Long-form content is a key to any content marketing plan. It provides the center around which all of your content marketing efforts will circle.
That said, many people shy away from creating long-form content. It can be intimidating to figure how to focus and grow your content base. There are many channels on which you could be posting, so figuring where to put your efforts can be confusing. And, let’s be honest, it’s time-consuming to produce long-form content on a consistent basis. How can you use content marketing to shorten that process or at least make it more effective?
Let’s unpack these issues and figure out how to handle them.
What is Long-Form Content?
First of all, we’ll start by making sure we’re on the same page (pun intended) when it comes to what constitutes long-form content.
Long-form content can be anything from an article to a video to a podcast and beyond. As its name implies, it’s longer than a Tweet or a quick LinkedIn update. Because of its length, it offers you with the opportunity to get into a bit more depth than a pithy sentence or two of an update.
Long-form content provides a content marketer with the opportunity to tell a story that draws the reader into a subject a bit more deeply. It takes the audience down a path that begins with a statement or paragraph about what the piece will focus on, moves to a chunk of central information that supports that opening, and concludes with a valuable piece of learning.
Note that “storytelling” in terms of a long-form piece of content doesn’t have to mean that the content’s tale is personal. For example, I published a piece on LinkedIn that discusses how to write an article that wins more likes and shares. I used a number of examples from my personal writing, but the article itself focuses on the process (how to create a valuable piece of content that people want to read and share) than a person (me). That doesn’t make it any less of a story.
On LinkedIn, I published this “story” of how to write a shareable article
The idea with long-form content is to draw people into your creations and get them to consume those creations as close to end-to-end as possible. This can be a challenge in today’s world of skimming and skipping through videos or podcasts to get the “highlights reel.” However, the more intuitive you make the flow of your content, the better chance you have of convincing your audience to continue to pay attention to you.
What’s So Important About Long-Form Content?
Long-form content requires a bit more time, effort, and planning than short-form content. So why bother with it when there are so many other ways to quickly connect with your audience?
The more time you can convince your audience to spend with your content, the more deeply connected they will feel to you. People who gain value from your words (articles), listen to your voice in their ears (podcasts), or watch the expression on your face (video) feel like they’ve had the opportunity to get to know the real you.
Neal Schaffer’s podcast teaches you social media and connects you closer him as a person
With long-form content, you go from being a product name or a business title to a genuine person with feelings and emotions. You’re human, and that makes you more trustworthy and relatable.
You also have the opportunity to teach your audience something. That means you can provide them with real value, which builds up trust even more and increases the likelihood that they will want to do business with you.
Where Do I Start With Long-Form Content?
Don’t let the fear of creating long-form content break you before you even begin. You have the capability to create wonderful content. The first step is figuring out where to focus your effort.
You know you want to create content around your business, service, or offering. One great way to begin developing that content is to consider the questions your customers ask you. Each of your answers to those questions offers an opportunity to make a valuable piece of content.
Looking for more ideas? Try using one of these 52 Ideas For Sharable Content or check out these 5 Ways to Develop Your Content Marketing Calendar. If you aren’t ready to create all of the content yourself, try including your customers in your content creation process or start a guest blogging program, where you can utilize influencers from outside your own business and employees from within your own business as well.
As for the creation process itself, follow these tips to make your content more easily consumable:
- Tone – Use your natural voice and language, whether you are writing or speaking the content.
- Headline – Make sure your headline captivates and lets others know exactly what your article, video, or episode is about. If you don’t articulate the topic and value at the beginning of your content, you will lose your audience before you even begin.
- Introduction – Include the purpose of your article in your first paragraph or right at the start of your video or podcast.
- Content – When you’re writing, break up long paragraphs into shorter ones of about three or four sentences and use bullets, numbered lists, and subheadings. If you’re speaking, break your video or audio into smaller chunks, each of which focuses on a particular aspect of the topic of the piece. In every case, focus on giving your readers’ mind a break between subjects and providing cues for them to quickly pick out the most important concepts in your content.
