What does it take to have a successful blog? How do you get a great following on a social network? How do you make a piece of content that goes viral?
A common answer is that you have to keep abreast of trends, you have to be edgy and cool to make it in the digital communication space.
That isn’t necessarily the right answer. In fact it’s kind of a non-answer. Really, because, what do those words mean? What is edgy, cool and trendy? Who decides? And is that what your audience, your specific, unique, all-important audience, wants?
Is it who you are?
Over the years, I’ve become increasingly aware that it’s silly to act like one of the cool kids beyond a certain age. To be honest, I am what I am – no longer a quirky teen, having years of experience and learning to back up my ideas. It would sound silly if I tried to write this blog like a kid – but writing it from where I’m really at- can connect better with my audience.
Because it’s real.
Keeping it real is the single most important aspect of creating effective online content. It starts with knowledge.
- Know your product and your domain: I used to collect stamps for a few years as a schoolkid. I could probably write half a dozen posts on the basics of stamp collecting, then run out of steam. A lifelong philatelist could keep such a blog going forever. That’s the kind of engagement you need with your subject matter. It’s also important to understand the domain as a whole, who the players are, what the larger concerns are and in what terms people discuss things.
- Know your audience: Your audience is not the same as everyone else’s. Maybe they really are the type who demand something edgy and different, maybe they’re more into useful tips and tricks, maybe they’re technically inclined, maybe they’re artistic. Find out who they are and how they tick and write to that mindset, not to someone’s hastily conceived idea of what it means to be hip today.
- Know yourself: This has two implications. Know your brand: know its attributes and image, the kinds of contexts it fits into, what it can be adapted to and what doesn’t work. But also know yourself. When you’re tweeting, updating or blogging for your company, remember that people are more willing to take what you have to say if it’s coming from you, as someone speaking for the brand, rather than as an anonymous spokes-bot. There’s a reason why Twitter fields curated by real people work better than the automated kind: people respond to an honest sense of personality. So instead of losing your voice in your brand, try and understand your voice, how it connects with your brand and how you can use that connection to create better, more engaging and honest content.
And that will get you much further than hasty, knee-jerk attempts to be cool, trendy or edgy.