Content Creation vs. Storytelling

webpage content creation services norfolk va
webpage content creation services norfolk va

Why Aren't People Interacting with My Social Media Posts?

Good Writing and Good Storytelling are Not One in the Same

Why aren't they sharing my pictures? What does Company X have that my company is lacking? If you find yourself asking these questions, you're far from alone. A lot of businesses in the Hampton Roads areas that we meet with face the same questions. Mastering the art of turning an ordinary bit of information into an interesting story is not always as straightforward as it sounds. In this day and age, you're not only competing within your own industry for business, but competing with other industries, causes, and individuals for the attention of a large, shared audience. So what's the answer?

Stop Stating Cold, Hard Facts

I'm not saying to lie, or even to fudge the truth. What I mean is that too many companies create content simply by stating facts and maybe attaching a relevant picture to those facts. They then wonder why people aren't interacting. You have to put yourself into the shoes of an average Joe. Not an average person in your industry, not an average person in sales, marketing, or management of any industry... But an average Joe that may or may not have any knowledge of your specific industry. One of the most common areas where content creators struggle with this concept is in professional services (doctors, lawyers, etc.). It can be very difficult to glamorize content that is, in and of itself, very straightforward. The trick is to focus not on the information, but on how it might apply to our good ol' average Joe.

Don't Write...Tell a Story

If you focus too heavily on structure and accuracy, it's easy to lose the story. The best piece of advice I can offer for getting started with content creation is just to let the pen (or your fingers on the keyboard) flow. In the very early stages, it's perfectly okay to not have an exact direction. Think of a big, general subject, and just start writing. Think of it as a brainstorming session. Leave the graphs and charts out, though. In the infancy of your content creation, rigid structure can steal your story-telling thunder. When you begin this free-flowing brainstorming session, be sure to choose a topic that you know and care about. As you write, you will often find a direction naturally.Make it Relate-able

Now that you've got a direction for your content, STOP! Okay, don't stop altogether, but don't get ahead of yourself. This is where a lot of content-creation takes a turn for the booorrrrriiiinnnnnggggg. Many of us who work all day, every day in our respective fields can be tempted to spew nothing but facts and statistics, because this is how we measure our own efficacy. Your average reader will often be more interested in the following than they will in the writer's measures of personal success.

a) Entertainment
This is one of the best ways to encourage engagement. People deal with enough negativity every day. Pushing your content in a lighthearted, amusing direction will almost always up readership and engagement.

b) Help or Encouragement
Problems, problems, everywhere. People want solutions! More than that, they want solutions that they can understand and achieve. Are you a home restoration expert? Give people some awesome DIY tips and hacks! Are you a doctor? Offer encouraging success stories about people turning their health and lives around for the better. We know you're an expert at what you do. You don't have to blind people with the science behind what makes you an expert. Instead, use that expertise to help people in small ways. This is not only good for interaction, but it's great for trust and client relationship-building. If your content is useful to your audience, then it is also valuable to them.

c) Be Relate-able ("I'm NOT alone in this!")
This is arguably the most important facet of good, quality content creation. Technical terms and industry-specific jargon is all well and good when it comes to communicating ideas with colleagues, but what good is it to the consumer? This is truly where story-telling comes into play. You can take your idea that you got in your brainstorming session, and focus down it into a story (real or hypothetical). Concentrate on showing the audience how the person in your story could easily be them!

To Sum it All Up...

Writing true, relevant, correct content is important. So important, that people often sacrifice the social aspect in order to clearly attain those qualities. Don't be a part of that content-writing crowd. At the end of your piece of content...Whether it's a blog, a short post, or an image description...Think to yourself, "If I came across this in my news feed, would I stop and interact?"

Flexibility and Social Media Success

flexibility and social media marketing success
flexibility and social media marketing success

One surefire way to fail at social media is to be set in your ways. Not only do content trends change constantly, but actual platform usage and effective posting frequency change often as well. If you create a strategy and never make adjustments, you are just asking to flop. Let your social media strategy be comprehensive, but not set in stone… detailed, but not immobile. If you notice something isn't working well, CHANGE IT! Try something new! I can't stress enough how important flexibility is in any social strategy.

