A fantastic visionary that he is, Bill Gates could see really deep into the future. In an essay written in 1996, he wrote with conviction about how content is king. Now in 2021, the pandemic and the resultant ‘new normal’ have drastically changed the way people buy, sell, and work across the globe. Businesses have no option but to adapt and change. This has propelled the online space to the stature of a marketing hub. We are at a point where leading organizations across the globe are writing content-led marketing strategies. In the words of Seth Godin, ‘Content marketing is the only marketing left.’
It’s true. In a digitally connected world, content is the new gold mine. Organizations and brands across the globe are using content to leverage their products and services. With more and more consumers moving online, the more agile brands have quickly made the shift. They are using content to tell their story and create brand value amongst their consumers.
But Wait. What Exactly is Content Writing?
Content writing is the ART and SCIENCE of creating content for the digital medium. Yes, you read that right. It is a finely crafted art as much as it is science. Why do we say that? Well, you will agree that writing is an art form. It requires someone to logically and meticulously put together thoughts into a coherent, readable form. So, why is it a science? It is so because every piece of writing needs to have a structure; it must present a point of view in a well-framed, grammatically correct manner. The best content comes from a great mix of these two traits.
Organizations use data to analyze their customer behavior. They study what their customers are searching for and what kind of content they are likely to consume. This insightful data is then used to plan and create content that is relevant and meaningful to their customers. While science defines what needs to be written, it is the art and craft of writing that helps create highly readable and engaging content.
What are the Different Types of Content Writing
Content is created primarily for digital marketing. Just like water takes the shape of its container, writing must mold itself to the medium. The tone, tenor, style, and length of the written piece must change based on where it will appear. Here are some classic content writing examples:
- Scriptwriting for videos
- Writing for eZines
- Social media posts
- Case studies
- White papers
- Website content
- Landing page content
- YouTube video description
- E-commerce product description
- Reviews (books, movies, product or service)
- How to guides
While this list does not cover the vast ocean of content writing possibilities, it will give you an idea of what comes within its purview. From technology to recipes, from education to entertainment, from food to science, content can be created for just about any topic under the sun and beyond.
Content is Defined by Marketing Strategy
We have already established that content is the key marketing tool for any organization in today’s world. What, when, and who to write for is defined by an organization’s marketing strategy. Organizations or individuals setting out to make their mark must ensure that their content is customer-centric. This calls for a deep understanding of customer behavior, both online and offline. Brands have moved away from talking about what they can do for their customers; instead, they speak about what the customer would like to hear within the context of their brand. In the highly competitive online space, content must not just be interesting but also unusual in order to retain customer interest. The challenge is to do so consistently.
So, in short, organizations need to tune themselves to their customers’ frequency. They must clearly define their audience and create content suitable for this target segment. If customers find their content interesting, they will stay on, interact with the brand and maybe even share it with their friends. It is important, therefore, to write honest and clearly targeted content.
Here is a closer look at three Indian brands that seem to have got their content marketing formula right. They have a massive social media presence. They have a signature content style and have consistently maintained this style, which has resulted in their large social media following. Safe to say, they seem to have honed the art of creating content that connects with their customers.
1. Amul – The taste of India
The iconic Amul girl graduated seamlessly from the traditional print advertising medium to the online space. This helped the brand stay connected with their customers while adding a new base of a younger audience. By maintaining the style and tone of its content in the online space, the company has earned the love and respect of its audience. Their communication is always topical, offering a brilliant mix of humor and newsworthiness. The brand has frequent contests in its online space to keep its customers engaged and entertained.
2. Flipkart – The online megastore
A product of the e-commerce boom in India, Flipkart is a relatively new entrant to the market. However, they are in a highly competitive space, and they understood very early that they must follow the customer journey from research to actual purchase. User-generated content like customer reviews and recommendations forms an integral part of their content strategy. They have also created a signature visual style by using children dressed and behaving like adults. This meets the dual purpose of adding humor while keeping the customer engaged and interested in their brand. They maintain an active social media presence across all channels and ensure constant interaction with their customers through contests. Their Big Billion Sale is a brand by itself, and customers withhold their purchases as they wait for this sale – much like the iconic Black Friday sale.
3. Zomato – Never have a bad meal
Like Flipkart, Zomato is also a ‘millennial’ brand that engages with customers largely between the age group of 18 to 40. It is a food delivery app that offers a listing of restaurants. The company uses a versatile range of content to engage with its customers; these include blogs, videos, and infographics. Their target base is clear – foodies. They also send out constant emails to their database of customers on topics ranging from food to safety. This is an excellent strategy as it helps keep them on top of the customers’ minds. Their quirky, topical, and witty takes on food consumption behavior keep their large base of customers joyfully engaged.
Content Best Practices
COVID-19 has irrevocably disrupted the traditional marketing funnel. It has driven more people and more organizations online than ever before. Although the e-commerce growth figures in India were not as high as they were in other big markets like the US and China, the industry is optimistic about the financial year 2021. This also means that organizations must have their content strategy in place and employ proven content best practices to leverage the uptrend in the online presence of their customers.
1. Have a clear content strategy
Your content needs to be customer-centric. It must engage with your audience, and it must convince them that you can help meet their needs or solve their problem in some way. It must imply that you understand their situation and empathize with them. Any content created must be about what the customer wants to hear rather than what the organization wishes to say.
