Content is king, quality is queen but context is their kingdom
Marketing has always been content and content marketing is almost a buzz phrase rather than a revolution in digital marketing. It’s words on the page, the ads in the magazines and information you take to events.
It’s just that in 2022 we have a lot of different kinds of content to distribute across endless channels and everyone seems to be doing it.
At the same time, many people aren’t doing it and that’s possibly because it can be exhausting, overwhelming or they may not have confidence in it. This may be true for you and this guide aims to simplify content for you but make sure you read all the way to the end.
Content is a huge opportunity but don’t take my word for it, log in to any platform and you’ll notice a vast amount of people doing very well off the back of it. The main 3 reasons I’d adopt an intelligent content strategy are:
- It’s an opportunity to demonstrate what you’re good at, the reasons why someone might want to buy whatever it is you’re selling and why you’re the person or people for the job.
- A chance to connect with your kind of people by adopting angles that attract who you’d want to work with.
- It’s actually quite a fun process and when you build a thoughtful strategy, you can evolve as a person, a team or a business.
I consider it a brand activity. A longer term strategy, that you keep showing up for and developing but that doesn’t mean there aren’t early wins because there are. With a content strategy, you’re looking to create a snowball and although they tend to start small, with every roll they get bigger.
I feel that’s the most important part to keep in mind, this is the start, not the end and you’ve got a journey to embark on. Every step is one closer and every stumble brings a lesson.
Dave made a podcast. In that podcast he speaks to his camera about the things he knows and does for businesses. He does it in a handful of takes through his phone with no additional microphone and the thing is so far away, he’s like a whisper in a storm with a backing of hungry cats. We’ll talk more about content quality shortly.
It’s one thing to speak about the subjects you know about, that educational piece can be really important but there’s a bit more to it than that. Real content stands on pillars like a roof, without support, the rain days are going to keep you up at night. As a rule, each piece of content should feature at least one of these pillars but there’s no reason why they can’t overlap.
You’re looking to educate the audience about that thing you do. This could be a ‘how to’ guide, reasons why, benefits of and what it looks like when it goes well. It could be across many formats like infographics, press releases and reports.
These are your sales style posts about success with your services, landing pages, case studies and fancy graphs. There’s a bit more to it than ‘Hi I’m selling magic beans, they’re £8 a bag.’ Part of this process could be webinars, courses, demonstration videos and instructional content on Youtube.
You want people to be excited about what they’re engaging with. One could feature other experts, industry influencers or back it with some related inspiring quotes, exerts from forums, books, reviews and case studies.
Memes. Everyone needs more memes in their life. Not just a cat playing piano but relatable industry memes, videos, inside jokes, quizzes, competitions and viral master pieces.
Nobody seems to talk about validation but it’s an incredibly profound tool for both attracting your people and giving a nod to their challenges. If you’re running a sustainability firm, validate the concerns and worries of the generations that are going to live through climate change, current anxieties and what could have an impact.
Benefits of content:
- Google will love your website so long as it’s filled with quality, optimised information.
- Your potential customers and industry pals have something to engage with and learn about.
- It positions you as a person or business that knows what they’re talking about, understands the issues and could fix or relieve the problem.
- It’s a huge opportunity.
Quality is queen.
Almost anyone could write 1,000 x 100 word, completely incoherent blogs that mean absolutely nothing to nobody. This is obvious but overlooked.
The quality of your content isn’t determined by how many green lights you get from an SEO content editor or how many jokes about you can squeeze in for giggles, it’s about what they take away from engaging with your content.
As a rule, I’d always lean on basic structures for quality content, whether it’s a video or a 10,000 word essay, we need a beginning, a middle and an end. Structure, without it the building collapses and you have to remember that gas fills the space it’s given and the same is true for words.
It could look something like this:
This is your hook, make it bold. It could be one line like ‘There’s nothing wrong with ****’ where **** is something that’s often criticised.
