Who Cares About Content?

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  • 1. @steph_hay WHO CARESABOUT CONTENT? steph hay {BT} nov 22, 2011Hey! Thanks for being interested in content. I love you.

2. WHO DATIm here because I care about content. A lot. Also Im here because Marc asked me to come. Which is great. And plus Stefan told him I shouldspeak. Which is uber great. Thanks dudes! 3. http://www.ickr.com/photos/stn1978/5387611987/ THANKS MARCI didnt ask Stefan permission for this. Thanks Stefan. 4. ABOUT CONTENT I CAREI care about compelling content -- the kind of content that makes you want to DO something. 5. http://www.rebox.com/product/4719/Original-Beard-Hats?aff=512&awc=550_1321540108_1cc8bf4fa2db6885c466422ffb37eaa5 YOU ARE AWESOMEYOU WANT TO CONVEY TO USERS THATAt some point, you and possibly a team of folks already made the decision that you want to compel someONE to do someTHING, like actuallyREAD your website, buy your app, vote for your congressperson, whatever. But really, above all else, you want the user to know that what yourepromoting (be it a product or an experience) is quite kick-ass.What youre creating -- whether youre designing a more topical, marketing website for consumers targeting some fairly high-level categoricalaudience (you know, like women) or maybe a more niche, user-centric ipad, mobile, or web application -- will determine how your process likelyunfolds from there.But lets just say for purposes of this discussion that were designing a brochure-ware sort of marketing-focused website for our company, which isa full-service web consulting agency.So we might follow a process that looks similar to this: 6. CREATIVE BRIEF INFORMATION ARCHITECTURE WIREFRAMES DESIGN MOCKS BUILD! SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATION CONTENT QA + UNNECESSARY TWEAKS LAUNCH!In this sort of a common process, you might start from a common document like a creative brief, which captures the goals of the project andoutlines audiences, then move sufciently through IA, wireframes, and comp iterations before getting approval to build it. Near the end, you mightpull in a Twitter feed, populate blank pages with content, do nal QA and some maddening tweaks, then launch it. 7. CREATIVE BRIEFINFORMATION ARCHITECTUREWIREFRAMESDESIGN MOCKSBUILD!SOCIAL MEDIA INTEGRATIONCONTENTQA + UNNECESSARY TWEAKS LAUNCH!So we think about content at the start -- when were creating the IA (which should be driven by content priorities) -- and at the end. But ignoring(for now) the obvious vacuum of content in this process, we might arrive at a nal website that has this formulaic-type of content: 8. WE BUILD SITES DESIGN MOBILECREATIVETALENTED TEAM DEVELOPERSSUBMIT YOUR EMAIL TWITTER THANK YOU.Here are some words about WHAT we do, WHO we are, and HOW a user can get ahold of us.Pretty straightforward. 9. WE BUILD SITESDESIGN MOBILE CREATIVE TALENTED TEAMDEVELOPERSSUBMIT YOUR EMAIL TWITTER THANK YOU. ?But this is what our competition does! And in almost the exact same way! In fact, this is what the great majority of sites out there does -- they talkabout who they are and what they offer, but they miss the mark when it comes to bear hugging the user. Content needs to compel the user to *do*something ... to feel condent in believing that youre what theyve been searching for. To rise above the many other people who seemingly dowhat you do, to degrees of subjective quality that the user can determine.And I think thats accomplished by writing content that has three elements: 10. 3 ELEMENTS OF COMPELLING CONTENT Focus Credibility ConsistencyCompelling writing that conveys importance has 3 primary elements: focus, credibility, and consistency. THESE THREE ELEMENTS extendbeyond your typical website or application content creation process and into all your writing -- from email to Twitter, SMS messages, bios orFacebook pages.So I encourage you to consider these three elements from a rather global perspective and incorporate them increasingly into everything you write. 11. MAKE NO MISTAKE... This is HardSo the one caveat to everything Ill discuss related to focus, credibility, and consistency is that achieving them every time is HARD. And not justbecause it takes a strategic mind to consider how content can bridge business, marketing, and user experience goals. But also because it maychallenge that process I mentioned earlier -- it likely will require some re-thinking to integrate content into the wireframing and comp process. Andinto the build, where content is equally essential. But its certainly possible, and just prioritizing the written word and taking one step and a time isthe best way to start moving forward toward more compelling content.BUT BEFORE YOU TYPE A SINGLE THING.... 12. FOCUS IN WHICH AREAS CAN BE DEMONSTRATED?Consider this: Why are we writing in the rst place? 13. FOCUSED CONTENT CONSIDERS...AudienceMediumNetworkAs with all things, you need to understand a few key pieces: Audience, Medium, and Network. Understanding the potential of these three areasBEFORE you start writing will actually shape HOW you write. 