With the current emphasis on content, don’t confuse quantity with quality when it comes to producing material for website or blog. Content only wins followers and delivers credibility if readers feel –without a doubt – that it’s authentic, meaningful and aimed at giving them real value.
Part of this is telling the brand's story. Unless you are open and transparent about your businesses, the challenges you face and the times when things don’t go your way, how can you expect audiences to buy into the good stuff you post? Some major brands have learned really well how to tell their stories and keep their content authentic as a result.
Write for the Audience
Internet search giant Google, arguably one of the best-performing companies on the planet, owes its success in part to religiously following its list of Ten Things that constitute its core customer service values. The first item on the list is to “focus on the user and all else will follow,” a mantra that’s worth taking cognizance of in the quest to keep it real. Ask yourself who your ideal reader is. Write as if you are speaking directly to him or her. Make them feel as if they can talk to you and they’ll get a caring, responsive answer.
Skip the Sales Pitch
Nobody wants to be sold to all the time. In fact, most people don’t want to be sold to, period. With new media in particular, users have the power to choose what they consume and what they tune out. If you don’t want your content tuned out, forget about trying to sell.
Popular online shoe retailer Zappos does a good job of this, particularly in its blog section where it discusses the features and benefits of the products and highlights favorites using familiar, street-style terminology.
The days of the royal “we” are pretty much over. This applies to businesses too, so instead of speaking to readers from a business viewpoint, be natural and show them the person behind the writing:
- Speak with your own voice.
- Don’t shy away from revealing personal information.
- Tell true stories that readers can relate to.
Be unique and remarkable, like the California Cheese and Pizza shop that uses commissioned art as its home page design to express its unusual vibe and products.
Personalize Your Offering
Don’t you love walking into a store and having the sales clerk remember your name and what you like, or what you bought last time you were there? Dutch airline KLM also manages to give passengers a great personal experience, with options like its recent Meet and Seat campaign. This allows any of its 64,000 daily travelers to check out travel companions online before choosing their seats, and suggests potential seat neighbors based on matching criteria such as their Facebook ‘likes’.
Make your offering as personal for your customer as possible, and match each piece of content to your market’s viewpoint.
Tell your Story
Transparency is very attractive. It shouts “authentic and genuine” from the rooftops, and a company that appears to have nothing to hide is far more likely to gain the trust of customers than one who keeps behind-the-scenes activities on the down-low.
- Tell your stories regularly.
- Remember that if you don’t claim your position in cyberspace, Google will do it for you.
- Share your successes and your failures, using video, audio, guest blogs and quotes from real customers instead of constructed testimonials.
Back in 2009, for example, AT&T had a massive service outage in the San Francisco Bay area and Silicon Valley, caused by a fiber cut. By keeping its customers informed even when there were no updates, AT&T increased its 2,400 followers to 20,000 and boosted its reputation as a transparent service provider.
Make it Purposeful
Meaningful information adds to the value of your brand strategy by building your company’s reputation in your industry. Develop authentic content by identifying the broad point of view you want to put across, and keep individual pieces consistent with the theme.
Make sure your material is meaty and deep and reflects all the best characteristics of your brand and focus on catering to the needs of your reader, rather than driving traffic or delivering keyword-rich copy. American Express’s OpenForum is a great example of authentic, valuable content aimed at helping the user in meaningful ways that appear completely devoid of marketing angles.
Engage the Reader
“Focus on the user and everything else will follow.” Producing authentic content and staying true to your brand’s personality will help to engage readers on a personal level. It encourages them to share your information, and helps them to trust you and believe when you say you have their best interests at heart. Keeping it real builds a genuine relationship between your company and your customers, which will pay dividends in customer loyalty and long-term sales.