2. Have a deep understanding of your target audience
Who is your customer? What are their likes and dislikes? What are the challenges they face (in the context of your brand), and how can you solve it for them? Any content created must strive to answer these questions. Build a customer persona and ensure that your content is always about your customers. It must reassure them that you are earnest about solving their problem.
3. Create content that connects with your customer
Once you have clearly defined who your target audience is, it is important to create content that resonates with them. Content that they can relate to so that they, in turn, share it and talk about it with their friends. Make your content so compelling that customers begin to interact and, over time, build a relationship with your brand.
4. Create the right mix of content
Ensure that you hold your customers’ interest by offering them a fantastic mix of content. Incorporate blogs, videos, social media posts, infographics, thought leadership material, and more into your content marketing plan. Give your customers a reason to keep coming back to you.
5. Ensure that your content is SEO compliant
Optimize your content. This means you must add all the relevant keywords, descriptions, alt tags, tags, and meta tags. How can you do this? You need to obtain data on what your customers are looking for and create content based on their requirements. Ensure that there are the right amount of keywords in your content to attract and retain your customer’s attention.
6. Make your content engaging
Once the content is out there in cyberspace, your customers must consume the content and stay engaged with your brand. How can you do this? Keep your content simple and relevant, engage in storytelling, use humor, use images and starts, and keep it topical and honest. Above all, once you arrive at a tone and style, stay consistent – so that you do not confuse your customer.
7. Have a compelling call to action
Ok. Now you’ve got terrific content out there. Your customer reads it or views it….and then what? It’s important to have a relevant and logical call to action. What is the answer, reaction, or action you want from your customers? Do you want them to fill a form, or register at your site, or sign up for your event, or bookmark your upcoming sale? Whatever it is, ensure that your customer understands perfectly what action is expected. A clear call to action is absolutely essential to meet your desired communication objective, so pay attention to that.
8. Be a grammar Nazi
There is nothing more off-putting than badly written, grammatically incorrect content. Be absolutely picky about grammar. Ensure that your content is constructed coherently and has a logical flow – regardless of whether it is a written medium, a social media post, or a video. Also, make sure that you get your facts right. Be meticulous so that your customers don’t feel let down. Check your punctuation – or it can completely change the meaning of a sentence. Dot your I’s and cross your T’s.
Relax. Here’s Some Writing Help
Does generating the right content seem a little overwhelming? It need not be. There are plenty of tools out there to help you at every stage of content creation – from ideation to creation to conclusion.
- The ideation stage: Huh. So, where do you begin? What must your content be about? One of the coolest tools to help you get started is the Hubspot Blog Topic Generator. All you have to do is enter a word and it opens the floodgates of topic ideas. Check it out. Portent’s Content Idea Generator is a similar tool and just as effective.
- The creation and conclusion stage: Right. You’ve got the topic, and the ideas are flowing. But remember that bit about being a grammar Nazi. Ensure that there are no grammatical errors. Double check your headline. Is it powerful enough? Is it the right length? Does it have the right keywords? Recheck your content. Are you repetitive? Are you using large, complicated words? Are your sentences long-winded and complex? Are you worried about copyright issues? Don’t worry. There are apps and tools to do these checks for you. Get the writing done and use these tools to refine what you have crafted. And not to forget your call to action (CTA).
- Hemingway App makes sure that your writing is simple, lucid, and grammatically correct. It uses color codes to point out issues in your sentence structure. For instance, it highlights long, complex sentences in yellow. If you see a sentence marked in red, know that the sentence is very long and hard to understand. It pinpoints large words so you can think of smaller, simpler words. And so on. It is very easy to use and even helps you format your content well.
- Grammarly is an AI-powered writing assistant that can help you create impactful, error-free content.
- Surfer scans data points and helps you create SEO-friendly content.
- YoastSEO is an extremely popular WordPress plugin. Yoast helps you manage titles, tags, descriptions, and keywords. It also helps track how often you are using the keywords.
- Copyscape and Unicheck Plagiarism Checker are great tools if you wish to check your content for plagiarism.
- CoSchedule Headline Analyzer is a fantastic tool that assists you in writing powerful headlines within the prescribed word limit.
- Have a penchant for repeating your favorite word? Cliché Finder is your go-to app. It will find and highlight words that have been repeated too often and helps enhance the quality of your writing.
- Readable – Keep in mind the average reader’s ability. We don’t want readers trying to find word meanings in a dictionary. In fact, they won’t. They will simply lose interest and go away. So your content must be readable. And this is where this app can help you. It ensures that your content is simple and easy to read.
To conclude, it is clear that content marketing is the way forward. Whether you are an individual looking to make your mark as a content writer or an organization seeking to build your online presence – content is key. Therefore, it is imperative that you devise a strategy for the whole year and plan your content dissemination accordingly. Remember to use an interesting mix of content that includes social media posts, blogs, and videos. Podcasts are emerging as the next big thing in the content space, so you might want to consider adding that to your mix. The best part about digital media is that you can evaluate what is working and what is not.
The trick is to orient your content according to what customers seem to consume more of. At the same time, ensure that your content is topical and relevant to the consumers. Once you have a winning content formula in place, run with it, stay consistent with the style and be honest about the promises you make. Because, as Maya Angelou says, “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”