Whether you’re working as part of a marketing group or as an individual, creating unique, engaging content is essential to building and sustaining any type of business. The ecosystem of technology to support content creation has never been larger…or harder to figure out.
Truth be told, I know plenty of highly capable people who feel daunted by the sheer vastness of the digital landscape. Just when they think they’ve got a grip on one popular media platform, something new comes along to supplant it. But there’s no need to throw up your hands in despair. All digital content platforms — whether they primarily support written material, images, videos, audio, or something else yet to be invented — are engineered with the same measurements of success. The end product may vary, true, but success always hinges on five basic principles.
The Five Pillars of Successful Content
Here are the five key steps I see as critical to building your brand via online content.
- Find and tell your unique story. Every individual and every new business has a unique story. There are interesting, compelling things about you and your brand that are true for you and — more importantly — not true for anyone else. Successful brands don’t succeed by telling people how they are “just like everyone else, only better,” they get traction when they devote themselves to a narrative that differentiates them from everyone else. If your content isn’t telling a unique story, lacks a coherent “big picture” narrative, or is obviously lacking in any form of technical proficiency, nothing else you do will make up for this deficit. You can count on people clicking away fast.
- Strategically distribute your content. If a great piece of content is published but no one is around to engage with it, does it still make an impact? No. Content must be published at the right time, on the right platform, and targeted to the right audience or it is likely to die on the vine. If you’re not using analytics or a specific software solution such that you are supremely confident you know when your primary audience is most likely to engage with content, anything you publish will be akin to taking a shot in the dark.
- Engage winsomely with your audience. It’s not enough to distribute killer content across the right channels and leave it at that, hoping for the best. The most successful brands actively engage with their fans, creating two-way conversations that encourage questions, comments, and observations. Significantly, these online conversations are likely to be some of the best marketing research you’ll ever conduct. For example, social media listening tools can help you detect when people are chatting about your brand. This type of “strategic snooping” allows you to join in on the conversation, remediate a customer complaint promptly, or simply let customers know that you appreciate them.
- When appropriate, monetize your content. There are more ways than ever before to directly monetize high-quality, published content. Frequent methodologies include subscriptions, non-fungible tokens, insider tips, and exclusive access to special offers and information. Monetization can take some of the sting out of your production budget by allowing you to capitalize on the work it took to create proprietary content. While it can be tricky to know just when content can be monetized, look for where your referrals are coming from as a jumping-off point. After that, take a hard look at your analytics. If you find customers frequently asking for more of a specific content type, that too can be an indication that you’ve been giving away something people are willing to purchase.
- Ruthlessly analyze your content engagement. The best content creators use data analytics and feedback loops to measure the impact of their work. Investing time and effort on the post-publication side of things allows businesses to relentlessly tweak and improve every aspect of the content creation and distribution process. Running a postmortem on marketing campaigns can feel like a waste of time and money at first, but knowing what works — and what doesn’t — will save you money over the long haul.
Yes, You Really Need All Five of These Steps
Most content platforms focus on one or two steps in this process. YouTube, for example, is a great platform for distribution and monetization, but it provides little in the way of active audience engagement beyond the comments section. The audio platform Clubhouse is great for engagement in the moment, but it is decidedly more difficult to actively learn anything helpful regarding audience engagement.
There are a few newer platforms that are hoping to provide solutions to support the five-step — or “full-stack” — content development process. One of these platforms, Fireside, teased the differences unique to their approach while on stage at Podcast Movement. While the inner workings of Fireside have yet to be officially announced, I was able to look at some of the content that will be launching this month. Below I’ve listed one Fireside program in particular that I am really looking forward to.
- Never Split the Difference with Bestselling Author Chris Voss. Former FBI hostage negotiator and best-selling author of Never Split the Difference Chris Voss and special guest Mark Cuban share notable negotiation stories and open it up to the audience to help them navigate their upcoming negotiations.
This type of content production teases the potential of what’s to come with new forms of interactive entertainment. The audience is in the show, creators from different backgrounds are interacting in new and interesting ways, and these newer forms may well herald the demise of the one-way monologues that have become ubiquitous.
Whether Fireside can capitalize on their ambitious vision remains to be seen, of course. However, there’s no doubt that they’ve assembled an impressive lineup of content creators who are putting their stake in the ground by betting heavily on the Fireside platform.
The Clear End of ‘One Size Fits All’ Content Creation
No matter which technology platforms you use to support your killer content ecosystem, make sure you’re using the tools and technology that support your brand message across all steps of the content creation process. If you know yourself well enough to be sure you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone, consider outsourcing until you get your feet wet.
As new content creators enter the online ecosystem and audiences continue to spread out across more and more diverse platforms, thinking holistically about how to develop, distribute, and monetize your content will become increasingly important to your brand’s success.
Thankfully, our ever-increasing access to technology will serve to support each step of the development lifecycle. It’s not hyperbole to say that the future has never been brighter for content creators, audiences, and brands. Now everyone can become part of the show.