18 ways to create cut-through content

With many organisations rushing to present their programs online, we look at creating content that resonates with your audience and developing a strategy for amplification.

During a time of content overload, you can no longer just hit publish and pray it works. By developing a strategy, you can make sure you’re producing content that will cut-through the noise and get noticed by your audience.

Here’s how to stop the scroll and get engagement.

1. Strategise

When you start to plan your content it is a good idea to first develop a content strategy that will help you shape what you create for your audience. The good news is a template already exists for this – called the Content Honeycomb, available via General Assembly. This framework can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of your content, which should hit a few of the key characteristics to be considered high value.

2. Plan don’t react

Careful planning at the early stages will allow you to set achievable goals. Some questions to ask yourself before you publish include: Who are my key audiences? What platform/s will I share content on? How much time will I need to consistently deliver this over the next 12 months, and is that realistic?

3. Audience

Developing audience personas will also help you during the design phase of content creation. There are two basic ways to think about your audience personas – demographics and psychographics.

Demographics is the breakdown of age, gender, location, education etc. Whereas psychographics goes into more detail about what an audience likes, how they might spend their weekend, or what they aspire to and believe in. Basically, it’s the difference between who they are (demographics) and why they would engage with or follow your brand (psychographics).

4. On brand

Another great place to start is with your brand guidelines and objectives. Focusing on what makes you different from others who work in similar areas or markets will allow you to fine-tune your content so it can only come from you. This is a sure way to stand out and create cut-through.

5. Repurpose

Once you have created content that has a clear audience in mind and is on brand, you can think about repurposing it across different platforms. A new blog post might become several quotes on Instagram that are posted throughout the month, as well as a Twitter Q&A.

6. Repost

It’s a good idea to think about how you can repost or share content that you may have already created, but which currently has new relevance to your audience. For example, MPavillion in Melbourne is sharing podcast episodes from their archive of previously recorded talks each week. But the organisation is curating this content so that it resonates with current audience needs, such as the recently shared podcast on taking a pause which was actually first recorded in 2017 but fits with our current period of social distancing and closures in the arts.

7. Engage

Always engage with your followers by responding when they comment positively on your post or ask questions. Creating social media guidelines around comments and engagement can help you keep this consistent if working in a larger team.

8. Track

Tracking is made easier with the use of analytics. A popular social media analytics tool is Sprout Social, but you can also use the analytics tools provided by each platform. You should set a realistic benchmark for performance of your content to measure engagement. Which brings us to testing.

9. Testing

When you have established a benchmark for engagement (whether that is Click Through Rate, Engagement Rate, or another KPI you have decided on) you will be able to test different types of content to see how it performs. There’s always an opportunity to learn from these results. So test out different things and see how your audience responds – you can test what time works best to share content on different platforms, how it is designed, or copy and tone of voice.

10. Optimise

Digital marketing professionals are always working within a testing and optimising framework, which basically means taking the key learnings you discovered through testing and applying this to your content in order to improve results. Facebook Ad Campaigns are one way to measure, track and optimise campaigns, but requires a budget. You can also measure and optimise results organically by using analytics or tracking content KPIs through an Excel spreadsheet.

11. Find ambassadors

Collaborate with other organisations and individuals who fit with your brand. Ambassadors can be part of the content you create and help you expand your audience.

12. Make it about the AUDIENCE

Can you respond to a need that your audience has expressed? Make your content about them and they will be much more likely to pay attention. This might just be as simple as re-framing something you have already created to make it more relevant to your audiences current needs (revisit Reposting).

13. Kill your darlings

‘Kill your darlings’ is a popular adage that has been attributed to a few writers over the years, but is most directly traced to a lecture by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch at Cambridge University (he actually said ‘murder your darlings’, but close enough).

The point works for content creation too. Sometimes you need to let go of an idea you have become very attached to because the reality is it just doesn’t work. You will only make it better if you drill down into the core idea, and not just the delivery or wording that may be limiting you.

14. Keywords

Don’t underestimate the power of SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). Use popular keywords in headlines and subheadings to make things easier to find.

15. Timing

Timing is important when sharing content via social media. You can find out key times your followers are online through the various analytics available on individual social platforms, or through a social media scheduling tool like Sprout Social or Hootsuite.

16. Think about the journey

Are you trying to bring audiences to your website to get them to take an action? This action could include capturing email addresses or making a purchase. Think about the user experience and how the user travels to that end goal. When you have made your content available online, and then shared it across all your social media platforms and e-marketing channels, go back and click the links so you understand what steps are involved – and make sure it is a seamless experience (definitely no broken links) that gets them there with one click if possible.

17. Capture

Always remember to include an email capture field on your website in a prominent location so people can easily sign up to your list and stay in touch.

18. Follow up

If you’re using email to keep in touch with your audience, you can always check your email analytics tool and resend at a different time to those who didn’t open the first time. Don’t do this too often, but one polite follow up with a different subject line can be a nice reminder in case they missed it.

Brooke Boland
About the Author
Brooke Boland is a freelance writer based on the South Coast of NSW. She has a PhD in literature from the University of NSW. You can find her on Instagram @southcoastwriter.