More Than Clickbait: 4 Ways to Create Authentic Content

June 17, 2015 | Dan Trefethen

Have you ever scarfed down a bad cheeseburger and greasy fries after a late night? They’re exactly what you crave in the moment, but they go down fast and leave you feeling unsatisfied.

Meet clickbait: the fried food of the content marketing world. It may suck you in, but it’s not worth the hype and will probably give you the same salty hangover as a big plate of nachos.

As a marketer, you want to offer a nourishing, satisfying experience, not deluge your audience with soggy content. Here are four ways to go beyond clickbait, developing content that offers real value for you and your audience.

1. Buyer Personas: Speak to a Targeted Audience

As a newer version of tabloid journalism, clickbait preys on the curiosity gap, increasing clicks without delivering meaningful results for the audience. The nature of this approach values quick visibility over relationships with a specific community; it fails to target an audience that will engage with your products and ultimately dilutes brand and messaging.

Here’s where you come in. By identifying your audience, you set the foundation for effective content strategy with impactful ROI. Interactive assessments help you pinpoint lead demographics, purchasing habits, locations and even preferred publications of your prospects. These identifying features act as a blueprint for your brand, empowering your team with the information to create practical buyer personas.

Huckberry, an e-commerce business for men, identified their buyer persona as Will, a weekend warrior who needs well-made gear to support him in his adventures. Their clarity of vision and emphasis on cultivating loyalty led to a magazine-quality journal and an organic, but epic following.

Taking the time to cultivate a buyer persona like Will can make your website two to five times more effective. Personas hone your company’s focus, acting as a lifeline between your brand identity and your content. This way, you’re speaking to a potential match rather than to anyone looking for a distraction.


Credit: Matthew Carroll, Quora

2. Focus on Developing Personal Relationships

At it’s core, content marketing is about connecting with real people. Just as with friendships, if you want to get to know someone, it’s good to let them into your life.

So, get real.

70% of customers say that content makes them feel more connected to the associated company. Take that opportunity to build transparency around your company’s beginnings, motivations, values and employees. Both within the B2B and the B2C spheres, offering this kind of insight can personalize an otherwise faceless company. And believe it or not, B2B buyers actually show more emotional attachment than B2C buyers to the services and products they invest in; their purchases typically require higher personal risk, and therefore rely on mutual trust.

The social media company Buffer offers a powerful example of content that intentionally cultivates brand storytelling. Not only do they craft content about industry trends, but they offer a unique vantage point as an innovative employer. Buffer runs a distributed team with a horizontal structure, all of whom enjoy flexible working schedules and perks like free kindles. Any potential client can find detailed information about Buffer’s company and why it works, building that deeper relationship beyond the purchase.

3. No Magic Bullets Means No Broken Promises

The trouble with clickbait is that it sets itself up for failure. Not only does it rarely live up to the initial pull of its inauthentic headline, but it often promises a magic bullet. When you develop interactive or static content, stay away from anything that sounds like an online infomercial. Instead, offer tangible solutions backed by market research and enhanced by an emotional connection to your brand.

Your success at offering valuable, relevant content to your community gives potential clients a first glimpse into what you can do as a company. You can increase leads by personalizing your call-to-actions (CTAs) to the topic of each interactive content or blog post. A study conducted by Hubspot found that this kind of personalization increases potential leads by 42%.

When you create CTAs, keep them simple and not overly salesy:

  • Between 90 and 150 characters
  • Simple language
  • Easy to find
  • Adhere to visual brand
  • One CTA per page

When you write language for CTAs and your interactive marketing, create a compelling case for what you do well. Overpromising and underdelivering doesn’t do you any favors, and can hurt your relationship with your prospect.

4. Give Your Audience Something Authentic

The average American citizen reads 100,500 digital characters a day. That’s a lot of competition, right? With content marketing poised to take off, the overflow of digital content continues to increase. As Ryan Galloway plainly stated in a Contently article, “There’s no ROI for being just another voice in a crowd.”

According to Forbes, 43% of millennials value authenticity above content alone. In other words, authenticity is what will set you apart from the myriad of online voices. Being authentic as an organization means honoring your brand and your clients with integrity and consistency. In no other place is this clearer than through your content.

Creating and adhering to a style guide is an easy way to develop authenticity. It sifts an array of voices and priorities through shared goals and features, leading to one identity that your audience can trust. Identify your voice, tone, design elements and even peripheral considerations like grammar preferences. It may seem small, but one spelling inconsistency on an interactive white paper could send a potential customer running in the other direction. As you embrace dynamic content forms like calculators, brackets and interactive videos, your style guide should address the specific goals and proper use of each tool, too.

The Next Steps

Once you have cultivated content that speaks volumes, you are ready to get it into the hands of potential customers and clients. It may seem daunting to think about distribution, but it’s easier when you take the process one step at a time. The same principles that bring value to your campaign remain true when sharing on social media: target your audience, develop personal relationships, keep it authentic and stay away from magic bullets!

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