It’s that time in my life where school is suddenly in the picture, via a certain 4-year-old I know One thing I’ve already noticed is how ready a child can be for a new challenge. A challenge that is big, worrying, exciting, almost too much to get your head around – yet, at the same time, exactly what you needed without realizing just how ready you were to take on something completely new.
For the past few years, ‘social business’ has gotten a lot of attention from a number of people. Very enthousiastic people. For various reasons, not everyone shared their enthousiasm. Social business has been declared dead a couple of times, probably because the innovators’ initiative didn’t seem to get a lot of tangible results very soon.
A few recent articles point out different aspects – and views – of the drive towards social business. Continue reading
Anyone who has shared content on Twitter will have noticed that sharing certain kinds of information attracts followers like a flower attracts bees – or, in some or many cases, like dung attracts flies.
Content and the (un)intended audience
The thing about the followers you attract in this way is that they’re often a lot like you. They share your interests. But if your aim is to attract people who might one day buy something from you, you need to share information that’s not necessarily the kind of stuff you’re personally, or even professionally, interested in.
For business purposes you need to share content that your potential customers are interested in – which also relates to something they could buy from you.
What’s the right content for your potential customer? The correct answer is:
Who is your customer?
Don’t get me wrong: your customers may be people just like you. Suppose you’re a parent. You run into the fact that a lot of kids’ clothes just aren’t practical or fashionable enough. You design items that are (of course!) wayyy better than the rest and start trying to sell them to… To people like you. To parents who are dissatisfied with the clothes already available.
Then again, you may need to attract people completely different from you. This is where buyer personas come in. Well, nearly…
Analyzing your current audience
Suppose you analyze your audience, such as it is today. That analysis doesn’t necessarily yield an overview of potential buyers. What it does give you is some idea of the groups that are interested in whatever you say – or don’t say.
In the case of a company website, you might review your e-mail list and find:
- your competitors eagerly following what you do, so they can copy the things you’re doing right and do everything you’re not doing.
- smaller businesses relying on you for dependable information, which they use to serve their customers.
- a host of people hiding behind Gmail and the like, which might be competitors, or potential customers… hard to tell.
- your (potential) customers.
Now a mix of all of these groups is normal. It doesn’t hurt to have competitors watch you. If they don’t, it may mean you’re not interesting. Your competitors aren’t stupid. If they were, they’d be out of business.
If you have a host of competitors and very few potential customers, it’s a different game. You need to change the content you’re publishing. But change it into what?
Describing your customers?
Buyer personas are basically a detailed description of a couple of very different (potential) customers for your products or services.
How much detail should you put into a buyer persona? There are plenty of sources that’ll tell you what data you need, but there are many ways to Rome:
Way back in my time as an art history student, I wrote quality descriptions of the 200 paintings and drawings I listed for my thesis. The question “Why?” will need to wait for the right blog post, but something remarkable happened after I finished my thesis, which contained all of my descriptions. Two fellow students ran into a drawing which they were able to identify with absolute certainty using my description. This drawing had actually been called lost or destroyed by earlier sources.
This is the kind of description you need for each type of (potential) customers if you want to increase your ability to share content that will attract them. You need to add the kind of detail that allows your sales people to recognize their real flesh-and-blood customers immediately. Without that kind of information about your customers, you’re basically relying on educated guesses. Which may work, if your guesses are well-educated
The odd thing about blogging is it’s so easy. In a way. You just start typing along and words come out. They’re not always the best words, though, in the best order, so editing is a big part if you’re critical of your own writing.
So what’s it like editing other people’s texts? I’ve done so for a while now and it’s a nice way to make a living, if you don’t mind putting the dots onto other people’s i’s. But there’s a risk. There always is.
I’ve read (and witnessed) how writing one long-form piece of content, for example in the shape of an e-book, can be a source of fresh content for a long time. In gardening terms, you’re propagating your content.
It’s like taking box clippings (late September is supposed to be a good time for this, or so I was told by “Gardener’s World”) and turning them into new plantlets. This typically takes a bit of time and care, but it’s easier – and cheaper – than starting from scratch.
Which begs a question from anyone who takes box clippings or other cuttings.
Where is your content nursery?
In content creation (or content curation, whichever you like best) you have a spot where you gather any potentially useful ideas and articles that gave you these ideas. It may be the inside of your head (if you have a reliable brain), a notebook, or even a batch of drafts in your blog itself.
You then tend these ideas: you take another look at them, and select the ones that seem strong enough to take root with a bit of help. Water them, feed them, make sure they get their share of sunlight…
Tips for creating, curating, or editing
As luck would have it, Stefanie Flaxman just published a useful post on Copyblogger for editing content in which she distinguishes three stages:
- Pre-revision rituals. All of these put a psychological distance between you, the author, and your content.
- Comprehensive cutting and pasting. This is where you get systematic about editing: using several editing sittings if necessary, focusing on your goal and on how you’re helping your audience, eliminating anything confusing… And doing it again, until there is no single paragraph or sentence you can find fault with.
- Razor-sharp proofreading. This means you look at your content from the viewpoint of someone who’s never seen your content before (your audience).
If you’d like to read the entire post, here it is – enjoy your editing process!
And in case you’re wondering when I started my first content gardening post…
Now that I’ve started adding a dash of gardening to my content, more and more ideas pop up. Let’s see if there are useful weeds among them
One question that occurred to me was:
Is there something like harvesting content?
I suppose it’s what you do in an organization with a lot of content creation going on in outlying regions. It’s also what you do when you’re scouring the internet looking for interesting bits of information you can then share through whatever means.
There are a few issues at harvest time of course.
- Some apples rot or get eaten while still on the tree. Unless you spray anything you don’t like into oblivion. But I’d like to eat apples, not chemical residues.
- Some apples fall before you get to them and get pecked by chickens and devoured by ants or other insects (one minuscule bite at a time).
- Other apples just seem to laugh at your efforts by not being worth picking. Even thought they started out looking quite promising, they haven’t ripened the way you’d like them to.
Once you’ve harvested your bits of content, you want to keep them dry and snug for a while to use when you’re ready.
So compare this with ideas for your blog. Sometimes you get plenty of ideas, sometimes it’s as though you get none at all. Jot down any idea when you have it and store it for later. In my case it really helps to get a few lines written so that later on, I won’t end up wondering why any specific idea seemed so interesting. You probably won’t use every single idea you had – some topics are too newsy to keep for a long time. But that’s fine, because you’ll have your ideas stacked all the way up to the ceiling and you’ll select anything you want to work on – when you’re ready to do so.
What do you do with all that content?
Well, that’s a bit of a luxury problem… one that anyone with a mature fruit tree will recognize.
- Part of your ideas will be fine as they are. You’ll need to add very little to your initial idea.
- Other ideas will need more work, especially if you left them for a while. You might end up with the content version of stuff like apple pies using your favorite content curation recipe.
- Another part may have to go to your neighbors… you’ve got too much! This is when you consider sharing your ideas by going guest blogging – provided you also have the time and energy for that
How long does your content retain its original usefulness?
Looking at different websites I would say you can distinguish at least three types of content based on their longevity. Let’s liken them to plants, since the weather was still fine while I first drafted this post (no longer, alas).