There are many types of content that solopreneurs can use on their sites to make the variety engaging and interesting to their audiences. Some experts have even listed up to 115 different types of content and formats! But all that is way too much of fussiness. You need to know just as much as will be profitable for you, right?
Below you will find 9 types of content you should know about and try to include on your blog. They are arrayed in sets of three. You have three types of content based on their interaction value. You also have three types of content based on their utility value. And finally, you have three types of content based on their formats.
The plethora of content types for the content marketing solopreneur
Why is it important to acquire mastery over different forms of content for the solopreneur? This is largely because the online world is a multimedia world, where a variety of information formats co-exist and intermingle.
Also different readers have preferences for different formats of information on different devices, and their attention spans for content consumption vastly differ. And finally, we also have a multi-screen world, where screen sizes of devices demand different kings of chunking of content.
But remember, it’s all not as complicated as it sounds. Read on …
Some typical ways content online is broken up into types
When people are asked to name types of content online, they use some typical ways to describe them. These could include all of the following types:
- Blog posts
- Social Updates
- Videos/Live videos
- Case studies
- PPC/paid advertising
- Social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, Twitter, YouTube)
Content Creation versus Content Curation
While we analyze the different types of content it’s also valuable to see two distinct types of content production.
Content Creation is when you create your own original content – like, say, an opinion article on a concept or topic that needs explaining. Content Curation is when you put together a group of related quotes, opinions, statistics or information from others’ articles, with your own analysis and comments on each.
Content Curation naturally saves you a lot of time. It can also allow you to write to the people you’ve quoted, to ask them to promote your piece, in both your interests.
Apart from these ways of looking at various types of content, there other smarter ways to segment content …
Types of Content: From the interaction point of view
From a marketers point of view, you can write shortform, longform or discussion-type content. So familiarize yourself with all three modes of interaction online.
Short form content becomes very important as a way of keeping up with your updates in the social media. Look at the example of a Twitter update below. (It’s sometimes referred to as “microblogging”.)
There are four things to notice here that make this form of shortform content powerful.
- The headline has to be really arresting. Good enough to tickle people into wanting to know more, and head over to read the whole post on your blog.
- There has to be a fairly good-sized image to capture the eye. Most short form content cleverly uses images, or even videos, to hold the interest – because there are so few words on the update.
- You have to use some search keywords as hashtags (eg. #solopreneur in this example) – because if people want to search Twitter (or indeed, any social media) they search for topics by hashtag, and get all the updates by different people related to any particular hashtag. Choose your hashtags carefully, as they are like shorthand for your topic … and you can even try to make some hashtags your very own by repeatedly using them so they “belong” to you and people will recognize them, if they want to read your updates specifically (in this example, see how #contentedsolopreneur has been used).
- Finally, see how the link to the longform blog post on your website/blog is given in a “Tiny URL” or using a “URL shortener”. There are many programs (like Bit.ly or Ow.ly) that allow you to input the long URL of your blog post and get a short URL in exchange. Short URLs eat less space on shortform updates, since some social media put a restriction on the number of characters you can use in an update.
The above is a sample of a Twitter update that really requires shorter updates than some other social media will allow. But even when some social media allow longer updates, since people skim through the social media at high speed, the shorter the update, and the more eye-catching, the better it always works.
An example of longform content would be this very article you are reading. Notice that it has these eight important elements:
- A headline that is arresting and also contains the keywords that we want Google to notice to put the article high on rankings (here the keyword is “types of content”).
- The image is again large enough to be eye-catching and the alt tag of the image (hidden from view, but used when including the image) should have the same keywords “types of content”. This is again for Google optimization.
- The opening text is a short excerpt of the whole article, with the same keywords close to the beginning paragraph.
- We then have some “share buttons” to make the blog post shareable on social media.
- The body text is clearly chunked into visible paragraphs and sub-paragraphs.
- At the bottom of the post are three great quotes from experts on the topic – if we later write to these experts that we have included their quotes, they may help promote our post, by mentioning it on a Tweet, or by linking back to the post from their blogs.
- Right at the very bottom of the post, is an Call-To-Action with a downloadable ebook offers to entice people to subscribe to our mailing list – so we can maintain a relationship with our site visitors by email.
- Even though it’s a long post, it’s mobile-responsive … so it’s easy to read on a mobile phone.
There are some more points to take care of for SEO optimization but these are at the underlying code level and not visible on the outside for readers.
You’ll find good examples of discussion-type content in the comments sections under blog posts, or in the specialized Groups in LinkedIn or Facebook. People usually ask questions of each other and elicit answers.
There are three cardinal rules for Group Discussions. But they are critical.
- Maintain the Group’s tone and style and keep the etiquette. Read the rules of the Group and don’t try to be whacky or funny or too cute in a Group that’s serious about the quality of its discussions.
- Don’t use the Group to sell your website, products or services. This is a big “No-No”!
- It’s a great tactic to answer without forcing your points. Stay open to rejoinders or to opposite points of view. Don’t be bigoted, narrow or closed to a variety of opinion.
Remember, how you come across as a person (with gravitas and knowledge and manners), is just as important as the points you write about. So show your intelligence, and also show your brand caliber.
