The Importance of Content Types in Content Strategy

So, as content marketers, we know that Content is King.

Everyday we strive to create truly amazing content that’s worthy of even getting close to being brandished with that all-important royal title – because let’s face it, we all want our content to be King.

But it was during a typical working day at Zazzle Media HQ that I found myself stewing over this concept a little more than usual; “what actually determines whether or not your content gets the chance to don those coveted content crown jewels?”, I thought.

Now, of course I know that coming up with innovative and exciting features written to a high degree of excellence is the main basis of helping you to get there, but I started to wonder if maybe there was just a little more to it.

Getting people to read your content is one thing. Getting them to like it is another. And actually getting them to share it is a completely different kettle of fish altogether. And in order to even touch on the first, scrape the surface of the second and actually be in for a shot at mastering the third, your audience have to actually absorb the content you’re giving them.

And here’s where the psychological part of creating content kicks in.

I know that most of you are probably thinking; “given that we’re all content marketing professionals our content is always great, so therefore surely most of those that read it must naturally absorb it”, right?

While I don’t dispute that the content we create is anything far from great, the latter unfortunately isn’t always the case – although you may have a way with words, it’s what you actually do with them that makes all the difference.

One Size Most Certainly Doesn’t Fit All

In fact, it was whilst I was later sitting in the audience of the recent Content Marketing Show, when Sarah Howard of Red Rocket Media confirmed the thoughts that I had initially been stewing over, with her deck on “What Is The Right Mix of Content?”

Sarah highlighted that when it comes to creating content, one size doesn’t fit all – you need to have the right mix of content in order to open up your chances of being super successful with your audience, therefore helping to increase your chances of being super successful with your content.

As fully-fledged writers, it’s likely that we all have our own set writing styles; whether it be the traditional introduction, main body and conclusion format, or whether we stick to the tried and tested short, succinct subheadings with each piece of content we conjure up.

But although it’s only human nature to stick to what we know each time, it’s these favoured styles of ours that are stopping us from getting that royal crown every single time we release a piece of content.

Why? Because one set writing style is only ever going to reach out to one set group of people…

Learning Styles

…And that’s all because of these ‘learning styles’.

Learning styles are defined as an individual’s natural or habitual pattern of acquiring and processing information in learning situations. The most common groups of learning styles are visual, auditory and kinesthetic (physical).

So “what do learning styles actually have to do with content I want to create?” I hear you ask.

Well, it goes right back to the content marketer’s number one rule; you need to captivate your audience right from the moment they set eyes on it – and there’s a lot more to it than just a catchy title.

A lot of it is down to how your content is actually formatted, constructed and laid out, as much as it is what you say and how you say it.

Whenever we read something, our brains process the information depending on the way that best suits our learning styles. If it matches our style, then we’re much more likely to like the content, absorb it, act upon it, and most importantly, remember it.

In other words, if you’ve created a piece of copy that just consists of one large chunk of text and your prime audience happen to be visual learners, then your content isn’t going to stand much chance of making any kind of impact with them – and it certainly won’t get you any closer to winning that swanky gold crown. You really need to think about how your audience’s brains are wired.

 Types of Learning Style

So now we understand that each and every one us learn in different ways, what exactly are these ways?

Although I initially identified that there are 3 main learning styles, it doesn’t just stop there.

Because if you read Zazzle MD Simon Penson’s recent post on Search Engine Watch then you’ll know that these can be broken down into many more – which means our content is up against a lot more than just adding in few pretty pictures in the hope that it appeals to the visual learners out there…

Visual > Visual learners best absorb information that is in picture, image, map, colour and diagram format.

Aural > Aural learners prefer to work with sounds and rhythm to learn and understand.

Logical > Logical learners retain information by using logic and by applying patterns to organise data.

Social > Social learners learn better in groups, bouncing off others and sharing ideas within a team.

Solitary > Solitary learners like “alone time” to think through new information and process in a deeper way.

Verbal > Verbal learners process information by verbalising data, for example, reading out notes to process and retain information.

Physical > Physical learners are very much hands-on people.

You may have instantly picked up from this list that not all of these learning styles may not be entirely appropriate for the purpose of creating content for the Internet – after all, how can you help someone to process your content physically when there’s two computer screens and not to mention, probably thousands of miles between you geographically?

Because of this, it’s important for you to pick out the ones that work best for what you’re trying to achieve and utilise them in the best way possible, to make sure that you’re reaching out to your audience as effectively as possible.

Oh, but just because you may not be able to reach your audience physically, doesn’t mean you can discard the learning style altogether – dust off that creative thinking cap and be imaginative!

Identifying Your Audience’s Learning Styles

We’ve identified the different learning styles that exist amongst individuals as a whole, but now it’s time find out which predominant learning styles exist amongst the audience you’re trying to target.

And, as Sarah Howard continued to demonstrate in her fantastic deck, the best way of doing this is to get to really get to know your audience. In order to understand exactly how your audience’s brains are wired, you need to see what makes it tick.

One of most effective ways to do this through social media; doing so really allows you to see what kinds of content your audience are sharing – because if they’re sharing it, then 9 times out of 10 it’s because they like it.

Say for example you’re looking to write a piece of amazing content for a client, we know that analysing their social media accounts helps to give a great perspective on the existing customer profile of the company, brand or product.

But taking this approach one step further and analysing exactly what kind of content these followers are actually talking about will really help to make sure your content is doing what it’s supposed to be doing – captivating them and supporting them through every stage of the buying cycle – and let’s face it, as content marketers that’s exactly what we’re here for, right?

But once you’ve got to know your audience and you’ve created content to suit their needs, make sure you carry out this analysis regularly – because what might have been the dominant learning styles of your audience 6 months ago, may have naturally changed slightly over time.

Identifying Different Content Types

Now we’ve investigated the different learning types, it’s time to learn about what content types we need to be creating in order to cater for all of these different learning styles.

Well, if you regularly tune into the Zazzle blog each week, then you may have seen this diagram feature a few times already:

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Quite simply, it’s our bread and butter when it comes to any creative brainstorming session that takes place at Zazzle HQ.

As you may have noticed, what it’s really great at is reminding us to consider all of those different – and equally important – content types whenever we set about creating new content.

And there are plenty of ways to write and display content, as I’m about to display for you here:

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The Right Content Type + The Right Learning Style = Content That Is King

As we deciphered earlier, we all want our content to be King. But if you’re really serious about doing so, then it’s how you marry up the two components that will give you a head start in the mad dash to throne.

So which content types best fit with which type of learning style? Here’s another handy representation to help and demonstrate exactly that:

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It’s important to remember that not any one content type will fit any one learning style; in fact, you may find (and may have noticed from the table above) that several types of content fit into several learning categories.

So it doesn’t take a genius to work out that if you’re trying to get a broad spectrum to notice and love your work, using a content type that spans across multiple learning styles may be the one to do the trick. For example, creating a great piece of video content will help you to reach out to groups of people who learn best visually, aurally, verbally and physically – now, if that’s not helping to instantly maximise your content visibility in one go, then I don’t know what else is…

As well as using this kind of guide to help you create singular pieces of content for your audience, the best way to make sure you reign that throne once you get on it, is to utilise this approach into the future.

The best way to get the right content mix is to mix it up every now and then in your content strategy.

Build yourself an editorial calendar to help you plan your content clearly and effectively. Try a different content type each week and try to scale its effectiveness as you do so. Tools such as Google Analytics will help you to decipher whether you’re chosen content type – or indeed which content type works best – in having the right effect on keeping your audience content.

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