Take time now and then to do a quick Google search of social media trends. Twitter and Facebook even tell you what is trending right when you sign on! Don’t get stuck in a rut of boring, similar, strictly informative posts. Remember: It’s not advertising… It’s not an infomercial… It’s SOCIAL! If you give up before your strategy is fully implemented and has the opportunity to flourish, you’ll gain nothing, and will have wasted a lot of time!

There is a build-up phase that must take place before you start reaping the benefits of a solid social media presence. The lower your number of followers, the fewer people will interact and share. As your numbers get higher, so will your reach. Here's where that part about flexibility comes back into play. Not getting tons of new follows every day? Stay flexible. Recruit those closest to you to help spread the word. Ask your biggest fans (your loved ones) to do what they can to get more eyes on your content! You would do the same for them, right?

Every like, favorite, comment, and share means more eyes on your posts and your brand than before. Every new set of eyes has the potential to become a new follower if your content is great. Every new follower has the potential to one day become a paying client. This doesn't happen overnight, but there are always ways to speed up the process. The more flexibility you have built in to your strategy, the more you'll be prepared and able to adapt to changing circumstances. So basically, the less likely you are to fail.

Social Media Success Requires Effort From You

Your social media success program will only be as successful as you make it – You have to put the time in if you want it to take off and become a real means of self-promotion. If you don’t maintain a consistent presence, people won’t have anything to look forward to from you. That’s a very quick way to lose followers. Another great way to lose followers is to post uninteresting, run-of-the-mill stuff with no personal touches.

Remember…You want to show everybody out there that you’re not a faceless entity that wants their money. You’re a company made of PEOPLE! The type of people that they want to have their backs when they need the services you offer!

So dig in. Your social media success depends on it. The only thing you have to be afraid of is missing out on the brand awareness, trust, and loyalty that come along with solid social media!

Is Internet Marketing for Small Businesses Being Cornered?

I’ll start by mentioning this – as it has crossed my mind. I’ve been working in this field since 1994 and always felt the Internet was where small business was going to be able to compete with the Wal-Marts of the world. As we’ve seen what the big box effect has had on small business retail, I’ve also started questioning whether these same large entities have finally corporatized the Internet to the point where they are now setting the rules for REALLY having to pay to play.

Google and the large Internet marketing agencies want to say this is not the case however both of these entities also have the most to gain from it continuing its current course. Google through the inevitable increased PPC revenue and the agencies from a ton of work generated to service it – from those that can afford it, of course.

I see it forcing established businesses to commit to the expense of internally hiring or contracting an Internet marketing division or agency to completely research and develop an online marketing plan, implement it and perform the interactive follow-ups to do it correctly. I’ve found the level of creativity involved alone to really do this right to be intense – equating to being unaffordable for a small business to do.

Can Small Business Play This Game?

In one respect, we look at the new playing field as an excellent opportunity to expand our business and gain better quality clientele that can afford to pay for the service.

On the other hand, I’ve pointed out enough that start-ups and very small business owners with limited resources have to be asking themselves how they are supposed to be able compete as well.  Aside from the monetary aspect, what is probably even more critical is the time that’s involved.

Most small businesses have a hard time with working with us for their foundation website’s content much less committing to contributing to an on-going content marketing campaign. We’re finding that many of our clients are just not going to – or not willing to - provide the level of participation we are going to require of them.

Regardless, we feel there is no way that anything can be done effectively without a structured commitment from the client to participate to make it affordable. Thus, our challenge with small business content marketing has become finding a “balance” of establishing enough client cooperation for both, an effective and affordable Internet marketing program. There is no way most can afford to have us do everything that is necessary without it.

Works Only If Small Businesses Get Involved

I also found it interesting that a couple of larger Internet marketing sales blogs described where they drew their lines in making a sale. They pretty much make it clear when they meet with new clients; not only do they have to commit to a substantial monthly budget towards the program, but that they also have to be committed to providing the resources within their company to make it successful or they walk away from the deal.

