Content is one of the best tools brands have for connecting with their audience and building meaningful relationships.
And yet so much of the content we see as consumers wastes this opportunity. Rather than striking up a human conversation with us, and encouraging dialogue, many brands make content that speaks AT us rather than WITH them.
The real value of content lies in its ability to give a voice and personality to your brand, forming human connections with your followers that you can grow and nurture over time.
How can brands do this more effectively? How to turn your content from impersonal, one-way information into a valuable dialogue that makes customers feel like a part of things and a member of the conversation?
In this post, we’ll cover a few ways you can do that and some best practices to follow. Let’s get started.
Adopt a more conversational tone
Try to move away from overly dry and technical tones and topics, and build content that connects with your readers on a human level.
This is harder for some industries than others, but even the most technical niches can benefit from using a more personal and conversational tone in at least some of their content. Here are some of the ways you can do that:
- Write like you speak. This gives your writing a more natural-sounding easy flow and lowers the risk of it sounding like a stuffy academic report. One good way to achieve this is to record an interview with a thought leader or expert in your company and build it out into a blog post, doing your best to capture and preserve their natural voice.
- Avoid fluff and unnecessary language. There’s no need to repeat the same point in slightly different words, and doing this can make your content feel dense and convoluted — making it harder to create that all-important bond with your readers.
- Steer clear of jargon and buzzwords. Even more technical and advanced content should minimize the amount of jargon used. Always explain acronyms and industry-specific terms, and use simpler alternatives where you can. Also, avoid corporate buzzwords and cliches — they make your content sound insincere and unfriendly.
Aim for two-way communication
Content works best when it’s a two-way street. That means every piece of content you put out there should give readers the option to join the conversation. This helps you connect with your audience, build relationships, and start a dialogue.
Here are some ways to do that:
- Have a comments section on your blog and encourage readers to ask questions, leave comments, and be part of the conversation. You can simply add a sentence at the end of each blog post saying, “let us know what you think in the comments”.
- Ask your readers to share your content on their social media pages or their own blogs, perhaps with a comment or their own thoughts. This is a great way to raise your profile and increase your reach but also get your followers to join the dialogue.
- Use chatbots and other conversational tools to make communication as easy and user-friendly as possible. Chatbots aren’t just there to answer questions and fill in for human staff — they can also help share your brand’s voice and message and give customers a channel to speak to you.
- Ask questions in your content. Make the experience of reading interactive. Provoke thought in your readers and encourage them to literally join the dialogue by leaving comments or getting in touch with your team.
Find out what your customers really want to know about, and give it to them
When you create content, it should always be relevant to your audience’s concerns.
Make sure you’re actually answering their questions — even the ones they haven’t explicitly asked. You can find out what your customers are talking about through surveys, spending time on the same sites and forums they do, and by taking part in social listening (observing what your followers talk about on social media).
By getting to know your customers, their problems, and their needs, you can create content they’ll actually want to read. You’re starting a dialogue by responding to them, even if they haven’t directly approached you yet.
Use email content to start discussions
Email is an incredibly popular way to communicate, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. There are 3.9 billion daily email users in the world, and this is predicted to grow to 4.3 billion by 2023.
Whoever your target audience is, they’re almost certainly checking their email inbox regularly. This, combined with the personal, dialogue-focused format of email, makes it the perfect channel to start a conversation.
Use your emails to address common questions your readers might have, encourage replies, and do what you can to drive interaction and dialogue.
Experiment with gamification
Games and contests like sweepstakes and quizzes can be a fun way to get some interaction going between your brand and your customers.
A competition can be as simple as asking users to like and share a social media post to be in with a chance to win a prize. You can ask them to share some personal stories, ideas, or suggestions to ramp up the conversation even more.
Use social media wisely
Social media is designed for conversation and interaction. It’s the perfect format for brands to talk to their followers and build a more personal and human relationship.
Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram all offer brands a direct line to their customers. You can ask questions, conduct polls, reply to comments, encourage the sharing of your posts, and create valuable content that solves your audience’s problems in a quick and digestible way.
Look who’s talking
To wrap up, let’s take a look at a few brands that are getting the dialogue with their audience just right.
OREO is great at replying to its followers on social media. They keep it light, friendly, and personal, even when dealing with complaints. Customer service doesn’t have to be dry and stuffy, and it shouldn’t be.
Check out this fun banter between OREO and some of its competitors:
When it comes to funny and light-hearted posts, Denny’s leading the charge on Twitter and Facebook. Its content shows customers that it’s possible to run a brand on social media without being overly formal. Humour is a key part of having a good conversation (ever been stuck in a room with a painfully unfunny person?) and the same rules apply to your brand conversations.
From Wendy’s, we can learn how to use the power of competition to engage with followers and gain some publicity.
When a fan tweeted the restaurant’s account asking, “how many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets”, Wendy’s rose to the challenge, responding with, “18 million”.
The response resulted in a high-profile and hilarious competition. It was a perfect example of how a fun conversation with a follower can lead to massive exposure.
Are you interested in starting better conversations with your audience through quality content that speaks to their pain points and answers their questions? Get in touch to find out how we can help you do exactly that.