It isn’t a regular thing when you search for something in Google, it gives you a misleading answer. But it happens when you look to understand content types in Google.
If you write “What are the different types of content?” in Google, you will get a giant list that starts with something as simple as text or photo and then goes on to items as diverse as user generated content or white paper.
The problem is what people think as content types are actually content formats – like if the content needs to be a text or a photo or a video or something else. But to understand the critical roles of different types of content, just understanding formats is not the right starting point.
When we seek to understand content types, we need to start asking big, strategic questions like what are the different content types I need to satisfy my objectives. This kind of questions shifts content thinking from a purely tactical, creative exercise to a strategic, business driving one. As content marketers, we are not in the business of creating art. We are in the business of driving commercial results. Your content should further your business.
You start by doing the foundation work which is getting your Purchase Funnel objective right and then you decide on the type of content to meet that objective. As we have seen in the previous section there are 3 types of Funnel objectives in general – Awareness, Engagement & Conversion.
Usually, to meet each type of objective, we need a specific type of content.
To meet Awareness objective, we need an “Attraction” type of content
To meet Engagement objective, we need a “Trust” content
To meet Conversion objective, we need an “Action” content
Let’s try to understand the 3 types of content in depth.
The main purpose of Attraction content is to build awareness amongst a new audience. This is where you get new eyeballs to follow you, new followers to subscribe to you.
A typical Attraction content needs to be generic enough to cater to a wide pool of audiences. It also needs to be interesting enough for people who are unknown to your brand to invest their time and energy behind the brand by subscribing. This means striking the right balance of casting the net wide enough to bring in substantial reach yet making the content specific enough for people to feel it’s made only for them.
The key focus here is value creation. A relatively new audience will only pay interest behind a brand relatively unknown to them when they clearly understand what value they are getting from it. That’s why typical Attraction contents are either giveaway-based or education-based.
The giveaway-based content tries to lure the audience by giving something of value for free. A typical example is a free e-book that is provided in exchange for the audience providing their contact information.
The education-based content doesn’t give away anything tangible for free, but it still operates within the modality of providing some kind of intangible value addition to the audience in the form of education. These contents try to teach the audience something important in a relatively quick time. A typical example is a content marketer providing free two-hour training to teach how to use a Buyer Persona template to anyone who registers.
As these are still early days for your audience where they are trying to form an opinion about you, through the Attraction content you can do a lot of experimentation with your look & feel, structure, and tone of voice to see which type works best.
If there is one content type, that you want to be shared and go viral, it is this Attraction type of content because when your current users share your Attraction content, they introduce your content to a new set of audiences.
Because the expectation from Attraction content is higher, building it is often the most time-consuming, the most expensive, and the least frequent in a content calendar. Anything of good quality that is shareworthy takes time and money. And making it too frequent pushes up cost as well as slows down the content pipeline.
The second type of content, known as Trust content, is primarily used to create a community around your brand. The key focus here, as the name suggests, is establishing the brand as a credible and trusted source.
Trust content takes the superficial attraction that was generated between the brand and its audience in the Awareness phase into the next level where the followers feel like they are part of a group that knows each other well enough.
Getting people to trust you requires a lot of work, and just focusing on one type of content to carry your trust-building is usually not enough. This is why the Trust content actually consists of many different types of sub-content to cater to many different types of objectives.
Below is a summary of all these key sub-content types under Trust content:
A) Authority: This type of content usually shows off expertise and thought leadership. If you have interesting, thought-provoking ideas for your brand, this is the area where you can utilize them. For example, a food reviewer can create Authority content by making a video where he analyzes how he approaches the entire food reviewing process in a scientific way
B) Identity: To achieve success in strategic content marketing, you need to create a consistent look and feel of your content identity without sacrificing any of the freshness or novelty factor. In the Attraction phase, you have successfully done a lot of experimentation to form an idea of what works for you and your audience. This is where you need to be consistent with your branded content execution – particularly look and tone of voice – so that a clear idea forms in your audience’s mind in terms of who you are.
