If you’re like me, you fall for headlines. Most people do. That’s why news outlets call the salacious ones “click bait.” They do lure us to open the links.
Social media content so great that it gets widely saved and shared includes other components, of course. Together, those elements blend together deliciously. This post gives a recipe for amazing social media content. Actually, it gives the ingredients. You can tailor the measurements and adjust the seasonings, to taste!
Gathering the Ingredients
Content is a truly broad concept: Video, blog posts, white papers, slides, presentations — all of these, and many more, are kinds of content. This infographic lists the 11 ingredients in the recipe.
Then, the post gives detail about why and how each ingredient matters, with examples and links…
Know what you want to track and frame the content around that goal.
This is the result you want to achieve through the content. It might be credibility, email sign-ups, white paper downloads and so on. Everything else about creating the content will relate back to, and advance, your goal. This post goes into more detail about why and how to start with the goal.
Remember in school when you learned about topic sentences? Each sentence in a paragraph relates to the topic sentence. It anchors the rest of the paragraph.
Setting a goal before you create content serves the same purpose. It anchors the content. If the focus floats away from that anchor, the hold your content has on the audience slips, too.
“Everyone” is not an audience.
This element is tied directly to the goal of the content. Pick your goal, then select a specific audience you need to reach. Potential clients? Subscribers to an email list? Depends. Who needs to get the content, based on your goal?
As you create, keep in mind the image of the audience you’ve chosen. That will help you craft the content in a way that speaks directly to them. This post shows, simply, how to give, essentially, the same message (the goal) to five different audiences.
Attention spans are short. So, don’t make your headlines long.
A headline is the first thing I write because it helps me shape everything else. I also use a wonderful tool: the Advanced Marketing Institute’s Emotional Marketing Value Analyzer. A huge tip of the hat to blogger and content creator extraordinare, Jeff Bullas, for opening my eyes to this tool. It reminds users not to use too many words by declaring, simply, it won’t include them in the analysis. Also, long headlines get cut off in Tweets, email subject lines and mobile devices.
How a headline looks and sounds is also important. Read it out loud to yourself, to check. This post goes into more detail about headlines.
Think of subheads as markers spaced within the content.
Subheads need to be short and interesting, too. But their main point is to guide, rather than lure. Leaving markers for your audience helps keep them on the path you want them to follow.
Even white papers are no longer just black and white.
Images in content are essential. Without them, you might as well not bother to create or share content. A few points about visuals, though, in addition to just “have them”
- Make them large enough to be easy to see.
- They must tie in to the subject of the content and support the point — even better if they advance the goal.
- Also, make sure the visuals you use actually fit the social channel or channels you are using.
- Be mindful of the platform’s limitations or scale.
Templates exist that provide the dimensions various social platforms use, but these specifics change regularly. So, to be sure of the sizes, double check. Also, this post by Mike Allton, who runs the Social Media Hat, says it will be updated as changes occur across different social sites.
Make it clear why you led the audience on the journey they took.
This drives home your goal: Sales, sign ups, opt-in permissions, subscribers, and so on. It might be just to educate, build credibility for yourself and offer insight — with, or without, requiring registration or a fee. The bottom line is that consumers of your content should know what they got, and what they can (or should) do next.
Here’s a post on tips for effective selling (which is what a call to action really is.)
Careful content creation counts.
It quietly builds credibility in your content. If you include statistics, make sure they’re correct and cite the source. Does your content include names or titles? Double check they’re right. Grammar counts, too. This post gives a quick go-to guide.
Links to other useful content add value to your content.
Adding effective links to your content adds value to it. Links should give additional information or extra places to go for more insight or examples. Go ahead and use links to other pros’ content that helps make your point.
Links not only help the consumers of your content, though. Using this ingredient can also help you: By providing links, you lend extra authority to your work (or your agency or client.) And it’s a great way to promote other content you’ve created that might be relevant or on-point.
Pace matters for any kind of content, including writing, infographics and design.
One reason anyone keeps watching or reading or listening is because of effective pacing. The pace of content needs to move fast when the subject is bold, brash and loud — or, if the audience being targeted connects with that vibe. On the other hand, using that pacing wouldn’t work at all for content intended to inform and educate an audience about something brand new to them. Details, and perhaps the main point, would get overwhelmed.
This explainer video for Mint has just the right pace: it’s interesting and moves fluidly, yet slowly enough to hear the narration, understand the information and take in the fabulous motion graphics.
Mint.com “Financial Life” from Nate Whitson on Vimeo.
For content to captivate, the tone must align with the message.
Tone can make your content flop or pop. Yet, as important as it is, tone can’t be measured. When you look around, though, you’ll spot plenty of examples of content whose tone has the perfect touch. And others that are jolting and jarring. Take notice of why it works in one case, and distracts in another.
This post goes into more detail about tone in content, with examples where content creators got it really right.
Will your content hold your audience’s interest?
The ten other ingredients, together, combine to create interest. Or, they should. Review your content before sending it off to swirl around the social web and check that it is, truly, interesting.
Often, you’ll need to tweak or edit the content at this point. Revising content to improve it will, undoubtedly, also increase its interest. This is what I ask myself when I get to this point in the content-creation process. Does the content need another example? Another visual? A better visual? Or link? Will the tone resonate with the audience and is it consistent with my goal?
This is not a quick step. But it is essential if you want to create amazing content.
Cooking Up Irresistible Content
Blending these ingredients, and getting the proportions right, takes some getting used to — especially if any of these items is not one you normally consider when creating content. Use the recipe as a check list. It creates a process. That’s what makes this recipe goof proof: if you blend these 11 elements into your content, you can’t go wrong.
Ask a colleague for an assessment of content you created without this recipe, and then with it. Or judge for yourself. If you’re brave enough, ask your audience! I’ll throw that question to you…what did you think of this content?