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How to create engaging content for websites and social media

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Abridged version of the presentation I gave at content management world May 2012. …

Abridged version of the presentation I gave at content management world May 2012.

The slides are very bare, but the majority of the text of my presentation is in the notes.

Published in: Education, Business, Technology

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  • http://blog.jackcheng.com/post/21766806436/how-to-build-an-owl?c25c1420Reading a poem on someone’s blog jumped straight to my attention. It was different, it was an evocative image, and it conjured a sense of hope and creation. It’s pretty clear that for me, this was a piece of engaging web content. Sure enough, it’s done the rounds on tumblr a little – around 70 people felt compelled to share it.---Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/rayand/2771089699/sizes/l/in/photostream/
  • Engaging is an overused word.It has a lot of meanings.  Involve yourself in what’s being saidGoing into battleAn appointmentStarting a new jobThe stage of a relationship between dating and marriageBooking someone for a partyConnecting two things together Marketers – especially in social media – use the word in many imprecise ways.For this session let’s say by “engaging” we mean content that people love – content that people can’t help but share with the ones around them.---Source:visualthesaurus.com
  • Let’s go even further. Let me suggest to you that the most engaging content of all is the content that people come back to.  I’ve been reading the blog kottke.org for most of the 14 years it’s been running. I keep coming back to it again and again for links. One of the recent links was an iPhone app – a “tap essay” called “fish” written by Robin Sloan. A tap essay is an emerging form of content. Instead of watching a powerpoint deck, you download the app, and tap to move ever forward through a series of screens. It’s a remarkable form of communication. To help track how effective it is, the end of the essay contains a password that can be entered on Sloan’s website for additional information. This essay talks about the difference between content that people “like”, and content that people “love”. The content you love is – like kottke – the place, the piece that you come back to again and again over time. Truly engaging content is something you can’t help but revisit. So much of what we see on the Internet exists for the quick buzz, never to be revisited. Only a tiny percentage will be re-watched.Most of the content we create isn’t engaging. We’re creating “adequate” content. But that’s not good enough. So how do you create the kind of content that your audience will go back to?---Source:http://www.robinsloan.com/fish/
  • First, you need to work out: “who is your audience?” Who are they?What do they care about?What do they want from you? It’s not enough to write for the person you’re trying to reach.You want to write for the person sitting next to them. You want your content to be so compelling to them they can’t help but talk about it to the people around them. When was the last time you read something you had to share?When was the last time you read something on the Internet that you loved?When was the last time you created something you were happy with?How can you create content people love? Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/beija/5082213817/sizes/l/in/photostream/
  • Somehow, when we move from an offline experience we enjoy to the online space, something is lost. Is anyone familiar with* the rushed status update* the press release someone asked us to “promote to social channels”* that piece of content on the web we’re not quite happy with* the badly implemented webpage that makes it hard to read, hard to share, hard to love.What are you doing to create content now? Does any of this sound familiar? * Someone else in your organisation tells you an event is on, the day that it’s on* You have a limited (very limited) time to organize someone to cover the event* You don’t have the resources to document it adequately* Worse: you find out the event was on after it happened, and it’s no longer possible to create any multimedia content to go with it* Perhaps video or other content has been created, but it’s incredibly dull or too long, and isn’t suitable for social media (or the web). If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to salvage a few events, to create a little bit of content here and there that’s of a reasonable quality.BUTIf you want to improve the quality of the content you’re generating, you need to build content creation into the way you do business.Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/44124426342@N01/3154531761/----- Meeting Notes (30/04/12 21:19) -----remove "that"tidy up "badly implemented" - too hard to say.
  • Are you running an event? In the planning phase, create a checklist, and make sure that social media content is included. For example, “book a photographer”.If you can’t have someone turn around the images in 24 hours, then you need to find a photographer who can.It’s possible to gain long-term popularity with content that’s timeless, but if you want to spread the word about an event, you’ll have much more success if the content is timely.Short on budget? Take some photography courses (online, even) and get the photos done yourself.Planning on using twitter? Choose a hashtag that’s short, linked to your brand, and put it on all your promotional material. Have the MC announce the hashtag and explain any other twitter integration you have in place.Be prepared to use a service like storify to collect the tweets and assemble them into a piece of content you can use. Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamescridland/613445810/sizes/l/in/photostream/
  • Make a content calendar: have a plan 3-6 months out for what you’re going to do in each social media channel.Creating content can be hard work, but brainstorming for content doesn’t need to be a part of it every day.If you want to create a narrative arc between your different posts, it’s much more likely to happen when you’re planning months in advance.Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/joelanman/367425390/sizes/l/in/photostream/
  • You can’t get all this done by yourself.The best thing you can do is form a group within your organisation (or your organisation and its fans) to make content creation easier.At UTS we have a lot of different stakeholders around the university who are creating content on facebook for a range of audiences. Once a month, we get together in a working group to talk about the latest developments on the facebook site, and how we’re addressing the challenges that arise in our different contexts. If you can run a group like that, you’ll find a growing enthusiasm in your organization for better content – and you’ll see additional knowledge sharing across the organization. http://www.flickr.com/photos/bobjagendorf/6643118827/sizes/l/in/photostream/----- Meeting Notes (30/04/12 21:19) -----
  • When you decide whether you should post content or not, you need to ask yourself “is there an exchange of value here”?  Sometimes, the best thing you can do to create engaging content is to say nothing, and keep the relationship capital for the next time you have something valuable to say. Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/lord-jim/5314828231/sizes/l/in/photostream/
