Content marketing campaigns are intricately woven, multifaceted roads that work together for a common cause—at least, they should be. Many modern content marketers have the unfortunate tendency to view content through a singular, warping lens that combines all forms of content together in an incoherent puddle of words.
It’s not enough to simply write large quantities of content and hope for the best. There are several types of content, which I’ve broken down into three major categories, each of which has advantages and disadvantages that can be molded together to form one cohesive strategy. I’ve designated these types of content as “big,” “medium,” or “small,” but these words don’t necessarily describe the content’s length as much as they describe the content’s depth. The depth of your content is the most important factor when categorizing the function of each—even though length is often loosely associated with that depth.
Let’s take a look at each type of content available, and where they belong in the context of your larger campaign:
Big content is the “deepest” form of content, usually exploring a topic in full detail, relying on original research and many sources of data to present something valuable and unified. Big content tends to be long, mostly because of the sheer volume of information necessary to include, but it isn’t a necessity. Big content could be any material that covers a topic in great detail, in a way that has not been done before.
The most common examples of big content you’ll find are whitepapers and comprehensive research-based reports, though there are many sub-types of this content. Many content marketers use these as “definitive guides” or “ultimate guides” to a specific problem within their industry. Others have simply used them as a vehicle to present their own findings.
As part of a content marketing strategy, big content is a very valuable piece that takes a long time to put together. The cost and return are both high, so your big content must be published and distributed carefully. One of the most effective ways to do this is to offer your big content only as a reward for some action on the part of your users, such as signing up for an email blast or making a purchase in your store. Doing so allows you to encourage your users to take more action and provide an additional value for those that do.Others have used their big content as a new form of revenue, offering a download of the material for a fixed price on their website.
Big content demands a personal brand, rather than being published by a corporation. Even if you include multiple individuals’ names on the final product, having that personal touch imbues a sense of authority and relatability.
If you’re considering offering your big content for a fixed price, make sure it’s worth it. Your big content needs to be meticulously detailed, unique in the market, and fact checked for accuracy. It’s not something you can put together in a day. That being said, you also don’t want to overinvest. Spend lots of time on this piece, but make sure to use it to its full potential.
Medium content is much easier to produce than big content, but as a result its impact tends to be slightly smaller. Nevertheless, medium content has a pivotal role in any content marketing strategy because of its regularity; it’s detailed enough to be highly valuable to your readers, but general enough that it can be produced on a weekly or daily basis. Again, length is not as important as “depth” in this sense, and medium content tends to focus on broad overviews of major topics, or intimate examinations of very small topics.
The most popular type of medium content today is the blog post. Especially after the latest releases of Google’s Panda update, it’s practically mandatory for every online business to have a regularly updated blog. Blog posts are relatively easy to write, and can range from 400 to 1500 words—substantial, but not as in-depth as a piece of big content.
Other types of medium content include press releases and other forms of online articles.
Medium content has the job of building a recurring readership. Whereas big content makes a big sell to new users or leads with a high potential, medium content keeps the interest of lukewarm or growing leads and encourages more loyalty amongst current fans. Some have tried to include medium content as a subscription service, but to mixed results. For most businesses, medium content belongs as a free, regularly updated part of your website that is valuable, relatively deep, and at least moderately enjoyable.
Pay attention to the voice in your medium content pieces; while you’ll always have minor discrepancies, there should be a distinct and consistent brand presence that is communicated throughout them.
Medium content is valuable because it’s inexpensive to produce, but strong enough to demonstrate your authority. Take advantage of this by using medium content as a turning point; use them as a platform to guide your leads to wherever you want them to go.
Medium content should also be syndicated more heavily than big content, reaching new audiences and endearing more people to your brand.
Small content is any content less detailed and less valuable than big or medium content. Small content usually comes in smaller packages, as small as paragraphs or even a single sentence, and it’s becoming more important due to diminishing attention spans and increased desires for concisely conveyed information. Small content is by far the least valuable, but it’s also the easiest to create mass quantities of.
The most notable and important type of small content around is the social media post. Twitter only allows users to post in the confines of 140 characters. Facebook allows a couple paragraphs’ worth of information, but most users adhere to much shorter formats.
Small content can also come in the form of email blasts, which feature short snippets of upcoming blogs, or teases of content to come.
Small content can be longer, but with significantly less depth than a medium content piece. For example, some SEO strategies include offsite, backlinked content that is of a lower quality but higher word count.
Small content exists to communicate simple ideas in a concise format, when depth is not an issue but timing is. Use small content to update your followers on current events, or to promote variations of your medium and big content. Small content gives you fewer opportunities to sell to your audience, but it’s perfect for distributing bigger pieces that can do that job for you.
Small content works because it’s concise. Keep it short and post often, but don’t post fluff. Post the shortest phrases of meaningful content that you can, and rely on small content to carry and publicize the more significant elements of your campaign. Small content is a type of mortar that keeps the bricks of your content strategy together.
Small, medium, and big content are all useful in their own ways, and very few content strategies can rely on only one of these types. The most successful content marketing strategies are the ones that combine each type of content in meaningful ways and make adjustments over time to improve their value.
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