As a small business owner, content creation is likely not at the top of your to-do list.
After all, you have finances to manage, products to develop, partnerships to create; it seems like there’s never enough time in the day to knock out the basics, let alone sit down with your laptop and come up with article pitches, right?
However, to say content is irrelevant to growing your business would be a straight up lie—and I’m a firm believer in telling the truth.
On the contrary, strong content is a must-have for any company looking to draw more customers. Content is critical for a variety of reasons, including sharing information about your products and industry, making your website visible in online search results, offering value to prospective customers, and helping you stand out as a thought leader—to name a few.
While blogging is a great place to start as you develop your website content, there are many more types of content that serve different functions and appeal to various audiences.
Here are the 13 types of content your company needs to be using, and when you should use them:
1. Long-Form Posts (Blogging)
Blogging is the place many companies start when developing a content strategy. Long-form posts, or in-depth blog posts, tend to be high value, super shareable, and relatively quick (and inexpensive) to produce. (What you’re reading right now? A long-form post!)
The main point of blog posts is to provide searchable information to drive traffic to your site and offer a wide range of valuable information to your readers. And, well-researched, informative articles help to establish your company as a credible and knowledgeable industry leader.
Writing long-form articles for your company blog should be an ongoing activity, and articles should be posted and updated regularly to reflect the latest trends in the industry. Also, long-form posts are a great opportunity to link to your own content, so that you can drive user engagement and build SEO!›
2. Short-Form Posts
While long-form posts are in-depth and informative, short-form posts—including emails, social media posts, and any blog post under 1200 words—grab a reader’s attention. Short-form posts may not be as insightful as their long-form counterparts, but they have the advantage of being quick reads that introduce your audience to your company.
Not only that, but short-form posts are the ideal type of content for a mobile audience, as their length strengthens the chances that your readers will actually get to the bottom. Marketing master Seth Godin, for example, is the king of short-form blog posts, and his content garners tons of social shares.
Short-form content should go beyond merely skimming the surface; instead, it should cut the fluff and dive straight into answering a specific question, giving actionable insights, or presenting an original perspective. Your blog should be comprised of a healthy mix of both short-form and long-form posts, and short-form posts will also comprise the bulk of your social page content.
3. How-To Posts
How-to posts are a critical addition to your blog. Because they promise to provide actionable advice, they tend to be more clickable than other types of blog posts. They also offer high value to readers and help establish your company as a knowledgeable industry figure.(Check out this post on how to start your own small business, which got over 300 shares on social media and over 6,000 engagements!)
How-to posts are a useful form of content for any kind of advice you’d like to share that’s relevant to your industry, whether it’s information about social media marketing, team building, or making pancakes without buttermilk. Remember that the more specific and actionable a how-to post, the more effective it will be – and always keep your audience in mind.
4. Explainer Videos
Explainer videos are short videos, usually posted on a prominent page on your website, that explain your company’s product or service. They’re a great tool for driving leads, as they promote your product in a way that’s interesting for viewers and easy to digest.
There are four main types of explainer videos:
– Animated Explainer Videos: Like the name suggests, this creative type of explainer video uses animation to break down a product or service. It’s often used for more complex topics that are difficult to digest, such as services in the tech space or other products that don’t involve physical objects.
– Kickstarter Explainer Videos: These videos are usually a bit lengthier than the average explainer, and they’re used to kick off a new venture or product that you’re hoping to launch through crowdfunding.
– Live Action Explainer Videos: These are where the real people are, and the videos with the most movement and realism. Live action videos are most suited for companies that sell tangible products, or those that are looking to forge a strong emotional connection with their audience. And, they’re a great place to show off your brand voice, if your company has a unique verbal signature that you think customers will love.
– Whiteboard Explainer Videos: These low-cost videos use actual whiteboards to get their points across, using hand-drawn (and then erases) animation to explain a concept.
Keep in mind that, regardless of the type of explainer video, users should enjoy watching your video rather than feel like they’re sitting through an ad. For an example of a fun but instructive explainer video, check out this original take on razors from Dollar Shave Club:
5. Video Tutorials
I don’t know about you, but I have trouble visualizing how to use a product when I need to read an instructional manual. While instructional manuals and step-by-step guidelines tend to be boring and dry, video tutorials are a fun, engaging way to teach people about your product.
Video tutorials are also a great way to spice up your blog posts. They’ll make your posts more interesting and understandable to readers, and you can even include a call to action (CTA) at the end that links to your product.
Post video content to YouTube, and remember to embed the videos throughout your blog (like we did above with the Dollar Shave video!).
Providing downloadable checklists on your site is an effective way to generate leads. Like blog posts, checklists are easy and inexpensive to produce, but offer enormous relative value.
