A beginner’s guide to content creation

An introduction to content creation 

“98% of people have at least one social network account.”

Wow, that’s a pretty mind-blowing stat from the Global Web Index. 

And Tom Mulraney is absolutely right when he says, 

“Never before have we had such an unprecedented ability to communicate with each other. To share ideas. To entertain. To engage. To create platforms for ourselves or our companies to build followings and share our stories.”

Whether we’re running our own micro-business, have total responsibility for comms in an SME or we’re part of a large, brand marketing team, we’re all content creators now. 

So, what’ll we make? Blogs, eBooks or whitepapers? Gifs, infographics or videos? Testimonials or case studies? How-to guides, tutorials or full-blown courses?  

And how on earth do we get started? Well, here are five pointers for content marketing success to be getting on with. 

5 top tips for content creation  

  1. Get into the habit of generating (and capturing) lots of ideas 

There is no single way to generate ideas for your content marketing campaigns. What is crucial though is to make sure that every idea – however “out there” – is captured. It’s often the most random ideas that develop into unique, engaging and shareable pieces of content. 

  1. Make friends with content curation 

Need some fresh content in a hurry? Skip to our chapter on curated content for some quick tips.    

  1. Adopt a mobile-first mindset

Many tasks – most of them, in fact – can be accomplished on-the-go. The mobile revolution is impossible to ignore. Readers are increasingly mobile-first. Distracted and time-poor, they’ll abandon content that hasn’t been optimized for mobile. Responsive content – that’s been designed to automatically scale and reshape to suit the screen size of the reader’s device – is a must. 

  1. Don’t be afraid of video 

Whether you’re aiming to boost brand awareness, start a conversation on social or showcase a new product, video is a big deal for content marketers. Simple video content – an engaging story with a clear message told in a relatable way – will feel authentic to viewers. And that – rather than high-end production values – is what matters. 

  1. Lay-out your content like a pro

Designer tricks – like using eye-catching fonts to add interest to headers and so on, but using easy-to-read fonts for body text – can all help.  Our guide – 7 content writing tips to make your online publications stand out – is essential reading. 

Ten key benefits of content marketing    

This excellent resource from Masterful Marketing lists the 10 key benefits of a carefully-crafted content marketing campaign: 

  1. Increases visibility of your brand
  2. Develops lasting relationships with your audience
  3. Improves brand awareness and recognition
  4. Creates loyalty and trust, with both your current customers and prospects
  5. Helps you to build authority and credibility
  6. Positions your business as an expert in your industry
  7. Generates traffic to your site to improve lead generation
  8. Opens a channel of communication through social shares and comments
  9. Helps your customer move through the purchase decision more quickly
  10. Provides value with no strings attached

Overcoming writers’ block 

“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly.”

I’m with G. K. Chesterton on this one. It’s super important to not let perfection get in the way of productivity. After all, John Williams – author of “Screw Work Break Free” – was on to something when he said, 

“The thing you dashed off in an hour or two sometimes gets more appreciation from your audience, users or market than the things you spent many weeks on! Share it!”

And for the record? I am the world’s absolute worst at putting any of this into practice. Because writing matters to me, it can languish on my job list for weeks. To get this article to even this stage of shareability, I’ve had to dust off – and actually put into practice – all the common-sense productivity tips that I’ve collected over the years, including:

  1. If it matters, do it first. 
  1. Set a timer and commit to writing for just one 15-minute burst*.

(*I invariably keep going, once I’ve got started. But even daily 15-minute bursts add up, over a week or so.)

Curated content

Curated content is content that has been discovered by companies, rather than created by them, before being shared with audiences using a mix of marketing channels: from social media platforms to email newsletters. But why curate content rather than creating it? 

It isn’t always possible, for businesses of any size, to create fresh and high-quality content around every trending topic quickly enough. Carefully considered curation – choosing content from thought-leaders in the area – can be an excellent way to join conversations, especially those that are time-bound. 

Curated content – rather than content that has been crafted to toe the company line – ensures that an interesting range of opinions and a diverse mix of voices can be heard by audiences, too. 

The SEO benefits of content curation   

An understanding of the SEO benefits of content curation is so commonplace, these days, that it even gets a mention in the OED! 

The selection, organization, and presentation of online content, merchandise, information, etc., typically using professional or expert knowledge.

‘curation of online content that is relevant to your business can be an excellent way to drive SEO’

But how does content curation help with SEO? In a nutshell, it’s because companies that share lots of fresh and keyword-rich content about specific topics benefit whenever that topic is searched. 

