You’ve poured hours of blood, sweat, and tears into producing your last piece of content.
You wrote, edited, and rewrote until it conveyed exactly the message you wanted. You carefully placed images, video, and text to make it as visually appealing as possible.
You painstakingly analyzed the top posts on BuzzSumo to help craft the perfect title. And finally, you clicked the publish button and waited.
You waited for your audience to start liking, tweeting, commenting on, sharing, and linking to your latest masterpiece.
You logged into social media, obsessively watching for people to start talking about it. And you intensely monitored your analytics for any sign of a spike in traffic.
But nothing happened.
No likes. No one talked about it. And you saw no increase in traffic.
The good news is you aren’t alone.
More good news is that fixing this problem is well within your grasp.
We all understand the importance of producing content, but what most people don’t understand is how to produce content that truly performs well with your audience.
We’re going to change that today.
Performing well in both search and social requires you to create content that is more than just a bunch of words on a page. It requires you to create content that your audience actually cares about. While this task is much easier said than done, it is achievable provided that you follow a specific plan.
1. Identify Your Audience
Imagine how a conversation between you and a blind date might differ from one between you and your wife. (Hopefully, if you have a wife, you aren’t still going on blind dates, but that’s an article for an entirely different publication.)
Even if you were being completely authentic, your conversation in each of these scenarios would focus on different topics and would carry a substantially different tone.
It’s the same with marketing.
Identifying your audience is a critical first step because your content needs to communicate clearly and directly to them. This means that while your content may perform effectively with your chosen audience, it will generally perform poorly with other audiences.
You may be tempted to try to appeal to everyone.
Often, this is a matter of ratios. In other words, the better your content performs with one audience, the worse it will perform with others.
The problem you face when you try to appeal to everyone is that you don’t give anyone a reason to be really passionate about what you have to say. That’s a recipe for mediocrity, and if you do that, your audience will judge you.
The key to defining your audience is to be specific. Now, when I say “be specific,” I don’t mean to just pick a general niche. It’s not enough to produce content on a particular topic. Instead, you need to define exactly who you’re creating each particular piece of content for. The more specific, the better.
For example, a home builder clearly needs to reach an audience of potential home buyers, but that’s not anywhere near specific enough.
So what other criteria might be necessary?
For starters, most builders will want to reach home buyers within a specific geographic region. What appeals to a home buyer in Florida will differ greatly from what appeals to a home buyer in Colorado, so your content will need to reflect that.
Let’s go deeper — price is another factor. Buyers who want to buy a home around $300,000 are significantly different than those who want one around $900,000.
Time is also a factor. A builder who specializes in standard homes with minimal customization will generally appeal more to home buyers who want or need a new home quickly, while home buyers who want extensive customization usually understand those customization require a longer construction timeline.
So hypothetically, this builder might be producing a piece of content for a potential home buyer who:
- Wants to live in Florida.
- Has a budget of $300,000-$500,000.
- Is looking for a completely custom home.
- Plans to move in within 12 months.
Knowing all of these factors enables you to craft your content in such a way that it will appeal specifically to them. And here’s the beauty of this approach — not every piece of content needs to target the exact same audience.
For example, while you would use the criteria above for most of your content, you should also add additional criteria to more finely tune a particular piece of content to a more specific audience.
This might include factors like whether the home buyers have any hobbies, are retired, or have children living with them because local amenities can make a tremendous difference. Certain medical needs could play a role too, as older home buyers sometimes move to be closer to specific medical facilities.
Generally, the more specifically you can tailor a piece of content for a highly-focused audience, the better it will perform. It’s true that you can, hypothetically, go too far, it’s unlikely.
2. Find out Exactly What They Need/Want
Now that we know exactly who we’re trying to communicate with, it’s time to figure out exactly what they need and/or want.
Continuing with the previous example, we already know that the audience wants a new home, and we also know where they want to live, how much they’re comfortable spending, and how soon they like to move in.
Let’s use a few of the additional criteria we outlined near the end of the previous section, and say we’re targeting an audience that consists of young to middle-aged families who have young children and enjoy outdoor activities.
What does this audience need and/or want beyond just the home, that is directly related to the purchase of the home?
It’s almost a certainty that they want good schools for their children. In fact, it’s not uncommon for people to buy a house that wasn’t their top choice simply because it is zoned for a better school.
They also probably want a safe and quiet neighborhood with plenty of kid-friendly entertainment nearby, which might include parks, beaches, and theme parks.
