No matter what you want to do online, creating content that connects is front and center.
IT HAS TO BE.
If your content doesn’t connect with your readers, you are wasting your time.
Do you want to connect to your audience through your blog? You need to write posts that engage your readers.
Is podcasting your platform? You need show notes to encourage listeners to click that “play” button — and to subscribe.
Do you want to get booked as a speaker? You’ll need a speaker page showing event planners you can be trusted with their people and illustrating how you’ll deliver an experience that will make them look good.
Why You Need to Intentionally Create Online Content
Content is the key to connection. Content connects us to the audiences we hope to serve.
Do you know how to create content that truly connects with readers, or are you throwing spaghetti at the wall in hopes something — anything — sticks?
Over the past decade, I’ve discovered that even though communicators make a living from the words they use, many still struggle with online content creation for three reasons:
- They don’t understand the format
- They don’t make it a priority
- They have unrealistic expectations
A communicator’s biggest challenge with online content creation is often a lack of understanding.
Online writing differs from other types of writing. Online writing requires a different slant than many communicators are accustomed to. For example, if you lack a content strategy, you may not understand how to effectively using your content to connect with your readers. Strong audience relationships require a strategy, a plan and consistent execution.
Time is a limited resource for all of us, and it’s a resource that must be used wisely.
Even if you’re a prolific writer and speaker, you have to dedicate time to online writing. It takes time to repurpose your blog articles into emails and social media posts, especially if you intend to do it well. But if your goal is to connect with your readers in a real way, this is time well spent. Need help in this department? Check out my fill-in-the-blanks social media templates.
Communicators expect A LOT from their online content.
Even in 2020, people still chase the elusive unicorn of viral content. We can control the content we create, but we can never control what happens to our content once it is posted. Everyone has a chance at going viral, but nobody can predict it or force the phenomenon. All we can do is have a solid system in place so we’re ready if our content does pick up traction.
Solving the Struggle with Online Content Creation
It is important to understand WHY we struggle with the content we share online. We’ve established why frustration exists — communicators don’t always understand how to write online content, they don’t put enough time into it, and they have unrealistic expectations; which is why I am not surprised when I talk to communicators and they have a love/hate relationship with their online impact.
If creating content seems like an unsolvable mystery or an overwhelming marathon, then I am so glad you are here.
Because I can help. If you have an immediate need, visit my VIP Vault for free social media templates to get you started. And then, read on to learn how more about how you can leverage the online content you create to achieve your goals.
The Ultimate Guide to Creating Content That Connects
You know building relationships with audiences takes time, attention, and skill. The same is true for online writing. This guide will help you understand how to write for online audiences, how to create specific goals so you don’t waste time, and how to assess the results of consistent effort. I’ve created this ultimate guide to equip and empower you to achieve the results you seek in your own online content strategy.
I should mention, though, this is no quick fix. The guide I outline below is a step-by-step action plan, which explains both what to do and why it’s important. Not only do you need to better understand the role online content plays in your business, you need to know how to use that content to connect with your target audience.
Grab my hand, a notebook, and a pen. Your lesson begins right now…
SMART Online Content Creation Starts with Goals
Whether your current focus is social media, blogging, podcasting, or vlogging, your online content strategy has to start with the end in mind.
- What is your goal?
- What does success look like?
- How will I know I’ve won?
- How long am I willing to wait for results?
- What numbers matter most?
When you know your goals, you can create a plan to help you reach them. Goal setting is about being kind to yourself! Know your goals. Make a plan. Execute the plan and reach your goals faster than you thought you could.
When writing a book, an author’s most basic objective is to get readers to turn the page. The more pages they turn, the bigger the impact the book will have on them.
Writing for the web is a little different. You want people to read, but what you want more than anything is for them to act on, and engage with, what they read. This means blog comments, social media mentions, email replies, and podcast downloads. You don’t want people to just read. You want them to consume — to take what you’ve written, internalize it, and then evangelize it to their friends. In the world of online content, binges are a good thing.
Goals are always more successful, and more attainable, when they are concrete. By now, we’ve all heard of SMART goals — goals that are specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-bound. If you’re like a lot of people just starting to focus on your online content with a goal, you have a vague idea of what you want. Here’s what I usually hear when I ask about goals:
- More readers
- More followers
- More engagement
Unfortunately, “more” is relative. If you tell me you want “more” of anything, I’m going to ask you how much more you want and how long you’re willing to wait to get “more.”
