March 29, 2015: Let's face it: a lot of content out there on the web is dull, boring and humdrum. Such content will never motivate anyone to advance along a conversion funnel or be passed along on social media.
"Boring" is a subjective judgment, of course. I happen to be personally bored by the upholstery industry, but I'm also aware that there are hundreds - perhaps even thousands of human beings out there who are passionate about springs, padding, webbing and slip covers. (Hey, it takes all kinds to make an interesting world).
If your job happens to be creating interesting content for such people, you must somehow manage to connect with this passion. The question, of course, is "how?" Here are some tips for making sure that your BtoB content isn't "Bland to Boring."
1. Brevity is the soul of wit. There's no doubt in my mind that the influence of the SEO industry has made B2B content more boring. Because longer, keyword-laden articles are considered "better for SEO," content producers are discouraged from creating punchy, pithy short articles in favor of long mechanically-worded tracts that tend to ramble and sputter to a halt at the 500th word. Isla McKetta's recent article for Moz.com, "The Art of Concision" contains excellent advice on focusing your thoughts using fewer words.
2. Consider ditching the term "White Paper." When Winston Churchill invented the modern White Paper in 1922, the concept of publishing an authoritative, in-depth guide to a given issue was still a novelty. Today, however, the term "white paper" is both musty and somewhat condescending. There's nothing wrong with providing long-form, authoritative content in the form of e-books or SlideShare presentations, in fact you should be doing this if you're practicing the inbound marketing model. But please don't call it a white paper. Just hearing this term is enough to put many people to sleep. "White paper" is a bigger turn-off than even the pretentious tem "manifesto" (although I'd be interested in reading any "manifesto" generated by the upholstery industry - just because it would be so weird).
3. Know who you're writing for. The best way to get away from stuffy, stilted prose is to have a very clear idea of who exactly your reader is. "Personas" is a $20 word but all it means is that you've mapped all of the important likes, dislikes, goals, challenges, and other motivating factors. Personas put "a human face" on your audience that can help you actually start relating to these people. Always write for one and only one person - not a faceless group.
4. Be visual. Social media rewards visual content. Facebook would be nothing without photos. While people still read online, reading behavior is often a state arrived at only after extended scanning and searching sessions. If you must create long interrupted strings of text, at least break them up with images. If you don't have the budget to shoot original photography, find images on the Web and obtain reproduction rights (which are often very affordable). With images, don't make the mistake of "showing what you're already telling." Use images to strengthen and add new dimensions to your textual points, not simply repeat them.
5. Make it modular. Consider chopping a long document up into multiple parts and reformatting the document into multiple pieces that can be easily shared on web pages, in small e-books, and on social media. Excerpt essential facts, quotes, and other takeaways. Share these with the audience segments most likely to respond to them on social media platforms. The idea is to create bite-sized modules of content that deliver a complete idea shorn of any editorial "fluff."
Before you start experimenting with non-boring content, make sure you've got analytics installed on your content pages. If you're running WordPress, the quickest way to get this done is with Yoast's Google Analytics plug in, although it's easy to do this manually as well.
Try different content forms, editorial voices, and visual presentation styles. You'll know in a short time whether your content is actually connecting with your audience or not.
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