6 things you need to know to create compelling content

David Sim from Open Brolly speaking about "Digital Story-telling"

David Sim from Open Brolly speaking about “Digital Story-telling”

In this brave new world of social media, content is king. Create content that is appreciated and shared, and you will be delighted with the results.

A few years back, a good friend married a talented and sociable lawyer (he’s in the States). I wasn’t surprised when she told me he had a weekly radio programme. He had a good personality for that. It was a call-in show, where people would ring in with their legal questions. He could answer pretty much anything that came up. The radio show was good publicity for his legal practise. It got his name out there, and helped bring business through the door.

Now, you might wonder: was his radio show marketing, or PR? Good question.

But the answer doesn’t matter. What matters is that Nick was generating content. It was old-fashioned content, broadcast on the radio. Today, he probably has a podcast. But the principles are the same: create interesting content and, if you are good at getting the word out, people will view it and share it.

Last night I was a guest speaker at Highland Social in Inverness. Started by Michelle Russell from Snow Marketing, Highland Social is a networking forum for social media professionals and those wanting to learn more. Each event has a few guest speakers sharing their experiences with social media and related topics like branding. [My topic was “PR in the age of Social Media”.] Two of last night’s speakers talked about how they had created content that had driven traffic to their sites, raised awareness of their brands, and ultimately, had a clear and positive impact on the bottom line.

Jen Tomatin

Jennifer Nicol from Tomatin Distillery speaking about the launch of Cu Bocan whiskey using social media

One was Jennifer Nicol from Tomatin Distillery. Jennifer recently launched a new whiskey on a shoestring budget using old-fashioned creativity and the wonder of social media. I’m not surprised her launch was a success. Her technique and content was brilliant.

Nick from Highland Bottle Shop told us about how he had grown his newly-opened beer and liquor store using social media. One successful example was a photo of a six-pack of beer, posted on Twitter and Facebook the day before Father’s Day, noting that if anyone else had forgotten Father’s Day, Highland Bottle Shop could help. Nick sold quite a few six-packs that day, and no doubt, make more than a few fathers happy.

But what about the rest of us? We’re don’t all sell sexy Highland whiskeys or charming microbrews from around the world. What should we be talking about?

David Sim from Open Brolly addressed this. His topic was “Digital Story-telling”. [That’s David in the photo at the top of this page.] David said that in the world of social media, there is so much out there you need to be creative to stand out. He gave some excellent examples to illustrate that we bond with people if the content of their stories connects with us on an emotional level. David had some statistics to show that some words are better triggers than others: “coffee” and “perfume” make a stronger connection, he noted, than “table” or “chair”. He said that these connections light up a particular part of our brain. It made me think that we must be “hard-wired” for story-telling.

As David explained, telling a compelling story is a wonderful way to connect with people — be  it in person at an event, or on your blog. He suggested that if we are interested in creating compelling content, we should look for episodes in our lives that have an emotional element to them.

And this morning, when I looked up the YouTube videos David had planned to share (network speed prevented this), as exemplars of “digital story-telling” I saw that these were indeed, great examples of how companies had pushed the boundaries and created compelling content for social media to promote their brands.

Coke’s “Happiness Machine” youtube video shows the surprising results of how a modified, personalised vending machine delivered “happiness” (and a pizza!) at a college campus in the States. And the Dollar Shave Club video uses direct-address and a moving camera to convince men that paying a premium to remove hair from their face is a silly idea and that they should try an alternative.

And that’s when I had an epiphany: we all have our own television network. Thanks to YouTube, iTunes, and a host of other channels, every one of us has the capacity to become a broadcaster — whether it’s analogous to radio, television or a newspaper, there is nothing to stop us from getting our messages out on our own channel. However, most of us — myself included — have barely scratched the surface of that potential.

So to that end, I would like to share 6 suggestions to help get you started on creating compelling content:

  1. Tell a story. Do you have something to say that has a surprising or poignant element? This will engage your readers. If you would be more comfortable with something less intimate, share insights or episodes from your business career. Was there someone who made a big impression on you? What about your first day at your first job? Tell that story.
  2. Use photos to help bring that story to life. The most popular tweets and Facebook posts are those with photos.
  3. If you haven’t got anything nice to say, complain articulately. There’s little I enjoy reading more than a well-crafted complaint. Surely I am not alone?
  4. Think about how video can be used to help tell a story. “Direct-address” to your hand-held is the new Cinéma vériténon?
  5. Once your content is complete, get it out there. If you don’t have a personal site, create a blog from one of the free sites like Google’s Blogger or the more user-friendly WordPress. Create a YouTube or Vimeo channel if your content is visual.
  6. Finally, go all-out to share it across your networks. Post about it on your Facebook, and share a link on Twitter. Whichever social network suits you, use this get it around.

Then sit back and wait. Measure your results using a link hosting service like bit.ly and see how you did! You may even want to conduct your own experiment, changing the key words in your blog title, and seeing if you get different or better results.

I can’t think of a better way to learn about the potential of social networking than by creating your own content, getting it out there and seeing what happens. Can you?

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