- Graphics – Include photos, animations, images, and so forth to break up the content even a little more and keep the interest of your audience.
What Channels Are Good For Publishing Content?
Some people feel that all long-form content should be posted on property which you own (for example, the blog that is hosted on your website). While that isn’t a bad place to post content (and at least some of your long-form content should be posted there), there are advantages to posting long-form content on social media channels as well.
For instance, you will have to drive people to your website in order to get them to consume your long-form content. That might involve content marketing efforts that include posting a social media link or sending an email with a link to your content.
Imagine instead that people could access that content directly on the social media site they’re already using. Wouldn’t that be so much easier?
CodeLikeAGirl offers a great blog that is hosted on Medium
This is not to say that you can’t create a shorter version of the long-form piece and then include the longer form on your website. However, simply starting people off in a place where they don’t have to make any additional effort if they don’t want to is a great way to kick off your content marketing journey.
There are many social media sites that are great for hosting long-form content. For example, any one of these places is a good place to start:
- LinkedIn – The LinkedIn publishing tool is a bit basic but it allows you to cater to an audience that you have already cultivated on LinkedIn. It doesn’t offer many options for formatting text, but it is sufficient for the purposes of posting basic content. LinkedIn also allows you to share your content with someone before you’ve published it. It’s useful to have someone read your writing and discover inconsistencies before your general audience does.
- Medium – Medium is a like a very large magazine that covers pretty much any topic you can imagine. You can automatically import your audiences from other social media channels where you might be posting short-form content (say Twitter). Then those people will receive updates any time you publish material. Medium has the option to pay for membership, but when you’re just starting out, there’s no need for that.
- Quora – Quora offers a mid-way point between short-form and long-form content. The point of the site is that people ask questions and other people can answer them. Questions can range from investing to relationships to marketing to tech and beyond. Your content can be “upvoted” or “downvoted”, depending on the value your readers get from the answers you wrote. On Quora, your answers don’t have to be long, they just have to be helpful.
- YouTube – YouTube is obviously the place to post videos. The challenge is that it’s filled with content creators, making it difficult to be heard above the noise. To enable yourself to be discovered, start by taking a look at what’s already trending in a particular topic, then create a video on a similar topic.
- iTunes – There are a number of places you can post your podcasts, but iTunes is definitely one of the most popular ones. Note that you will still have to host your media files elsewhere, but iTunes provides the means for you to share your feed and be found by an appropriate audience.
The most important thing is to begin with just a single channel for hosting your long-form content. Better to handle one social media channel well than to do a bad job while doing a bit on every channel.
How Can I Save Time On Long-Form Content?
This is where the content marketing part comes in. When you do content marketing correctly, it will save you time and effort. It gives you the opportunity to grow your audience without killing yourself trying to create tons of content.
Your content marketing efforts shouldn’t be about quantity. Instead, focus on quality. You have to be consistent about your long-form content creation, make sure it’s valuable, and then drive the right audience to consume that content.
As part of your content marketing effort, create short-form posts on venues like Twitter or Facebook. Then include a link to your long-form content. You can write up a summary of your long-form piece using LinkedIn publishing and then direct people to the full piece on another channel. You can take your podcast and transcribe part of it to make an article that links back to the longer piece.
The point is, you don’t have to post a fresh piece on every channel, nor would you want to unless you have a very large marketing team. Instead, focus on promoting the pieces you have already created. Your content marketing plan should focus on using the audiences you’ve built on other platforms to drive people back to your long-form content hosting platform.
The end goal is to convert more people into paying customers so you can continue to grow your business and your reputation. That’s why, despite the time involved in creating the centerpiece of your content marketing efforts, the effort is worth it. Ultimately, long-form content can greatly accelerate the growth of your reputation and the achievement of your goals.
How do you use long-form content to boost your content marketing efforts? Let me know in the comments or Tweet me up at @HollyChessman.