What makes great content? It’s a good question. But it’s an important one. It informs how you approach your content strategy, and where you should invest your time and efforts.
OK, so I have an analogy which you can use to assess your content as you put it out there. It’s based on a visit to a restaurant.
It involves you, going to a restaurant, as well as a bunch of nice people who use your website or social channels. What a great idea! A real shindig.
Here’s what we’re looking for as we analogise a great restaurant experience with a great content experience.
Our assessment will be primarily based on the meals you and your guests have chosen: We’re looking at whether it’s appetising, tasty, digestible, nourishing, and worth sharing.
First impressions count. Ask yourself: what struck you about this meal from the menu? Maybe it was something you’d had before, knew it was good, and fancied it again (I often play it safe myself!).
Likewise, with a piece of content. What’s the first impression you have of it? Is it intriguing, delightful, affirming, surprising etc? And what is it that engenders such a response? The tight, bright headline copy; the overall length and structure of what you could be about to consume; the bold, beautiful imagery; the knowledge that you’ve read/watched/acted upon something similar to this before, so you’re keen to try it again? Or maybe it’s just plain, simple, aesthetically pleasing design.
Knowing the tipping point for what makes you and your guests order ‘that dish’, or rather start a journey with ‘that piece of content’ is a crucial first step in improving your content strategy.
Your food arrives. Does your mouth start to water (if it hasn’t done so already, from the seeing it on the menu)? OK. It’s time to pop that first mouthful in. Is it what you expected? Or is it even better? What does it do to your senses, to your emotions? Maybe it just ‘fills a gap’, as my father would occasionally tease my mother after she’d lovingly created a nice meal.
Similarly for content, part of the measurement of its success is the thoughts, feelings and emotions it brings on. Although not the easiest of metrics to measure, it generally falls into the realm of brand strengthening. But down the line it can also be a springboard to further action, for example completing a call-to-action.
So it tastes good. But how well is it going down? Have you been able to break it down into small, manageable chunks or maybe it’s a bit too tough, or a bit too sloppy.
And hopefully your stomach will be singing ‘more, more!’ like your taste buds. Not sitting too heavy, not nauseatingly rich. Just right.
And good content also needs to go down well. With long-form content it’s important to give yourself a fighting chance that people will read it. Make it digestible. Consider breaking it up with, for example:
- A teaser summary at the top
- A mixture of medium, short and one-line paragraphs
- Readable copy which avoids clunky phrases and too much jargon (see Hemingway App for tips on this)
- Relevant quotes, images and videos
- Bullet point lists…
The food was delicious, and it’s gone down well. You’ve had a lovely time with great companions. You’re feeling good.
But let’s look long-term for a second. Let’s take a more sober approach. If you had this meal every day, would it be good for you? Does it contain a few too many calories, a bit too much fat, or a higher than healthy salt content. Hopefully not, but chances are it may do.
As someone who cares about good content, you’ll be wise to care about your content consumers. This content: is it accurate and true? Was it sourced and created with integrity? Does it strengthen your brand and lead to an ongoing positive experience for your users?
If you care about your users, it’s likely they’ll care about you. And if they care about you, they’ll care about your content.
You’ve left the restaurant now. It’s the following day. It’s been such a good experience, as it has been before. You all feel compelled to not only tell your friends, but to write the restaurant a glowing review. In it you compliment the chef and his team, you praise the excellent waiting staff, and you comment favourably about the décor and ambiance. And yes, you’re happy to be named on the review.
I know. You can see where we’re going with this. It’s how great content spreads – it’s shared. And with it your brand is strengthened and onwards and upwards you go.
But don’t forget how we got to this point.
If your content wasn’t appetising to start with, it wouldn’t have been consumed, and those taste-buds wouldn’t be tingling. If it wasn’t digestible, it’s unlikely they were convinced to convert. And if it generally wasn’t a good experience for them, they’re unlikely to share it.
‘Context is god’
Gary Vaynerchuk says in his blog post Content is king, but context is god:
‘People forget that, now more than ever, great content is predicated on context.’
And this raises a further question, to supplement my analogy. What did you expect from the place you’ve eaten at? If you go to a Thai restaurant you expect Thai food, Thai décor, a Thai atmosphere really. If you go to a gourmet burger bar you expect…. umm, burger-related paraphernalia?
So the takeaway (sorry!) from this point is to make sure the content you create is the kind of thing your consumers expect from the platform they’re on.
Gary continues: ‘Respect the psychology of what people are doing when they’re on the platform. I know a forty-year-old woman is in a different mindset when she’s on Facebook than when she’s on Pinterest. And that is how I storytell to her. I know on Pinterest she has intent to shop and on Facebook she’s keeping up with her world. So I strategize around that: the psychology and the platform itself.’
It’s not (just) about you
And remember, you need to actually ask those guests you brought to the restaurant with you how their meals fared too. In fact, their assessments of their meals are even more important than yours.
Your content may be about you, but it’s not for you.