Content curation best practice 

Here are 3 quick tips from the Content Marketing Institute but the entire article makes for a fascinating long-read: 

  1. Leverage ‘underground’ content 
  2. ‘Frame’ your curated content
  3. Impress the original creators 

A balanced mix of content – curated and created – is key so don’t skimp on creating new stuff. But if you do manage to crack the whole curation thing – selecting content that’s new, relevant and interesting – readers will start to see you as a trusted navigator through dreaded info overload. 

Whether the content you’ve found is an article, piece of music, video or GIF, it’s important to frame it, to give it some context for your audience. Why does this matter to them? Is there something in your product or service offering that responds to the issues raised?  

And, whatever you do, don’t forget to credit the source and share the love! 

 

Three bite-size tips to raise your content game     

1: Make your business easy to find 

Before buying anything, 85% of consumers undertake online research. And, at the point of purchase, 67% of customers prefer self-service. These two stats highlight the importance of giving potential customers lots of useful info where they’re most likely to look for it – think review sites, blogs optimised for SEO that help and don’t just sell, articles by trade journos and influencers, and meaningful networks on the most appropriate social platforms. 

2: Be clear about your audience (and where they are on their journey) 

Some people will be aware of a problem but not a solution.

(Think ebooks and how-to guides.)

Some people will be aware of a solution but not the solution you offer. 

(Think comparisons and case studies.)

Some people will be aware of your solution – maybe even using it – but not the new-and-improved solution that you can now offer. 

(Think trials and webinars.)

Share stories that demonstrate how deeply you understand the unique challenges that your readers face. Or, better still, stories that help them overcome those challenges.  

3: Goal!!!

Be clear – and realistic – about what you want your content to achieve. Do you want to drive traffic to your website? Encourage trial sign-ups? Boost sales? 

Don’t be afraid to mix things up if you don’t get results: channels, images, headlines, CTAs…  

Post, review, and adjust until you find your winning formula. 

 

Digital tools for online publishing success  

“You don’t need to wait for anyone’s permission anymore. (There’s been) a revolutionary shift of power to the individual. Yet too few of us are taking advantage of it. We’ve been handed the most powerful toolbox in history and yet many of us still use it for nothing more than retweeting other people’s ideas and LOLing around on Facebook.”

John Williams is absolutely right. It’s no urban myth, after all, that the smartphones in our pockets are millions of times more powerful than the Apollo 11 guidance computers. 

But how do we use the tools from this uber-powerful kit for content creation? 

Read on…

Spelling and grammar checkers 

“I feel something akin to having a stone in my shoe when I see a mistake. It acts as an irritant.”

Not everybody has such a physical response to spelling mistakes, grammatical errors and typos but it does make sense to project as professional – and glitch-free – an impression as possible.  And that’s where apps like grammarly come in. 

The free version of the app will check your text for grammar, spelling and punctuation errors. There’s a premium service, too, that will even check things like the tone of your message. I can’t think of a business scenario where you’d plump for an egocentric or disheartening tone but, hey-ho, you know your audience better than I do!

Stock photography and video

Unless you have a hefty budget, there’s no need to worry too much about production values. Think about telling an engaging story in a relatable way, a simple message that makes viewers’ lives easier. Because whether you’re choosing imagery or footage from stock sites, shooting on your smartphone or commissioning a pro photographer, videographer, illustrator or animator, content with an authentic feel is what matters most.

Stock sites – like Shutterstock, for example – offer royalty-free stock images, photos, vectors, illustrations, footage, video and even music. And many of these sites offer a free trial to help you get your project off the ground. 

But if you’ve got the budget to go pro? Get super clear about what you’re hoping to achieve. Build a good working relationship with your supplier,  bounce ideas around and storyboard a few concepts . A well-planned creative project could result in top-quality content for several campaigns to come.   

Online publishing platforms 

It’s no exaggeration to say that online publishing has changed the world. Just look at the prevalence of things like newspapers, magazines and books in digital form. 

Platforms have evolved, over time, to meet the needs of the mobile-first movement. They’re now a great way for creators to deliver the content that their readers need, optimized for the devices that they’re using – whether that’s mobile, tablet or laptop. 

Sharing content to boost awareness

Digital publications can be distributed quickly, simply and cheaply by copying and sharing their URL. Platforms usually list the most popular social media sharing buttons, too. Pick a couple of platforms – the places where your audience is most likely to hang out – and start posting. It’s always fascinating – and often surprising – to see which content gets engagement. 

“Creating content that causes an emotional reaction, such as laughter, joy, astonishment or a call to action, encourages users to share the experience with their friends.” 

That’s according to the Digital Marketing Institute but see what works for you.  

And if your content is fresh, interesting and has a potentially newsworthy angle? Registering with Help a Reporter Out (HARO) could be worth your while. The service connects journalists and bloggers with expert industry sources – that’s you! 

I don’t think there’s anything more satisfying, as a creator, than knowing that somebody else has found meaning in the story that you’ve told.