14. Copyright Lemuhr http://acidcow.com/pics/4553-dead-ies-art-15-pics.html AUDIENCETo whom are you PRIMARILY sending a message. Instead of thinking of broad, generic demographics, consider ONE person. Sitting across thetable from you.What does that person look like? What kind of day is he having? How do you want the user to FEEL when she discovers you? And what do youwant the reader to *DO* when she reads your content? Is she a government person, hipster, baby boomer, or teenager? How web savvy is she?What questions does she have that you can answer BEFORE she asks them? 15. AUDIENCEDont: Consider everyone.Do: Focus on *one* ideal person, then speak directly to him or her.Writing for one person makes writing easier. You can imagine the conversation. You can write for that ideal conversation.And after youve got some basic content that successfully speaks to this particular, primary audience, you can always go back to nd the ways inwhich additional or different content can be layered in to reach secondary or tertiary audiences. But if you start there -- trying to speak to everyaudience at once -- you will have a much tougher time writing targeted, focused content right out of the gate. 16. Copyright Lemuhr http://acidcow.com/pics/4553-dead-ies-art-15-pics.html MEDIUMNow that you know specically to whom youll be communicating with your writing, consider which ways you can send that message.Content will vary from web and mobile to email to LinkedIn proles, Twitter updates, blog posts, business cards. Your method of delivering thatcontent is, arguably, a part of the message itself, so consider how you can best leverage the characteristics of each. For example, maybe youCAN get away with creating a 2-3 page website with links to additional information that lives elsewhere, such as in a blog, on GetSatisfaction, oron Twitter. As long as these additional media have been considered as part of a holistic approach to your content strategy, then you can feelcondent that your writing is going to complement itself across several channels and, hopefully, thereby paint a more vibrant picture of whateveryoure offering. 17. MEDIUMDont: Think in isolation.Do: Capitalize on other communication channels to tell your story.The ip side of course is that by taking stock of additional media, youll have to make sure they dont undermine the work youre putting intowriting specic content to begin with. Theres always a (pretty good) chance that people will Google your name or the products name before theytake action, so be sure that the various media promoting your work are aligned. And consider how you can better align them to provide acomprehensive view of your awesomeness. 18. Copyright Lemuhr http://acidcow.com/pics/4553-dead-ies-art-15-pics.htmlNETWORKNow that youve thought about your audience and the various media you can use to communicate with that audience, consider your network:which people or inuencers around you are going to facilitate those messages or serve as a reference to your product or service? Which peopledo you owe a major responsibility to INDEED, BE AWESOME, well AFTER they refer you as being awesome? 19. NETWORK Dont: Forget others reach. Do: Consider how your network will describe you -- and inuence your target audience.The most active people who could be willing to help you might actually help you shape the content BECAUSE OF the people theyll connect youwith. For example, if you know the editor of a major tech magazine, and that editor wants to write a glowing review of your app, you may in factdecide to tailor some of the content youre writing to appeal to the reader of that magazine. In doing so, youll be positioning the app to better alignwith the readership, and hopefully increasing its likelihood of traction for that audience.Or, youll at least call in a copy editor to go through everything with a ne-toothed comb to ensure nothing trivial like typos exist. After all, becausethat editor is willing to offer such support, you have an a responsibility to NOT make the editor look like an asshole. Your network of peopleSHOULD INSPIRE YOU TO WORK HARDER at making sure your writing doesnt undermine your credibility or theirs.SO, now that youve focused on your target audience, media for delivering messages, and network who help with connecting you with potentialadopters, its time to write credible content. 20. CREDIBILITY IN WHICH WAYS CAN BE CONVEYED?In many ways, your content *is* your credibility. Its what youre saying, or its what others are saying about you. Its separate from design,features, and social media channels. Its the thought behind each purposeful word. 21. CREDIBLE CONTENT IS... Meaningful Helpful Results-Oriented ConfidentCredible content seems to universally have four qualities. It (1) substantively says something to convey meaning (2) Explicitly tells users whatthey should do (3) Describes to users what outcome will be bestowed upon them should they choose to engage, and (4) Is condent -- withoutbeing conceited -- which inherently makes users feel more condent about their decision to engage. And Ill illustrate each of these qualities withexamples found in websites and applications online today. 22. Copyright Lemuhr http://acidcow.com/pics/4553-dead-ies-art-15-pics.html MEANINGFUL ONLY WRITE CONTENT THATSCompelling content serves a purpose. Its substantive. Its written for the reader. Its written to illustrate what cant be gleaned fully from visuals.But, above all else, its written to communicate a message. 