If developing an online business is part of your Life-Design Strategy two of the most strategic decisions you'll have to make are which platforms and which content formats you use. Time spent on this will be well worth it and will help you avoid situations where you're barking up the wrong tree for customers and followers, or feeling overwhelmed and lost trying to get your message out there.
When you're starting out you want to think about the most relevant platforms to use, the most effective content formats (not just for your marketing needs, but given your working style and skill-set, etc.) and develop a strategy that isn’t full of clutter. You don’t have to do all the things. Trying to do too much will leave you feeling swamped and will dilute your message to potential readers, listeners, clients or customers.
So What Platforms Are Out There?
There are the obvious ones: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. Then (perhaps) the not-so-obvious: Pinterest, Snapchat, Musically, LinkedIn. There are countless others from Twitch to Medium to TikTok. The type of content you plan to create, your personality, and the most likely hangouts of your target audience will all factor in to which combination of platforms you choose to build a presence on.
Attempting to gain traction on them all is probably always a terrible idea, as is only ever focusing on one. You want to know which platform will be your home-base (which is often Facebook due to the versatility and utility of the platform) and where else you will branch out to. You may also want to have your own website which can host your content, or that your content will direct people towards.
What Forms of Content Can You Create?
Again, there are some more obvious than others. You could write a blog, record a podcast, or film a vlog (or any combination). Then there are a whole array of other forms like webinars, e-books, infographics, and online courses - we'll get in to those another time.
Any form of content will consist of text, audio, or graphic elements – and sometimes all three. As with the platforms you occupy, you don’t want to stretch yourself when it comes to the type of content you put out – but equally you don’t want to necessarily isolate yourself to just the one.
Now to consider what platforms and content types make most sense for you, and for the purposes of your content strategy (which is what you’ll be building some awareness of by considering each of the following).
What Comes Naturally to You?
You’ll probably end up experimenting with a few different formats – and I would definitely recommend that – so initially ask yourself what you feel drawn to. Do you like writing, or talking? If you prefer to chat, do you feel comfortable on camera? If not then maybe a podcast is a good idea to start with.
That said, you’re probably going to find yourself veering out of your comfort zone as you progress. This is a good thing! This is where you learn new skills, uncover new aspects of yourself, and discover new opportunities to grow your audience. If you do decide to start a blog, creating other visual content like graphics or header-images might mean having to work on your design skills. Perhaps you’ll find putting out short vlogs on Facebook is a good way to get some initial traction to your blog, which might mean overcoming your fear of being on camera.
Also it’s worth thinking about the processes involved regarding the different type of content, and the tools you might need. You’ll need to get familiar with the editing process regardless of the format you choose, but that process will look different depending on what it is you’re creating. Editing writing is very different from editing audio, and video is a whole different ballpark.
A blogger can get started with just a laptop. A podcaster might want to invest in a microphone, but most phones have a reasonably good audio recording capabilities built in. Equally your phone will also work for a vlog. You might want to upgrade your kit as you progress, but initially you have an all-in-one tool for whichever content you plan to create.
You’ll want to look in to the software necessary for editing audio and video content but usually you can find something for free that does a good enough job (I use Audacity). For hosting your content there are specialist sites and so on but again you can get started for free.
There’s no reason your blog can’t be started on Facebook or Instagram. There’s no reason not to start your podcast on SoundCloud and share it to Facebook, or create a video-podcast on YouTube. Start a vlog wherever you like: Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Musically – you have fairly free reign there. The following will help you hone in on your prime platform.
How Does Your Audience Spend Their Time?
All that said, where you put out your message also depends on where the people are who are waiting to hear it. It’s probably not the smartest move to share your gardening tips on Snapchat (I could be wrong, feel free to test that idea out) or a financial business podcast on Musically (although Gary V might prove me wrong).
Do some research in to where your ideal audience spends their time, the most popular platforms for various industries, and if you represent your audience yourself just look at how you and people like yourself spend their time online.
The other thing to consider are the types of content that people consume. There are generalities: young adults on Instagram, tweens on Musically, our parents' generation on Facebook, and so on. Those can be a good rule-of-thumb to get you started.
Think about how you want people to consume and interact with your content as well. If you’re going really deep in to a topic to show people you know your stuff are they more likely to spend 25 minutes reading a blog post or listening to a podcast? Want to give people practical, actionable advice on things they’re likely to Google: an informative blog post would do the job nicely.
What’s the Aim of Your Content?
Ultimately the best type of content to create is the one that you do create – a reasonably good podcast is better than a non-existent blog, for example. For it to achieve anything it has to exist. Beyond that you want to know what role your content plays in your content strategy, and I’ll explain a little more about exactly what that is in a later post.
What do you want someone to think, feel or do after coming across your content? Are you trying to emphasise that you’re the go-to in a specific subject? Maybe your aim is to show people how they might benefit from purchasing your product? Or do you want people to connect with you over some shared point-of-view? Whatever it is, it makes sense to know that before you set about spending time crafting your content.
Certain types of content meet particular needs better. If you want to connect with people on a more personal level (say your focus is to build your personal brand) then video content might suit that more personable approach than blog content, unless you have a particular writing style that works for that purpose. It really does all depend on the interaction between you and the message you’re trying to get out there, and the people you need to hear it.
Thinking About Connections and Content
Another term that I’ll be referring to again as we get a bit further on is your Marketing Ecosystem. As you’ve no doubt realised you aren’t going to just be creating a single piece of content, let alone a single type of content. Along with the variety of platforms and tools you use and the interconnections between these a web begins to form. Once someone comes across your content (assuming you’re doing things properly) that won’t be the last time they hear from you. They’ve entered your ecosystem by some means and this should trigger a series of actions and reactions.
Some of these might be intentional – mechanical, even – if say you have your blog set up in such a way that once people visit a particular post they are targeted with an advert on Facebook (which can all be nicely automated – another thing I might share in here later, or you can look up ‘Facebook Pixel retargeting’). If someone follows you on Instagram they’ll see your content in their feed (with any luck). Those things are either down to you or the platform your content is on.
Then there are the soft connections your content makes: the positive impression you leave with someone might mean when they next think about indoor plumbing or whatever it is your content is about, they think I know, I’ll go to that plumber podcast I liked! If someone resonates with the message you’re putting out there, maybe they’ll share it and then their friends become a passive recipient of your content as well.
Hopefully this has given you enough to think about to get you off on the right foot but at the end of the day experimentation and research are what will drive you forward. I suggest you lay out a simple plan for a few pieces of content you want to create and get them out there in the world. Run trough the points in this post and put out something sooner rather than later just to get a feel for it. See what clicks, see what feels good, and adapt as you go.