Interestingly, some things never change.
Content is always evolving.
Consider the written word; once heralded as the medium of the greats from Yeats to Dickens - now it would just be silly to post a three thousand word essay online. No one is scrolling through that. There’s a formula: 300-500 words, grab attention above the fold, no meandering sentences.
The video experience has also changed. Remember the anticipation waiting for a TV episode to drop week to week? Now, it has to be on demand. I watched the first three seasons of Vikings in seven days on Netflix – and I’m not even remotely ashamed.
This evolution has been accelerated by our need to curate, consume and access content however and whenever we want.
Set against the backdrop of Youtube and Vimeo, consider the rise of TikTok – don’t groan – a platform that highlights the power of easily consumable and bite-sized video content. Recognise the pulling power of Clubhouse or Stereo, and how it speaks to our need for long form oration. Building on the wave of podcasting, these platforms are creating spaces to listen, learn and contribute to broader conversations.
From radio and prime time television to travel blogs and livestreaming – change in the world of content is inevitable. But what determines success in content is not the form it is created in or the platform it is published on; it is about the value you provide. It doesn’t matter if you’ve optimised posting times or deep dived into the algorithm, bad content has a ceiling.
Tried and true
So for all the formula and “content science” out there, one thing remains fundamentally clear - creating content that matters can often make or break your brand’s success.
Success on TikTok requires intelligent creators that understand how to string together an engaging narrative in 15 second clips. In podcasting, you need to know how to hold an audience’s attention without boring them. Creating value on Medium (with their 170 million readers) requires dynamic and insightful writing.
We yearn for storytellers.
Storytellers that are authentic, engaging and real.
And this should be a beacon of light for businesses in the vast, undulating ocean of content. For as long as this yearning exists, there is opportunity to rise to the challenge and meet the need. That if you speak your truth, your brand may create a story gap and fill it.
So what can you do?
Identify the story gap
When creating content, it is important to understand what story gap you are looking to create. This involves identifying what problem your brand is seeking to solve, and what value your content is looking to deliver.
Donald Miller outlines that when you define what your customer wants, “they are invited to alter their story in your direction. If they see your brand as a trustworthy and reliable guide, they will likely engage.”
So listen closely to your audience, respect their attention and be present when they need you most.
Test and learn
Once you’ve worked out what problem your business is looking to solve and what value your content is going to provide, testing and learning is a fundamental next step.
Do not get fixated on a particular type of content. Test out blogs, video, photography - mix and match - and see what resonates with your audience. Collate that information, double down and go again.
Don’t get lost in the numbers
“How many likes and comments should I aim for?”
That’s a real quote from a real client.
Do not – and I repeat – do not get fixated on vanity metrics. One thousand likes on a piece of content doesn’t mean anything if no one signs up to your EDM. One million followers on your brand’s Instagram is meaningless if no one actually purchases your product.
Get clear on the purpose of your content; to create value and receive value in return.
I’m No Expert
“As an expert, where do you see the future of content headed?”
Sat in front of a marketing class at RMIT – albeit over Zoom – I took a moment to digest the question. In truth, there’s not much in the world of content that you can guarantee. But what I can say with absolute certainty is that content will continue to evolve at a rapid rate.
Which is why I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m in fact, not an expert.
I am a practitioner; a specialist; a student. But not an expert.
That’s because the moment you believe you are an expert in the world of content, you get left behind. A growth mindset is fundamental to success; being adaptable, open to new ideas and most importantly, understanding that providing content that matters always comes first.