Great content is the secret to marketing success on the social web. That’s what all the gurus and expert blogs tell you. And it’s true; great content is what drives people to click, share, follow, subscribe, donate and buy. And Google seems to like great content as well.

But what exactly IS great content?

When you now go online and search for ‘what is great content’, you will not find an all-encompassing definition of what makes content great. And that is perhaps logical. Because as always… ‘it depends’. Also, content is great, when someone thinks it is great. Just like with music. Or film.

Still, some music is loved by many and some stays undiscovered. Some pieces of content get found and shared like wild fire and some die-off the moment you publish them. So, what is the secret? What happens if you dissect a great piece content? What do you find? What are the fundamental elements that great content is build on?

Just yesterday, Steve Seager published a model called The Anatomy of Great Content. The model is intended as a discussion piece for B2B marketers and strategic communicators to help improve the quality of future content.

The Anatomy of Great ContentI think it’s especially great to use as a sanity-check against your existing content!

I want to zoom in a bit on the first 3 elements: targeted, valuable & structured. In my experience, this is where marketers struggle most to get it right (‘great’ that is!). These elements are all about ‘messaging’. About what you actually plan to say.

1. Targeted

The web is about reaching people directly. One on one. You always have a real person sitting on the other end of the screen. So, you need to write your content for individuals not markets or segments.

Take a look at some of your existing content and ask yourself: WHO is this written for?

2. Valuable

The web has gone social for a good while now. It’s not about Quid Pro Quo any more. Instead you gotta give to get!. Figure out exactly what your target audience really needs and where you can help. Do research, look at your data, talk to your sales people and get the facts. It’s about their needs!

Take a look at some of your existing content and ask yourself: WHAT is the real value of this piece of content to the person I am targeting?

3. Structured

Everything you do as a publisher on the social web, starts with the question ‘what do I want to achieve?’. Then you ask ‘with who’ (targeted!) and ‘how’ (offer value!). Then you need to factor in who is saying it (your positioning) and what you are selling (specific aspects of your value proposition).

If you want to tie all that up in a great piece of content, and keep doing that, you need structure. Just like with music. Or film. A great film usually has a great story (that’s you!), great actors (that’s your staff, clients, prospects & stakeholders), great plot points (that’s the themes and topics you are talking about) and great dialogue (that’s you engaging in a conversation with your target audiences).

The combination of all that is what makes you love a film. What makes you remember it. And tell your friends about.

So as a last, but vital, sanity check against your content:

Take a look at some of your existing content and ask yourself: does it stick?

As for the other 4 elements in the model: atomised, optimised, activating & measurable… don’t bother with those until you get your messaging right! Because you hardly ever see a great film that solely relies on great photography, camerawork and special effects. Now do you?

More context and additional information download the E-book below:

DOWNLOAD THE PDF: The Anatomy of Great Content: a content marketing model for B2B marketers and strategic communicators.

Here’s a classic social media marketing cartoon, first published on Eloqua’s blog (a company for demand creation software) in a guest submission from Valeria Maltoni, business strategist. Check it out:

Eloqua Maltoni Social Media Cartoon

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Below is one of the most useful Content Marketing infographics I have seen to date. It’s put together by Eloqua an online ‘demand-generation’ company in the UK and designed by creative agency Jess3 in the US. (Sending kudos and some keyword rich anchor text their way as gratitude -  if you don’t know what I am talking about go here.)

The infographic tells you what types of content you can best use, based on your business objectives and your audience needs. It also indicates the key performance indicators for the different stages of the buying process.

Take a look, then check out my comment and a cliff-hanger below.

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Social Search Today Paper.li logoRecently I’ve written quite a bit about content curation: what it is, how to do it well, and new and existing tools to work with.

As you may have noticed, Paper.li appears to be the hot new content curation tool. You may even be using it yourself. So what is it? Is it any good? And how can you get the best out of it? Here’s my take:

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Content curation gently stirredIn April I wrote a post called ‘What is Content Curation?’. I’m getting a lot of search engine traffic on it. It must be a hot topic.

I’m an advocate of content curation, but under one condition: it must be done well. It needs to be focussed on one specific area of expertise and only contain the highest quality content. I’d rather have my content gently stirred with 3 carefully selected olives. But it is easy to fall into the overkill trap.

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Targeted communications treasure huntIn our workshops we teach people how to write for the social web. One of the first things people struggle with is how to write targeted content.

This is because we are so used to writing as a company – to the market.

But this has changed. On the social web your content is found by individual people. It’s one on one. And actually… this is way more normal and natural than your typical corporate communications.

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Inbound marketing reasonsOne of the most important changes in the world of marketing over the past years, is the shift from outbound to inbound marketing.

Traditional outbound marketing strategies focus on finding customers. Examples of outbound marketing are TV advertising, print- and banner advertising, billboard campaigns, e-mail marketing, cold calling, etc.

Web 2.0 marketing strategies focus on customers finding you. Inbound marketing makes use of search engine optimisation (SEO), social media, and content marketing.

In 2011, you simply cannot afford to not have an inbound marketing strategy. Here’s why:

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Just last week, I did a post called “What is Content Curation?“. In it I explained how it can be useful to you and your network.

Content curation basically means that you are pointing people to other people’s content.

But wait. Not just randomly. If you want to do it well, there are some rules:

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Content curation continually find, select, and share the best and most relevant contentContent is the currency of the social web. It’s what people search for. What makes them click, share, comment, subscribe, donate, follow or buy from you.

But creating valuable, compelling content can be quite a challenge for many entrepreneurs, businesses and organisations.

So! If you think you’re not quite ready for that particular challenge, you should start thinking about content curation.

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Below a 1 minute video interview with Joe Pulizzi, a leading author, speaker and strategist for content marketing. Joe is founder of Junta42 Content Marketing blog.

In the video Joe delivers a sweet little 1 minute pitch on Why marketers need to become publishers.

Check out the video and the keypoints below.

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