What Is Content?
When you want to convey knowledge, experience or feeling, you must give it a concrete form that can be transmitted via a channel, plus enough context for the recipient to be able to recreate something similar to your original thought. Content is the concrete form with the necessary context for the message to be recreated.
Knowledge, experience and emotions are within you. There is nothing that can be touched. So in order to store them outside of yourself, or to transfer them to someone else, you need to give them a concrete form.
It can be in the form of examples text, illustration, photography, video, notes, audio file, choreographic notation and so on.
With enough context, such as what language a text is written in or what an illustration is meant to represent, you or someone else can recreate something similar to the knowledge, experience, and emotions you originally had.
Thus, the concrete form of knowledge, experience and emotions is not enough.
Context is also needed to recreate. Concrete form of knowledge, experience or feeling, with sufficient context to be able to be recreated, is called content.
If you look up content in a British or American dictionary, you will see that the word has two pronunciations with different meanings:
/ kənˈtɛnt /: a state when one is calm and content
/ ˈKɒntɛnt /: something that fits in or is enclosed by something
The word with many meanings
Content came to English via France from the Latin contentum (contenta in the plural) which means “something held together by something”.
That was when the Renaissance reached England in the late 16th century. And ever since, until recently, the word has had the same meaning.
If you ask a British or American who does not work with IT or communication to explain what content means, he would probably answer
- that contents (with plural is at the end) are those that are inside something else, for example inside a box;
- that contents (still with plurals at the end) are the subject being discussed, for example in a book;
- that content (without plural )s) is the spirit meaning of something, for example the meaning of an expression; and
- that content (still without plural) is the amount of something, such as the amount of salt in a soup.
At some point in the last 28 years, the word has gained another meaning. At least if you ask someone who works with the web. Then you will hear
- that content (without plural) s) is the important thing that is on a website; not advertisements and other uninteresting – but what is to be communicated.
It can be said that content, in this sense, is text, graphics, image, sound, moving image and the like that the visitor of a website came to get, unlike what is in the header, footer, banners and other uninteresting.
Most recently, this meaning, which is documented in both English and American dictionaries, has freed itself from the web and floated away.
If you ask a British or American who works with communication to explain what content means, he would probably answer
- that content (without plural ‑ s) is text, graphics, image, sound, moving image and the like that are perceived as valuable by those who are the intended target group.
Content marketing is not marketing with content
What then is content marketing? Is it content marketing? I understand that you can believe it. But the answer is no.
Content marketing is a concept that Joe Pulizzi coined in 2001. He then ran a division within Penton Publishing. Penton Publishing was an American media house, which published several business magazines.
And then they had Joe Pulizzi’s division, which helped customers create customer magazines and other content.
In his role, he met marketing directors for large companies.
He tried to explain to them that there was value in creating and disseminating their own content as a complement to advertising and PR. But it was difficult.
So Joe Pulizzi started using content marketing as a general term.
… This was the one that senior marketers were most drawn to… so I started to use the term more and more. Then in 2007, 2008, 2009 more and more organizations started to pick up on the term. This allowed our discipline to grow… since we were all now talking the same language.
He left Penton in 2007 and founded the Content Marketing Institute, or CMI for short, which is a training company focused entirely on content marketing.
What is good content? Here are 7 tips
There are a large number of requirements you can set for your content, all the way from planning to distribution and follow-up.
In this list, I try to address the basic needs. And I hope it will work just as well for you who sit alone in a small company as for you who belong to a marketing department at a larger company.
Because regardless of the size of the company we work for, if we are to succeed with our content marketing, it is important that the content we produce is good and really does the job.
1. Engage the user
Capturing the user’s interest does not have to be the same as challenging, provoking or attracting attention. It could just as well be making content that very clearly points to a solution or cuts a problem.
What makes a content engaging is that it conveys proper knowledge and shows an interest in the user’s situation. And that it dares to stand for an opinion or an attitude.
Content that does not engage is either so thin that it is uninteresting or it tries to please everyone. And it does not work.
Also, do not be afraid to create an emotional relationship with the user. The ancient Greeks spoke of ethos (credibility), logos (facts) and pathos (feeling) in rhetoric, and it still works.
2. Good craftsmanship
Good craftsmanship means several things. If it is a text you are writing, you must proofread it so that there are no spelling or typographical errors, that it is properly divided into paragraphs, that headings are in place to take some examples.
You also need to make sure that the text is flowing and that what you are writing about is coherent, so it is easy for the reader to keep up.
If your content is images, film, sound or graphics, the corresponding requirements apply.
It should be easy to interpret the information, the sound should not be disturbed, the film or images should not be of poor quality.
Always look through your content one more time, so you know the job is done properly.
3. Easy to find
Easy to find can also mean more than one thing. What you may immediately think of is searchability, meaning that your content should be visible in search engines like Google.
To succeed with this, you must work with the content itself, and focus on optimizing the content. The first is equal to content quality, and that your content lives up to its promise.
The second is that you are careful with things such as that the keywords you want to be found on are included in headings, subheadings, body text, that there is a meta text, that you use tags and categorization.
But it also means that it should be easy to find your content on your website, in your social channels, in your newspaper or at the fair your company participates in.
The more difficult it is to find your content, digitally or analogously, the greater the risk that your users are looking elsewhere.
That your content should be consistent can mean several things. That it looks and sounds the same is part, that is why many companies have graphic guidelines and a tone of voice.
Another part is that the content you produce should be connected, be clear and distinct in both thought and structure. And a third part is that there must be a context over time as well.
Regularity in publishing content is one such thing.
And one last part is that there must be a credibility in the messages, so that your company does not say one thing one week, and something completely different the next week.
5. Focus on the user
That our content should be based on the user’s needs is a cornerstone in content marketing, but still one of the most difficult things there is to actually live up to.
There are many mistakes we can make that lead to the content being more on our own terms than the recipient’s. Wrong language is one of the most common, that we use technical terms or internal concepts.
That we focus more on technology than on results is another.
And perhaps the most common is that we never bothered to find out what is important to our target group.
Every piece of content we produce must be visible to the naked eye so that we do not let through something that is only important to us, but does not do the slightest good for our users.
6. Easy to use
Content that is easy to use is available in both the right format and size and is adapted to the user’s needs at different times.
This can mean that you get to work with your website so it is easy to use the content there, regardless of whether the visitor has a computer or a smartphone.
Or that you divide the content into different levels, so that the user can quickly understand what it is about and then decide to move on or not.
It may be not to publish your content only in one channel, but in several, or not only as a pdf.
Last but not least, it can also be to offer your users the same content but in different formats, because where some prefer to read, listening or watching is easiest for others.
An important part of content work is to make sure that your content does not have outdated or incorrect information, broken links, or any of the other things that make it less useful.
There are few things that make a user abandon a website faster than broken links or deficiencies in basic information such as opening hours, addresses or contact information.
And some other content, it can be business critical that it works, such as support functions, price lists and more.
Therefore, make sure that you include in your content marketing strategy that there should be regular checks of the content.