Continually creating new content is vital to keeping a marketing message fresh, elevating search visibility, and perhaps most importantly keeping an audience engaged. Content marketing, the practice of creating (hopefully quality) content for the purpose of building an audience that can then be marketed to, has recently come of age in digital marketing. "Native advertising" seems to be the buzzword of the year. And more marketing managers than ever have realized that finding something interesting to talk about can give brands (especially old or stodgy ones) a renewed voice among consumers.
Until a few years ago, the phrase "Old Spice" was synonymous with "dad cologne." I once read a piece of dating advice that recommended wearing Old Spice aftershave on dates because it reminds women of their fathers (paging Electra...). But now Old Spice is perceived differently. With a brilliant move into the current meta phase of hipster weirdness, the brand has engaged with an entirely new demographic. And also sold tons of body wash while it was at it. That's the power of content marketing.
That said, creating new content scares and mystifies marketers more than it should. But the trick is this: Don't overthink what you're doing. There's an old cure to writer's block that suggests writing anything down on the page, even if it's unrelated. Because there's nothing more intimidating to a writer than a blank page. Sometimes to break the equivalent of marketing writer's block you just need to create something -- anything -- to get those creative juices flowing. If a quick and dirty content idea paves the way to a bigger project, great! If not, you've already created your content for the day. Win-win.
Here are five easy concepts you can likely apply to your brand and crank out within an hour.
Top 10 lists
This in an oldie but goodie, so let's start here. Top 10 lists (or "top 5" as the case might be) still work great for attracting readers, keeping them on the page, and encouraging sharing. Just ask BuzzFeed, which certainly didn't invent the top 10 list but is great at beating the concept to a pulp. The readers know that they're not going to have to work too hard, which is a nice promise. These lists are the ultimate skimmable types of content. Each example will be easy to identify, so the reader can scan through and choose to read the interesting ones but skip the boring ones. And top 10 lists get shared because each item on the list is like a mini article. So the chances of relating to the reader are higher than an article with only a single concept.
But don't stop at "top 10." The premise has many iterations like "the 5 best" or "the 8 craziest" or "the 7 tallest," and so on. For example, imagine that you are in charge of marketing for a small construction equipment sales, rental, and service company. Yawn, right? But how about a jazzy blog post entitled "The 8 mightiest machines that built Disneyland" or "The 6 strongest cranes in the world"? Now those are some clickable headlines! The subject matter is on topic with construction equipment, which allows marketing segues to your own brand's offerings without jarring the reader. Ultimately, your job as a content marketer is to keep your audience of existing and potential customers around long enough to pitch them whatever it is that earns revenue for your brand.
Brand a meme
Keep calm and [insert something silly related to your brand]. "Meme" has become almost synonymous with "image macro." But since image macros are frequently the most popular types of memes, we'll use them interchangeably here, if that's OK with you. For clarification, Wikipedia says that an image macro is "is an image superimposed with text for humorous effect," which is what I'm talking about here. Popular memes include "Keep calm and carry on," "Not sure if Fry," and "Scumbag Steve." But there are thousands, and a few of them are even funny. Spend an hour on http://knowyourmeme.com/ or http://www.reddit.com/r/memes, and you'll be up to speed.
Memes are like high school. Everybody wants to be a little different but not too different. Memes allow users to make a statement in a framework that has already been validated by huge numbers of other people. Humor is usually your best bet with a meme, but clever is good enough. For example, an insect repellent brand might create an image with Fry from Futurama contemplating "Not sure if bug spray or cheap perfume" in a self-effacing attempt to point out that the smell of bug spray has marginally improved over the past decade.
It's so easy to create a meme that you don't even need Photoshop. Just go to http://memegenerator.net/create/generator.
Or Instagram or YouTube or whatever. Let's just agree that it's video, and it's really short in length (that's what she said). At this point pretty much everybody that you know can shoot 1080p video with their phone, so no special equipment is needed. Find a spot with adequate light (sunlight is almost always better than fluorescent), and get to work. Hold the camera steady. Nobody besides J.J. Abrams and Paul Greengrass like shaky video, so relax and hold your arms at your sides. Or make sure that your camera software smooths your shaky video out for you. And for the love of everything that is good, turn your phone sideways and shoot widescreen. Don't get me started on portrait mode videos.
If you work in an office, you're already off to a good start. You have a cast of characters and a relatable set. People love corporate office hijinks, so brainstorm some ideas with your coworkers and spice things up with a little bit of joking around. Hidden camera scare pranks are great. Transforming an office while an employee is out of town is always a winner, and it only takes a few moments to shoot the reaction when it's seen for the first time.
Office hacks like computer cable organization tips or a better way to make coffee are definitely sharable. You don't even have to be completely original. Find other similar videos and put your own twist on them. And while office videos are not always on-brand, especially if you work in a sales office for gluten-free dog treats, you are creating relatable (humor, coworkers, office environment) content and humanizing the employees of your company.
We are a do-it-yourself generation. We live in the age of Esty, Instructables, Maker Faire, and the Raspberry Pi. There is something deeply satisfying about solving a persistent problem with only the materials in your desk drawer. Most of us like to feel like MacGyver from time to time, which is why DIY posts are so popular. Good DIY ideas for quick and easy content creation are mechanical devices, fixtures, or sculptures made from office supplies. Other materials are obviously OK, but make sure that it's stuff that most people would have access to in their home or office (or both). Popular choices are paper clips, retractable ballpoint pens, tape dispensers, sticky notes, and Sharpies.
The very best DIY office projects are the ones that make you slap your forehead and say, "How did I never think of this?" Text with pictures is fine. Video is OK too. Animated GIFs are perfect. Total originality isn't essential, but don't go around completely ripping off other people's ideas. Make sure to make a meaningful contribution of some sort. A quick stroll around your office could prove inspiring. Clever coworkers come up with great solutions to tricky problems all the time, and when they're truly useful, the DIY hacks can become popular with your readers. "Office hacks" has grown into its own distinct category of DIY projects in recent years.
Whatever the internet likes
Go ahead and pander. You won't be the first, and it's hardly a sin. Find a popular topic and relate it back to your brand. You'll want to appropriate subject matter that is perennially fresh. Think Star Wars, food porn, Futurama, and celebrities. You should, of course, always write for your audience specifically. But if you're looking for content that will always be a hit with the internet at large, these are surefire sources of material.
For example, if you are a blogger for a company that makes screen-printing ink, you might write a blog post about the evolution of graphic T-shirt printing from the '70s through today. Use official Star Wars merchandise as your examples, and you've elevated a ho-hum topic into a light piece of reading with wide appeal.
"Michelngelo God's touch" image via Shutterstock.