When I was growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, information was a valued possession. It was rare and hard to get. You had to go to the library if you wanted to find information in any vast quantities.
In the late ’90s, I got my first computer that had a modem, and with a few chirps, beeps, and other strange noises, I was blazing through the internet at 14.4k speed. At the time, domain names were still $75 per year, and online video was not even on the average person’s radar.
Now that the internet has been changing our lives for over 20 years, information has gone from being a rare resource to a commodity. It is freely and cheaply available nearly 100 percent of the time we’re awake.
So that begs the question … in a world of cheap and free information, how do you stand out? How do you get people to take notice of you?
You could Google the answer, and when I did just now, I didn’t get the answers I was looking for, which is all too common a problem with such a vast amount of information. Another problem with free information is that you often get garbage answers. How many times have you clicked on a business article only to find that the “Top 5 Ways to Do XYZ” is a list of the most basic ways to accomplish XYZ? Solving this problem is a big deal, and I guess that’s one reason Google makes the big bucks — they are the best of the worst at this. But all of that still leaves us with the original question.
How do small businesses stand out and get others to take notice of them?
Craft Valuable Content
The simple answer to this complicated question is content. You must create content that is unique and adds value to the conversation. This is much easier said than done, though.
Content creation is like any skill. It takes time and effort to learn how to write well or sound good on a podcast. There’s not much most of us can do to look good on video, but at least we can make sure we don’t hurt ourselves by looking worse.
When you create content, your goals should be …
People want to be entertained, and injecting your personality into any content you create can be one way to entertain people as well as make your content unique to you. Audiences can sniff out authenticity — it’s how Gary Vaynerchuk achieved media-mogul status.
I’m constantly asking content creators to make sure they have strong points when they write and don’t waste my time. I don’t want to read fluff. I want answers to my questions in a definitive way. Informative content is powerful. A study of consumer behavior found that consumers were 131% more likely to buy after reading a piece of educational content. Worthwhile content converts to sales.
So many people start creating content and can’t keep up with a regular schedule. No one wants to read the same information over and over again. Everyone wants something new, so give it to them. You can recycle content as long as it gives value to your audience and fits into your overall content strategy.
- To accomplish one thing
You should create very focused content with the goal of honing in on one subject. So many people record a video or write an article and want to go over 20 different topics, but that’s insane! Make those topics into 20 different articles and videos. If you don’t define your One Thing, how is your audience going to find it?
- To tell them what’s next
The final goal of content creation should point the consumer of the content to what’s next. This could be more articles, a call to action, etc. Marvel excels at this goal — at the end of every Marvel movie, you get a glimpse of what’s coming down the pipeline.
There’s No Magic Number
One question I often get is, how long should my content be? There is no magic number. The content needs to be as long as necessary to cover the information needed. Of course, there are people who will tell you the best length of time for a video is 3–5 minutes. Inc. magazine wants articles of 700–800 words. Entrepreneur wants articles to be 600–900 words long.
Everyone has a different opinion of what the best length or time is. Many will quote stats about drop-off points in videos after five minutes, but the truth of the matter is, the person likely dropped off because they found out they were in the wrong place, you answered their question, or you were boring. People will watch and consume content, but not if you are boring.
With the world literally at our fingertips, boring doesn’t work — unless, of course, your target market is members of the Dull Men’s Club. If that is the case, people may consume all of your content, regardless of the boredom factor. To create content that engages, be unforgettable.
One final note: I often get asked, ”What type of content should a business create?” That is a much more complicated topic because it depends on the type of business you’re in, and answering that question here would violate goal No. 4 on our list. But to keep in compliance with goal 5, I will point you to this article from my blog.