23. As an example of a site that starts describing the results of their efforts -- then interjects ambiguity that questions their credibility -- is here.If you have nothing substantive to say, dont add some meaningless crap to ll space. No one on Earth likes to read meaningless crap whentheyre trying to LEARN something. 24. ONLY WRITE CONTENT THATS MEANINGFUL Dont: Fill space. Do: Take the time to ensure your writing *says something.*If youre going to make a page or a product, it should without a doubt add value to the users experience. And you should take the time to ensurethat value is obvious in every word choice. You cant afford to leave your users hanging. And if you dont have something meaningful to saybeyond a few bullet points, then dont! Just really knock it out of the park with the meat of the message you DO have. 25. Designer David Desandro actually describes HOW he got a result -- in plain English -- that, in its honesty and knowledge sharing, is bothendearing and interesting. This is meaningful stuff to a front-end developer and reinforces his credibility AS a front-end developer. 26. The National Breast Cancer Foundation here is intentionally trying to push empowerment as a primary message. All of the content has meaning totheir target audiences, and credibility is crucial to their efforts in being the resource for nding meaningful information related to breast cancer. 27. LifeLocks content is meaningful to anyone concerned with identity theft (which maybe is all of us). But in this case, they have content cateredtoward HOW identity theft happens as told by someone who experienced it herself. This rst-person storytelling of something meaningful (which inthis case is also the problem statement), reinforces LifeLocks credibility as a provider of services catered toward preventing identity theft. 28. Copyright Lemuhr http://acidcow.com/pics/4553-dead-ies-art-15-pics.html HELPFULBECredibility is also reinforced when youre obviously trying to help your user DO something on the site. 29. This is an example of a missed opportunity. For me, 2 questions come up immediately: What is this, and what am I supposed to do with it?Layout aside (though content is very much intimately related with layout, design, and functionality), engaging your audience with obviouslanguage is absolutely essential to encourage adoption. Theres nothing helping me to my destination, and as a result, Im nding myselfquestioning the credibility of this site. 30. BE HELPFULDont: Assume users knowwhat to do.Do: Tell users what you wantthem to do.Its really the minority of people, companies, and products out there who can rely entirely on assumptions about the user -- namely, that the userALREADY KNOWS EVERYTHING S/HE IS SUPPOSED TO KNOW when s/he arrives at your site or application. And even when you do rely onassumptions or minimize the amount of content you include, it cant be at the expense of usability.So, if youre the vast majority of folks out there in todays competitive marketplace, dont assume. Have fun enthusiastically explaining yourself,but be sure to blatantly tell (or show) your users what you want them to do. Be helpful! 31. DEMONSTRATE ENGAGEMENTFreelancer Portfolio of Len Damico: Heres what I do in plain English, heres my face, heres a bit about how I help your brand, check out some ofmy work, and then contact me. Simple, frank, approachable. And denitely helpful in a way that reinforces his credibility. 32. The TribalDDB site is helpful even if you didnt mean to land on their site. 33. Admittedly, I am a huge Mint.com fan. And I appreciate that theyve taken some time to try and explain what theyre all about in a way thatdescribes how the product can benet the user. Its especially crucial to Mint that they be helpful and credible, because theyre asking users toinput bank account information! But on the homepage alone, they start very strategically with content that helps me to know what Im supposed todo here (both in written content and in the video content alongside it), which reinforces their credibility. 34. Copyright Lemuhr http://acidcow.com/pics/4553-dead-ies-art-15-pics.htmlRESULTS-ORIENTEDKEEP CONTENTSo now youve created meaningful content, youve told the user what to do, and now you have to describe the benets theyll get ONCE they takeadvantage of your product or services. The result is so important. 35. In this case, its just a choose-your-adventure style listing of packages and features. But if Im looking at you versus the rest of the competition(who does this), then maybe Ill be choosing a vendor based on price, or design, or something that has nothing to do with how you provide serviceto me as the client. 36. KEEP CONTENT RESULTS-ORIENTED Dont: Just list what you DO. Do: Explain what awesome things users will GET from you.Theres always an opportunity to describe WHAT your users will get by choosing YOU, so dont blow it! Tell users what they get from you thatsdifferent from what they get from others who offer the same thing as you. 37. The BentheBodyguard.com website, which Ill get into in more detail later, is a great example of writing compelling content thats results oriented.What you DONT see here in the heading is a product-specic angle of content; that is to say, it would have been MUCH easier to write PRIVATECONTACTS, which is what the app *does.