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Last month I had a conversation with a potential client who was describing their content marketing strategy. They had a strong understanding of the theories of posting content that people will share and mixing in promotional content from time to time. It's a basic and effective way to build a community and a following while still getting the benefits of exposure for their business-focused messages. Post what they like, then post what you want them to see.
Fast forward to earlier this week and I finally had a chance to examine their content. What I found disappointed me. The way they were handling "content that people will share" was to post two types of content - entertaining content and content that could be a valuable resource. The challenge I found was that they drew an extremely clear line between entertaining posts and resource posts. The line was so clear that their entertaining posts brought zero value to the reader while the resource posts were as enjoyable as eating chalk.
Content marketing is quickly becoming the cornerstone to both search and social strategies. It is a best practice to try to make sure that what your posting has both entertainment and resource value. Each post can definitely lean in one direction or another, but your entertaining posts should be interesting as well while your resource posts shouldn't put the reader to sleep.
Here's an example of an entertaining post that is also mildly useful. It's a list of the top 5 most searched Dodge Chargers on Google. The entertainment value is clear - classic Dodge Chargers are loved by many drivers and high-resolution images of mint condition Chargers can appeal the target audience (in this case, a Dodge dealer's visitors). However, rather than just making a picture gallery of some cool cars and calling it "5 Epic Pictures of Classic Dodge Chargers", they inserted some resource value. First, the title itself shows that it has resource value: "The 5 Most Searched Dodge Chargers in History". There's not a ton of resource value floating through the page - it's mostly just trivia. However, a resource doesn't have to be a case study or a thesis. The two or three bits of trivial information that the reader can learn from this page are enough to give it value. Remember, this page is primary for entertaining.
Now, let's take a look at a resource page. This one is a historical look at the once-famous Willys Jeep. It has a graphic and information that is informative as well as a couple of images of the iconic vehicle. However, it's not presented in a way that makes it sound like it came out of a history textbook or even Wikipedia. The graphic is fun. The images are high-resolution and interesting. The text focuses on some little-known facts about the vehicle that help it to fall into both the resource and entertainment categories. It may be a resource piece, but there's nothing boring about it.
Posts that are exclusively resources or exclusively entertaining bring value to the table, but not nearly as much as doing both at the same time. People go to the internet for many reasons, but the three primary ones are communication, education, and entertainment. If you want them to do the first thing - communicate - then you have to master the second and third things first. When you can consolidate and kill two birds with one stone, the other bird will fall nicely into your trap.