You can write checklists for just about anything relevant to your company or industry, so long as it offers genuine value to readers; for example, a cyber security company might provide a checklist that outlines essential security strategies for your business, while a marketing company might offer a checklist with content marketing techniques.
Users will see checklists as a free resource that they can use again and again, and they’ll thank you for helping them organize their thoughts. You can offer checklists as a reward for email or subscription signups, or you can use them to accompany relevant blog posts.
Newsjacking (read: news-jacking) involves using breaking news to your own advantage by inserting your company’s ideas or solutions into the story. This type of content can be highly shareable and even reach the top search results on Google.
There is a catch, though: These posts need to be released the instant the news breaks! Otherwise, the hype fades and they’re already old news—i.e. less shareable or attention-worthy.
While these aren’t the types of posts you can write regularly, keep an eye out for opportunities when the day’s breaking news is relevant to your industry. If you have a content calendar, try to leave room for 1-2 newsjacking posts per month, and be on the lookout for a good story!
8. Case Studies
Case studies are in-depth analyses of a specific case—such as a particular company or experience—that are used to inform and instruct. Engaging case studies should read less like a textbook and more like an interesting story.
You should write in a way that allows readers to apply your findings to their own companies, and that gives readers value by providing actionable information.
With case studies, quality is more important than quantity; they’re long and intensive, so it’s not realistic to plan on creating them regularly. However, you should aim to have 3 to 5 case studies available on your site, and be sure to keep them relevant and up-to-date with the latest industry trends.
9. Expert Roundups
Writing an expert roundup post involves getting a handful of valuable insights from different sources that readers can learn from. These typically involve inviting the experts to participate in your project, asking them a few questions, and posting their answers on your site.
While readers might not care about—or know of—your company yet, showcasing the ideas of popular and famous business leaders will help you build credibility and draw readers to you. For this reason, try to have a handful of expert roundup posts distributed throughout your blog.
Also, what’s great about these posts is that 80% of the content is being handed to you (by your experts whom you’re quoting).
That said, don’t underestimate the amount of time it can take to create an expert roundup; between finding experts to interview, reaching out to them, and getting a handful of rejections (yes, many people will refuse to be quoted, and others won’t respond—which is okay!), these posts can take a month to plan and execute.
You’ll need to present information in as many forms as you can if you want to engage as many readers as possible. And, while some people prefer learning by reading a blog post or watching a video, others learn best by looking at an image.
Luckily, that’s where infographics come in. An infographic is an image that clearly and logically demonstrates a point. The image tends to have arrows or lines connecting the different elements, in order to move the reader’s eye down the page—and it’s clear, fun, and often colorful.
Infographics are useful for making otherwise boring or difficult information more digestible. Statistics and explanations of how something works are often best presented in the form of an infographic; they should be simple, clean, and pleasing to the eye. They’re also highly shareable, meaning they’re a great place to link back to your site.
Podcasts are digital audio files that users can download from your site. They usually feature one or more speakers who have a conversation about a specific subject.
A huge advantage of podcasts is that they make a great alternative to video when you just don’t have the time, money, or professional equipment to shoot video footage.
Like long-form blog posts, podcasts should be about something related to your industry that you think your audience will find interesting. They act more as a radio show than a one-time deal, so be sure to regularly upload new podcasts to your site so that you can create a series. That way, you will gain a following of loyal listeners who want to hear about your ideas—and your solutions.
Check out our list of great business podcasts for inspiration.
While many types of content are designed to be engaging and fun, whitepapers are serious, formal reports that analyze data and offer a solution.
Typically, whitepapers are used to provide seriously interested audiences, like the upper management of a potential client, with detailed data and information that advocates for your product or service.
Include downloadable whitepapers on your website to allow potential clients to dive into your product in-depth and to establish yourself as a serious industry player. While whitepapers are long and can be daunting to write, aim to have 2 to 3 white papers available for download on your site.
E-books are another kind of multi-page, downloadable form of content. E-books can be free or for a small fee, and they should offer exclusive information about original, actionable solutions that can’t be found anywhere else.
Because e-books are long and involved and sometimes come at a price, the information you write should be worth reading. Your e-book content needs to wow readers and help them change the way they do business for the better. Aim to have a handful of different e-books that you can offer as high-value website content to prospective customers.
For some e-book inspiration (or to learn more about branding your business), check out our e-book 7 Steps to Develop a Brand Strategy for Your Business.
Over to You
Where content was once little more than standard print advertising, these days it takes a variety of digital forms. There isn’t a single type of content that serves as the cure-all for your marketing needs. Instead, it’s the mix of content—from in-depth pieces to eye-catching videos to engaging podcasts—that will help your business draw loyal customers and generate leads.