This article is Part 2 in a six-part series on content marketing for online stores, ecommerce brands, and Shopify stores. Read Part 1 here.
Now that we've covered why content marketing is a must-have strategy for ecommerce brands and online shops, it's time to talk about how to go about creating fantastic content. Great content must resonate with your target audience. What's more, it must do one or a few important things for that audience, like educate, inspire, or entertain them. And what your content does for your audience will likely stem from your brand persona, which if you're a solo operator, you'll probably base upon your personality.
Be Your Audience
Whether you're selling cool add-ons for commercial drones, lenses for iPhones, or fresh pressed juice, I'm guessing you started your online store because you want or like the things you're selling. If so, that’s the best position to be in.
The same goes for your content. If you are a member of your audience, you know which content the audience wants to listen to, read, or watch. And from this perspective stem two implications.
First, and most obviously, the subject-matter of the content should match you and your audience’s desires and world-view. As Seth Godin often says, “people like us do things like this.” In this context, it would be people like me consume content about that.
To illustrate this point, I'd like to point you to an example which I discovered via the Shopify blog. On the Shopify blog, there's an article that shows off eight Shopify stores with great blogs. One of the examples they use is a blog by Press, a pressed juice seller, called The Squeeze. A quick look through Press's content clearly shows that they know their audience and that the content producers on the team are a part of that audience. Their worldview on healthy living and a balanced lifestyle are apparent. They display this worldview brilliantly by including articles like December Drinking Guide, which advocates having a good time, but not overdoing it. That shows their audience that they believe in a healthy lifestyle, but aren't willing to sacrifice the good stuff. "All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy," after all.
The second implication is that you must create your content within the medium your audience prefers to consume. Readers love reading, that's for sure. But busy professionals, who are always on the go, may prefer a podcast. We'll dive more into medium a bit later, but suffice to say for now that your audience will be a significant factor in the media you choose.
But before we dive deeper into the nitty-gritty details regarding media and tactics, let's talk about what content should do for your audience to be useful. Because, after all, material that doesn't move your audience doesn't help you push any product either.
How Content Should Affect Your Audience
Content must affect your audience. It must stir an emotion or a thought, ideally one that causes the consumer to take some action. If it doesn't spark anything at all, it's a waste of time and space. The following sections outline the five most important things I believe your content can do for your audience.
Educational content attempts to impart knowledge unto the audience. This article is an educational piece of content. My goal with it is to teach people who are doing zero or poor content marketing to do good or great content marketing. Your goal with educational content is to teach your audience, or at least part of your audience, something they didn’t know before.
Any online store can set out to educate its customers. Doing so puts you in a position of expertise, which we'll talk about later.
Typically, content that informs your audience takes the form of news or updates. While informational content can be educational as well, it tends to differ significantly from educational content because informational content usually comes with an expiration date.
Informational content can be made up of industry news, trends, product releases, new feature announcements, etc.
An example would be any Apple fan blog. Sure, the content is often educational, but the primary goal is letting the audience know about something new. Informational content does not tend to be evergreen, i.e., the material does not stand the test of time.
Not all content needs to be practical. Many brands focus on inspiring their customers, instead of informing or educating them.
That usually comes in the form of stories, mini-docs, or quote posters. There's been an uptick in the number of long-form ads on Youtube over recent years that fall into this category. While they are just ads, many of them tell compelling stories that inspire and make you want to watch more. One great example is this ad from Heineken.
Inspirational content shows your audience that you're about more than selling them something. You're out to connect with and move the audience's soul. Inspirational content tends to be a great driver of Brand Awareness, but can be a source of Brand Authority if you're able to connect the inspiration to the use of your product.
Provocative content generally consists of strong or contrarian opinions. There's a prevailing opinion out there, and you're against it!
Provocation can be incredibly powerful because it tends to snag up an audience that feels marginalized.
Not to keep talking about Apple, but the famous Mac vs. PC videos were an excellent form of provocation. It made everybody chuckle but made the right people laugh wholeheartedly in agreement. More importantly, it sparked a real-life debate between diehard PC and Apple fans.
Product comparisons, while they typically fall into the educational category, can easily be made into provocative content should you position a clear winner, whatever your audience loves, against a clear loser, what your audience hates.
Entertaining content has many forms. Almost all content can be entertaining, depending on the approach. We often see this content category presented with other categories. For example, The Daily Show was a news show that was funny, at least to some. So it was both informational and entertaining.
Purely entertaining content can be challenging to pull off. That's because this type of content usually needs to be cute or funny. And while most of us know cute and funny when we see them, creating these qualities is much more difficult.
Similar to inspirational content, you should tie entertaining content to the use of your product.
Content Marketing Personas
It can be useful to think of your content through the lens of one or two personas to help you generate content ideas. The personas below are adaptations based on the five platform personalities by Jeff Goins.
Some of the five content marketing personas below naturally utilize some of the audience effects from the above section. However, other personas are more flexible and can focus on any result.
The expert is obsessed with going deep, backing up their claims with reputable sources, and explaining the intricacies of how something works.
As mentioned in the last article, the people at Moz are experts on SEO. And their entire platform is dedicated to that expertise. They may inform people about SEO updates, but only because it serves their educational agenda.
The journalist is constantly sorting and promoting new information.
They are at their best when they are hyper-connected to the goings on in their field of interest. You can expect the journalist to be the source of up-to-the-minute information on his or her industry.
The leader has a vision for the future, a place he or she wants to take their audience.
Leaders aren't overly concerned with facts or information. They care more about general feelings and trends. They see a problem with the status quo, and they strive to fix it, for themselves and the people who follow them.
The provocateur likes to stir up controversy.
He or she loves creating content on the extremes. They often find value in calling out the wrongdoings or hypocrisy of others.
Their strength lies in their willingness to tackle sensitive or politically unpopular topics.
The star lives a life that we’d like to emulate, learn from, or follow for entertainment value.
He or she draws on personal experience to tell a compelling story. Gary Vaynerchuk is a star, but so are the Kardashians. Stars can easily employ some element from any of the content marketing effects.
The strategies above form the baseline for your content marketing strategy. Once you’ve considered your audience, which you’re hopefully a member of, you’re off to a good start. If you’ve also outlined the effects you want your content to have on the audience, as well as the persona you’ll likely adopt, then you’re well on your way to great content for your online shop.
The next, and likely final, article in this three-part series will be about specific tactics and tools you can use to generate great content. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter, so you don't miss it!