* Instead, they made it about the users benet -- protect your friends -- which is a result that goesBEYOND the feature set itself and reaches into the daily life and challenges of the user. 38. Kenny Meyers talks about beating the crap out of projects and how his clients will learn the ne tradition of a weekend. If youre someone with aproject and you arent sure how its going to get done, this, at the very least, is the kind of result youre looking for. And the work included on thispage (beneath the screenshot) continues to reinforce the credibility hes rather colorfully demonstrating here. 39. Nike Better World -- Heres an example of a big brand thats taking a humorous approach to its results. Of course, they dont really mean that theirproducts themselves are rubbish, but literally they are -- at least, in terms of their production process, which includes using recycled materialsfrom landlls. This is a perfect example of writing results-oriented content that aligns with the greater mission of this particular microsite, which isabout Nikes commitment to communities and the world around us, which certainly is reinforcing of its credibility. Brilliant. 40. Copyright Lemuhr http://acidcow.com/pics/4553-dead-ies-art-15-pics.html CONFIDENT BE, NOT CONCEITEDNow that youve been promoting all the great results users can expect to receive if they engage, be careful to sidestep arrogance or conceit. Thiscan be tricky, especially with the conversational nature of web, email, and social media.Weve all come across content that assumes its parent is so NATURALLY BADASS that words are unnecessary. In a small number of cases, thisis true. But even your fans may be turned off if you just get cocky or think youre above reproach -- take Groupon and their SuperBowl ads, forexample. Someone wrote -- and a lot of people approved -- what many considered to be poor-taste humor that came across as arrogant andimpacted (negatively) their credibility. 41. Truthfully, this established agency has good reason to promote its accomplishments -- because theyre so many in number and because itsworked hard to earn them. 42. You may have signicant rights to be condent if youve got 870 things people can read-through, but you want to be careful to sidestep conceit. Imean, why even suggest to the user that s/he might have the time to read through 870 more praises of your company -- instead of just selectingwhats most important and portraying condence through quality (rather than quantity)? 43. BE CONFIDENT, NOT CONCEITED Dont: Over promote. Do: Showcase condencewhile being humble.Be selective. Talk about what makes your product or service EXTRAORDINARY. Sometimes being humble actually promotes your condence andtherefore serves well to reinforce your credibility, like in this next example. 44. Sometimes you can say a lot in just a few words -- like Action Marketing Group. Theyre condent they can give you a great experience in 2seconds or 2 minutes -- and theyre giving YOU the choice -- which I think reinforces their credibility. 45. Peerless makes these hilarious instruction manuals with hand-drawn illustrations, and they work really hard to convey their personality online, too.On their homepage is Shameless Faucet Showoffery where they actually promote their xtures in homes, and thats more condent than atypical faucet factory shop that might just talk about specs and show a picture. Peerless is obviously proud of what they do and that condencereinforces their credibility. 46. Southwest is the king (or queen) of puns. And that somewhat corny approach to their language is a huge differentiator in the airline industry -- theyopenly and condently talk about the ne print in a ton of their communications. Rather than keeping it corporate and purposefully ambiguous,they surface hot-button issues, describe their stance on it, and then give an easy link to learn about the ne print. The language on Southwestssite consistently is condent without conceit, and its always worked to reinforce their credibility across a wide expanse of branding opportunities.And that consistency brings me to the last point of this talk. 47. CONSISTENCY IN WHICH AREAS CAN BEST BE ACHIEVED?Last but DEFINITELY not least, the third element, consistency, is the easiest to achieve -- and the most often overlooked. It takes TIME and aninformed set of eyes. GLARING grammatical or spelling errors are obvious credibility killers, but beyond those, compelling content that achievesconsistency is truly detail-oriented writing. 48. CONTENT IS CONSISTENT IN ITS... Structure Voice StyleThe three areas of real opportunity for consistency to be realized is in structure, voice, and style. 