To better engage people online, focus on creating quality content: My June Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly column

My June Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly column is about one of the most important elements of a social media strategy: quality content.

To better engage people online, focus on creating quality content

While our communication environment has changed dramatically over the years, one thing has remained constant for decades, even centuries: People will always value substantive information that helps them address the challenges in their personal and professional lives.

Organizations have historically been in a great position to provide this information, given their collective in-house talent and knowledge. Until just a few years ago, however, one thing held organizations back from sharing what they know: creating content and getting it in front of their audience was fairly difficult. Doing so either required a serious outlay of resources — enough to allow for the creation of collateral print pieces to help tell the story — or an ability to secure news stories in media outlets. In short, the opportunities were few and the cost was high.

Today, thanks to social media, things have changed considerably. Organizations can now use blogs, video and other tools to create substantive content, often with little or no direct financial cost. In addition, by attracting communities on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, to name just the most prominent examples, it’s easy to distribute this content to the right audience.

Still, however, many organizations haven’t capitalized on this opportunity. For them, content creation is either something they don’t believe to be important or a wish-list item that never rises to the top of their list of priorities.

If this is true of your organization, it may be time to give content creation more attention. Two recent shifts have made quality content more important than ever before — and more of an imperative than an option.

First, while nearly every organization is using social media, far fewer are creating quality content. There was a time when just being present was enough, but those days are over. The bar has been raised on what will attract and retain an audience’s attention, and increasingly, the audience is only giving their time and attention to information that educates, inspires or entertains them.

The challenge, of course, is that this content must be relevant to your organization in that it reminds the audience of what you do and how you’re different than the competition. That will allow you to secure a top-of-mind position when they have a need for, or have an opportunity to refer someone to, the product or service in your category.

In other words, tweeting about the weather is no longer enough, unless you’re The Weather Channel. Brands that are winning the battle for attention are creating substantive content that positions them as thought leaders.

Second, high-quality, unique, relevant content is more important to search engines than ever before. This means the audience’s ability to find your social-media content — not to mention your website — will be correlated with the quality of that content. Search-engine optimization (SEO) used to be relatively easy to game, but not anymore.

For example, Google’s most recent algorithm change — dubbed “Hummingbird” — puts the highest value on content that is, as Chris Marentis has said on the blog Search Engine Land, “never duplicated, always high quality and is relevant and useful to your audience.” It’s no longer enough, then to just “curate” content (to share what others have created, that is); you have to share knowledge that is uniquely your own.

While social media has removed some of the barriers that may stand in your way as you look to make content creation a higher priority, there’s one reality that hasn’t changed: there are still just 24 hours in a day. In order to develop a sustainable method of developing content, therefore, you’ll need to change some priorities within your organization.

This is well worth doing as your audience continues to look to you for more of what they’ve always wanted — quality content that helps them solve problems and use their discretionary time well.

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