Entering the world of modern-day online marketing that is content-led feels like how you felt the first time you went skydiving. You don’t know what you’re doing, and you’re just praying that the parachute will work as it’s supposed to.
Developing online content is really a matter of following one’s own formula for success – colouring it with unique creative thoughts and expressions for the most relevant platforms. Simple formula, coupled with the right tools and a little guidance… and your content creation efforts can easily go from lacklustre to brilliant.
But following some basic steps and a Pandora’s box of tools are always a good start, so here are some thoughts on what can get you closer to creating and owning content that works.
Step 1: Content discovery & ideation
In need of some inspiration as you get started developing your content? While there is a demand for fresh, high-value content, it can also be time-consuming to brainstorm topics from scratch and use your gut-feel about what might work.
An age-old piece of advice that I often follow –never underestimate the power of how reading related stories can inspire and kick-start killer ideas. It can be helpful to have trusted sources to turn to. Some that you can tap into, are:
• Pulse – An online news aggregation feed within LinkedIn designed for members to share self-published content with their network. It is an excellent platform for staying informed with a feed filled with content from influencers, thought leaders in the industry, long-form publishing authors and stories that mention the brands or people you work with. Create a custom newsfeed filled with only the news you’re looking for.
• Feedly – Similar to Pulse, Feedly is my personal go-to platform for keeping all my favourite blogs, news sites and social media pages all in one place! It offers a plethora of content across a variety of topics, including YouTube videos from channels you follow. You can even use it to manage your private business content, and deep personalisation makes it easy to navigate / find what you’re looking for.
• Mashable – Starting out as a leading blog in technology and digital media, Mashable is now the go-to site for the right mix of pop culture and global news – all in one place. With a tendency to publish human-interest stories, their content generally entertains the digital-first generation. I find this a great platform for learning how to tell great stories and weave human insights into powerful brand campaigns. Marketers can gain ideas on how to tell good stories and design more compelling brand campaigns that are appealing to the average online reader.
• Trapit – Designed specifically for the iPad, Trapit customizes newsfeeds based on interests and previous searches. Because the feed changes according to user preference, the content generated gets refined with increased usage on the site. Another similar platform that you can tap into is Flipboard.
Step 2: Content creation
Did you know that articles with images get 94 per cent more views than those without photos and posts with photos are shared 37 per cent more on social media when they have visual content?
The take-away is that whether it is a blogpost, an infographic or a video, content should be delivered in visually appealing ways. What makes great content stand out is accompanying illustrations that lend an authentic touch to storytelling.
At Outbrain, our Brainpower infographics, for instance, provide a digest of data-driven insights generated from significant global events. These infographics are designed with a recognisable visual style that not only helps build a consistent brand but grabs the reader’s attention quickly.
Use content creation tools to make your article more visually appealing.
• Canva – This is one of my favourites. It allows you to create gorgeous visual content like posters, Instagram posts, infographics, and lot more. Extremely easy to use, you don’t need to be a designer to create some impressive visual content. And the best part is, there are hundreds of free templates you can get inspiration from and use!
• WordSwag – A versatile tool pre-populated with typography templates for you to choose from. It’s easy to use – just jump in and select starter images / background, or buy extras at a minimal cost. The tool will get you excited with how a simple inspirational quote can be turned into something fancy!
• Unsplash – Provides you with 10 royalty-free images every 10 days. The site is a great place to gain access to high-resolution photos submitted by both established and aspiring photographers. You can also search through the past collections straight from any photographer’s photo feed.
• Meme Generator– The Internet is littered with memes across every conceivable topic, but people always love a fresh one (typically in relation to a trending topic). Create your own and humanize your brand a bit by injecting some humour into your content with.
Step 3: Organisation
Sometimes, even with an editorial calendar, having a wealth of information to work with can feel overwhelming. There are plenty of tools to help you manage the process a little easier – be it helping to categorise content effectively or schedule time for writing and publishing.
• Asana – In a world with way-too-many project management platforms, Asanais the one that, in my opinion, really stands. It allows you to share, plan, organise, and track progress of the tasks that you and your team are working on. It’s a life saver to me and the ultimate task management tool.
• Pocket – People love Pocket for its convenience. Pocket allows you to compile all the research and data you need and access them in a clean, stripped-down reader view. Cache articles, tweets, videos, and websites so you don’t forget about them later in the day, even if you wish to view them offline on airplanes.
• Google Calendar – Often overlooked, but so far the easiest and most conveniently within reach. If you already have Gmail, you already have this. Google Calendar automatically syncs your email and your iPhone calendar, so you’ll never miss a deadline. You can also subscribe to a variety of interesting calendars to help you keep on track with what’s going on each season.
Step 4: Writing & editing
When getting down to the actual process of content creation, use tools to help you make the most of your writing skills and creativity.
The first step is to come up with attention-grabbing titles – and one of our obsessions at Outbrain is testing, iterating, and finding that perfect headline. Remember that short, targeted titles work; a catchy headline is why some posts become popular while others fade into obscurity.
Here are some resources that will help set the stage for content virality.
• A-Z Guide To Brand Publishing – A brand publishing framework we’ve put together at Outbrain to adapt to your needs – no matter the size of your organization.
• Data-Driven Strategies For Writing Effective Headlines & Titles – A guide we’ve compiled after combing through more than 3.3 million paid link headlines and matching that with supporting data from the two million unique monthly visitors to Hubspot’s Marketing blog to offer never-before-seen insights that will assist you in your content marketing strategy.
Step 5: Marketing & promotion
The final step in the content creation process is promotion. The key differentiation factor of any successful piece is that – how and how quickly it reaches your target audience. Bump up your distribution efforts by using some of these tools:
• HootSuite – A free tool, Hootsuite eliminates the need to monitor profiles individually by displaying streams from multiple networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+. This added convenience lets you schedule posts from one location and reply to posts directly. One of the biggest draws of the tool is its ability to schedule tweets, allowing you to plan weeks ahead.
• Quick Sprout – Quick Sprout has proven to be the one of the most efficient website traffic generation system. Key your URL in Quick Sprout’s blog analyser to learn about your SEO and which posts are getting the most eyeballs. You can even get a report that identifies how content can be improved to optimise results.
• MailChimp– One that many are already using. But take your content distribution with this tool to the next level with its variety of new integrations that give you even more control and flexibility when designing your campaigns.
• Content discovery tools– May sound a bit like we are blowing our own horn, but content discovery tools are by all means a great way to get started with the amplification of content that sits on your own platforms. Be it a blog, or a website, a content discovery platform enables you to attract readers from like-minded portals and premium publishers. All you have to do is work with a trusted partner, identify your target audience and needs, pick your target portals, set aside a budget and go ‘live’. Try it out!
As content marketing takes on a whole new meaning this year, it is time we looked at it in a more strategic manner, tapping into all resources available. Over time, this process will become easier for you. Until then, I hope this toolbox will be of help to you and that eventually, you’ll venture out to find more tools to add to your collection.