Quite frankly, we also agree with this. If the client does not commit and follow through from their end then it would be impossible for the marketing program to be effective. There is no way we can do it all without it taking substantially more time to do than they can afford.

In a nutshell, the pundits are saying SEO isn't dead and small business can absolutely effectively still play the game. But the answer for small business content marketing most definitely involves more time commitment and monetary expense for the small business owner.

In our reality, despite the best intentions of our many small business and start-up clients, actually getting them to follow through with it is one of our biggest disappointments.  We cannot control their actions – only ours.

So the question remains, will small design and marketing companies and their small business clients be able to adapt to the new small business content marketing requirements and still be affordable?  I suppose the bigger question is - can they afford not to?

The Chronicles of Content Marketing

generating engagement to your social media
generating engagement to your social media


Coming up with content marketing that doesn't bore an audience to tears can be a little difficult for a lot of industries. There are some things that are just plain hard to make "sexy." Don't forget though...If you wouldn't stop, click on it, and read it...Why would they? Then again, something that's fascinating to you on a personal level might be completely uninteresting to one chunk of your audience! Another portion of your audience could even have a strong opinion against it! It may sound silly, but trust me. There are always people out there who want to find flaws in any and everything no matter how seemingly neutral or common.

The strategy that has worked the best for me has been to remain extremely flexible in content writing. Watch trends. Look at the news in the morning before doing your posts. We all will probably use automation/post-scheduling at times, but steer away from that as much as possible. There may be a video that is going viral in your feed. Maybe it doesn't relate to what you do, but people want to see it. Take that video, and think of a way to make a little headline or sentence that somehow makes the video relevant, without using it to try to advertise.

This way, people are engaging with you. You might be thinking, "How does sharing a random video help my business?" Well, it's a bit of a trickle-down effect. They see engaging content that makes them happy, and they see this content with your name next to it. This will begin a positive association. Over time, this positive association will grow into recognition, and often trust.

Social media is not always about landing a hard sale. It's about connecting and communicating with your base, building and nurturing relationships, and about giving your business a favorable personality. It should be used in a way that makes your own clients actually want to be your biggest advocates.

Tying In Social Media With Content Marketing

This brings me to another glaring issue with so many business' content. Social media is not the place for shameless plugs 24/7! This is one of the best ways to ensure that you'll have little-to-no following. People have ads shoved in their faces everywhere they turn these days. If your business has nothing to offer other than reasons why people should give you their money, you'll lose their attention quickly. Your content needs to offer or provide them with something they want. Try all kinds of things! Try humor...Many people would love a laugh. Try weird/interesting facts. Try asking questions. This is a big one. Many people love to have the opportunity for their voice to be heard. Not only this, but they enjoy being heard, taken seriously, and responded to.

Know What Your Audience Wants To See

Be original with your content marketing, but pull from hot topics. Experiment and find out what YOUR audience responds to the best. Some of my clients have audiences that LOVE pictures. Pictures of work, before/after pictures, inspirational images, photos of staff, photos that ask opinions/questions (i.e. two images with a text headline of, "Which look do you prefer?").

I have other clients whose audiences all but ignore such posts. Somebody’s following might LOVE to be asked tons of opinion questions. Other followings might want to be visually stimulated. Creating your content marketing strategy will take some trial and error, but it’s better to try different things out than to make the same types of posts every day and never gauge the interaction you get versus what you could be getting.

I find that people don’t want to be talked at. They don’t want you to tell them day in and day out why you’re the best at what you do and they shouldn't go to anybody else. They want you to show them how and why you’re the best, and let them make that call. Many people hit a plateau on social media with how many followers they’ll get and how much interaction they’ll drive when they decide to stick to one way of posting. Be funny some days. Be informative other days. Ask lots of questions. Offer advice. Most importantly, BE SOCIAL! All of these play a role in today's concept of content marketing.