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 spoiler alert: engaging content is not about eyes

You don’t want eyes on your content.

That might sound a little crazy but, think about it. Someone is scrolling through their newsfeed and they “see” your content marketing…their thumb then carries them further down the page.

Because what you really want is their ATTENTION, particularly from your target audience who are only at the awareness stage. And to do that, you’re content can’t be the run-of-the-mill same old stuff that’s regurgitated on a plethora of web pages and social media profiles – that won’t do anything for your inbound marketing. 

Instead, regardless of the type of content, it has to be ENGAGING content. That doesn’t mean it has to be screaming for attention like that person at a party who makes every damn conversation about them. 

Instead, you want to build brand awareness and generate leads with content that is genuinely interesting. That could mean funny, helpful, informative, thought-provoking, entertaining or a mix of those things. However, in order to optimise your digital marketing, the one thing it MUST be is of benefit your reader.

How do you achieve that? With these seven tried-and-tested tricks of the trade.

1. In the beginning

Your opening few words have to demand your audience’s attention like a screaming toddler hanging off your leg in the middle of a library.

Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but that opening sentence has only one job – to make them read on. 

Now, if you focus on this when you first sit down and starting writing, you’ll tie yourself up in knots and end the day still staring at a blank screen. Instead, write without any care for how it starts and when you’ve finished get crafting.

Usually, you’ll find a brilliant sentence hidden in your further musings and can move that to the beginning. But to help you a little more, I used my social media analytics to discover my posts with the most engagement and created a list of seven engaging openings you can use. You can access them in my FREE library of resources, The Word Hub (one sign up allows you to feast on all the things!).

2. Get Intimate

Yes, I’m going to say it. You HAVE to know your ideal client. Intimately. When you sit down to write, don’t talk to a whole room full of bods. Instead, think of it as an intimate conversation with a best friend. This makes the BIGGEST difference to whether you produce engaging content or not, regardless of whether it’s long form content or a quick question on a social media platform.

You can moan about the pointlessness of writing down details such as their hobbies, what they had for dinner and what got their blood boiling last night, all you like – your writing won’t hit home if you don’t know the home of your target market.

Ever read something when using social media and found yourself nodding along, “Yep…very true…YES, that’s EXACTLY it…wait…do they know me? They’ve written this for me, right? Are they watching me?!” 

They got your attention, right?

As human beings, we want to feel understood on a deeper level. It’s the small details that get us:

The way someone understands the fear of pressing “post” on social media in case someone is nasty to you, for you only to discover that no one responds at all. 

The way that fear briefly turns to relief before crumbling into disappointment and the “I’m not good enough” radio show starts up again.

(If that does happens, just check Facebook hasn’t been their usual helpful selves and changed your privacy settings to “only me” – true story). 

Know thy ideal client. Not only do you need to be active online, your content also needs to include the small details about their life that will make them sit up and pay attention. Don’t just include them in your social media content. Use those details in your blog content, email marketing and all other forms of digital content. It WILL make a difference.

3. Reveal Their Secret

Okay, let’s not carried away – I’m not talking about turning on your mate Mandy and breaking her trust in you.

But we all have things that we don’t like to admit:

  • Secret thoughts about how we just want to shout, “you’re wrong” in someone’s face but instead bite our tongue
  • Things that are stressing us the hell out but won’t let on to anyone because we don’t want to lose face
  • That really important thing you definitely did a few weeks ago except really, you’ve procrastinated about it and keep forgetting to do it.

Sometimes we just keep quiet and feel we are the only one in the world that thinks or feels this way. 

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Saying what they’re too scared to say, makes them realise they’re not alone. Those hilarious videos of the Australian woman re-creating adverts that have made a whole bunch of women howl with laughter and relief? Yep…

“Thank god! I’m not the only one that looks like that and has some to spare around my waist.”

“Yes! It’s not just me who looks ridiculous in that!”

“I’m normal after all”.

Her content marketing strategy is spot on – she understands her audience and how they’re secretly thinking and feeling. She then demonstrates in video content that it’s the same for her, normalising how others feel.

Create pieces of content and social media posts that make your people feel normal – that there’s not something wrong with them – and you will have their attention long-term. It makes for great content and will help you to grow your business.

