Content is only king when it engages your audience

I received an email over the weekend from an entrepreneur by the name of Lucy, who explained that following the collapse of an estate agent established by her half-brother she had taken on board the lessons learned from that commercial calamity and set up a niche business sourcing new-build flats for first-time buyers.

content is  king - Content is only king when it engages your audience

Lucy went on to explain that she had defined her buyer personas, and after consulting with Content Marketing Institute founder Joe Pullizzi and reading Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, the best-selling book by Gary Vaynerchuk, which explains how to tell your story in a noisy social world, had embarked on a content marketing strategy to promote her new business.

“I thought content was king, but I feel as if my content strategy is the digital equivalent of standing by the side of the M25 and shouting my marketing messages at the speeding traffic,” she complained. “Can you help?”

Here’s a summary of the advice I gave Lucy. Content marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Do not expect your content marketing mix of blogs, guides, emails, webinars, e-books, social media activity or videos to bear fruit immediately. This is because its aim is to engage your target audience and provide that audience with information that makes them trust your company and regard it as an authoritative source of advice.

Quality content is crucial

We are bombarded with so much content, the majority of which we access on a Smartphone, that it is no surprise 80% of it goes unopened and unread.

Like Lucy, companies that produce unread content are performing the digital equivalent of shouting at the motorway traffic.

So, how do you ensure your target personas place their finger on your digital communications as they scroll down their Twitter feed, email inbox, or Facebook notifications? By taking the time to produce quality, original content that addresses their needs, passions and interests, and encourages them to share your advice.

If, like Lucy, you’re targeting first-time homebuyers, it’s no good regurgitating the live listings for your local area on your blog or newsfeed. For a start, the average age of a first-time buyer is now over 35, but such information is far from original and does nothing to underline your knowledge and promote trust in your brand.


4 ways to engage your audience

  1. Strike up a conversation
    Treat your content as the opening line of a two-way conversation. This will feel more intimate and engaging. The best opening lines generate an emotion which evokes a response. Merely repeating information that has already been published by another outlet is unlikely to generate a response or inspire your audience to share it among their networks. Instead, take a topical, relevant story or news item and offer an opinion on it. This should elicit a response and counter opinions from your audience. Your opinion counts if you are considered an expert in your field.
  2. Swap business speak for storytelling
    Every one of your customer personas is (or should be) a human being with the same emotional touchpoints as you. The most successful content marketing strategies use storytelling techniques to communicate their business message because the human brain remembers information better when it is told as a story.

If you’re launching a new product or service, don’t use a passive voice or business jargon to communicate this news – you don’t want to be viewed as a faceless, corporate organisation. Tell the reader the story behind the new development and remember to add small, personalised details to bring to life the scene you are describing. Note how I started this post by telling you about my email from Lucy.

  1. Get it in front of the right people
    It’s no good trying to strike up a conversation or tell a story if your target audience isn’t listening. Visit the channels where your personas are. If they’re turning away from Facebook in favour of Instagram, then go there. And don’t forget the power of email.

If you know the hangouts of your audience members and know their preferences, you can adapt your content strategy accordingly and increase the potential for engagement. The more you manage to get your content in front of the right people, the greater the chance of engagement.

  1. Be visual and video-friendly
    By 2021, 82% of all internet traffic will be video, Cisco says. And according to figures published by WordStream, video generates 1,200% more shares on social than images and text combined. More social media users prefer receiving information via video than in text form. Think webinars and the creation of videos offering free courses and advice. Look to plough more funds into video production and create videos with content that will excite and stimulate your audience.

Visuals work especially well on social media. Statistics show that image-based posts get more engagement on Facebook than text-only posts. In addition to pre-recorded videos and live videos, use memes, eye-catching colours, inspirational quotations, infographics, slideshows, screenshots, charts and graphs, and animated images.


I received a thank-you email from Lucy last night. She told me how she’d used Google Analytics to discover a blog post she’d written – which told the story of how her new business was inspired by the badgers that had taken over her half-brother’s former premises – had received a record number of views and was causing a stir among numerous Google+ communities dedicated to short-legged omnivores. Some you win!



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