Value for time – what content is worth your while?

In any shop it’s always been like this: you’d be looking for value for money. And nowadays big online and offline stores are trying to give you (the impression you’re getting) just that.

But what about the content we consume? We don’t pay for that as a rule – or do we?

Apart from the whole “you’re paying with information so advertisers can zoom in on your unspoken needs” on the basis that your (online) actions speak louder than your words.

(If it comes to that, I need to do more online because frankly, the image of my age group plus gender I get through the advertisements vying for my attention is depressing. Apparently, as a 40+ female, I’m supposed to hanker after skin peelings (no thanks!), to be overweight (not even close), and like knitted clothes (well – okay. But I blame at least one, white, romantic bordering on cute knitted spring vest that’s been hanging in my closet for 6 years now on early pregnancy hormones).)

Value for your time?

The biggest sum we pay is the time we spend. It’s a combination of click-through (time to open a page on any website) plus actual ‘dwell time’ on the page. Mark Schaefer mentioned just this week on his blog that:

  1. people still find time for long reads (long form articles)
  2. that these long texts actually get shared more often than short ones
  3. that people are more likely to view content shared by their friends.

From my own experience (that is one person, I know) I agree that long texts are more shareable.

If you’re to click on a link and wait for a page to open, you expect that whatever you find is going to be worth your while, right? So if, after viewing any kind of content, you wonder if you should share it, what exactly are your criteria? I would expect content to be any of the following:

  • funny
  • beautiful
  • cute
  • interesting

If that content ticks several boxes at once that gets us into the Owww, Wow, what? or Awesome! mode (severely funny may also do it, but that might also sound like Ewww – yuk!).

This is probably why sunsets and kittens and people doing silly things are right up there with the must-have long reads (whether that’s neurology, climate, poetry, or fiction. Personally, I’m just about to finish re-reading a very long text on paper, which is in fact a book by Terry Pratchett).

Delivering on a promise

More time spent, the more you expect some kind of reward for the trouble you’re taking. After all, you could be spending your time on something much more fun or useful (rewarding) than reading this stuff, right? That’s what I try to tell others whenever I feel their content just doesn’t deliver. And it can be such a small thing. Sometimes there are just two or three lines missing that would wrap the whole thing up nicely instead of leaving the reader hanging (in suspense, possibly. Or, perhaps, in some measure of anger). You don’t want anyone to end up feeling cheated. So you share stuff that is worthwhile in some way. Because if you waste your friends’ time, that doesn’t help your online street cred one bit.

So… do you keep your friends amused? Informed? Or awestruck by the beauty of nature? It truly doesn’t matter. Relevance (like for example beauty) is in the eye of the beholder.

More from me to be expected in between gardening in my garden, in my sub-rented bit of an allotment, and the nearby park and our windowsill greenhouse. The offline green stuff keeps growing!

Content sharing and the unintended audience

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.

The right content to attract the right audience

Business content

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:

it depends…

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 😉

100 blog posts, or how to write and write again

Knowing like I know that there are plenty of bloggers out there who publish daily and/or have been longer at it and who must be so far beyond their 100th blog post they can’t even see it with a telescope on a clear day, still I can’t keep from wondering how I made it this far.

Too many ideas to write about…

100 blog posts ContentRamblerAt first I only published once a week. But I sat down to blog every single night, just to build a routine. I had so many ideas they wouldn’t fit into one post, I’d add and edit until I had several topics jumbled up into one blog post. That’s when I wrote How to add focus to every post 😉

Publishing twice a week worked for a while. I would have loved to publish more often but felt I would never get away from my blog if I went down that road.

…or too few

Continue reading

Blogging impressions: when is a blog post ready?

A while ago I decided two blog posts per week was too much while I was getting used to my new job. Now, I’m not so sure.

Blogging on and off

Publishing just one post per week just doesn’t feel right. Especially because it allows me to not log on and write every single night. On the other hand, I needed some evenings off blogging. I still do.

When should you blog? And when is a blog post ready for publishing?

What do you reckon: should I blog – or spend time with you guys?
[Image: HikingArtist.com via Flickr]

A curious side effect of not sitting down to write every day is that I’m suddenly faced with a decision I need to make every day: do I sit down to write today – or will I wait until tomorrow?

Blogging should be your daily routine – not a daily decision

This is exactly why I turned blogging into a daily routine from the start. You don’t want that kind of discussion with yourself:

  1. It takes up time you could spend blogging
  2. It costs energy better spent on blogging (because then you’ll have a tangible result to show for your effort)
  3. Chances are you’ll end up saying something to your other half – or to your kid(s) and they’ll say: “well, then, don’t blog if you don’t feel like it.” How much will you feel like blogging after that type of encouragement?

Enough said.

