Content marketing is a bit of an art form. Anyone can pump out a dozen dry, boring blogs a month about whatever their specialist subject is, but not everyone can make content that people actually want to come back to, boosting their website up the ranks and creating real relationships.
The key is storytelling. For thousands of years, humans have been spinning yarns, telling their friends and families about the things they’ve seen and felt. Whether those stories were painted on cave walls, composed on string instruments, or splashed across splashy, high-definition screens, the fundamentals remain the same. If you want to create stories that really draw people in, here’s how to get started.
Focus on the Format
Beethoven wrote Für Elise to propose to Therese Malfatti in 1810. It didn’t work, but you can’t argue with the staying power of the piece. The song starts slowly, builds tension, resolves the tension, and returns back to its original motif.
The same has to be true of whatever story you tell. You need to introduce yourself, laying groundwork before you get down to business. You need to build tension, drawing people into what you’re about to say. You need to resolve that tension, delivering on the promise of useful, actionable content. And you need to wrap up in a satisfying, conclusive way.
Use Data Visualization
People don’t like reading numbers. Too often, they’ll scroll past the important points you’re trying to make in your content without absorbing any of them, simply because numbers are inherently less captivating than words.
If you want to change that and get across your data in a way that’ll stick, you need another way of talking about numbers. The easy way is to simplify them. Don’t say “65 percent,” say “almost two-thirds” or “a substantial majority.” Usually, the exact number doesn’t matter as much as the takeaway lesson behind it.
The second way is to put the numbers in a visual format, using some kind of graphic. Whether it’s a detailed infographic that a designer spends hours crafting or a simple pie chart, giving users something other than numerals to look at will get your message across in a far more lasting way.
Make Your Content Interactive
It’s a lesson we all remember from school: you can’t fall asleep in class if the teacher asks you a question. By the same token, it’s a lot harder for people to simply glaze over the blog you spent all that time working on if they have to participate a little. Here are a few ideas:
- Quizzes: requiring a small amount of input from your audience about the topic at hand in order to advance the article will make them think about what they’re reading, and it’ll give you a bit of user data to boot.
- Infographics: we’ve already touched on how useful a visual component to your content can be, but an infographic that moves, changes, and can be clicked on to reveal more data will hold the attention much better than a static image.
- Surveys and polls: your audience probably already wants to know the answer to certain poll questions, like what percentage of their budget should be spent on marketing or how many website views they should be going for. Add the poll at the bottom of an article so that people can’t see the results until they answer it, and you’ll have a piece of content that’s interactive and consumable.
- Calculators: want to present a topic like “how to decide how much to spend on Facebook ads”? Don’t just give them guidelines, give them an answer. Create a calculator that takes a few basic inputs like company size, budget, and audience and spits out a number, and you’ll be much more memorable.
Creating content that does its job, draws people in, and keeps them coming back is a moving target, and the advice we’re giving here won’t be good forever. The most important thing is that you keep experimenting, keep up with trends, and keep an eye on what your customers actually respond to. Every user base is different, and what works for us might not work for you. But like Beethoven’s failed proposal, it’s the thought — and the effort — that counts.