If you’ve inhaled just the faintest wisp of the particulate billowing out of the internet marketing world in the past 15 years, it was almost certainly in the form of a smoke signal that said, “Content is king.” That concise maxim is a very oversimplified way of laying out the truth behind modern internet marketing. The truth is that all of the gimmicks used by internet marketers to “trick” search engines into good rankings only last a short time before the search engines catch on to them. So, the best way to market yourself online is to legitimately market yourself—which means producing content.
But not all content is equal. Some content is better for some purposes than others, some content is better for some industries than others, and some content is better for some audiences than others. So we’re going to look at various kinds of content and talk about how each one relates to property management marketing.
Breaking Down Content
Content in general breaks down several different ways. For the purpose of marketing yourself, the primary way to break content down is by intent. You should always know whether the content you’re creating is intended as:
- Content that gets attention, generally for the purpose of increasing awareness of your brand, products, or services;
- Content that motivates action, obviously used to sell, but less obviously used to get sign-ups for repeat marketing efforts (i.e. “clubs,” newsletters, direct mail efforts, or any other “opt-in” marketing); and
- Content that relates information, most often used to prove your expertise and legitimacy within your industry or to legitimately teach or inform.
Too many businesses just spit out content without knowing what each piece is for, and that makes for a very wasteful content-production effort. We’ll talk a bit about how to know what kind of content you need to be creating in out next post, but for now let’s move on to other ways to think about content. You can also analyze content by its format:
- “Snackable” content is designed to be consumed in a very short timeframe and have an impact due to being easy to digest and provoke a striking reaction. Because it’s both striking and easy to digest, snackable content is highly sharable—in fact, most content that goes viral is snackable content. If you’re talking written content, you’re usually looking at a single paragraph or tweet. Graphical content is almost always snackable unless you’re making a huge infographic or a visual novel. Snackable videos are generally no longer than a typical commercial on TV.
- “Midrange” content is designed to balance accessibility with information—it’s not as immediately impacting as snackable content, but it’s easier on the brain than long-form content. It’s what you create when you want to sell something, or when you want to convey the gist of a complex subject without getting into intricate detail. Most blog posts are “midrange” content, as are the aforementioned infographics. Videos demonstrate the balancing act midrange content performs: you can have information-dense minute-and-a-half video, or a seven-minute lighthearted and flowing video and they’re both midrange content, because it’s less about the how long it takes to consume, and more about the total cognitive load the content puts on the consumer.
- “Long-form” content is designed to really capture the consumer’s focus, convincing them to devote a significant amount of time and energy interacting with the content. Psychologically, the more a consumer feels like they can interact with your content for an extended time, the more likely they are to consider you trustworthy. Long-form content is also obviously the best for teaching complex topics.
The last way to break down content that we’ll talk about here is breaking content down by medium. Content that you create for Facebook, for example, should be very different from content you create for LinkedIn, even though both are considered social media. Every medium has its own unique flavor, and you should keep the attributes of your intended medium in mind when you create your content. But more than just the medium-specific flavor, there are also attributes of the general category of medium:
- Social media posts include tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram posts, Reddit posts, and any other sort of content that is going to show up in a stream or timeline that includes a number of other posts from a bunch of users. Social media, more than any of these other categories, all but requires a specific format: You must post snackable content to social media, because the posts are competing for a very limited “bandwidth” of consumer attention. Content that is too complex will be ignored or at best read but not shared—and sharing is literally the point of social media (more on that in our post devoted to social media in a few weeks).
- Articles and blog posts include any sort of content that appears as a standalone web page that has its own ranking on the search engines and is largely static. This includes YouTube pages, podcasts, actual blog posts, and Q&A posts like those on Quora or WikiHow. These media can be used for any of the purposes, but they also serve the important extra function of acting as an SEO tool (see our SEO post in a couple weeks for details on that).
- Page content includes any content you put up on a website that you own and control. Page content almost always serves the purposes of “establish legitimacy,” “sell stuff,” or “help existing customers.” Because of that, it’s almost never snackable. Page content is the stuff your entire sales funnel points toward (and if you haven’t guessed the pattern, you can come back next week for some more detail on what that means).
- Directed content includes any content that you target a list of specific individual consumers with. The most common forms of directed content are emails, but almost any channel that offers direct messaging, from Skype to Facebook, can be used to deliver direct content. Direct content is unique in that it’s the only kind of content that is likely to be considered “spam” and thus actually turn the receiver against you if used improperly. Because of that, it’s usually a good idea to only create directed content that targets people who have opted into receiving them.
There is a vast array of other forms of content that have occasionally been used by businesses in the past, but are largely not worth the effort. Posts on message boards, “social bookmarks” like the ones you can create on Digg or Delicious, directory entries (on websites that just list other websites), and comments put on other peoples’ content are all things you might hear about people using in various marketing efforts, but none of them have been terribly useful in the past several years at least.
How to Use These Categories
It should be obvious by now that every piece of content falls into every one of these categories, and each category affects the structure and format of the end product. In an ideal world, each piece of content would go through a “conception phase” that went:
- What is our goal? (What purpose does this content serve?)
- What format is best suited to that goal?
- What medium is best suited to host that format for that goal?
But of course in the real world, a number of concerns can twist that formula on its ear. Let’s take this very post as an example. In this case, we knew that we had to give BiggerPockets a few blog posts because it’s been a little while since we posted here and we needed to rebuild a little momentum. So, we started with the medium of the BiggerPockets Blog in mind.
BiggerPockets’ blog here is known as a place where experts come to share their expertise as a form of marketing—which means generally the content here is on the long end of standard or is out-and-out long-form content. Furthermore, the flavor of BiggerPockets is “networking business casual,” so you’ll almost never see anyone around here putting up content that is silly fun, openly provocative, or straight sales-pitch material.
Related: How to Correctly Format Content on Your Website for Thousands of Online Leads
We use this platform for the purpose of establishing our expertise as property managers, knowing from experience that people who read our posts here are likely to see the content we’ve produced over the years and think, “Hey, these guys obviously know what they’re doing.” Then if they ever decide they need a property manager in the Metro Detroit area, they’ll recognize our name and be more inclined to call us first.
So the medium and the purpose both point strongly at long-form content—which obviously this is, seeing as we’re approaching the 1,500th word of this post and we’re just now getting to the wrap-up.
Content still is king when it comes to internet marketing—you literally can’t perform online marketing without it. But it’s not enough just to put words into the ether; you should have a grasp of the why (purpose), how (medium), and what (format) before you start producing. But while content is vital, you also need to understand how each piece of content connects to the pieces around it—called your sales funnel. Come back next week for an equally in-depth examination of sales funnels, how they work, and how they connect your various forms of content to your sales, branding, and market efforts.
How do you craft content you know will target the correct audience?