Do you find yourself struggling to develop topics for your company blog? You're not alone. Have you ever considered why it's so difficult to generate content? It could be any number of reasons:
The lack of time to write a blog
The product or industry doesn't "inspire" topics
The belief that blogs can't translate to sales
Well, the good news is there are solutions to all of these challenges. Here are some concepts to help you break these content creation barriers.
I have simple response to that blog.
Do you think I'll be fooled by that company again? Nope.
In today's content overloaded world, you should just assume you're audience won't fall for a clickbait-like tease. These days, people tend to already be cynical about what brands put in front of them. They already assume it's probably more self-serving than valuable. It's also why when they land on content filled with links that benefit the content creator, they're likely to bail out in a matter of seconds.
Ask yourself why someone would want to read your blog, and don't say it's because your content is awesome or your company is unique. As Joe Pulizzi says - “Your customers don’t care about you, your products, or your services. They care about themselves.”
Your customers can create blog topics
Focusing on customers and topics can address two common blog strategy barriers:
The time challenge
The company product/service topic issue
What if you just took the answers your customers ask and turn them into blog topics?
This is how Marcus Sheridan saved his swimming pool business - making the the question a blog title, and featuring the answer (even if it's short) is the body of the blog.
Now he makes a living teaching businesses how to create value by answering questions that customers are asking - often times via search. It's amazing that Marcus turned this into a content phenom, because on its surface it seems kind of an obvious idea.
This concept helps with the challenges of time, length and sales. It's a prime example of how blogs don't always have to be long, time-consuming epic reads.
And Marcus will tell you - his They Ask, You Answer strategy works for all businesses.
Beyond conducting internal research to find out what your customers and prospects are asking, there are online resources like AnswerThePublic, HubSpot’s blog topic generator and Buzzsumo that help generate blog topics.
Some People Don't Want to Read Blogs
When it comes to time, you shouldn't just consider how much time a blog will take to write. You should also consider how much your audience is willing to read.
Brand and digital content strategist Chris Brogan expanded his content strategies beyond the written word when he noticed trends pointing towards video and audio. In making his case for why watching and listening is the new reading, Chris pointed out that people only spend an average of 19 minutes a day reading - including their texts and emails.
How many minutes do you spend reading your emails or phone communications?
How much time is left to read a few articles and blogs?
Chris's point doesn't mean you should stop writing blogs. It's a reminder not to solely rely on content content that takes a lot of time to read. Limited time and skimming habits are reasons why more blogs offer a written and audio version to their audience.
If you choose to record a video, just share some insights. Make it fun and engaging. Talk to your audience and save them some time by recording something that can also be shared on your blog.
Simple Blog Ideas Can Still Provide Value
Once you realize you don't have to write an epically-long blog post, you may realize just how much content you can create. It's all about providing value, and there are a variety of ways to prove you have a lot to offer your customers and prospects.
When I first learned about this approach from a content marketing expert, they said something that has always stuck with me:
If you provide a lot of value through content, your audience starts to think, "If I get this kind of value for free - imagine what I'll get when I buy something from them."
So, take the time you might spend on an extremely long and complex blog and use these 60 ideas for bloggers, entrepreneurs, marketers and businesses to generate ideas.
Whether it's Terminator 2 or the AMC series Humans, people have always had that worry in the back of their mind about "the machines" taking over. My question is - why don't we have the same concern in marketing?
After all, you can do something about it before it can start to damage your business. Before you get visuals of your office computers growing legs and saying, "Must destroy the company - resistance is futile," let me explain what I mean.
We've seen this story before
Whether it's Humans or Westworld, the story always starts the same - we develop robots to make our lives easier, and then everything goes to crap. In the realm of social media or content marketing, we're seeing an overreliance on making things easier through automation and analytics while forgetting to be human.
Unlike the apocalyptical machine stories, I'm not suggesting it's something you shouldn't be doing in the first place. However, like a recent Forbes article pointed out - automation still has to have a human touch. This is especially true on social media, especially since it's called social media.