Types of Content: From the utility point of view
From the audiences’ point of view, there are three things content needs to be able to do, to provide utility to your posts. Every post you write has to be Searchable, Snackable and Shareable.
To make a post searchable is to optimize it – to become easily searchable in the search engines like Google and Bing. SEO (search engine optimization) is a vast field in itself, but the best and simplest explanation of the comes from my favorite author and Internet marketing expert, Neil Patel.
Here is his self-explanatory diagram below. Make sure you have all these factors working for every post you write.
Image courtesy: Neil Patel
Snackable content, as the name suggests, is content that is in the right bite-sized pieces for all the many formats or devices that a reader may read the content through.
It’s hard to say what sizes your content should be breakable into, because that depends on the campaign strategy you have in mind. Where would you like your audiences to see your content, and what sizes of content are ideal for audiences to then make a meal of them?
The company Column Five has a brilliant idea of how you can do just one large piece of content but make it easily “divisible” for later use in a variety of snackable sizes. See their graphic below on how they plan for “divisible content”.
Image courtesy: Column Five
A lot of research has gone into why we share what we share. According to Jayson DeMers, brain-mapping scientists at UCLA have identified three keys to shareability of online information. Here”s what Jayson writes in his article “The Psychology Of Shareable Content”:
“According to one report by researchers at UCLA, more “buzzworthy” ideas are associated with specific regions of the brain, indicating there’s a neurological component to the types of content and ideas we like to share. Overall, this urge to share tends to creep up with three main “types” of content—those that fulfill one or more of the following functions:
- Utility. We like to share content that we deem useful or helpful in certain situations. This is one reason “life hacks” became as popular as they did; these are small tricks that make your daily life easier, and because they’re useful, we want our friends and loved ones to share in their application.
- Entertainment. It shouldn’t shock you to learn that entertaining pieces of content also encourage us to share. We like to laugh, or be amused, and it makes us feel good to share that positive experience with others.
- Inspiration. Interesting and inspirational content is also highly sharable. Things that pique our curiosity or stimulate our creativity naturally encourage us to reach out to other people who may end up feeling the same level of interest or motivation.”
If you notice, all these points suggest that we may like to share information with others when we get certain types of emotional payoffs ourselves. It makes us more gregarious.
Types of Content: From the formats point of view
Finally, we have the three types of content that are dependent on their sensory impact … we have text we can read, visuals we can see, and audio we can hear.
After we started getting a multiplicity of screen sizes – like laptop screens, tablet screens, mobile screens and so on – text has been seen as most useful when it is visually chunked.
In other words, to make text more enticing to read, we have to treat it as a visual element, and make sure it looks pleasing to the eye in its layout. Only then is it going to be read. Short paragraphs, some uniformity in font sizes, and using colors that are scientifically based on human psychology, are all critical to textual information. There is also a parameter known as the Flesch Readability Score that tells how difficult a text-based post is for the average reader.
Yoast.com, who make the famous Yoast SEO plugin, have explained how to optimize the Flesch score for blog posts.
“The lower the score, the more difficult the text is. The Flesch readability score uses the sentence length (number of words per sentence) and the number of syllables per word in an equation to calculate the reading ease. Texts with a very high Flesch reading ease score (about 100) are very easy to read. They have short sentences and no words of more than two syllables. Usually, a reading ease of 60-70 is believed to be acceptable/ normal for web copy.”
A reading score of 60-70, incidentally, is believed to be just about easily understood by 13-15 year old students.
There are at least 8 different types of visual content (if not more) that are highly popular online. These are:
- Pure images, illustrations or photographs
- Cartoons, memes or other funny or memorable images
- Data driven charts and graphs
- Infographics and animated GIFs
- Powerpoint slide decks
You seldom see pure images online, though. They are typically intermingled with text or audio to make multi-dimensional types of sensory content.The key to using images or videos is that they have to be really small in size (in bytes) so that page load speeds are high.
Audio content is usually in the form of recorded voice or music clips. They can be used for podcasts or even for videos. Pay attention to which browsers and which operating systems will be ultimately used for listening to sound. An .mp3 format is universally accepted as the best format for all kinds of sounds.
Some bloggers think it would be really cool to have audio playing in the background as people visit their site or blog – but this is a very bad idea. Sound must be heard on its own. It distracts the brain from assimilating textual content.
However, there’s another form of sound that is very appealing on a blog post. It is soundbites. It could very short bits of video-talk by experts, emphasizing a point you are making in your post.
Henneke Duistermaat writes in the article “How to Write Zesty Soundbites (and Make Your Blog Posts Memorable)”:
“Soundbites convey a profound message in smooth language. Soundbites often start with an idea – perhaps you want to bust a well-established view point; or you may want to provide a new perspective on an old truth. A soundbite communicates the core of your idea. You weed out irrelevant details and exceptions. You strip out cumbersome trains of thought. You force yourself to prioritize and find just the one sentence that’s the essence of your blog post. If your readers would remember one thing, then this would be it.”
One more thing: never let videos or sound clips start on their own. People like to be able to start or stop them when they are ready.
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of aspiring digital solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Types & Formats”:
- 6 Terrific Inspirations To Make Your Own Engaging Instructographics!
- How To Make Case Studies Work Really Hard For Your Brand!