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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How Do I Create Content?

Wordle "How Do I" by C.B. Whittemore
How Do I?How Do I Create Content? is a question that comes up when I discuss online visibility and the importance of creating content to tell your story and connect with online visitors.

It further came up in an email exchange with Jeff Branch who writes I Like Carpet! Blog. Jeff noted that many organizations, including small businesses, don't know how to manage let alone create new and engaging content that connects with potential online customers.

You see it is critical for a business to have unique content online. Especially if that business is serious about being found online by potential customers. And then, once found, if you want to be perceived as trustworthy and customer-focused, committed to connecting with those potential customers.

The best way to do that is through content that tells your unique story -- not too different from what your store experience should communicate and what your brand should embody. Right?

So, how to do that?

Let's start with your website. Most important of all, make sure your content is yours and yours alone. Even if you are discussing basic information about product, make sure it's YOUR content written in your own words. Especially if you are an independently owned business, and even if you are affiliated with a national buying group.

People want to buy from people. So offer them content written by people with specific people in mind. It's more believable; it's simpler and it alleviates frustration.

Although I consider a website more formal than a blog, it should still communicate your story. Information about who you are, how you got started in the business, what makes you special, and nitty gritty details about your business [i.e., hours of operation, address, phone numbers...].

On a website, I want to know something about your corporate history. I want to see pictures of the principals. I also want to see signs of life - that your website is up-to-date and that you are adding new and relevant information. Include press releases; they indicate that you're up to something in the marketplace and that you're excited about what you're doing.

Next, your blog.

Your blog shows a more casual and personable side of your brand. It's where your story comes alive on an ongoing and frequent basis via marvelous relevant content. Content that should include the perspectives of your employees, maybe your suppliers, procedures designed to protect customers, new product arrivals, local community events you're involved in, customer success stories,...

And, although you may from time to time mention promotions and sales, your content should not limit itself to that kind of hard sell that is considered the equivalent of shouting at people -- and will be ignored.

Your goal is to share stories that engage with readers, that are relevant, that have meaning...

For example, the Carpet and Rug Institute Blog shares the history of the CRI, celebrates carpet cleaning success stories, and debunks myths. All stories relevant to carpet customers wanting to know more about the CRI and how carpet "benefits life, health, learning and the environment."

My personal blog, The Smoke Rise & Kinnelon Blog, details local hikes and articles written in the late 1980s about local history, highlights local happenings and welcomes guest contributions. All stories relevant to those living in the immediate geographic area and with a connection to it.

Two very different but rich content examples, with unique stories that engage a visitor to whom the information is relevant and who may want to have a conversation about it. Although the majority of The Smoke Rise & Kinnelon Blog subscribers reside in the immediate Kinnelon, NJ area, some live as far as California and North Carolina. The content matters to them; many have left comments or sent emails.

These content principles - unique, fresh and consistent content that tells a story relevant to your readers and doesn't shout - holds for other digital communication tools like Twitter or Facebook. Fresh, relevant content sets the stage for building a relationship with visitors.

You may think that you couldn't possibly come up with enough fresh content. You would be surprised! I consider it a matter of loosening up my thinking, shaking off my blinders and intensely considering whom I want to connect with. If it's people who share my passion for an area or a subject, then what comes to mind? Can I involve others who think similarly? If not to develop content with me then to help validate ideas and offer perspectives.

Content is powerful.

Think of it as a means of building your personal or business brand, of helping you stand out. It tells and reinforces your story. It explains why you exist, what you believe strongly in, how you create value. It enables you to connect with potential customers.

What do you think? Do you believe as strongly in creating content as I do?

[Note: the CRI is my client.]

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