So now we know exactly who our audience is, and we know that they want a home that is:
- Zoned for a good school.
- In a safe and quiet neighborhood.
- Located near kid-friendly entertainment.
3. Identify Their Hot Buttons
The final step is to determine what motivates your audience. This is what’s called a hot button — something that you can leverage to prompt a certain response or behavior. In this situation, it’s to get them engaged with your content.
Since we know what our audience in the example we’ve been using wants, identifying their hot buttons should be fairly simple.
The most powerful hot button you’ll find in this case is most likely their kids. You know that they are deeply concerned about the safety, education, and happiness of their children, so anything related to that should produce effective results.
This shouldn’t be surprising. If you think about what you see in your own Facebook feed, you can probably recall seeing some of the parents who are particularly active in their own children’s lives sharing articles on these topics.
It would be incredibly easy to create a piece of content about how certain activities contribute positively on brain development or physical fitness, and tie that to some of the local activities available, like martial arts, meditation, or youth sports.
Their kids aren’t the only factor in their buying decision, though. Since they are looking for a custom built home, it’s a pretty safe bet that their individuality will be another very powerful hot button.
They’re buying a home that’s personalized to their unique style, and that tells you something very important about them. It tells you that they take great pride in being unique.
Some other hot buttons might include:
- Being near family
- Financial stability
- Getting the most from their investment
- Proximity to medical facilities
- Energy efficiency
- Local amenities
- Level of personalization
- New vs. established neighborhood
This list could be virtually endless, but the idea is to identify the factors that people in your audience could be passionate about.
Things that could make a piece of content truly resonate with someone, which increases the likelihood that they’ll become a lead, share it on social media, or even link to it from another website.
Now It’s Time to Produce the Content…
With the heavy lifting behind you, it’s time to put pen to paper, or more likely, fingers to keyboard.
Armed with the information about exactly who our audience is, what they want and/or need, and what their hot buttons are, we can begin planning article titles.
Remember, we’re not just producing content about the builder and their homes — we have to focus on on the factors that drive the buyer’s decisions.
Some article titles that accomplish this might include:
- 7 Outdoor Activities in Tampa That Will Keep Your Kids Healthy
- Tampa Construction Trends & How They Impact Resale Value
- 5 Home Upgrades That Will Make Your Family Healthier
- Natural Pest Control for the Tampa Bay Area — a Guide for Homeowners
- 3 Things You Need to Know Before Having a Custom Home Built in Tampa
- Which Home Features Are Worth the Investment, and Which Are a Waste of Money?
- 7 Unique Custom Home Features and What They Say About Home Buyers
- A Parent’s Guide to the Hillsborough County Schools
The idea is to hit one or two of their hot buttons with the title to get them to click through, and then pound on those while working in additional hot buttons with well-written, informative, and engaging content throughout the article.
If you play your cards right, you can even make them aware of new hot buttons they didn’t know they had and link to other content that hammers on those.
Paint a Picture
Have you ever talked to someone who, when sharing a story, did such a great job that you almost felt like you had experienced it with them when it originally happened?
Their hand gestures and facial expressions expertly danced along with their words, immersing you in your own imaginary world that had been expertly crafted by them.
How did you feel, both about the experience itself, and about them?
Knowing what we know about our audience, it’s relatively simple to paint a detailed and powerful picture in their mind about how their decision to hire this builder will positively affect their life. (Or how the decision not to will negatively affect their life.)
Paint the scenario not just with facts, but also with emotions, and frame the conversation by asking questions you know the answers to.
Make It Easy to Consume
People mostly scan content, only reading a bit here and there, so start by breaking your content into manageable chunks.
I typically aim for paragraphs of between one to seven sentences, and use subheadings and ordered/unordered lists whenever possible.
Media, including images, videos, and audio are effective too. Not just in terms of breaking up the layout into more digestible sections, but also in terms of providing additional information and context. This fosters a positive user experience and helps to keep them on the page longer.
Engage with Their Emotions
Producing content that people want to share and or link to requires you to connect with people emotionally, and to be blunt, most people suck at it.
Don’t get me wrong — most people are great at connecting in person, but when writing, their personality suddenly evaporates and they come off like a robot.
That may be OK when you’re writing instructions for furniture assembly, but it’s devastating when you’re trying to write something you want people to care about.
The best way to encourage them to share and/or link to it is to connect with them on an emotional level and make it more about them than you.
by Jeremy Knauff