Insightful takes on scaling your business

How to shake up your content creation strategy and boost engagement

Risk and stating the obvious

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Amanda Milligan
Story by
Amanda Milligan

Marketing Director, FractlAmanda Milligan is the Marketing Director at Fractl, a prominent growth marketing agency that’s worked with Fortune 500 companies and boutique businesses alike. Throughout her content marketing career… (show all) Amanda Milligan is the Marketing Director at Fractl, a prominent growth marketing agency that’s worked with Fortune 500 companies and boutique businesses alike. Throughout her content marketing career, she’s directly managed the creation of 200+ content campaigns, led the strategy for 20+ clients, and run the 30-episode podcast Ask Amanda About Marketing. She spoke at the 2019 SMX Advanced conference and at Pubcon Pro Las Vegas 2019.

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Creating content and then promoting that content can certainly be a difficult task.

Perhaps equally as difficult? Coming up with the ideas for the content.

In many ways, your initial concept can make or break the entire effort. If you start with an idea that isn’t compelling enough, no amount of impressive design or constant promotion will yield the results you’re looking for.

So I’m going to share two guidelines for how you can come up with content ideas that have a higher probability of being shared, talked about, and engaged with.

But they’re not your standard advice.

[Read: Why you should re-think your ‘one size fits all’ content strategy]

#1. Do something that has no evidence of success

This is not a common tip, though I did hear it at some 2019 marketing conferences. Generally, it’s advised that you do a variety of research to look for evidence that something will succeed.

For example, you should:

  • Perform keyword research
  • Take inspiration from top-performing content in your industry
  • Update already successful content on your site
  • Etc.

And you should do all of those things!

However, you should also consider ways to break through the noise in new ways. If you’re producing the same thing everyone else is, it’ll be more difficult to rise above the countless articles and blog posts and resources and how-tos.

Amanda Lordy from NASCAR has even gone as far as talking at conferences about how we should break through our own noise, because even within our own content production, our core message can get lost in the volume.

How can you stand a chance of succeeding at this method?

Takeaway: Reach out to your clients/customers or your greater audience, and ask them what their biggest struggles are. You can do this via email or social, but sometimes the best method is picking up the phone. People are apt to say more when they’re having a real conversation. 

If there are problems they have that don’t have a clear solution online, solve them! For example, the owner of River Pools & Spas Marcus Sheridan not only saved his pool business in the midst of the recession but grew it by using the tactic of answering customer questions

Marcus found a clever way to boost business.

Marcus realized there wasn’t a lot of clarity online about the pricing around pools, so he went ahead and answered a question many hesitate to dive into: Cost. He didn’t even provide a single cost, but he did provide clarity around the topic and name ranges to give people a better idea of what the financial investment could be.

In answering a relevant question no one else dared to approach, Marcus told The New York Times he’s able to attribute $1.7 million in sales to that one article alone.

#2. Prove something obvious

This feels particularly counterintuitive to me, because my agency, Fractl, conducted research back in 2013 that showed surprise was the most common viral emotion associated with the top Imgur images of that year.

It’s something we’ve certainly found to be true when creating content for our clients that we go on to pitch to publishers; when the findings are surprising, people are interested.

So why am I telling you not to overlook the obvious?

Because in some cases, some beliefs and assumptions are taken for granted. We may think they’re true without having the concrete evidence behind it.

And once people get a hold of that proof, they love seeing the validation of something they’ve always thought to be true.

Takeaway: Consider widely held beliefs in your industry. Is there proof that they’re correct? Can you provide new evidence that backs up these beliefs? Brainstorm ways you can produce your own data/research to tell the story.

Consider this article by Southern Living, which garnered more than 170,000 engagements on Facebook. An article that covered the Southern Living story earned yet another 190,000+ Facebook engagements.

170,000 direct Facebook engagements is not bad at all.

And all the research did was offer proof that trips with your girlfriends has a positive impact on your health, something I’m sure many women already had a sense of but didn’t have any solid evidence to prove.

This concept is also why research published in Scientific Reports, a type of content you may generally consider pretty dry, managed to earn 1,500 Twitter shares.

Even ‘dry’ content garners success using this method.

We’ve more or less known that being in nature can have positive impacts on us, but now we know for sure. And sharing that knowledge is exciting to those who have long thought this to be the case.

Conclusion

By no means am I advising you stray from strategies that have worked for you when it comes to content ideation.

I am, however, suggesting that sometimes you incorporate different approaches to see if you can gain even more engagement and links by trying something different. Of course, you’ll have to be open to risk, but calculated risks are all part of the digital marketing game.

Good luck out there!

Published March 4, 2020 — 06:00 UTC

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