Meagan Parrish

Are you struggling to create a content marketing strategy that delivers authority and drives user engagement? Well, you’re not alone. In fact, creating original content is a main challenge for 73 percent of marketers.

As SERPs continue to evolve, showcasing more personalized search results, it’s important to create quality content that appeals to your social audiences to achieve maximum visibility.

Being in the social media profession, I’ve seen content that sparks engagement and content that hardly gets any shares. So what distinguishes the two? What can you do as a content marketer to ensure your content receives interaction and generates buzz for your brand?

I’ve outlined five main areas to focus on that have driven ROI for Brafton clients across industries.

Identify subjects your business should write about

There are many different ways to appeal to your audience, but first things first, you need to create a content strategy that will appeal to your business objectives as well as your target market.

A report from IDG identified creating engaging content as one of the top three challenges tech marketers face in social media – and this is a struggle across industries.

The rule of thumb to remember is that to drive user engagement, your content needs to be “engaging” and you need to provide value to the user reading it. This means creating content they want to read while sticking close to the type of information they’d expect or want from your brand. By marrying engaging topics with your brand objectives, you’ll win followers who have interest in your offerings – and they’ll be more likely to convert.

Certain topics already perform very well on the social front. Some of these topics include:

  • current national or world news trends
  • social media and internet marketing news
  • celebrity gossip
  • green and eco-friendly content
  • job postings or career tips
  • holiday content
  • how-to or DIY articles
  • beauty and fashion advice
  • politics
  • new product or service information

If any of these naturally align with your business offerings, you’re in luck! However, if your business isn’t able to write on content related to any of these topics due to the services that you sell or the tone of your brand, a good alternative is to focus on trends in your industry. By writing on industry news, you’ll be able to educate your core readers on topics related to your business while also proving that you are an industry expert in the field. Moreover, 76 percent of online Americans regularly access news on the web. News about your sector might appeal to the broader category of news readers, helping you reach an untapped market.

If your business attends industry conferences or events, that’s another opportunity for generating social content. Many of these events even have their own dedicated hashtag and can trend on Twitter. Incorporating event hashtags into your content strategy will bring ample opportunities for exposure to new audiences.

Make your headline stand out

Once you have an idea of what to write about, it’s important that you also craft a headline that will grab attention. From a social media perspective, this can be the deciding factor on whether or not your article will get engagement.

Let’s take Twitter for as an example. Users follow hundreds to thousands of profiles including people and brands, so it’s important that the headlines you write are crafted well under 140 characters and also stand out in the midst of the Twitter stream. The average piece of content actually gets 4.9 clicks. And if your business is new to the social media marketing front, it may be significantly less than that. But creative headlines can help. Brafton’s social media marketing teams and content writers work together to come up with site articles that have catchy headlines, and it can really make a difference.

This chart shows that sharing headlines from industry news articles resulted in 10.4 clicks per month for one company.

Here’s a chart of the clicks one client in the commodities and trading sector sees on its shared industry news headlines (beyond interactive Tweets our teams run for the brand). On a given month, the average click per post is more than double the industry average of 4.9 – and a lot of this can be attributed to the editorial investment the company makes in its social content.

Even if you miss audiences with your initial updates, I’ve learned many users scroll through their feeds for content to click on – but the headline has to be really good to catch clicks from people when the post isn’t “breaking.” The first piece of advice I can give you is to keep your headlines short. Eight to ten words is best as most users don’t want or have time to read a lengthy tweet or post on the go. This will also allow room for users to RT your content with their own opinions to encourage conversation.

Use headline styles that prove successful for social marketing

There are also many styles of headlines (and content) that I’ve seen perform exceptionally well on the social sphere. Here are just a few:

  • Questions

    Using questions as headlines can help marketers drive clicks for their social content.

  • How-To

    How-To headlines engage users by demonstrating a company's knowledge through a social network.
    Sharing instructive content with headlines written in a How-to format can improve engagement.
    Informative content with headlines that convey the ability to learn can help drive traffic.
  • Tips that instantly demonstrate or allude to industry expertise

    Demonstrating expertise with headlines can help drive site traffic.
    One of your greatest marketing tools is your knowledge, shot it off with your headlines.
  • Numerical values (“Top 10,” “3 ways to..”)

    Numerical lists tell users they're in for a quick, informative read.
    Numerical lists are easy to consume and engage users of all kinds.

Most of these headlines can be kept short and specific and also intrigue and provide value to the user you’re hoping to convert.

Incorporate social trends into content

Now that you have a subject and style of headline you’d like to use, try to find trending topics and terms that complement your content approach. Work them into your headlines to get initial traction on your content.

Trends happen when a large number users start talking about (or mentioning) the same topic. They can be used in hashtags on Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest to make content more accessible to users.

Obviously, not every trend will work for your brand – and you won’t necessarily care about interactions with every person mentioning a trend. As a business, you want to appeal to users who will be searching terms relevant to you.

There are many free tools out there that allow you to find what some of these terms are. Some of my favorites include Social Mention and topsy.

Social Mention allows you search different topics across the web, blogs and social networks and view conversations related to those topics. You can also download the top keywords and hashtags related to those trends.

Using social trends to make content more timely can boost clicks on social networks.
Content that deals with timely content does well on Twitter and other social networks. allows you to view how much activity specific hashtags are getting so that you can see which terms you should be putting into Tweets or incorporating in your

Monitor hashtag activity to see which topics are generating interest.

Use infographics

Infographics and custom photos have become the new norm in content marketing and they are excellent fuel for sharing online.

Studies suggest that people are 30 times more likely to read a high value infographic over a text article. (You can read all about the value of infographics for content marketing in Brafton’s recent blog post!)

Many graphics that I see trend on the web are very visual, have a sense of humor and offer value to the user reading it. Similar to articles, some of the best performing graphics actually provide how-to, tips and industry information in easy-to-digest numerical lists. It’s important not be too broad in your graphic topics: Keep it focused and include stats to back up your points to be as credible as possible.

As for the design, recently released a study that talks about the top 30 viral infographics on the web. The best performing styles are the process graph and list text, but try to mix it up to see what performs best with your audience.

Infographics help users learn quickly and in a visual manner.

Remember that variety is key

If you haven’t already come to this conclusion, variety is key to creating engaging content. Mix it up! Create blog pieces, white papers, videos and infographics. The more variety you can provide, the more users will engage with your brand and continue to go back to your page as a resource. In a recent interview with Brafton, Park Place Technologies Marketing Manager Ken Barhoover attested to the fact that diverse content is critical to engaging the diverse audiences for any given company.

And of course, when developing your content marketing strategy, make sure it stays relevant to your business and to the type of user you want to engage.

I hope you have a better understanding of how to create quality content that will build your brand influence and influence your social audiences.