A new email subscriber a week is “more” than zero — but is that what you really want? How much of an impact is one person going to have on your business?
Instead of just wanting “more,” set a meaningful goal. If you aim to achieve a 10% increase in Facebook followers over 90 days by posting engaging content daily, there is no question what winning looks like. At the end of 90 days, success will be easy to determine. Either you hit your goal, exceeded it, or fell short.
Take a step toward your content creation goals
Use these questions to create your own SMART goals:
- What is your goal?
- What does success look like?
- How will I know I’ve won?
- How long am I willing to wait for results?
- Which numbers matter most?
Identify Your Target Audience and Become BFFs
Once you figure out your goals, it’s time to identify your reader. We’ve come a long way since the days of the newspaper landing on your doorstep with the goal of appealing to the masses. Every online marketer will tell you that if you’re trying to reach everyone, you’re guaranteed to reach no one.
The online world appreciates specificity. If you’re a left-handed quilter, you will be more loyal to a site that exists solely to serve left-handed quilters than one targeting all quilters. Being a lefty in the right-handed world of crafting is no easy task. Left-handed quilters understand the challenge of using a rotary cutter and pinning a garment without drawing blood. To find your tribe is a special experience. Targeted content attracts your tribe and makes them feel like VIPs.
A mentor of mine once said everyone is tuned in to Station WIIFM — What’s In It For Me? And it’s true. Modern life moves so quickly, and everyone has a dozen competing priorities at any given time. We compete for our audience’s time, their energy, and their attention.
When we know our reader or viewer, though, we have an idea of those competing priorities. When we know the competition, we can work to beat it — or at least find a way to make space for ourselves.
You need to know your target audience so well you could pick a restaurant to meet them for lunch AND order from the menu on their behalf.
Over at Clutter Free Academy — a Facebook Group I manage on behalf of best-selling author and speaker Kathi Lipp — members care a lot about getting the most for their money. They are frugal and they have a need for quantity (that’s often why they struggle with clutter). If I were to plan a dinner party for them, I’d choose Black Bear Diner, Cracker Barrel, or the nearest all-American buffet.
If you’re reading this, my guess is you run on caffeine and Jesus. You might like coffee, tea or Coke, but “decaf” is not in your vocabulary. If you came to visit me, I’d make you avocado toast or take you to a local Thai restaurant — not because these are your favorite things but because I know you have an adventurous side and I know we’ll have lots of fun when I introduce you to new things.You need to know your target audience so well you could pick a restaurant to meet them for lunch AND order from the menu on their behalf. Click To Tweet
Take a step toward becoming your audience’s BFF
Answer these questions to paint a compelling picture of who you want to serve:
- Who are they?
- What do they want?
- What do they need?
- Why are they searching?
- What do they eat?
- What do they do for fun?
The more specific you can be in identifying your ideal reader or viewer, the closer you can get to serving up the exact kind of content they are craving.
Commit to Consistently Producing Online Content
If you want to connect with your audience, you have to be present. Presence means suiting up and showing up every day, every week, or every month — depending on your mode of delivery.
Too often, communicators fear burning out their audiences. Because they don’t want to email too much, blog too much, or post too much to social media, they don’t do it all — or they do it in fits and starts. The only thing worse than not having an online presence is having an inconsistent presence. I know that might sting a little but it has to be said!
What Consistency Looks Like on Social Media
On channels run by algorithms, like Facebook and Instagram, the only way to get seen is to be routinely present.
Algorithms are run by user behavior. The more content you feed into the machine, the more opportunities users will have to engage. The more engagement you get, the higher the algorithm prioritizes your content. A higher priority means your post gets shown to more people.
On Facebook and Instagram, this means posting every day — even on holidays and weekends. On Twitter, five to eight tweets a day keeps the algorithms calculating in your favor.
Let me be clear. This is not a case of quantity over quality. They both matter. You need to add value to people’s lives if you want to attract and keep more followers – you need to share quality content. My social media swipe file has copy/paste templates to get you started. Check them out.
