When it comes to doing business on the Internet, nothing brings in new leads and generates buzz about your business like content. But for busy business owners, generating content regularly can be a hardship, especially if you don't know what to write about. So I asked some content-generation experts offer their advice on producing content for your business:
Reusing Content Done Right
One of the first things new content producers do is find an article online that resonates with them, take the main ideas from it, and rewrite it in their own words.
James Chartrand, founder/owner of Men with Pens, an award-winning copywriting firm and blog, believes reusing content in this way won't do your business any favors. "It's clearly been established that reusing content just to fill your blog doesn't work. Just recycling the same old content and using the same old approach as everyone else in your niche means you're going to fade into the background."
Instead, Chartrand suggests making a list of the advice and stories you tell over and over again. "You enjoy reusing these stories because they exemplify what's important to you." Think about the overarching theme or philosophy that links these stories together. Use the content you've found as examples to demonstrate this philosophy—instead of just rehashing what's already been said, you're showing how an idea or concept has been used successfully in many different ways.
Problogger founder Darren Rowse says that honesty is the most important part of any content generation strategy.
"Honesty in the things you say gives readers ultimate value. No matter what you're talking about, your perspective and experience are unique, so complete honesty is a guaranteed way to present something brand-new to your readers."
Rowse believes honesty builds credibility. And the more credible you are, the more people trust you and feel it is worthwhile posting on your site or sharing your content.
Gregory Ciotti of Sparring Mind suggests that business owners who wonder why their content isn't gaining attention should pay more attention to their headlines. "One of my favorite headline styles is the 'finality'-style headline. These are headlines that consist of phrases like "The Ultimate Guide" or "The Only Guide You'll Ever Need." The idea that they might be able to get everything they need from only your post is one of the most powerful forms of enticement in getting readers to click on your content."
Ciotti stresses that no matter how good your headline is, if your content doesn't deliver on your promise, your readers will soon move on.
Leave a Lasting Impression
Ali Luke, a successful freelance blogger and writing coach, advises content generators not to ignore the last paragraph of blog posts or articles. The ending is the last thing a reader will see before they move on to another activity, and it's often the part that sticks in their head. "Many blog posts are full of excellent advice, but how often does that advice actually get put into practice?"
Luke suggests making the last line of your post a "call to action" that encourages readers to comment, share the content with their network, read another article, check out a particular product, or sign up for a newsletter.
Set Aside Time for Content Generation
Write Now Indy copywriter Chris Vanasdalan advises business owners to set aside one day a week for content generation. Vanasdalan thinks the first part of your content generation day should be spent on research.
"Gather useful info to share with your customers. Bookmark webpages that cover topics related to your industry. Link to the latest news to keep your buyers informed and up to speed on the latest trends."
You can use these bookmarks as soundboards to content ideas, or tweet them to your followers throughout the week.
Look for Inspiration Within Communities
The most successful content creators are those who understand the need and information gaps of their customers and peers. Being actively involved in the multiple group discussions online (either through LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, or on the Q&A sites like Quora) helps top content contributors identify and bridge the content gaps that haven’t been addressed before in their industry or area of expertise, thus creating higher buzz and discussions around those topics. Those experts also often contribute their knowledge within those communities to help address some of the real-time questions and concerns. They establish and grow their credibility in the community through adding real value.
Producing engaging content is much more than just putting words on paper, as these experts clearly understand. There's an art to great content, and like any artist, you have to learn how to master your palette before you can paint like Van Gogh.
The more you practice writing compelling headings, closing with a "call to action," telling stories from the heart, and connecting your content with a theme or philosophy, the more rewards you'll see as people respond to your ideas and share with their friends. And always remember to add value as you engage with your communities.
[Image: Flickr user Tom Ellefsen]