12 most worthwhile rules for creating incredible content

Everyone talks about how important it is to create good content. Here are some tips that can actually help you do so.

We all take in massive amounts of content on a daily basis. Even if you’re not a technology junkie and believe in putting away your smartphone during movies and meals, you can’t avoid it.

Companies with something to promote produce most of that content. I’m sure you’ve noticed that some of this content is helpful, entertaining, enlightening and thought-provoking. But some of it is downright awful.

If you produce content to market your business, this list of 12 rules for creating incredible content will help you maintain a permanent residence in the first group and effectively avoid the latter:

1. Cater to your prospects-not your peers.

It’s an easy trap to fall into: creating content we think will be impressive in our industry. We like to talk about the latest techniques, most advanced technologies and most impressive approaches.

But you need to ask yourself: Does the content I produce attract prospects or simply impress other people in my line of work?

Chances are the type of information your prospects want is entirely different from the type of content your colleagues will compliment you on.

2. Learn that everything is content.

It’s a big mistake to think too narrowly about content. Yes, blog posts, videos, podcasts, webinars and infographics are popular forms of content, but content covers a far broader scope.

Tweets, Facebook comments, emails, business cards, product packaging, your website and your voicemail are all forms of content. Every interaction your audience has with something your business produces is content.

3. Write great headlines.

Headlines are arguably the most important part of any piece of content. Almost everyone will decide whether to read your blog post, watch your video or listen to your podcast based on the headline. That’s a lot of responsibility, and a good reason to learn how to craft stellar headlines-fast.

4. Have an opinion.

Content that tries to appeal to everyone all the time is boring. Take my word for it.

If you think creating vanilla content will help you avoid offending anyone, you’re wrong. You might not challenge anyone’s opinions, but you will offend anyone who values her time and despises being bored to death by content with no clear direction.

Of course there is a need for unbiased content (e.g. news reporting), but if you’re trying to build a brand and distinguish your business, you might want to leave the balanced-view pieces to someone else.

So, go ahead. Let the world in on your opinions. You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) say anything rude or obnoxious-just add a little substance. Take a stand.

5. Learn the art of the introduction.

After the headline, introductions take on the most responsibility for convincing readers to stick with your content. Your introduction needs to immediately capture attention, create curiosity and reveal just enough information to assure the reader that the piece is relevant and worthwhile to him personally.

6. Banish buzzwords.

Nothing says cheesy and unoriginal like content laden with buzzwords, catchphrases and clichés. Contrary to popular belief, using industry-speak and tired phrases doesn’t make you sound like you know what you’re doing.

To connect with your audience—most likely people who don’t know a lot about the type of work you do—say things plainly. Try to phrase things in a new way—your way.

7. Tell stories.

Stories are powerful. They make it easy for others to grasp your message, are easy to follow and just plain entertaining (when done right, of course). If you’ve been creating content with a strict “how-to” format, consider mixing it up and throwing in a compelling story every now and then. (Hint: Personal stories are OK sometimes. Yes, even in business.)

8. Get people to engage.

Online content is not a one-way medium. At least, not if you want it to effectively grow your business. A primary goal of creating content for your company is to build relationships so your audience will grow to know, like and trust you. Have you ever built a good relationship without including the other person?

Aim to involve your audience. Feature stories from your readers, ask people to send in questions for you to answer, ask people to answer your questions, and invite opinions, ideas and conversations from your audience.

9. Aim to impress.

The truth is other people have already covered the basics many, many times. If you want to create content that really gets attention, aim to impress. It’s OK if it takes longer to create the content. Research your topic, reference sources, show examples and back up your claims. Go the extra distance and be helpful. It will pay off big time.

10. Learn how to edit.

It’s OK if you’re not a grammar enthusiast; we all make typos. But really sloppy content will take your business down a few of notches in your prospects’ eyes. Make an effort to polish up your content.

Leave something overnight (or at least a few hours) before you edit and publish. If you’re not confident you’ll catch your own mistakes, have a friend, business partner, employee or family member look it over.

11. Don’t forget that you run a business.

Over-promotion is a real turn-off, but most business owners don’t have to worry about that. In fact, most of us are guilty of under-promoting. While you’re busy creating content your audience will love and find incredibly useful, don’t forget why you’re marketing with content in the first place-to get customers.

You won’t snag any customers if they don’t know you sell things. Make it a point to include information on what you have to offer when the time is appropriate.

12. Be yourself.

Like we already established, there is a bottomless pit of content out there. Do you want the key to standing out? I’m confident you already know it, but a lot of us fail to use it to our advantage when it comes to marketing and creating content.

The key to being notable is letting your personality take a front seat.

Forget sounding like a big corporation. Throw traditional professionalism to the wind. Kick stale, structured tones out the door. You know what makes your personality different from everyone else’s, as do your friends and family. Stop trying to sound like a business, and start sounding like you.

Putting hard work into creating content for your business is only worth it if it helps you build an audience and sell your stuff. There is surely more than one right way to create incredible content, but there is also a wrong way to do it.

What mistakes have you found detrimental?

Sonja Jobson is a copywriter, content marketer and blogger who helps make small businesses incredible on the Internet. This article is republished with permission, courtesy of 12 Most.

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