Today’s consumers have more choice than ever before. While this is a great thing for buyers, it can be less helpful for businesses hoping to stand out and snag customers’ attention. It is important for businesses of just about any size to stand out among a sea of competitors, and there are a few ways to accomplish this. One of the most common and effective is to create content that customers want to see, using language to which they respond. When taken together, online communications expertise and content creation knowledge can help give businesses the push they need to attract attention.
This post will explore the ways in which businesses can use both content creation and online communications skills to create an online presence that truly stands out. We will also cover some common mistakes to avoid.
Content creation has been an important element of a successful online business presence for a long time. In a world that places digital devices and the information they convey first, an appealing online presence is more important than perhaps ever before. Content creation, when done well, can help businesses stand out from a busy crowd and attract potential customers despite competition.
Here are some common mistakes businesses make in their online content as well as some tips to create shareable information.
Common content creation mistakes
There are a few common mistakes businesses make when creating content to boost their online presence. Here are a few of the most prevalent.
Creating content for a vague audience
Creating content is an important part of your business for a reason: it allows you to interact with your target audience and provide them with useful information. But what happens if you don’t have a defined target audience in mind?
Creating content without a target audience results in vague and rather aimless content which attempts to appeal to everyone. That might not sound too bad at first, but what this really means is that the content is so generalized that it doesn’t appeal to any particular group of people. This is a problem when your business has a specific population in mind.
Not keeping your brand in mind
Even interesting content with a well-defined audience can fall flat if you do not take the opportunity to put your brand into it. Why are people visiting your site and how do you want them to perceive your brand? Decide if you would like to stick with a formal, authoritative style or prefer to appeal to potential customers on a personal level with informal, chatty text.
Once you have your style in mind, make sure to write with your business in mind. How can you help the situation and what experience do you have dealing with a particular issue? Always consider how you can draw people’s attention to your brand with your content.
Churning out low-quality content
Sometimes less is more. While it is important to post regularly on your website or social media account, you should not try to create too many pieces of content at a time. Trying to write about too much too quickly often leads to burnout as you try to find topics even tangentially related to your expertise. This results in subpar quality that won’t appeal to your audience.
Instead of doing too much, opt for high-quality pieces of content and break them down for smaller posts on social media. You can also take the data or other information from a post and turn it into an infographic for new posts, which is an easy way to stretch relevant content out over time.
Content creation tips
There are a few different ways that your online content can give your business an advantage online. The most important of these is your website. What good is excellent online content if you do not have anywhere to showcase it? A website can help distribute your knowledge and expertise while also serving as the perfect backdrop for communication and marketing goals. Once you have your website set up and perfected, your online communications will soon take center stage and color the rest of your customers’ and potential customers’ interactions with your brand.
Your website is often the first contact users reach, so it must be as close to perfect as possible. Here are some online communication tips to help you make a great first impression.
Take your time
The first step to take when creating website content is to take your time. There is no need to put out rushed responses or blocks of text, and that is true even during a PR nightmare. Your website is the one place on the internet where you can present your brand exactly how you want customers to experience it, without the threat of negative comments or shares impacting the pages themselves. Make the most of it by releasing thoughtful content when you have something to say which can benefit present, future, or past customers.
Whether you are interacting with customers via live chat, creating blog posts, or simply adding pages of core content to your website, move methodically. Really read everything you are putting up and make sure it fits in with the story you want your brand to tell.
Be clear and concise
Attention spans are increasingly short, as the demand for instantaneous gratification grows. The wealth of information available at our fingertips has created a population which expects quick response times (although not urgently so, in the case of press releases) and a smooth online experience. The exact amount of time visitors are willing to wait to receive the information they want can vary a bit depending on the source, but most research agrees that around 10 seconds is the maximum wait time you can expect, with three seconds being most likely. That means that if users must scroll through wordy blocks of text without finding what they need, they will likely exit your website and look elsewhere.
You can win out over short attention spans by staying concise with your online communications and content. Instead of taking four or more sentences to explain a concept or provide answers to customer questions, cut out all the extra content and ‘fluff’ which can add unnecessary words. Whittle down communication and online content until it’s as short, snappy, and to-the-point as possible. The exception here is when you are creating conversational blog content meant to forge a connection with readers, which brings us to the next point.
Know your target audience
Creating web content can be a stressful activity even under the best of circumstances. Attempting to pull together information and direct it toward a large audience while remaining concise is even harder. Know who you expect to read the content and structure it accordingly. It is a good idea to keep core website content such as your product pages and your informational pages short and to the point, but blog content is sometimes another story.
Are you writing content for an internet user looking for answers to a specific question, or are you hoping to establish your brand’s personality and appeal to current or potential customers? When you have a specific target audience in mind, you can better craft content which suits their needs.
Pay attention to how your competition is communicating – and do it better
Who are your biggest competitors and how are they communicating with customers? If they are receiving a lot of engagement on their posts, consider how you can create content that addresses the same questions and/or needs of their audience. The goal here is not to copy content, of course, but rather to understand what appeals to users and what does not.
