New Ways Of Displaying Content: How To Think Beyond A Vanilla Blog
“Your company needs to be blogging” was the prevailing advice starting around 2006.” Then, the wisdom became “you need to be on (insert social media site name here).” Now that most companies are producing content and leveraging social media, what’s next?
The next step may just be rethinking content from the perspective of the end user. Many Fortune 500 brand publishers are hiring away journalists and media personalities to help augment the content they are already producing. Does that mean that there are some changes even small and medium-sized companies could be making? Definitely, and in many cases at low cost to the publisher
Rethinking the Blog
Putting words up on a page is no longer enough to capture readers who aren’t already looking for your content. There has been a shift in the wake of the social web to make posts more sharable, and also more visually interesting. Most sites also have widgets that show related content to keep viewers on the site and consuming more content. The more time a reader spends with your branded content, the more likely he or she is to prefer your brand and purchase.
Some savvy brands are looking past this to how they can better facilitate the immediate needs of the reader, who may be information- and time-poor.
Hootsuite, a social media service, has an estimate at the top of each blog post indicating how long an article will take to complete. It’s even sensitive enough to estimate factoring in your scroll time, so you have a fairly accurate estimate. This helps the end user know whether to read an article immediately, or save that content for later. WordPress plugins exist to add this to blogs.
Other sites, like Buzzfeed, understand that readers like to take notes or share pieces of content that they enjoy or find important, so each paragraph in a Buzzfeed article is sharable individually. This can help the end reader assemble overview documents or presentations using accurate source material.
Other blogs are looking to the overwhelming success of video on the web and providing video versions of posts for people who are short on time, but need the “executive overview” of a given piece. Since video is shared more often in places like Facebook instead of Twitter, this is a great way to test whether your written or video content performs best on different social channels.
What if Your Blog Isn’t a Blog?
An even more cutting-edge way to serve unique, on-brand content to audiences is by focusing on channels you can play with. Take GE’s Vine channel as an example: nearly 110 000 people follow GE to see seven-second snippets of amazing scientific work the company is pursuing. Every week, GE is serving these stories without longform, and without owning their channel. End users can dip in, get inspired, and get out.
IBM’s Smarter Planet Initiative has a Tumblr blog, which rarely posts original content. This blog is a curated selection of cutting-edge science reporting that fits with IBM’s Smarter Planet mandate. Commentary is added, but not on every post. This allows end users to get a great overview of the stories in this vertical market they are “supposed to know” and then get on with their day.
Vice, Buzzfeed, Comedy Central, and more brand publishers have successfully set up digital editions of their offerings on Snapchat to deliver content hits to an audience with a short attention span that is constantly in need of keeping up with the Zeitgeist.
The Takeaway: Your Content is Not Your Child
It’s very easy to get married to ideas about projects and look at your company’s blog and think that once it’s live, it’s going to suit all reader’s needs. It’s foolish to not review your blog structure and content mix often, though. Just like you look up the ads of your major competitors, you should be looking closely at what other companies, not necessarily in your vertical, are doing with content, whether in their content mix, or their method of dealing with their content.
It’s important to look for ways to serve the end user better as an overall strategy for your business, but your major content tools should be no exception.
Content might be evergreen, but the way you present that content cannot be static. The best content-producing brands know their audience and think about their end use and user experience regularly, and look for ways to feed those needs. You shouldn’t look at your blog as a television station. You should look at it as a hotel that is responsible for its guests from check in to check out, and look for ways to make them think they never want to leave.
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