At this point you have a choice. You could add some heat and make it fiery or justify the point. I’d go with ‘Don’t @ me just yet, here’s what you’re missing out on’ then logically you’ll list what they’re missing out on.
Winners and losers. Talk about the winners and follow up with the losers and again, what they’re missing out on.
This could be what it looks like the be in control and how you take control. This example is a simplified version of a technique I call ‘the promised land.’ ‘It doesn’t have to be like this, you could be here xxxxxx; where you’ll describe or show a simple way to take all that pain away.
Sometimes a conclusion just recaps what was discussed but in this instance, we actually want to deliver a message that positions us as the journey to the destination.
I call this structure the ‘Walk to the Promised Land.’ The structure of your content is the bedrock of quality and has to stand in line with the purpose of that content.
It’s also wise to tap into those content pillars we mentioned earlier as this is what your website visitors and potential customers will relate to.
It’s important to consider the technical quality of whatever content you’re creating. As a rule, I’d always check for pixelated images, distorted audio, spelling and grammar and that the website doesn’t take 3 minutes to load when they’re trying to read it.
This is just a single example of many and it’s really important that you don’t overuse the idea. Quality content starts at your initial intention and not everything has to revolve around 300 leads and making a billion.
You may recognise the initial idea from school because it’s not a secret. It’s a great idea to think of content in terms of a beginning, a middle and an end. We can also use structure to enhance emotion, validate and further inform the person reading our guide or whatever it is they’re engaging with.
Don’t be too precious about your content and shove it behind a paywall. It’s like the jar of pickled onions in the cupboard, they spend years in there and go out of date. Every house has a Vienetta from 2001 buried beneath bags of potato smileys. The internet is and always has been a place to share information.
Attention can be addictive and people do get hooked. Engagement doesn’t mean success and having an audience of 3 billion people doesn’t mean that anyone actually cares. The truth lays between engagement and outcomes. If you’re engaging the correct people and converting enough of them to sales, you don’t need to worry too much and the method doesn’t matter.
If you find that showing off yoyo tricks on TikTok turns into leads for your dog food business then keep splitting the atom, my friend. The outcome is all that really matters.
It can be a giant time suck. I’ve known people get sucked into social media in particularly and spend the entire day there achieving nothing at all. It’s a sensible idea to limit yourself unless you do it for a living.
It’s no secret that the online world features a lot of unfiltered gremlins, distorted realities and ridiculous comparisons. Narrow your view onto what matters and remove people from your audience if they’re negatively impacting you. You don’t owe anyone anything and I consider time and mental space of critical importance.
Here’s a short list of questions worth asking yourself about your own content:
- Does it make the point you intended it to make?
- Is it relevant and engaging to the right audience?
- Does it tap into at least one of the content pillars?
- Does it encourage interaction?
- Do you feel anything when you read it?
- Do other people feel that too?
- Is it technically up to scratch?
In the kingdom of Context
Like being wedged between a cat-breathed stranger and the world’s loudest popcorn cruncher at the cinema for a Grease rerun. Context gives it the impact and it can go both ways.
A freezing cold day feels a lot worse, when you’ve worked 13 hours and have to walk 3 miles home in the dark. It’s the same with bad news on the TV, it feels worse on a bad day and in a world that sees so much doom and gloom, the impact can reinforce, suddenly you find yourself at the bottom of yet another tub of Phish Food. While the same can be true for optimistic ideas, they tend to have a little less oomph, which probably explains the media riding a horse of misery into living rooms across the world these days.
We exist in many different contexts at any one time; mood, current environment, country, whatever app we’re looking at on our phones, our social groups. These contexts give us some common threads to relate to one another.
When I say ‘we,’ I don’t mean you and me, I mean the people you’re trying to attract using relevant content.
On top of this, there’s another context to contend with and that’s the platforms that you’re using to distribute it and the devices the audience are using.
If you think about quality content, with that in mind, you’ll realise that there are endless contexts that you can piggy-back to glory, or at least towards engagement and growing some demand for your business.
