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Gwyneth March

Content Is King: 3 Rules To Improve Engagement

21 December 2012, Gwyneth March

I have just spent 15 minutes trying to navigate the website of CrossCountry Rail to add to the hideous experience trying to find a phone number for British Gas to come and service my boiler. (Apparently they’ll ‘look after my world’ only when it suits them.)

Both lost my business due to a failure to engage me with their digital content which suggests content marketing strategies are either not in place or are poor.

Recent industry research backs this up:

  • The number of search queries for ‘content marketing’ has more than doubled in the past two years, and 90% of their respondents agreed content marketing will become more important; it will be the “voice of the brand”.
  • However, the majority of both brands and agencies had yet to create a defined content marketing strategy

Common sense suggests there are three simple rules content should always obey for maximum engagement – which is the first step in getting their confidence up to give you their email address or quote you or buy from you.

1. Let me entertain you

There is a fascinating site which estimates what popular Youtube partners make in a year. Charlie McDonnell, the most subscribed English vlogger, makes a good living. Even when he has dried up, his “I’m scared” video has been watched a million times. He says in it: “I am not here to entertain you today”, which recognises the main reason people click onto your vlog or film, or follow you on twitter, or on your blog, or join your Linkedin group.

During the summer I was entranced by a series of very well produced (considering the budget) films, which told the story of a parallel world where being a great gamer made you a celebrity. Our hero wins a place at Video Game High School, but can he beat the school bully, and win the tournament and the girl?  Hell yes! Not only was it brilliantly entertaining, it was a wonderful everyman story. And I bought the Jo Malone cologne advertised on the home page.

How can this work for us? Jeff Molander gives a great example of a service company – PetRelocation.com – using interesting content to get more sales. They encourage owners of pets successfully relocated to post pictures on their Facebook page with stories. PetRelocation use these confident endorsements to get more customers. We can connect and entertain via a good personal story.

2. Line of least resistance

Behavioural economists tell us that people don’t always do what they ought to and you need to make it easier for them. For example workers have to opt out of a savings plan rather than opt in. Most will not bother to opt out and hence save.

You can improve your content to create a line of least resistance. For example Amazon’s one click facility, or Tesco saving your card details.

You can also make your content less off-putting – a particular dislike of mine is what Why Business People Speak Like Idiots calls ‘stupid generic photos’ of smiling, attractive people punching the air in beautiful clean sunlit offices. I’d prefer to see grinning real people who actually work there. I’d like a prominent button which say ‘buy now’, I’d like a product at a knockdown price, I’d like valuable information such as their phone number…

If you are trying to reach customers through a blog, think about your title – will a search engine user find it easily?

Finally, heed the words of Sonia Simone, co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media: “don’t give your great content an ugly apartment…. Your words might be brilliant enough to make unicorns weep, but if you put them into an ugly, amateurish, or cluttered design, your readers won’t come back for a second date.”

3. Everyone likes a freebie

Jason Westland, CEO of Projectmanager.com uses content marketing to capture possible customers – for example by giving away good free resources.

Free webinars are another excellent way of building trust and your database, but try and make them short, punchy and interactive (e.g. an instant poll) because the human attention span is short and getting shorter.

A great example of worthwhile content, in my own industry, to existing and potential customers is the Speakers’ Corner newsletters, an unrivalled source of tips, quotes and anecdotes.

Very importantly – you need to have a pretty good incentive to get people to ‘follow’ a brand on Facebook. In Click, the Brafmans point out that just because you have ‘digital connectivity’ with someone on Twitter, it does not mean you are really part of their life in the same way as the friend you share a lift to work with every day.

But I think you can win potential leads and increase your rankings on Google with some free and engaging ‘linkbait’.