Using Data to Create Smarter Content

Maybe you have noticed: there is a lot of content online. You probably consume a lot of it throughout the day without giving much thought to the curators of that content and the data that drives its conception and dissemination. On a very basic level though, you know that there is content that engages, enlightens, and helps you and content that is simply part of the landscape.

You don’t have to think too critically about this, you just know it as a patron of the web. But what differentiates powerful, sharable content that challenges your perceptions, engages your curiosity, and makes you shed tears of cat gif joy?

Put another way, what kind of content breaks through the clutter and drowns out all of the white noise? Buzzfeed listicles are pretty good, Reddit is a giant, but what is really behind this influence? The viral curators are all using data to build and spread their content. It’s time for you to as well. Here’s how.

1. Inform Your Content

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So, the first thing we need get out of the way is the notion that the internet is random and the content the emerges in your Facebook and Twitter feed, or in a Google search is a product of some inexplicable wizardry, though you could be forgiven for seeing the increasingly complex algorithms these companies use to deliver the content as such.

The reality is that the content that stands out, performs, and is tailored to you does so as a result of thorough research into a number of variables.

Anyone familiar with digital marketing, PR, content creation, or even just trying to sell someone a product knows that the journey begins by knowing your audience. Newspapers do it; magazines do it; Netflix does it really well. You must too!

This can seem cursory, but it is actually really important. Facebook aggregates a lot of data to give you what you like to see and Google uses predictive search to deliver what it thinks you want.

Research and strong data fuel content development and distribution at every level. Using this information to create content that resonate with an audience is crucial, but first you have to know your audience.

Uncovering insights about how people use your site and how they engage with your content are fundamental to understanding your audience–users, customers, leads, whatever you want to call them. Once you have these insights you can leverage them to improve the entire experience–from design and usability to content that has measurable results.

2. Say Yes to Research

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It’s easy to hate on research. We all do. Let’s be honest, the very word has a tedious connotation. Thinking about how much time you’re going to spend searching for a topic, pouring through information, clicking through relevant links, and getting distracted by cat videos can encourage you to take shortcuts or avoid this process altogether. Don’t do this.

Researching your audience’s motivations, wants, and interests is going to make the actual writing or design process much easier, not to mention the sharing part. Creating informed content, after all, is what this web marketing thing is all about.

Committing to the research can be cumbersome at times, but it is what distinguishes great content marketing from the rest of the noise. Think of this as bolstering your content IQ.

When you’re looking at what kind of content generates interest, engagement, and sharing in your industry and where your audience spends their time, you are smartening up your content development from inception. This takes time and requires patience and analysis but will deliver results if you take charge of it.

3. Master Your Data

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After you have identified your audience and looked into some of what drives their web behaviors, it is time to dig a little deeper and use this data to produce content that does something–that something being entirely up to you.

A great place to begin is to look at some sources of popular content within your industry. Use BuzzSumo, Google Trends, FollowerWonk, and sites like Reddit to undercover what people share and where they spend their time. Sites like Quora are also great to gain insights on potentially interesting topics people are curious about.

If you really want to hack it out, you can utilize Facebook Ads Manager to uncover how many people ‘like’ a particular page. Sometimes just using the right tools and resources makes all the difference in preparing to create a great piece of content.

Taking control of the data you uncover is integral to developing smarter, more purposeful content that is truly meaningful to your audience. Mastering content starts with mastering the data that supports it.

4. Conversations that Convert

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If you’re running a business and have a website, you need content that is going to convert, or turn visitors into customers, or otherwise encourage them to take an action. This process involves having goals and taking steps to ensure your audience reaches them in the most efficient and enjoyable way possible.

One part of this is to get in on the conversation.

People always have questions and there are equal numbers of other people out there answering them. You should get in on this! There’s not a whole lot online that hasn’t been written about, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t offer your own perspective to your audience.

Remember that point about research and mastering data? Well, here’s your chance to charge into battle with all of your new insights. Quora, again, is a good Q&A resource, but take the conversation forward and find communities on Google+, Facebook, and elsewhere and contribute to the dialogue as much as possible.

The idea is to get to the point where you start be become an influencer and resource to others. This exact process will vary by industry, and B2B is going to differ slightly from B2C, but the philosophy is the same.

5. Achieving Greatness

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Well, we’ve come to the heart of what content development is all about. Most people creating content aspire to make it great; few really achieve this.

Great doesn’t have to mean 5 million views, though that is pretty awesome; it can also mean getting an amazing piece of content in front of the right people and offering something that genuinely helps them. Do this and impact will come.

Gathering all of this data and processing it into a great piece of content may seem like a lot of work for something as seemingly ephemeral as an infographic or blog post, but you have to trust that quality work will bring results.

When your content is powered by strong data, you’ve exposed an effort that is often absent in the strategies of other agencies and brands. This is the effort of creating content that quiets the noise and for a moment commands attention, frictionlessly facilitating sharing across channels.

The internet is content, and everyday there are hundreds of thousands of videos, graphics, and blog posts competing for attention and status. By creating more informed, data intensive content you can do more than just enter the arena. You can build something memorable that compels recognition, improves lives, and achieves more than just a fleeting click. Smarter content is relevant, insightful, and with the right strategy, genuinely great.

Ben Vaughn Mar 02 2015

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