What Consistency Looks Like on Blogs and Email
In addition to posting daily on the social media channel(s) of your choice, you’ll need to produce regular content to your blog to feed the Google machine and send regular emails to your subscribers to feed the relationship you’re building with them. Value matters here, too. A good rule of thumb is to produce content that meets your consumer right where they are and offers them solutions to their most desperate needs.
When you’re starting out and working to establish and build consistency, aim for one blog post a month and an email every week to your subscribers. Be reliable to them and they’ll become loyal to you.
Consistent Content Creation is Mandatory
Consistency is not negotiable when you’re trying to build or maintain your online presence. I know, I know…it sounds hard when you’re starting out. I have heard all the objections.
I don’t have enough followers.
I don’t have enough email subscribers.
I don’t have enough time to do all of this.
I don’t have enough to say.
Here’s a bold truth: If you can’t find the time or the words to show up consistently for a handful of people, how will you ever manage to show up for thousands? If your following is small, now is the perfect time to create systems supporting consistency so that when you grow, you can scale to meet the needs of a larger audience.
And to the argument of time, I say welcome to 2019. We’re fortunate to have a robust library of free resources and tools at our disposal allowing us to create content, batch it and schedule it so that we’re not at the mercy of our phones and computers 24/7.
You can be consistently present AND have a life, too.Algorithms are run by user behavior. The more content you feed into the machine, the more opportunities users will have to engage. Click To Tweet
Take a step toward consistency
Answer these questions to create your content calendar:
- What day/time is best to send an email to my subscribers?
- What day/time is best for me to write blog posts?
- When can I post or schedule my blog articles?
- How much time do I have each week for social media content creation?
- What tools can I use to make the most of the time that I have?
Become a Master Storyteller
Everything you post online needs to tell a story — and it needs to be a good one. Whether it’s the story of your brand, the work you do, or the people you serve, the story you tell must create an emotional connection between you and your audience.
Consider this tweet by author and humanitarian Bob Goff. What does it say about Bob and what he values? Who do you think Bob’s ideal audience is and what do you think he wants them do?
We’ve been operating a school in Afghanistan for the last 15 months.
We’ve started building a bigger school with our Afghan friends to provide more opportunities in this beautiful country.
Education doesn’t just change a few things, it changes everything 📚 pic.twitter.com/Zy6dOOIUad
— Bob Goff (@bobgoff) June 11, 2019
If you’re serious about your role as a communicator, you need to live to serve your audience. Serving your audience means focusing on them and their needs when you create your online content.
Even the shortest of social media posts needs to have a defined beginning, middle, and end to stir up a response in the reader.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has an Instagram account that tells a great story in every post. Fitting with the agency’s reputation for covert operations, posts have intrigue and a deference for the work of those employed by the organization.
If you seek to inform, how can you help your reader to emotionally connect with the knowledge you’re sharing?
View this post on Instagram
The stars carved in marble in CIA’s Headquarters Lobby are a silent memorial to those who died while serving their country. . . Director Haspel during a speech at Auburn University (@auburnu) shared the story of CIA Officer Mike Spann, the first American killed in Afghanistan following the attacks on 9/11. . . #inmemoriam #inremembrance #fallen #memorialday
If you want to motivate, how do you get the audience to take action?
If you want to inspire, how do change their perspective or thought process?
If you want to entertain, how do you make the laughs meaningful enough to make an impression?
The answer is TRANSFORMATION.
People go to Google for facts. Experience is what leads your audience to transformation, and transformation changes a person forever which is how you connect. You tell a story of transformation and then you show how your audience can experience transformation for themselves. For examples of posts that showcase transformation, check out my free social media templates.
Take a step toward telling a great story
Answer these questions and start writing compelling emails, blog articles and social media posts:
- What transformation do you offer?
- How can your ideal audience best experience that transformation?
- Who have you guided through transformation in the past?
Stay on Brand
The final step in creating content that connects you to your online audience is the absolute hardest, especially for communicators.
STAY ON BRAND.
Once you set the goals you want to achieve through your online content and work to become BFFs with your ideal audience member, you must stick to your established brand and to your promise.
Everything you post online that’s associated with your blog, podcast, and author or speaker persona must maintain alignment with your brand personality and the wants and needs of your audience.