4. Hold off

Have you ever heard that too much of a good thing is bad for you? That you need to hold off giving them everything? The advice also holds true when writing engaging content for social media platforms and other marketing channels.

Seriously, though, imagine being at an awards ceremony with everyone waiting in anticipation to discover who the winners are. The drinks are flowing, the atmosphere is electric and…someone grabs a microphone and tells you all the winners, including who got the prize of the century.

You’re hardly going to pay attention to the award-by-award announcements throughout the rest of the evening.

The same is true with your writing. Reveal everything right away and they’ll take it and run – who cares about the rest of the words you’ve carefully crafted in your blog post and the marketing tactics you’ve planned. Notice how my subtitles for each of these tricks of the trade don’t give it away? 

Mmm, hmm. I don’t want you to come here, grab these 7 tips and run away faster than a gazelle being hunted by a lion. I want you to come in, get comfy, spend your time here and feel that you’re being entertained AND offered value by my digital content.

Plus I’m a bit of an educator (it’s the teacher in me). I want you to REALLY get it and a subtitle isn’t going to give you that.

When writing content for your internet marketing, you want to create what is sometimes called “open loops”. Get your reader asking questions that you don’t answer until the end. 

Think of it in terms of a film trailer or the cliffhanger of Eastenders “duff duff” lines – they get you wondering whether goodwill prevails, if the hero will survive that explosion, whether the couple will ever live happily ever after.

Holding off on the answer keeps you watching. Apply the same principle to the content you create and watch those new leads coming in.

5. Tell a story

Storytelling is super powerful. In a nutshell, it allows us to connect as human beings. Now, this is a topic that I geek out about, so if you want all the details of exactly how stories work with our brains check out The Real Story About Stories blog post here.

The short version? Stories allow us to FEEL things – we place ourselves in the story and our brains release the stress and happy hormones just as if we were really present. Ever felt your heart beating when the hero is being chased by an enemy? Bawled your eyes out when Dobby died? Felt that warm fuzziness when Donna and Harvey finally got together?

Stories engage us – we get involved in the plot and want to know the outcome. Telling stories in all your types of content can do the same. It can engage your audience AND help you to sell because if you didn’t know already, it’s emotions that sell. Try it next time you’re blogging.

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6. Kill your darlings

As a marketer, the biggest problem I see with content that loses attention is that it tries to cover too much. A side note becomes an entirely new section and should, in fact, be a piece of content all of its own. 

Faulkner was right – however much time, energy and heart you’ve poured into that piece of writing, you need to take a knife to your content creation. Cut out the superfluous and the digressions. Painful? Yes, but also worth it. 

When writing, I always have the purpose for that piece in mind or written at the top. That goes for social media posts as much as it does a blog or thought leadership articles. Anything that doesn’t serve that purpose gets cut away. 

 It’s also worth asking yourself “how can I express this more succinctly?” A general rule of thumb is to try and cut a third of what you’ve written. It doesn’t matter if the thought of that fills you with horror – what matters is that target audiences are engaged and consume all of your online content, so that you can raise your online presence.

7. Give them what they want

Common sense, right? Except, many businesses ASSUME they know what people want – in honesty, that just tends to fit more with what they want to do. It’s human nature so no one is to blame. However, content generation should be focused on your customer’s journey.

If you want to achieve lead generation and new customers from your engaging content, you need to do some work around what people actually want to consume. There are plenty of ways that you can do this and there are some really handy tools to help. You can:

  • Ask your existing audience, such as your email list, what they would like
  • Search for keywords on a site such as Ubersuggest
  • Look at what’s already popular on sites such as BuzzSumo or Ubersuggest
  • Use Google – start searching a keyword and look at the predictions of what you’re going to type – they’re popular searches.

There are no shortcuts to producing engaging content even for marketers! If you want to have great content, you’re going to have to put in time to your marketing efforts to achieve your business goals. However, there are things that can make it quicker such as a content plan and calendar such as this one, and free resources such as my recommended engaging openings. Just join The Word Hub to get access to this freebie and more. Once you’ve written your engaging posts, make sure you share your content everywhere – let me know how you get on!

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