You'll find plenty of brands of all sizes that are doing nothing but automating the content on their feed. They'll post content all of the time, hoping that it will gain them the benefit of your engagement, and that's where the effort ends. You never see them start a conversation, or start one with wanting all the replies to come from you, but they don't feel they have to add anything more.
This is actually a pet peeve of mine. I've been known to unfollow social media feeds that feature easy automation but not human interaction. It tells me they don't care that much about my involvement in their online presence. On the brand side, lack of a human element can cost you engagements, shares, reputation and advocacy.
Unfortunately, I also see an overreliance on automation and a lack of human effort from many content marketing and social thought leaders. To me, promoting yourself as a thought leader in social media and then never engaging with people on a platform is like an ad agency touting their social media strategy tutelage while showcasing terrible following numbers on their platforms.
Robots make mistakes that hurt you more than them
If you've spent quality time on social media over the last few years, you've probably witnessed or experience an automated response fail. For example, there was the time Dominos apologized for a customer's great pizza. I've also seen automation offer a positive response to a post about a negative experience or situation. In this case, the "machine" isn't intelligent enough to respond, but people definitely know the difference.
Another example of an automation challenge that does more harm than good is utilizing a powerful social listening software that doesn't have the right data incorporated into its processes. For example, if Chevrolet told its social listening engine to track people talking about "Chevrolet," they would overlook the audience that refers to them online as "Chevy" or "bowtie."
View your humanity as an advantage
Bots and automation aren't the only things that provide a critical pros/cons dynamic to your marketing efforts. Humans are also capable of taking data, analytics and code and jumping to the wrong conclusions:
Andrew makes the same point - Could you pitch an idea featuring someone riding a skateboard on an actual highway with one hand guzzling a branded drink and lip-syncing? If your automatic response is no, you may have some good reasons why:
It doesn't directly sell the product (where's the CTA)?
It doesn't fit the brand (but what brand would this fit)?
Then again, you would've never tested it and seen the amazing results. In Ocean's Spray's case- skyrocketing sales and doublimg their stock. Some people think it's nothing more than one of those lucky viral video stories. Mark Schaefer says it's a prime example of the power of creating "human" commercials.
"The video is real, raw, human, and vulnerable. Generally speaking, everything ads are not," he said.
When I wrote and produced fundraising content at the North Texas NPR affiliate, one key messaging point was that listener support helped the station produce radio with less advertising - leaving more time for interviews and shows each hour. The more content/fewer commercials component of podcasts have a similar appeal, and you don't have to follow an hourly clock.
So, what should you do with all of that time flexibility?
There is no "perfect" length for a podcast episode, but, some guidelines can help determine what's best for your show.
In the book Content Chemistry, Andy Crestodina points out that:
1. The Top 10 business podcasts average 42 minutes.
2. Stitcher research says the typical listener stays connected for 22 minutes.
3. Ted talks are 18 minutes for a reason - Attention rates drop after 20 minutes.
Consider what successful podcasts are doing
One of the most shocking things I heard someone say about their podcast episode length was that you can't go in-depth on a topic in under 30 minutes.
Really? What if your listener thinks you've said enough about something after 18 minutes, and they feel like you dragged it out for another 22?
When I launched Comic Book Noob a few years ago, people said they wanted a simple comic book show that shared simple insights and recommendations. One person told me they would listen to other shows discuss comics, but they would get so into the weeds the content felt overwhelming or confusing.
Our episodes are under 30 minutes - some are under 20 minutes.
Insider tip: People are okay with that length.
Here are some other examples of short podcasts to check out.
Consider your audience
When determining your show length, think about optimizing your audience's time by developing a format that you can consistently follow. Examples:
Put yourself in your listener's shoes and ask:
If it helps, ask your friends or people you know who listen to podcasts about their content preferences. What keeps them engaged? When do they tune out?
More importantly - What makes them subscribe, unsubscribe or stop listening?
With Apple crossing over 2 million podcasts recently and popularity continuing to grow, many content decisions can be driven by the opinions of people who listen to them.