Business can be a ruthless industry, so it is important to take advantage of any potential weak spots you find in the market. This includes communication failures from the competition, which is yet another reason to keep an eye on what they are doing and the kind of content they are putting out.
Differentiate your content
Creating clear and concise content is important, but so is differentiating your content as much as possible. Everything you post on your website should be infused with your brand’s style, from product descriptions to blog posts and even your about and team pages, if applicable. Determine your brand’s personality and try to create text that reflects it.
The internet is full of qualified businesses filling all manner of niches, so offering excellent products and services might not be enough to stand out. This is another reason why differentiating your content and capturing a visitor’s attention is an important element of business success.
Content integration for effective websites
Now that you know how to structure your online content for the best possible results, it is time to look at some basic website design tips. Remember that even great information can lose its impact when hosted on a website which is difficult to navigate or hard to read.
Create a responsive website
Designing for desktops or laptops is no longer sufficient. An increasing number of people use their phones as their main internet access point, and that means that if your website is not optimized for mobile consumption, they might avoid your brand altogether. Even people with dedicated computers might look for information on the go too, which is another reason to design for smaller screens.
The good news is that it is easier than ever to design a responsive website. Responsive design allows your content to flawlessly scale from a large screen to a small screen without losing readability or organization. You can also opt for scroll-based content rather than click-based content to make it easier for mobile users to access your website.
Tell your story
Once you have a responsive design ready to go, it is time to create a layout which emphasizes your story. Craft your website, from your headers to your content, around this story. This includes website design! Some businesses make an impact by creating a bold design which brings a new card of content up as users scroll, allowing them to present their brand story in increasingly important boxes of content. Others opt for quick bullet points with clear headlines.
There are as many different design options as there are businesses and utilizing one which allows you to unfold your story the way you’d like it presented is important.
Make content easily readable
What could be more frustrating than clicking on a website which seems to have the information, product, or service you need, but not being able to clearly read what they have to offer? Script fonts might look nice, but they are notoriously difficult to read, especially on smaller screens. Choose something which is easily readable even by visitors who might struggle with their eyesight.
With the above said, it is also important to pick a font which fits your story. For some businesses, this means selecting a bold, impactful font which allows them to convey their story in strong subsections across the website. For others, a lighter font allows them to fit more information on a page without it becoming too overwhelming.
Break up text with dynamic elements
Great text and a responsive layout are important for any modern website, but so is making smart use of space by breaking up blocks of text with dynamic infographics. These graphic elements present users with data visualization or, in some cases, animations which react to scrolling or clicking.
Remember that too much of a good thing can become overwhelming. Using too much uninterrupted text or too many infographics can cause readers to click away for a simpler design, so pay attention to how well your website flows.
Online communication tips
Content must be communicated effectively for it to have any chance of positively impacting your audience and, in turn, your brand reputation. While the tips we discussed above can help you create dynamic content, it must be paired with solid online communication to really hit the mark.
Here are some communication tips for effective online discussion!
Say enough to get your point across
While you do not want wordy content, it is important to say enough to effectively communicate. If that results in a longer piece of content, that’s fine! Just make sure the content is structured well and clearly organized so that readers can skim through it to find the information they need.
Keep power dynamics in mind
There is an inherent power dynamic between a business and a customer. When customers reach out for help or have complaints, businesses can respond flippantly or reply with empathy. Choosing to respond to customer needs and annoyances by treating them with respect and acknowledging the problem can go a long way towards bridging the gap between consumers and business owners.
Act on feedback
Part of effective communication is asking for feedback and then acting upon it. If someone reaches out with a suggestion on how to better communicate, listen to them. Make it a point to keep their words in mind the next time you interact with them, and you might be surprised at how well-received your communication is.
Educate yourself in online communication
Communicating online can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. Don’t be afraid to dedicate some time to improving your online communication skills. St. Bonaventure University’s online communications master’s degree, for example, is a great way to polish your skills without committing to on-campus classes and events. St. Bonaventure’s communications program is designed to make it simple to learn the skills that will benefit your business for a lifetime.
Keep ‘netiquette’ in mind
When communicating in person or attending an in-person event, there a myriad of unspoken rules to follow. Failing to follow these social norms can have an adverse effect on other people’s perception of you, and the same can be said of online etiquette.
Often referred to as ‘netiquette’, online etiquette structures acceptable behaviors in online communication. Remember that failing to follow this information could result in a permanent mark on your business’ reputation as ‘the internet is forever’.
Avoid too much highly technical jargon
Unless your target audience is experts in a specific field, avoid using too much jargon when communicating online. What might sound like a normal conversation in your mind could end up confusing and alienating readers unable to parse the dense language. You don’t have to keep content informal, but you should strive to keep the words understandable even to people outside of your field.
Are you ready to improve your online presence? Focusing on content creation and effective online communication, when paired with a well-designed website, can help boost your brand. Keep our tips in mind as you begin to expand your business and refine your approach to online interaction.