post was supposed to be published about 3 weeks ago. It’s not because I’m bone idle… honest. Annoying things (urgent paid work) got in the way.
Back on the 13th November, I hosted a Twitter chat called #ContentClubUK. I’d not even been involved in a Twitter chat before I found this awesome little community of like-minded biscuit lovers. Now, I look forward to it every week.
Aside from deciding what biscuits to eat, the concept is pretty simple. Each week, on a Tuesday, at 11am (GMT), the host asks 3 questions related to content marketing. Answers are given by marketers, copywriters, designers and anyone else that wants to take part.
There really are some amazing snippets of advice, from all sorts of perspectives, and it’s good fun too. So, even though this is a bit late, the insight and knowledge shared is still just as valuable.
Here are some of the highlights.
Q1: How do you decide on the best format(s) for a piece of content?
Often, I think we are guilty of defaulting to a particular type of content (especially online) when trying to communicate an idea to our audience. So, I wanted to see what thought processes people have when deciding on a format.
For a freelance copywriter, as Nick Blatchley tweeted, the answer can be quite simple:
But, what the client wants may not always be the best format for their audience, and ultimately, it’s them we have to think about:
Fellow copywriter Laura Parker rightly pointed out that competition for attention is high, and the wrong format is a sure-fire way to lose your audience to the competition.
As well as your audience, the topic you’re talking about and the ideas you want to communicate need to take top priority when considering format:
A1. Kind of comes instinctively. Some things are harder to explain in text than as images and vice-versa. I just base my judgement on a) what's the easiest way to explain and b) what the reader expects/wants.— Craig Wright - Tech Writer (@straygoat) 13 November 2018
A1: I’ll generally default to a blog/article – but it depends on the platform and topic. Images/infographics are good for social media engagement or supporting an article, but less good for a11y or SEO. An ebook can be a good way to repurpose related articles. #ContentClubUK— Dave Smyth (@websmyth) 13 November 2018
That something new was the A11y Project, a community-driven effort to make web accessibility easier. When designing and writing content, we should be checking to make sure that it is easily accessible and digestible for all.
On top of that, Dave also made another great observation – content can be repurposed. Different people consume content in different ways, and presenting the same information in alternative formats is a brilliant way to capture the attention of a wider audience, over a longer period of time.
Last but not least, Gareth Hancock, the man behind That. Content. Shed., reminded us that we should never forget the aim of content when deciding its format:
A1: It really depends on the aim of the content, the topic and what the client wants. If it's engagement they're looking for, I might suggest a blog post, article or infographic. If they're looking get leads, an ebook might be a better option. #ContentClubUK— That. Content. Shed. (@thatcontentshed) 13 November 2018
Q2: How do you establish and maintain the right tone of voice for content?
Whether you’re working in-house, as a freelancer writing for your own business or a client’s – tone of voice is always a difficult thing to pin down. It’s an essential part of a brand, and deserves considerable attention.
Not an easy one to answer in 280 characters, but #ContentClubUK‘s copywriters gave it a damn good go:
A2: This is a massive question. Establish right tone: talk to the client, listen to words & phrases they use in reference to their business/project. More importantly, read/listen/watch anything that's coming from the client's audience & use their words & tone. #ContentClubUK— Rose Crompton (@RoseC_Leic) 13 November 2018
A2: I find the best results come from getting to know the client personally, particularly if it's a small or one-person business. You can't convey someone's expertise or personality without understanding where they've come from and why they do what they do. #ContentClubUK— Matt Ayres (@mttyrs) 13 November 2018
If you’re a freelance writer, a key bit of advice from some of the pro copywriters (Rose Crompton, Matt Ayres, Megan Rose and André Spiteri), is to spend time talking to your client. Get to know them and their business. Once you’ve done this, you can try to bridge the gap between the client and the language their audience connects with.
Tone of voice might not always be crystal clear in the brief, and can vary based on platform and purpose, but it’s important to nail it before you start writing.
Once you’ve got it down, maintaining it should be easy, as long as you follow some of these tips:
Creating a ToV document gives you (or anyone else creating content for that business) an important reference to help maintain the correct tone.