  • The key characteristic of engaging content is that it’s shared. If we want to make engaging content, we need to understand what makes people share content. Academics Jonah Berger and Katy Milkman from the University of Pennsylvania wrote a paper on the subject of why content went viral.They looked at some 7000 articles on the New York Times website, found by checking the list of most emailed articles, every 15 minutes for three months in 2008.When you balance out all the other variables, the best indicators that an article will be shared are:[1] The “valence” of the content. Valence is whether it’s positive or negative: - content that has evokes some kind of emotional response is more likely to be shared. Content that evokes a positive response is more likely to be shared than content which evokes a negative response.[2] The emotional response generated by the article (whether someone is stirred to action, or pacified)*[3] The mood of the reader when they encounter the content (someone who is already in a state of amusement is more likely to share than someone who is bored) Making sure your writing reaches the emotions and prompts a response is the most important technique you can bring to ensuring that your content is shared.In the case study of Caine’s Arcade we have a 10-minute video about a young boy who built a video game arcade (of sorts) out of cardboard boxes, and how social media gave him his best day ever.The video is great at generating emotion, reminiscence of childhood adventures, and at the end of the video you’re left with a strong desire to share the emotional response, and hence the video with other people.http://cainesarcade.com/Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/missrogue/107787363/sizes/l/in/photostream/http://marketing.wharton.upenn.edu/documents/research/Virality.pdf]
  • Now it’s time to ask: Is sharing the piece of content enough, or do you have another call to action that you’re hoping for? What’s your strategy for this piece of content? Perhaps you would like a newsletter sign up so you can add the reader into your sales funnel.  There’s a temptation at this point to follow what are called “dark patterns” – setting up the web pages in such a way that a user will unwittingly sign up for the thing you want them to. It’s important to resist the temptation to trap users into any path.Achieving your short-term goals at the expense of a long-term relationship is a losing proposition.Once your website starts to feel sleazy, the effects will be felt in everything you do. You can organize the most engaging content you like, and it won’t have the same boost in effectiveness that you would achieve by giving the user the best experience you can. Websites and social media have different constraints. Social media sites have a narrow range of freedom in how you can create your content. When you have your own website you have a lot of freedom. On your website you can change the way people share content. Do you want to add a button for sharing? You can do that.  Everyone has different stats about how sharing takes place online. Companies that send e-newsletters tell you that most sharing takes place over email. Companies that sell share-buttons on websites will encourage you in the effectiveness of share-buttons on websites.The only way to know what will work for your particular audience is to measure.Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/badjonni/805970303/sizes/l/in/photostream/
  • Measure everything My best advice for you in this area would be to test everything. Work out what you want the user to do.Break this up into smaller steps.Determine the different drop-off points through these steps. Set up your analytics program so that you can see how many people make it to each step in your process.This will give you a baseline of data on how many people make it all the way through your process, and where they drop off. This means that as you make changes to your site, you have a baseline to measure from. Make changes to the way you present your site: when to add or modify content.Time of DayDay of WeekTone of voicePhotographic styleSee what difference it makes to click-through, comments, likes, sharesThinking about how your content will be consumedWhereWhenHowWhat do you need to change so that your user can be in the best possible place to consume your content and fall in love with it?Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/hhoyer/3547646707/sizes/l/in/photostream/
  • Summary: Look at your fish. In the late 1850’s, an entomology student named Samuel H. Scudder had his first encounter with noted zoologist… Professor Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz. Agassiz made his young student stay in a laboratory looking closely at a single fish, until he had noticed everything that he could about it. Scudder thought he had seen everything in the first 10 minutes, then after an hour he began to realize there was more to see.He recalls [Agassiz] listened attentively to my brief rehearsal of the structure of parts whose names were still unknown to me… when I had finished, he waited as if expecting more, and then, with an air of disappointment: "You have not looked very carefully; why," he continued, more earnestly, "you haven't even see one of the most conspicuous features of the animal, which is as plainly before your eyes as the fish itself; look again, look again!" and he left me to my misery.I was piqued; I was mortified. Still more of that wretched fish! But now I set myself to my task with a will, and discovered one new thing after another, until I saw how just the professor's criticism had been. The afternoon passed quickly, and when, towards its close, the professor inquired:"Do you see it yet?""No," I replied, "I am certain I do not, but I see how little I saw before."The next day, [Scudder] returned to the fish.I ventured to ask what I should do next."Oh, look at your fish!" he said, and left me again to my own devices. In a little more than an hour he returned and heard my new catalogue."That is good, that is good!" he repeated; "but that is not all; go on"; and so for three long days he placed that fish before my eyes; forbidding me to look at anything else, or to use any artificial aid. "Look, look, look," was his repeated injunction.This was the best entomological lesson I ever had--a lesson, whose influence has extended to the details of every subsequent study; a legacy the professor has left to me, as he has left it to many others, of inestimable value, which we could not buy, with which we cannot part.Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oldflints/3688839665/sizes/o/in/photostream/
  • Let’s create content so engaging, our audience will want to return to it again and again. Robin Sloan says “On the Internet today watching something twice is A RADICAL ACT” This is the kind of content we want to create. Make content that rewards close examination. Before you hit “publish” on that next piece of content, look closely, and see if there’s any improvement that can be made to make it more engaging.---Source:http://www.flickr.com/photos/49512158@N00/3263276345/
  • Thanks very much for your attention.Are there any questions?
  • Transcript

    • 1. How to create engaging content for websitesand social media – David Phillips
    • 2. How to Build an Owl(Kathleen Lynch)1. Decide you must.2. Develop deep respectfor feather, bone, claw.3. Place your trembling thumbwhere the heart will be:for one hundred hours watchso you will knowwhere to put the first feather.4. Stay awake forever.When the bird takes shapegently pry open its beakand whisper into it: mouse.5. Let it go.
    • 3. David Phillips - @cafedaveUniversity of Technology, Sydney - @UTSEngage