A couple months ago, I wrote a post about how to create highly “sharable” content. I get a lot of questions about this from employees, clients, and readers alike and the truth is that not all content will get a lot of shares. Some of the things you write will just sit there and no matter how much you push, they won’t catch on.
Now throw in the wrench of your subject matter not being particularly exciting and the challenge doubles. How do you create content about a technical or “boring” topic that people will want to share?
In truth, the core concepts are all the same. People like lists. They respond to appealing visuals and infographics. They search using hashtags and share content when it’s easy to pull tidbits and quotes out of the mass. But even with all the tricks at your disposal, less than 20% of your blog posts will likely make up more than 80% of your shares and subsequently your traffic.
Here’s how to glean better insights into that content and what people are actually looking for.
Debunking the “Boring Content” Myth
There’s no such thing as boring. No matter what industry you are in, there are people out there who need the information you have. I have worked in a highly technical field with clients whose target prospects need answers for years.
One of the first things I often hear from a new client (and this is after multiple calls with the sales team) is “no one is going to read this” or “who would share something like this on Twitter”. When you work in a field that others find technical or confusing, you often see it as “boring”.
But here’s the key. If you have customers, they need something. Whatever you sell, someone needs it. And when someone needs something, there is a knowledge gap.
Here’s the best part – no one cares about all the BuzzFeed-style tricks you throw at them. Yes, those will get eyeballs, but the real value in your content comes from your understanding of their key problems.
If you know what stresses out your target readers and what problems they wish someone would help them solve, your content will become an instant hit. Here’s how to do that.
Step 1 – Identify the Core Problems and Questions of Your Target Prospects
This could be a book in its own right, but let’s boil it down to the essentials. In a nutshell, your audience has problems. Very specific problems they need resolved.
Good content requires us to identify what those problems are, how they are articulated, and what we can provide to solve the problem. Don’t solve the problem you think your readers have – ask them what they really need.
Better yet, if you are in the industry, look to the most common questions you get from prospects and customers. If you’re not sure, talk to your sales team – they should be able to provide a detailed run through of what these questions look like.
Step 2 – Research Competitor Sites to See What Already Exists
Select 3-5 competitors in the space that actively write on similar topics. Avoid competitors without content campaigns in place because their content will be random at best and likely non-existent.
Look for industry blogs, white papers, eBooks, and social posts from competitors. What common threads are they talking about? Are any resonating better than others? You’d be surprised at the kinds of content that attract attention, even in fields that are typically rather dry.
Step 3 – Search BuzzSumo and Twitter for Top Performing Content in This Category
Take a step beyond your competitors with BuzzSumo and Twitter search. BuzzSumo in particular will show you a detailed breakdown of the top shared articles for any keyword or search phrase you enter. For some fields, these numbers won’t be very high, but that’s okay – we’re just looking for content that catches a little. Our goal is to write something bigger and better.
If you can find something in the 15+ range of shares, you know there’s a good audience there – this is the point at which most marketing teams can’t inflate the numbers any further. More likely, you’ll find articles with hundreds or even thousands of shares, however.
Step 4 – Outline and Create Targeted Content that Solves ONE Problem from Your List
With the data you collected in steps 1-3, outline content pieces that solve problems, one at a time. Avoid comprehensive guides, detailed breakdowns, or long books or posts. There are some niches in which “101 level” content can succeed, but in most “boring industry” settings, you want to keep things as problem-solution oriented as possible.
A typical eBook in this setting will be 5-15 pages and should focus on providing ONE takeaway for readers. Blog content and social content should focus on the secondary and tertiary benefits of that takeaway. The cool thing about this strategy is that it now means you have a lot of possible content topics to focus on.
Step 5 – Optimize Content and Prepare to Publish
Tweak your content to make it as attractive as possible. Focus on improvements to headlines, update the format of the content into a list or bullets to make it more readable, use sharp, descriptive H2s for people who skim content, and add plenty of media for a more visual experience.
The general rules of sharability are the same regardless of the niche in which you are writing – the key is to capture attention, hold it, and encourage people to share that one nugget of wisdom you just gave them with as many people as possible.
Step 6 – Promote Your Content on the Platforms Your Audience Uses
Blanket promotion is a waste of time in targeted industries. Your audience is likely spending their time in a handful of places so that’s where you want to promote your content. There are the obvious players:
Of which you may find you only need to focus on one or two at a time. Then there are the more industry-specific spaces where you can focus more directly. For example, when my agency was focusing on the pest control niche for some time, we wrote a guest post for PCT Online – a dedicated online magazine for pest control professionals. That article generated a dozen highly qualified warm leads because the audience was more targeted.
Find similar outlets for your content to ensure it reaches the people for whom it was intended.
Step 7 – Check Results, Adjust and Do It Again
Finally, take stock of your efforts, see how you performed compared to those competitors and the top performers in BuzzSumo, adjust your efforts and try again. The best part about content marketing is that you’re always releasing new content. If something doesn’t work one week, review the data, tweak your approach, and try again the next week.
If you do all of these things from start to finish, you’ll have a clearly outlined, concise, and well executed content plan that speaks directly to your target audience. More importantly, that targeting will ensure people want to share it with others in their field. Suddenly, those 20, 30, and 40 share posts don’t seem so unattainable.