So you’ve got a handle on content, which I’ve taken the liberty of defining as the fusion of information and entertainment.
Great! You’re halfway there. Yes, I’m sorry to have to advise you that content is only a part of the necessary effort.
Ideally, content is a story. The story should have a beginning, middle and an end. It should include a conflict, which is successfully resolved.
Good content is a story with substance, appreciated and/or valued by its intended audience; a meaningful and significant story, which answers a need or provides relevant, useful information. Strong content is read because it resonates, interests or captivates its audience.
If content is the story, and must be compelling, then equally important is the setting where it appears – the context.
Context is where content lives
Context 1: the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning. 2: the interrelated conditions in which something exists or occurs: environment, setting ‘the historical context of the war’
Context is where the content exists or lives, the vehicle or platform where it is featured, its environment. It is selecting the appropriate network, channel or vehicle where thecontent is provided.
Your content should fit the environment as if it was its “natural habitat”, an environment frequented/popular with its intended consumer.
If your content is not in the appropriate environment i.e. not where your target is hanging out or looking for it, then it’s missing the mark. It is ineffective, shooting blanks. It means it is unlikely to be read, shared or commented on, and will probably not generate dialogue or initiate a relationship, which are the objectives of producing content.
The ideal context, because you have total control of the experience, is your own website. Here are some examples of great content delivered on target-specific websites.
However, not everyone has the resources to create their own environment.
Cookie-cutter content won’t work in every context
Many companies generate content without considering how it will be used, perceived or received. They use exactly the same material across all Social Media channels automatically. Perhaps they just don’t realize each network has a specific reason for being and as a result, is a unique environment.
The obvious examples are the “visual” sites, such as Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, where content needs to be pictures or video, versus text.
Regarding text, however, How-To or DIY articles may be ideal on Facebook, but LinkedIn’s professional orientation makes it an ideal environment for business issues and career advice. Google+ is a little more a blend of the two, but depends on the group or hangout.
An article on personal finance may be an equally appropriate topic for both Facebook and LinkedIn, however given the distinct difference in the target audience’s orientation and interests, the format, tone and references should be different to be appropriate for the professional orientation of LinkedIn versus the personal, casual atmosphere of Facebook.
Spend some time understanding the different networks you are considering. Get to know the interests, language and etiquette of each. Ensure there is a natural fit between you and the audience.
In order to understand the context to best frame the content, ask yourself:
Why is my target audience here?
What is my target audience doing here – what is their interest, activity or purpose?
When is my target audience here?
What are other companies doing/offering and what does it look like?
Content must be consumer-centric
To be successful, all content must be consumer centric. This means that when content is produced, it must be produced with the end user/consumer/target audience in mind. It needs to respond to their wants and needs. An important way to understand the consumer is to consider where they are hanging out and why. By understanding the context, the appropriate content can be provided.
It important to remember the reason for doing what you’re doing, creating and providing content.
The purpose is to create a relationship, namely building awareness, trust and interest so that you have a place in the mind, and hearts, of your audience.