I know how tempting it is to share photos of that yummy dinner you’re having out with friends, or the sweet note your daughter left for you this morning. The way the Starbucks barista misspelled “Brian” so that your cup now reads “BRAIN” is hilarious. But, if you can’t tie those posts to your audience and your promise to them, they have no business on your professional social media accounts. That’s what personal profiles are for.
The same is true for blog posts, podcasts, and emails. Your audience is trusting you to value their time and the space you take up in their feeds and inboxes. Don’t abuse the privilege by giving them content that doesn’t serve them or their needs.
I’m not saying not to show your personal side, I’m saying to make sure everything you show is aligned to your brand. And, if you make a choice to post something slightly off-brand, you better be sure it’s a strategic decision and you have a plan for how it’ll serve your audience.
Unless you’re a health and fitness coach, your weight-loss progress photos shouldn’t be on your professional accounts. If you feel like your followers need to know that part of your journey, you can show it ONCE every six months. Your Facebook author or speaker page is not the place for your weekly weigh-ins or your meal plan accountability.
Remember, your audience is all about WIIFM — What’s In It for Me — and if you’re posting stuff that doesn’t make sense to them, they will unfollow and unsubscribe. This is a relationship, and the relationship goes both ways. Please take your reader into consideration when it comes to what you post and how it’s framed.
Take a step toward establishing your brand message
Answer these questions to help filter what and how you will share with your audience:
- What could you talk about all day without losing enthusiasm?
- What strong opinions do you hold?
- How do you differ or disagree from others in your field?
- What questions do you get asked all the time?
Know Your Channels — And the Expectations They Bring
In addition to being audience-focused, content that connects is channel-specific. This means one size doesn’t fit all, and you must keep that in mind when you’re creating and posting your content.
Nothing frustrates me more than when I’m scrolling Facebook and find a post with 10 to 30 hashtags at the end. Why?
Because I know that post isn’t really for me. It was just auto-posted over from Instagram.
You are a communicator and you are using social media to build your platform and grow your audience. You can’t cut corners. Again, the reason why is your audience! They know when you auto-post!
When you post to one channel and let that post automatically forward to other channels, you’re missing the biggest point of social media — to connect. You’re telling audiences they don’t matter, and they aren’t important enough for your attention.When you post to one channel and let that post automatically forward to other channels, you’re missing the biggest point of social media -- to connect. Click To Tweet
When I see an Instagram post on Facebook, the message is loud and clear: Instagram is your priority and as your Facebook follower, I’m in second place.
Instagram is not Facebook and should not be treated that way. It’s the same thing when people auto-post from Facebook to Twitter and everyone on twitter sees a few characters, an ellipsis and a link. The ultimate message to the audience is “this isn’t actually meant for you.”
This is a point not to take lightly and, if you can’t already tell, it’s one I’m intensely passionate about. I know it takes time to post to social media and I know it takes effort, but I believe your audience is worth the time and effort. I know you believe they are worth it, too. If you want your audience to know they’re valued, then you must write specifically for them as individuals and for the channel where they are accessing your content.
If you don’t feel like you have the time to write channel-specific content, then you’re on too many channels. There is nothing wrong with limiting the scope of your online presence — quality always trumps quantity. However, we also have several tools at our disposal to assist with the management of social media and content creation. There really isn’t an excuse for auto-posting between channels without editing for your audience. If you need some help coming up with unique content, swipe my free social media templates. I offer 10 that can be used at any time. Just copy, paste, customize and post.
Take a step toward finding your audience
Answer these questions to figure out where to reach your audience:
- Who are your followers on Instagram? What do they need? How do they engage?
- Who are your followers on Facebook? What do they need? How do they engage?
- Who are your followers on Twitter? What do they need? How do they engage?
Use Video to Close the Gap
The best way to connect with online audiences is through live video.
Video allows your audience to see your face, hear your voice, and experience what it’s like to have a conversation with you.
Every communicator needs to be doing live video:
- If you’re a speaker, you need to be doing live video. It’s a great way for event planners to hear you and see how you deliver material.
- If you’re a writer, you need to do live video. It’s how you bring your personality to life and draw your readers closer to you.
