The web is flooded with content. It’s difficult to make an accurate estimation of how many new pages are added to the web each day, but with around 1.6 billion websites, it’s safe to say the number is probably quite significant.
And let’s not forget that content doesn’t just mean articles. 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, there are 470,000 new tweets generated each minute, and Instagram users upload over 100 million images and videos each day.
But the numbers aren’t really important. The point is that you could spend every second of your life consuming content online and you would only touch a tiny fraction of all the information available.
So, considering that we are all “consumers”, how do we stop ourselves from drowning in all this content, especially when trying to find a solution to a problem? The answer, of course, is we’ve learned how to seek out the best content.
Now, if you’re a content producer, your obvious aim is to publish the best content. But what can you do to make sure your content is the best and, perhaps more importantly, the most unique? How do you differentiate your content and make it stand out?
Here are five ideas to explore.
Differentiate Your Content with a Unique Brand Voice
Content without a clear brand voice is unmemorable at best, dull and boring at worst. Think about your favorite author. The chances are, they have a unique writing style and that’s why you like their books.
You don’t have to be a bestselling fiction author to develop a clear style. Think about your brand values and culture and how this translates into your voice.
What is your brand personality? Sincere and warm-hearted? Young and adventure-seeking? Rugged and masculine? Developing a unique style based on this personality will help your content stand out and be more relatable.
To see the difference in brand personalities between two brands selling very similar products, just look at the difference in tone and language in these Instagram posts by Benefit Cosmetics and Elizabeth Arden.
It helps to develop a character behind your brand and create all your brand content from this character’s perspective. Feel free to flesh out this character as much as you like – what are his likes and dislikes? What hobbies does he enjoy? What does he do in his spare time? How does he talk to his friends? Does he swear? Joke around?
Fully flushing out his or her personality ensures your brand voice stays consistent by getting into character each time you create content, just as an actor would.
The Power of Storytelling
I was in the middle of writing my last article when the power went out. My laptop was running on battery power but I only had half an hour left and I was on a tight deadline. Then came the worst thing that could possibly happen…
Well, nothing happened. My power didn’t go out, but you get the point – if you can weave some storytelling into your content, you can make it considerably more compelling to read. Customer experience software company Groove found that adding a story to one of their blog posts increased engagement by 300%.
You don’t have to turn everything you write into a novel. But interesting personal anecdotes and details help to make your content more human and give the reader a reason to keep reading.
Differentiate Your Content with Compelling Headlines
Half the battle of winning at content is getting people to click through to it in the first place. So if you can write a headline that’s intriguing enough to catch people’s interest, you’re doing well.
In fact, according to Copyblogger, while 80% of people will read your article headline, only 20% will go on to read the rest of the text.
Online audiences have been tiring of “clickbait” headlines for a while, so don’t go down the formulaic spammy headline route unless you’re going to actually follow through with what you promise.
Many of the articles on Medium are successful in getting the right balance of being compelling without being dishonest. On this article-sharing platform, writers know they have to grab the reader’s attention from many other articles on similar topics.
At a quick glance, some of the articles that caught my eye include:
- 3 Foods You Should Give Up Forever (“listicle” format combined with intrigue – what are these foods and why do I need to stop eating them?)
- Everyone’s Missing the Obvious About the Declining Birth Rate (topical content combined with intrigue again – what is the obvious?)
- The System I Used to Write 5 Books and over 1,000 Blog Posts (a more compelling take on the traditional “how to” post.)
High-Quality, Original Images
Everyone knows that adding an image or two to an article will help to make it more visually appealing. The problem is that when everyone’s using the same images from the same free stock photo sites, all their content starts to look the same.
You can differentiate your content by using more unique images. This might mean using photographs you’ve taken yourself instead of stock images, or it might just mean choosing an abstract photograph as the hero image for your article instead of the standard smiling business people shot.
Original graphics and illustrations can be a really effective way to make your content stand out, with the downside, of course, being that they’re usually expensive or time-consuming to produce.
A good infographic, in particular, can really help your content to stand head and shoulders above the rest. If it results in your content attracting thousands of shares on social media, it will be well worth the financial or time investment.
As Apple used to say, “think different.” Look at what your competitors are doing and rather than simply trying to do better than them, think about how you can do something different.
Maybe this can be in terms of the content format – you could make videos or a podcast if everyone else is writing articles. Or it might be something as simple as tweaking your brand voice to make it stand out. Don’t be afraid to experiment or be controversial from time to time. Most successful brands got where they were today by taking a few risks along the way.
But being different doesn’t mean being erratic. Consistency is still important, so don’t forget about your content planning process, and keep track of your content analytics so you know what’s working (and can do more of it!)