The different kinds of contexts
There are many. In a lot of ways they overlap and there’s a lot of unknowns. This is intended as a thinking point and these are ways to understand how to relate to people:
This can be broken down into interests like bagpipe music or Banjo Kazooie and as deep as social class and the backgrounds associated with it. It’s also great to think about memes, celebrities, TV shows and childhood trends.
You only need to mention how great it is in Yorkshire to realise how big of a deal this is. It can be local or national and this idea can extend to principles, nostalgia, attitudes and unique events.
People tend to feel one way or the other. Taking political stances could be a great way to alienate the undesirable while empowering others. The people that complain about politics at work are the same people that moan about having to consider diversity and benefit from the status quo.
Generation and age fall into this category but time works in short bursts too. Patterns can be a good way to induce fatigue so it’s a good idea to vary what you’re doing to avoid boring everyone silly. It can include current trends and immediate news events but it’s important to be conscious as to how you use it.
Recently, there were a vast amount of memes from a domestic violence court case and understandably, it upset a lot of people. It can be seen as a cheap way to get traction and do more harm than good and in this case I definitely agree.
Attracting biomedical scientists could involve fancy words and specific, complex subjects. While doctors hoping to educate the general public could do with using simple language that everyone can understand.
If you’re targeting small businesses and it’s proving to be a rough time for them in general, you could probably capture the mood and send it in an aspirational direction. Politics can be a good way to capture mood and extend your reach as can validation of the emotions related to these challenges.
These are the platforms the individual is using. Your customer may use many but some people prefer Telegram and Signal to WhatsApp, and others prefer MySpace and Bebo to TikTok. The platform itself is the context, it has requirements like image sizes, character limits and certain ways to craft content to tickle each algorithm in the right way. As a rule, write for people rather than machines as it’s very unlikely your customer is a bot.
Devices have resolutions and this can impact how the content appears. Responsive websites are critical but other areas you have to consider include social media banners that can often collapse on smaller devices.
If you want someone to read a long piece of content your website shouldn’t feature a billion pop ups and your videos shouldn’t be distorted like something from a horror film.
UX is a huge area of discussion and can’t be covered in this blog. Take a look on your site or at your content and see for yourself.
Content vs context
Rather than being an intense face-off between Ash and Gary at Pokemon Stadium, content vs context is simply a question of which to prioritise and in my head, it’s a simple answer.
It would be easy to rant once an hour about the current government but I’m not sure it’s worth it or will get you anywhere beyond enraged battles with people who will never see your point of view. If your focus is on the quality of content, you could ignore the vast majority of contexts and still see success.
Personal contexts can be a great way to identify with specific people and polarise the market. The more you can leverage this the better, just take a look at some of the vegan brands and the aggressive stances they take. There’s nothing wrong with enemies.
There are people with millions of followers and many thousands of likes that sell absolutely nothing, there are also people who attract others for the wrong reasons. This could be posting a selfie with every single post, sometimes crying in that selfie and other times.
The difference between content and context.
Context is a set of circumstances whether personal or technical. Content is the message that’s being relayed through a variety of formats and the creation process to attract your intended audience.
If you imagine a website about the world’s most outrageous confectionery items, a blog about ketogenic diets makes no sense whatsoever and if your audience is made up of 2 million confectioners, you’re probably barking up the wrong tree.
Putting it all together, stress free:
Although there’s a lot of information to consider, it’s important that you don’t feel overwhelmed or intimidated. Content marketing can be a lot of fun. It can be as simple as breaking down a blog, a video or a podcast into a variety of pieces of content and turning up a few times a week.
Maybe you have in-house resources to take it further? I’d always recommend that you prioritise a range of formats and create content based on the content pillars discussed above. This means you’re consistently speaking to the people you want to engage with and surely that’s the purpose anyway?
Like I said, it starts with the first steps and you’ll have walked many miles before you even realise it. It’s important to view success in terms of what actually matters to you and evolve your approach over time. Likes don’t pay the bills but paying clients do.
Remember: Content is King, quality is queen but context is their kingdom.