It’s really easy to waste time and money on content. Infographics, articles, tools, guides, whitepapers, ebooks – whatever types of content you’re producing, there’s an investment behind it. This is why content that fails to deliver on your goals is so frustrating.
So why exactly does content fail?
You got your audience wrong
You can create the best piece of content in the world, but if you’ve misunderstood the needs and wants of your audience, your content will fail.
So, what can you do about it? Start with research. Lots of it.
In today’s digital and social media age we have the ability to stalk (not in a creepy way, of course) our audience and get some really insightful information about the type of content they want and what they read already.
Here’s a look at four resources that work really well.
Facebook Audience Insights – Facebook’s insights tool enable you to specify a demographic and/or an interest to find out more about a specific group of people. So, for example, if you want to know more about your competitors’ audiences, you simply select people who “like,” a competitor and find out more about the magazines and pages they are already interacting with. This can help you build a picture of the sort of content that resonates with your audience.
Google Keyword Planner – Google’s keyword planner is ultimately designed to develop PPC ads. But by understanding whether people are searching for certain keywords, you can gain an indication as to whether there’s even a need for topical content. And understanding what types of problems your audience is trying to solve using search tools can help you create relevant content.
Answer the Public – Google’s keyword planner is not particularly good at providing data for lower volume queries. But answerthepublic.com is very good at this. It uses Google Suggest data to pull out questions that people most commonly ask search engines about a specific topic. This is gold dust when it comes to understanding what problems and queries your target audience has top of mind.
FollowerWonk – FollowerWonk is particularly good for helping you find out more about your target audience on Twitter. You can run advanced reports on your own followers (to find out who else they’re following), on your competitor’s followers and on the followers of magazines or industry publications whose audience is relevant for you.
A little bit of time spent truly understanding what your audience reads, likes and needs can go a long way.
Your topic isn’t as good as you thought
Great ideas are valuable currency when it comes to content marketing. And when an idea is your own, it’s easy to become incredibly sold out to it.
A particular quote by Émile Chartier rings true: “Nothing is more dangerous than an idea, when it’s the only one we have.”
All to often, we buy in to our own ideas and run with the one amazing idea we have on the table. But how can you really say how good an idea is if you have nothing to compare it to?
Generating more ideas at scale is critical for content development. Traditional brainstorming might not be the most productive way to do it. One alternative method is the 635 method of brainwriting, which was actually devised in the 1960s by Professor Bernd Rohrbach. In this method:
6 people sit around a table and work in silence.
They have a brief and they have 5 minutes to write down 3 ideas to meet that brief
At the end of the 5 minutes, everyone passes their sheet to the person on their left
Now, all 6 people have a sheet with 3 existing ideas on it. They use these 3 ideas to create 3 more of their own
The sheets are passed around until there have been 6 rounds of 5 minutes each
The result – 108 ideas in 30 minutes
You can do this digitally now too with tecmark | 635’s free online tool. This tool makes ideation scale and a great idea is much easier to identify when you have something to compare it against.
What else can make your content flop?
Even a good idea tailored perfectly to an audience needs promotion and good timing. So while audience research and content ideation improvements alone won’t make your content marketing efforts go viral, they’ll go a long way to helping you to minimise the risk of content failure.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Stacey MacNaught is a Search Director at a UK agency and specialises in digital content. She has also spoken at conferences globally on the topic of content marketing. When Stacey isn’t blogging, working or attending conferences, she’ll be found enjoying family time with her young son. Connect with @tecmark on Twitter.
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