Identity contents are those where you clearly communicate what your brand is all about. It can be a corporate video or it can be an explanation of your brand name or your mission. The brand identity that is created and solidified through this kind of content, needs to be adopted for all future types of content.
C) Entertain: You have a large follower base with a short attention span. Their need for valuable content needs to be fed constantly. That’s why you need to come up with a constant stream of content to keep your followers hooked up in an engaging way. Common examples can be conducting frequent contests, running content with playful “Did you know” facts, engaging in opinion polls, celebrating special days with messages for fans etc. In a content calendar, this is the content that is used most frequently.
D) Closeness: The new relationship that was formed in the Attention phase now needs to be nurtured in this phase and taken to a new stage where the audience needs to know you well enough to feel close to you. These are the type of contents where you divulge more information about you. Examples of this kind of content include a “Thank You” message for staying with the brand.
There is high scope of personalization in this kind of content. The more the audience feels that this relationship between brand and audience is not between an individual with an entity but two individuals on a 1-2-1 basis, the closer they will feel attached.
Remember we need both share and link. For that, we need to appeal to the heart as well as the head. Emotional content gets more share and authority content gets more links.
E) Desire: You have steered this relationship through multiple hurdles, facilitated by multiple types of content. You are almost ready to seal the deal by converting that relationship into a paid one.
Before heading over to the conversion phase, these types of content communicate and reinforce the value of the brand so much that the audience feels like they need to immediately know more and more about this brand and if required, purchase immediately. A typical example of this type of content includes highlighting the most unique points of the brand or sharing customer testimonials.
F) Pillar: Pillar content is one of the latest innovations where a content marketer showcases his in-depth knowledge about a certain topic with large and detailed content that covers all aspects of one particular topic.
This is where content marketing rides on clever SEO. Through keyword research, a content marketer identifies a top-ranking keyword topic like “Benefits of fake meat”. Then he writes detailed content which covers all angles like what is fake meat, how it is made, what benefits you get from eating, if the product is regulatory approved or not etc.
This can be a series of posts not just one, and often, the content writer needs to break down the key topic into many sub-topics and write a lot of content around the chosen keyword. This allows the content marketers to create internal links amongst the different contents which improves how much time the user stays on the page.
A pillar content benefits a content marketer in two ways. It organizes content in a meaningful way which helps an audience navigate the site easily and helps with user experience. Secondly, it also increases the authority of the content marketer as he has shown in-depth knowledge here on the chosen keyword topic and this results in improved Pagerank and SEO results.
A pillar content also has a strong link with conversion, which is the topic we cover next through Action content.
The third type of content changes the relationship paradigm and converts it from trusted followership to paid customer stage.
Because of the focus on customer creation and revenue generation, a lot of Conversion content is either focused on the product or promotional offer driven. It makes sense to make the conversion content promotional offer driven because that puts the impetus on the customer to act and purchase.
Conversion content however is not just about creating a new customer. It is also about creating repeat purchases among already existing users or also about turning customer preference into a loyal relationship. That is why not all conversion posts are about discounts or freebies. Some highlight the value of a bulk purchase or a simple personalized thank you note for the repeat business.
Conversion posts are in one way based on good old-fashioned advertising content where the product is the focus. Here a clear value proposition has to be reminded to the audience and a clear call to action needs to drive the audience into a purchase.
Because of this close proximity with advertising, a lot of content marketers struggle with conversion posts because shifting that gear from an engage and entertain mode to sales and revenue mode requires much more than just a product shot with a copy. It’s a whole new mindset shift. Do it in a tacky way and the entire effort in building the relationship through multiple stages can go to vain.
The timing is also important. The business of course would like to bombard the audience with conversion-focused content as early as possible. But doing it too early will make the business fall into the trap of advertising. At the same time, putting this conversion focus too late may just be inefficient. Eventually what you may end up with is a series of loyal admirers but no paid customers.
Some content marketers define conversion too loosely and include KPIs like subscribing to a newsletter or asking to know more about the product etc. as conversion. They need to be more demanding. Conversion content should push towards closing and closing means generating sales and revenue. Anything else, we are just short-selling content marketing as communication only, not business development.