In the previous tip, we had a look at the power of online content to attract high quality attention from users. We discussed how paid advertising is short term and content marketing is long term.
People pay attention to content, and you can either earn that attention by creating good quality content yourself, or you can rent out user’s attention from other websites. When we rent out that attention, we call it paid advertising.
Now we understand that Content is King. We need to create high quality content to attract the attention of our target audience. Let’s have a look at how to create content that strikes a chord with your users and gets their high quality attention.
When creating online content, it is important to keep the user in mind and write to a single user. One of the reasons why people get “Writer’s block” is because it is very difficult to communicate via text to another human being without having that human right in front of us. None of us ever get “Talker’s block”. We don’t forget what to say when we are with people, in person. The conversation just flows.
To talk directly to your user, through the online medium, is simple but difficult. It comes with practice. An experienced marketer can talk to a single user, as if that user is sitting right next to him. The users and the content we create is more important that the medium through which the communication is done.
Medium is Secondary, Users are Primary
When we are creating content on the digital medium, we are using a personal electronic device. The goal of the device is to communicate the content that you have created through time and space to another person who wants to consume your content. We also use the personal devices to consume content created by other content creators.
On the web, all of us are content creators and all of us consume content. The web connects us all, but the web exists because of us. If no one uses the internet, the web will be a lonely place, and probably not worth paying too much attention to. People give life to the internet, and it is important to put the user first. It looks obvious, but many times we miss focusing on the user, and focus too much on the medium and the technology.
The technology is just a medium to transmit information. When you are talking to a person face to face, you still have a lot of “natural” technology that is working to make that communication possible. This technology in humans has evolved over millions of years. The light in the room makes it possible for our eyes to see the other person, and for the other person to see us. The air in the room helps transmit the sound vibrations from the speaker’s tongue, to the listener’s ear drums.
It is easy for us to communicate in person with people because we really do not think about the technologies like the light, how the eyes convert the light into electric signals to the brain, the tongue, the ears and so on. It works in the background, and our mind focuses on the other person.
We are looking at the other person and observing how he/she is listening and responding to what we say. If we put too much focus on the technology that makes the communication possible, we would lose focus on what we are communicating, to whom we are communicating, and how the other person is perceiving the “content” we are transmitting. It would be energy draining if you focused on the way we communicate than what we communicate.
A good medium disappears to make way for the content that is being transferred through the medium. During face to face conversations, we don’t need to think about the “technology” because it disappears. It is natural and we are used to it. Digital mediums are not yet 100% evolved, and we haven’t adapted to it 100%, yet.
Just a few hundred years back, we did not even have the telephone to have a two way communication across space. Humans have evolved for millions of years on the planet earth, and our current species is only as old as 70,000 years.
The last 3 decades of it is just 0.0004% of our species in the timeline of evolution. It’s a very short time to get adjusted to the technology we use for communication, and that’s the hard part about digital marketing. That’s why it is easy to forget about the user, and focus on the medium.
Marketers put too much focus on the right images, the right design, the format of the content and delivery of the content. Digital marketing technology enables all the bells and whistles in the communication, but as marketers we have to remember that the medium and the technology is just a means to communicate to the end user. The focus on the way the message is delivered shouldn’t hamper the focus we have on the user.
In a face to face conversation, we still still say what we want to say even if the room is dark lit, and it’s a bit noisy in a public space. It doesn’t affect the communication THAT much. What matters is what you say. Yes, a better meeting room, with good sound insulation will enhance the communication in person, but we still communicate. Just because the room is not ideal, we do not withdraw our communication.
Similarly, when creating content on the digital medium, there are a lot of improvements that can be made on how the content is delivered and how it is consumed, but what really matters is what content is being communicated, and to whom it is communicated.
Maturity in marketing is all about forgetting the medium and putting the user, first. When your focus grows on the user, the technology and medium will disappear into the background. Right now I am writing this content on a WordPress dashboard, but I am not thinking about content management systems, SEO, social media distribution and my email campaign through which this content is delivered. I am thinking about you, because I care. I want to share my idea with you. That’s the goal of this blog post.
Has My Idea Become Your Idea?
Right now you are reading this article on my blog, or as a chapter on my book. But the same concept can also be communicated to you in person when we meet at an event. The primary focus here is to make sure that you get the idea that I have in mind.
The same idea can be transferred to you via a PDF ebook, or a Kindle book, or a podcast. I could talk about the same concept on a video and post it on my YouTube channel where you are a subscriber. The medium doesn’t matter. The delivery format doesn’t matter.
Another important aspect to note in online communication is that people consume content alone with their personal devices. And it is important for marketers to focus on a single user while creating the content. Though I create content that is being read by tens of thousands of people on the web, I always write to one user in mind, YOU.
I create every post on social media, every YouTube video, every podcast, with one user in my mind. This user (YOU) is interested in the topic of digital marketing and learning more about it. The way I talk is not the same way I would talk on a stage to an audience of 100s of people. I talk the way I would talk to you if both of us were in a coffee shop.
To make my online communication more effective, I need to know who my target audience is with a high level of detail. I conduct events, manage clubs and speak at conferences so that I can meet my audience in person. The more I meet my readers and followers in person, the more I understand who my target audience is. The more I understand my target audience, the more the content I create relates to them and connects with them.
As a digital marketer, it is important to meet your audience in person, at least a sample set of it, so that you know whom you are talking to, and what they are looking for from you in terms of advice and guidance. Do not underestimate the power of interpersonal interactions with your audience in the real world. As we had discussed before, the internet exists because of the people.
Many marketers do online research to understand who their users are. Online surveys, poll questions, and other ways to build customer avatars and user personas are extremely helpful to understand the needs of your audience, but with such market research, you will only ask questions based on what you know you don’t know. You are looking to find out the known unknowns.
However, when you meet your audience in person, you will start learning about a lot of things that you didn’t know that you didn’t know. Unearthing the unknown unknowns is very important – and that can be done only by meeting your audience in person. They are the reason why you are creating content from behind your screen. The digital mediums work because there are real people behind the screen, using it, to hear from people they want to hear from.
I have met young 19 year college students who have a fire in their belly to start an online business. I have met early stage startup entrepreneurs with frustration in their eyes because their digital marketing is not yielding results. I have met 60+ year old gentlemen, who don’t want to ignore digital marketing just because their life has passed them by. These are the things I can never learn with online surveys, questionnaires and spending time on social media.
Hundreds of new ways to market via the digital medium will keep coming (and going), but all you need to focus on is the user. Understand and learn how to use technology and digital marketing tools, but do not lose focus on the user. Be a digital MARKETER and not a DIGITAL marketer. Put the focus on being a marketer and a communicator. Use the digital to enhance your marketing.
If you are communicating the right thing, to the right person, at the right time, the medium disappears. You need to master the medium, and the medium disappears to make way for connecting with the user, for which the medium exists in the first place.
I hope this lesson helped you understand the importance of putting the focus on the user, first. In the next lesson, we will have a look at the different ways you can learn what your audience wants through scientific research.