Do you ever feel lost with your blog or other content creation? Do you feel like you're going in the wrong direction? But you're not sure how to right yourself, so you just keep trudging along?
Take heart. Even if your sense of direction is normally on-point, the best of us get lost sometimes.
The worst part about being lost in regard to your content? Your readers know something isn't quite right. Your readers feel lost too.
The good news: You can find the right direction for your content. It will take some work, but it beats wandering around aimlessly for months or years. Ready to get started?
1.Your Audience Is Your Driver
Ideally, you'd answer this question before you ever published your first post. But let's be honest. Not everyone does the prep-work before diving into blogging, self-publishing a novel, etc.
I get it. I try to skip steps too. Jump in, THEN check for sharks. That's me. Trust me--I end up paying for it.
So, you may already be swimming in published content, without having ever considered this question. It's okay. Start where you are.
The basic question we often overlook: Who is your audience?
- Who might benefit from your content?
- Who are you trying to reach?
- Picture the person scrolling through your blog on her phone or desktop, savoring every post. Who is she?
- Who shares your posts and comments the most?
- Who gets it?
- Who is your ideal reader?
Don't take the wimp way out and say, "Everyone is my audience!" Don't even say, "Moms are my audience."
Be specific. "Work-from-home moms who blog and can stand on one leg and juggle sofas while breastfeeding and drinking coffee. That's my audience." Seriously. Be specific.
If you don't pinpoint your audience, your content will suffer. Knowing your audience should be the first step in your content creation process. You can either keep it simple or...
Nerd out on buyer personas
Want to dig deeper? Marketers call it a buyer persona. Others call it a muse. Basically, it's a profile of your ideal reader.
What might be included in a buyer (AKA reader) persona?
- Demographics, such as age, marital status, income, and education level
- Characteristics, such as independent-thinker, anti-authority, introvert
- Behaviors, including buying habits and preferences, such as whether they buy EVERYTHING on Amazon (me), or refuse to make a single purchase online
- Problems, such as wanting to start a blog but not having the time or knowledge, fear of public speaking, or a huge mountain of debt
- How your business, service, or product (content) can help solve their problems (This is important.)
how the heck do you find out all of this intel?
You don't just make up this information like you would for a character in a novel. It's based, at least in part, on data of some sort. Without being creepy, how do you collect this data?
Think about where your ideal readers or customers hang out, in real life, and virtually. Facebook? Snapchat? Coffee houses? Wal-Mart parking lots? (Yes, in small towns, teenagers really do hang out there.)
Go there, if you can. Join Facebook groups. Read comments on blogs aimed at your audience. Observe and listen.
What are they worried about? What are they complaining about? How aware are they of their problems? Do they clearly state problems? What solutions are offered? How do they interact?
You can learn a lot by listening. After a while, you may want to jump in and interact. But don't hop in and start asking people to take surveys, or read your blog and give feedback, unless that's the group's purpose.
Be giving, helpful, and authentic. Then when you ask for help, it won't seem weird or obnoxious.
Take what you learned and apply it to your reader's persona, or to your muse's profile. It's key to note the problems your audience has, and how you might help solve them.
How are you going to help solve their problems? Glad you asked...
2. Your Expertise and Interests
Now, you get to brag a little. Come on. It's just us.
Need help figuring it out? Answer these questions:
- What are you good at?
- What do you love to do?
- What makes you jump out of bed in the morning? (Aside from a hairy spider.)
- What do your friends and family ask for your help with?
- What are your top skills?
- What did you study, either in school, or on your own?
- What kind of books, blogs, or magazines do you devour?
- What topics can you not get enough of?
- What do you do for a living? Have you worked in any other fields?
- If you could do one type of work for the rest of your life, and make a good living, what would you do?
- What do you want to learn more about?
If all else fails, ask a supportive friend or family member, "What am I really good at doing?" Be sure it's not a person who loves EVERYthing you do. You want a straight, helpful answer.
On the flip side, don't ask that hyper-critical, know-it-all coworker who secretly wants your job.
Note: You don't have to be the world's top expert, in order to share your knowledge with your readers. In fact, sometimes it's intimidating to try to learn from the number one such-and-such in the universe. Don't worry about your expert status. Focus on what you can offer.
How do you apply your expertise to your reader's problems?
3. Helping Your Readers
Earlier in this process, you observed your audience, paying special attention to their problems.
- What are your audience's main frustrations?
- What's preventing them from reaching their goals?
- What do they need help with?
- How does your expertise intersect with their problems to lead them to solutions?
Keep in mind: We all have plenty of concerns and problems. Only problems that are related to your expertise/knowledge are relevant here.
How can you help your readers solve their problems? Be specific.
4. Putting It All Together to Activate Your GPS
You may not realize it, but you've just created an equation for your Content GPS.
Your Audience + Your Expertise/Interests + How You Can Help Solve Their Problems = Your Content GPS Activated
Yes, it's really that simple to determine the direction of your content!
I'm happy to be a guinea pig for my readers. So, if possible, I'll always try a process and share my results. (FYI-I'll never write about marathons.)
Smart, ambitious, and creative bloggers, online business owners, authors, and other content creators. They want to offer the best content to their audience, make their blogs a success, and perhaps leave their day jobs (if they haven't already).
The biggest obstacles for my readers are having enough time to do it all, lack of focus (on the right things), fear of failure or rejection, and information overload.
My education and work experiences are in writing, communication, marketing, and content management. It's a natural transition for me to pull from that knowledge-base and skill-set to offer value to my readers.
How I Can Help My Audience Solve Problems:
I can help my readers focus on what should be the foundation of their blogs: Providing engaging, strategic content their readers will love. Because I've been creating content for 17 years, I've developed processes and knowledge that can make life easier for my readers.
Once my readers build their knowledge and skills in content creation, they'll be more confident and less afraid to share their content with the world.
My Content GPS:
I help serious content creators focus on developing content their audience will love by sharing my knowledge about effective content strategy, engaging writing, and efficient content creation processes.
Now that you have your Content GPS, a clear direction for your content, use it as the starting point for your content creation process.
Your GPS should guide all of your content creation decisions from this point forward. It is your laser-focus on delivering the type of content that helps your readers solve their problems.
- Use it to craft a simple Content Promise (what you promise to offer your readers through your content).
- Use it as the launchpad for your editorial planning.
- Use it when people ask, "What's your blog about anyway?"
You should revisit your GPS, during your yearly or quarterly content planning sessions, and change it, if needed. Don't be afraid to adapt your Content GPS, if it's not working for you and your audience.
What did you discover? Who is your audience? Tell me in the comments.
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