I’m going to publish two posts per week again – whenever I manage to do so. If I don’t I’ll publish one post on Monday. I’m not yet sure if the other one should be on Thursday or Friday – what do you think is a good day for posting?

Whether I’ll be able to produce a quality blog post every time I have yet to find out. And there’s just one way to find out. Stop whining. Start blogging.

When is a blog post ready?

That’s my main reason for wondering if I’ll be able to publish twice a week. I’ve often felt uncertain about just writing and hitting ‘Publish’. But editing can lead to overediting – and take up way too much time.

So I’m going to be hard on myself and just publish this. After I get a picture somewhere that suits this blog post – and possibly my sense of humor.

And finally a reading tip for you that is similar to one of my earlier posts – only this one is from Weblogbetter.com: Why do you blog anyway? Enjoy!

Using content management to improve your content creation

How do you manage your content production?

You may feel you’re cranking out plenty of content, but do you manage to cover all the topics you need to cover?
The wider your range of topics, the more you’ll need to keep a tab on all the content you’re creating or having created. Getting organized is the key factor if you’re to deliver regular, relevant, quality content. How to manage your content (marketing) efforts?

How to create enough content for every topic

I’ve written before about the importance of content management for your content (marketing) strategy. This time, let’s start with my blogging habits. I publish two posts per week on this blog. Since I’m interested in different topics, I have several categories on my blog. With ‘just’ 8 categories, it would take me a month to do one post about each topic.

Content management - use it to get enough variation in topics

How do you create content for every topic? – Flickr image by HikingArtist

It’s unlikely that any (business) blog has the same number of blog posts on every topic. For each topic, the question is: how often do you have something new to share with your readers? Have you:

  • read anything new about a topic?
  • been involved in a project with aspects relating to a topic?
  • attended an event?

If not, you’re less likely to come up with a brainwave for new content. No events also means fewer opportunities for making short interviews which you could share.

Content management for a business website

If you have a business website with dozens of topics which you all need to keep updated with fresh content, gaps may form while you’re busy on other topics. You don’t want to be confronted with content gaps in specialized areas which you then need to fill – which may take days, or weeks, from the moment you contact a relevant subject matter expert.

Every piece of content has to meet your quality standards, right? That means investing time in research and in editing your content.

You can rarely serve every visitor with one format for your content. For every piece of written content, you need a picture that adds interest in the shape of information, entertainment, or a new angle on your written content. Start with visual content and the opposite applies.

First, test-plan your content

Use an Excel sheet, a whiteboard or even a sheet of paper to:

  • List all of your topics horizontally
  • Lists the days (full week or weekdays) vertically.
  • Try to plot one piece of content per topic per month. Use something like yellow sticky notes, because this is just your first step.

You could be looking at anything from 8 to 50 pieces of content per month, and in the latter case you’ll be publishing new content every weekday of every month.

How often do you publish new content now? On your blog? On your website? Elsewhere?

You could tweak your overview by:

  1. dropping your required amount of content to one piece of content per 2 months.
  2. using fewer, less specific categories.
  3. only creating content for topics your customers are interested in. A website that aims to attract customers should start with their needs.

Get your business content organized

  1. Meet your subject matter experts (SME)
  2. Plot every event.
  3. Brainstorm for topics with every SME.
  4. Determine whether each SME is able and willing to write content to specific requirements, talk about their topic(s) in front of a camera or for a podcast. How much of their time do you need?

Take your SMEs for a testdrive. And (although I read this too often) this is a rinse-and-repeat process. Experts are by definition extending their knowledge base, rather than your content base 😉

Plan your content creation process backward

Plot every idea for, or piece of, content on the overview you made earlier – on the day you need it published. Then, we travel back in time…

  1. When do you need this content to be delivered?
  2. How much time does it take to get interviews transcribed, images selected, text edited?
  3. When do you need to contact or meet anyone?

Now you have a simple Content To-Do and the start of an editorial calendar (add details as you go). Using things like colors for different kinds of content helps. Organizing and planning your content gives you insight into:

  • the effort it takes to get your content published.
  • why your company’s content creation efforts seem less successful than you’d like.
  • whether you need to delegate, streamline, or skip tasks.

That’s why you need to testdrive – not just for your SMEs to get used to contributing. You need a trial-and-error phase (or call it a pilot) for everyone. Doing everything at once may be a bit steep.

[Content inspired by this article on Huffington post]

Blogging impressions: how to get to the point

How much did you write when you started blogging?

When I started blogging I wrote with no aim in mind except that of writing. Because I simply had to write. Needless to say my posts were long, not to say rambling… One of my first ‘Blogging impressions’ posts was about getting a sense of focus into a blog post, for good reason 🙂

Writing along or getting to the point

The prescribed treatment helps if you’ve written a blog post and you’re wondering if you could have made it shorter than 1000 words… and whether you should make any alterations, and how. Continue reading