49. Copyright Lemuhr http://acidcow.com/pics/4553-dead-ies-art-15-pics.htmlSTRUCTURE 50. STRUCTURE+ Lead with the meat+ Include whats relevant+ Use keywords throughout 51. Copyright Lemuhr http://acidcow.com/pics/4553-dead-ies-art-15-pics.htmlVOICE 52. VOICE+ Write in a genuine tone+ Avoid bloated statements+ Rewrite anything thatsounds ridiculous whenread out loud 53. Copyright Lemuhr http://acidcow.com/pics/4553-dead-ies-art-15-pics.htmlSTYLE 54. STYLE+ To end (or not) lists withfull-stops+ Capitalization, punctuationin headings+ Website/web site, log in,sign up 55. Woot continues to be a leader in intentional writing. The product descriptions are perfectly balanced between hilarious, entertaining storytellingand true, technical product descriptions. The author(s) of these pieces even go as far as helping you to understand WHY this would be benecialin your life, taking time to paint the scene of why and how youll use the Woot of the day -- they are intentionally trying to help you visualize itsvalue to your life in an ultimate effort to facilitate your purchase.Marvelous. 56. 3 ELEMENTS OF COMPELLING CONTENT Focus Credibility ConsistencySo, just to recap, whenever youre facing a blank document that you have to write compelling content for, take it one step at a time: Focus yourenergy, write with credibility in mind, and go back through to ensure consistency is achieved. 57. OK, BUT HOW DO I START?Ok, so to wrap up, perhaps you are asking yourself, Yes, this is all well and good, but how do I incorporate this into my current process -- the onethat has all of the other elements like UX, design, and development already baked into it? Well, Im glad you asked! 58. BALLS TO THE WALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 1. Write 2. Choose 3. Rewrite 4. PrioritizeSo Im just going to spend a few minutes talking about something you can do today, or tomorrow, when youre sitting back in front of yourcomputer staring at some lorem ipsum or -- worse -- a completely blank piece of paper and thinking to yourself, Ok, how do I actually get startedin writing some compelling content that Steph told me about at Beyond Tellerrand?Be fearless. Go balls to the wall in the following steps. 59. 0. DONT PANIC. SERIOUSLY.Really, before you start writing, theres a zero step -- dont panic. Its going to be all right, man. 60. 0. DONT PANIC. SERIOUSLY. ZOMG WTF?!Seriously, I just said dont panic. This is actually going to be liberating. Really. 61. 1. WRITE YOUR PITCH WITH ABANDON Were an app for your iPhone or Android device. We provide security for your contacts and photos. Ben is a beautiful frenchman. You will love him. You dont have to worry about losing your phone anymore. We will protect your passwords, too. Were pretty much awesome. Dont wait until you misplace your phone to start caring about privacy. Whats your data say about you?First, brain dump 1-liners with reckless abandon. Edit NOTHING. Pretend you are having a conversation with that one person I mentioned earlierwhile talking about audience. Imagine you only have 5 seconds to tell her something important about your service or app. Write down thoseimportant things. 62. 2. HIGHLIGHT THE MEATIEST STUFF Were an app for your iPhone and iPod Touch device. We provide security for your contacts and photos. Ben is a beautiful frenchman. You will love him. You dont have to worry about losing your phone anymore. We will protect your passwords, too. Were pretty much awesome. Dont wait until you misplace your phone to start caring about privacy. Whats your sensitive data say about you?Next, go through all of those one-line sentences and highlight the words you think are the most important. Maybe theyre representative of yourbrand. Maybe theyre features that differentiate you from competitors. Maybe theyre values of your audience. Maybe theyre priorities of yourclient or boss. Maybe you just like them. Whatever the reason, highlight the things you think are most important in your messages RATHER THANTHE MESSAGES THEMSELVES. 63. 3. REWRITE USING THE MEAT ONLYA frenchman protecting your secrets. Yes, seriously.Protecting your passwords, photos, contacts, and other sensitive stuff on your iPhone or iPod Touch.Next, write a new round of messages using ONLY those highlighted words you chose from the rst round. This will ensure that the vast majority ofyour new sentences are full of really good meaty qualities, features, and user-oriented values. 64. 4. PRIORITIZEMessage MotivationGoal A frenchman Pique interest that User wants to solve protecting your the app is all about that problem and secrets. Yes, seriously.data privacy. downloads the app. Protecting your Describe the User wants those passwords, photos, beneEits of the app features on her contacts, and other and list the iPhone or iPod sensitive stuff on your supported Touch and iPhone or iPod platforms.downloads the app. Touch.And, if you want to go the extra mile, heres an example of a message hierarchy. Youll see that in the left column are our nalists -- these includethe messages we think are the most powerful.In the middle column, list the business motivation for having these messages. Whats the real value, from a business perspective, for includingthis message in our site?Finally, note what we hope the user will do once s/he reads that message. In the best-case scenario, what we does just reinforces the businessgoal itself. 65. YOU CAN DO IT.Regardless if you ultimately choose to become a writer (hey, I can dream, cant I?) and join the throes of us under-represented word nerds, youCAN write compelling content that engages users effectively. You really can. I promise. 66. Thanks a bunch for listening!YOU ARE AWESOME. @steph_hayThank you! http://www.stephaniehay.com