My apologies in advance; I wrote this while I was hungry.

Like an “all you can eat” digital buffet, businesses are serving up trays of online content, and you’re invited to load your plate with an appetizer of tweets and posts, an entrée of blogs infused with rich video, and sides of articles and white papers. For dessert, infographics covered in sweet statistics. Yum!

Now, don’t get distracted and start thinking of your favorite gastro getaway. Stay with me here. There’s content coming!

Back to this blog . . .

Businesses today rely heavily on developing content that attracts potential customers to their website, educates them about their brand, demonstrates the benefits their products and services provide, and leads them to the buying table. That content is delivered to audiences in every conceivable way, through search engines and social media.

What kind of content are your customers craving and consuming? What’s their favorite and what do they pass up? Based on media that appeal to a majority of audiences, here are three that every business should have in their content buffet.

We have become a society of watchers, voyeurs to the world around us. On social media, video is now the most popular medium for both Millennials and older generations. According to a Cisco VNI Forecast, it’s projected that in 2017 video will make up 69% of all internet traffic. If you want to capture your audience’s attention, nothing says, “try this, it’s delicious!” like video.

Video can humanize a brand, showcasing the business and its employees as they go about their days managing operations. It can demonstrate corporate social responsibility, with videos of team members participating in community service projects or causes. And, it’s a go-to platform for important company, product or industry news and information.

It used to be that creating video content required hiring costly production companies, spending days in the editing room, and then hoping the end product would get the attention of your potential customers. Today, you can shoot that video on a smartphone, load it into free or budget-friendly editing software and produce quality slices of rich, visually-captivating content that puts the user in the middle of the experience.

That isn’t to discount professionally produced video, especially when it comes to creating your company’s centerpiece of brand identity, announcing product launches, or sharing important messages. Both viral and studio formats have their place. Just make sure you have video included as part of your content strategy!

It’s true: we now have less of an attention span than a goldfish. A goldfish averages eight seconds; we clock in just under that. Getting and keeping attention is a lofty goal but those who do it are rewarded. A great headline, with a promise of invaluable information is what you need to get them to the table, then serve up some piping hot content.

While short-form blogs – 500 to 700 words – had been a standard and still have their place on many platforms, long-form blogs of 1,200 to 1,500 words, along with multi-page research and white papers are now more valued. This expanded text provides more in-depth information than short forms and helps to build your authority on subject matter, and your brand reputation as a credible thought leader and influencer. Studies show that, once engaged, you’re more apt to keep a visitor on your site for a longer period. They search for more content that provides additional information or sways them toward an action, be it subscribing to your newsletter, donating to your cause, or asking for a quote for your product or service.

Know this! It’s important. Google rewards long-form content. Substantially! In 2016, Backlinko analyzed one million Google search results for its Search Engine Ranking Factors Study. It found that the average Google first page result contains 1,890 words; on social media platforms, content longer than 1,200 words generates better performance than those in the 500-800 range; and, in-depth articles get more hits, shares and traffic than do shorter pieces.

A goal of any business in today’s competitive landscape is to exceed customer expectations. The next generation of interactive content is designed to do that, opening up a whole new realm of marketing. Organizations are not only engaging their audiences, they’re learning about them and providing information that adds value to their visits and grows brand affinity.

Interactive marketing is designed to make the user’s experience feel personal. It’s value in creating that personal experience is the ability for businesses to learn as much as they can about their audience and potential customers, including demographics, geography and life-style/life-cyle habits, and provide content to them in ways that grow and enhance the business-customer relationship. Interactive marketing can lead to more customer conversions and higher revenue, and enhance customer satisfaction and retention.

In a 2016 study by Content Marketing Institute, 81% of users agree that interactive content grabs attention; 79% agree that interactive content enhances retention of brand messaging when combined with traditional marketing tactics; and, 79% agree that interactive content can have reusable value, resulting in repeat visitors and multiple  exposures. Once users get a taste of interactive marketing, they’ll search it out and devour it.

What interactive content would be valuable to your organization? If you’re a manufacturer, can a visitor take a 360-degree virtual tour of your facilities and see your manufacturing processes at work? If you’re a financial planning firm, could they take a quiz on their retirement readiness by answering a few qualifying questions and get a predictor that tells them how much they need to save? Or, will you share the latest paradigm-shifting trends in your industry with an interactive infographic?

A note about this type of marketing: “interactive” is not just on the part of the user. It is a two-way communication platform and needs to be responsive, whether that’s providing automated or personal services. It may be just a laptop, tablet or smartphone, but to your potential and existing customers it is their connection to you and they’re looking to you to deliver the promised experience. Additionally, interactive marketing strategies must be well-thought-out, have defined and measurable goals and objectives, and employ collection methods and analytical tools necessary to accurately track and disseminate the information attained in real time. Take time and do it right.

So, How Good Was That?
Each of these strategies takes planning and research to determine how best to utilize their strengths and how to layer the ingredients in each to create an immersive, content-rich user experience that drives results. Let them try a little of everything and you’ll find what they like best and what’s best left off the menu.

Hope you’ve enjoyed these three servings of healthy, helpful content. That’s the recommended daily allowance, though your content needs may vary. After the “food-content” association throughout today’s blog, I’m guessing you’ll remember it every time you get in line for a buffet.

Ooh, is that prime rib?