A1. Identify key words and phrases that represent the voice you're trying to create & have them handy when writing. Check them against content the audience you're targeting already reads. Read aloud all you write & if a big job, record & listen back for any jarring #ContentClubUK— Glenn Fisher (@allgoodcopy) 13 November 2018
Copywriter Glenn Fisher advised to keep a copy of key words and phrases handy when writing, plus cross-referencing with existing content your audience reads.
And finally, something all writers need to bear in mind:
#contentclubuk— Kelly Dunning - Global Goose (@GlobalGoose) 13 November 2018
A note on tone: Many clients think they need to sound "smart" and "professional" in their copy - but the best tone for nearly every industry is clear and concise.
Explaining things in a straightforward way is better than piling on jargon and big words.
Travel copywriter Kelly Dunning made a great point. Regardless of the tone you need to write with, ditching flowery language for concise, plain English is often best.
Q3. You’ve produced an awesome piece of content. How do you make sure the right people find it?
You can put all the effort into creating a great piece of content – maybe it looks great; nails the tone of voice; is written beautifully. If nobody finds its, nobody takes the desired action – the content doesn’t fulfill its purpose – and that effort is wasted.
Promoting content is arguably more important than creating it (unless your content is the next great cat video). Even if you do get a lot of likes, views and shares, does that mean that the right people have found your content and engaged with it?
As freelance copywriter Annie Writes answered, you might not have to do the promotion bit for clients, but you certainly do for your own content. Content promotion requires planning and persistence, and as most freelancers know, distraction and procrastination can be your enemy:
I cheat on this one. I don't do any of the marketing for my clients, I just write the thing. For my own stuff? ... Still working it out. I know HOW to do it, but actually doing the things needed? ...Ooh look, a squirrel. House needs cleaning. Etc. #ContentClubUK— Annie Writes (@Annie_Writes_) 13 November 2018
You really do need to be persistent. Content marketing takes time, and it can be disheartening when you don’t get instant results.
A3: That’s elusive. First up researching well. Persisting with newsletters even if only handful of devotees. @espirian’s 30 month rule is worth keeping in mind. Persist, use different platforms, try and manage SEO & keyword parameters smartly. Be nice on SM. Hope. #contentclubuk— Howard Walwyn (@PrismDocuments) 13 November 2018
Howard Walwyn pointed us in the direction of the 30 month mindset (via copywriter John Espirian), which goes to show the level of consistent and long-term effort you’ll need to put in when it comes to promoting content.
Whilst organic traffic is unlikely to stream in overnight, it is possible to get results quicker. As Sid Balachandran and our good friend in the shed explain:
A3: Social media! SEO takes time, social media is instant. Someone made an awesome Parklife mashup of Charlie Austin's interview the other day. It got over a million views in a day on social media. If it's good enough, people will be compelled to share it. #ContentClubUK— That. Content. Shed. (@thatcontentshed) 13 November 2018
It’s true that social media can get eyes on your content, and quickly. To make a success of it though, you still need to do the legwork when it comes to research, planning and optimising the content for each platform. Wise words from Fi Shailes:
A3: Where are ur audience? Usually logic, speaking to people + a bit of desktop research can give you a pretty good idea. Then, deploy targeted promotion through your owned, earned and paid channels; taking care to optimise the message for each one... #Contentclubuk pic.twitter.com/42uyElB1yM— Digital Drum (@Fi_digitaldrum) 13 November 2018
And, another pro tip here – look at other platforms your audience uses, and where you can promote your content. Medium and LinkedIn are great places to republish. For niche topics, answering questions on community sites such as Quora and Reddit can provide more exposure, as Emma Lander answered:
Finally, and I think this one is really important – look at ways in which your audience engages with your content. You should be inviting, helpful and involved – promoting discussion.
If your audience comes across your content when it has been shared by their peers, they are far more likely to read it, trust it, and share it themselves:
A3. You could say it's only awesome if the right people find it. But even though it's true, it's not helpful. I'd say the key is finding different ways for people to engage with the content. The way someone comes across your content changes the way it's perceived #ContentClubUK— Glenn Fisher (@allgoodcopy) 13 November 2018
I want to join #ContentClubUK!
As you’ll see from the highlights (and I could have picked many more), this is a Twitter chat that’s not to be missed.
I’ve taken away something useful every week, and I think you would too. So here’s another reminder – it happens on a Tuesday, at 11am (GMT). Follow the hashtag, and get involved.
Oh, and bring biscuits.