- If you’re a podcaster, you need to do live video. It extends your brand and gives your audience the ability to connect with you on a deeper level.
- If you’re a vlogger, you’re already doing live video. Congratulations! Tell everyone in the comments about the benefits you see in what you do. We have so much to learn from you.
Live video gets the highest engagement on all social media channels, but it’s also the most forgiving. Produced videos aren’t trusted by audiences as much as live videos because the assumption is that edits are done to make you look good. With live video, though, your mistakes are out there for the world to see and people find that endearing.
I’ve gone live without make-up on, in my pajamas and with my hair sticking up all over the place. I’ve stuttered, misspoken, lost my train of thought and even talked for 20 seconds without realizing my mic was muted.
And I’ve made just about every mistake in the book… because I am showing up! Mistakes and tech difficulties don’t happen, and you don’t get the experience of dealing with them if you never go live!
The dreaded technical difficulties have occurred in the middle of a live video and I survived.
You will, too, I promise!
The key to getting good at going live is to do it again and again. The best results come from going live several days in a row — close enough together so you don’t have time to overthink or over-analyze before you turn around and do it again.
In 2018, I went live on Facebook for 12 days in a row. That experience taught me volumes about my audience, what interests them and what scares them. Most of my live videos were interviews with peers and associates and so the experience also built my collaborative network.
People who watched me wanted to work with me, they wanted to interview me, and they were asking to be interviewed by me. This attention grew my Facebook following, grew my email list, grew my client roster, and, more than anything, it grew my level of authority and influence within my target market.
Those 12 live videos changed the trajectory of my business and gave me greater confidence in my message and in my ability to deliver on my audience needs.
If you’re ready to make an immediate and lasting impact on your audience, a series of live videos needs to be part of your upcoming content plan. Download my free guide to going live to find out more.
Take a step toward using video to connect
Answer these questions to create a template outline for your videos:
- What is the goal of your video?
- What is the main topic of your video?
- What three points support your main topic?
- How can you simply summarize your video?
- How will you conclude your video?
Act Now and Start Using Your Content to Connect
Now that you know the steps to take to create content to connect with your ideal audience, it’s time to act. Here’s your action plan:
Establish SMART Goals for Your Online Content
You can’t measure what you’re not tracking. Setting SMART goals is the first step to creating content that connects because it gives you a target to aim for.
Identify Your Target Audience and Become BFFs
You need to become instant internet besties with your ideal reader or listener. This means knowing them so well you could meet them for lunch and know exactly what to order.
Commit to Consistently Producing Online Content
If you want to connect, you need to suit up and show up every day. Be as loyal to your audience as you hope they are to you.
Tell a Story and Tell It Well
Learn to lead with stories. Every post, long or short, needs a strong storytelling component to connect with your audience on an emotional level. People will always remember how you make them feel more than what you tell them to do.
Use Video to Close the Gap
Video may not be searchable by web crawlers, but its value is immeasurable in helping you to develop close, connected relationships with the people who follow you. Live video is best, because the real, unedited you is what people want most.
Know Your Channels and the Expectations They Bring
You can’t just post for the sake of posting. You must take the time to post content that is meaningful and appropriate to the channel AND to the audience the channel attracts.
Stay on Brand
Your relationship with your audience is based on trust and an unspoken agreement of the value you’ll provide with your content. Fulfill your promise by sticking to your brand and to the topics of interest in your niche. Don’t falter and don’t confuse your audience by posting random stuff.
The Time to Act is Now — Create Content That Connects
You can instantly implement this action plan all at once or you can take your time. The most important thing is to start today with Steps 1 and 2. Set your goals and identify the ideal person you want to reach. After that, every other step will be easier to complete because you’ll be able to test your plan against your goals and the intended audience.
Steal my 10 Top Engaging Social Media Posts. These social media templates give you the words to say that connect with readers and drive engagement. All you need to do is copy, paste, customize and post.
Tonya Kubo helps Christian communicators leverage the power of social media to build community around the messages of their hearts. She is the founder of Kathi Lipp’s Clutter Free Academy Facebook group and a frequent guest on the Clutter Free Academy and Communicator Academy podcasts. If you’re interested in building digital communities, join her FREE Facebook Group, The Secret to Thriving Online Communities.