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4 Steps To Creating Engaging And Sharable Content For Your Students

November 10, 2016

In the beginning, terms like ‘blogging’ and ‘click rates’ were marketing jargon we left for the analytics wizards to deal with while we carried on with running our business.

However, in the last few years, online marketing- specifically creating and posting new content- has become an integral role in all business operations. Research has shown that regularly posting content (a blog, video etc) has the potential to help bring more traffic to your website and raise your search rankings. And from an RTO perspective, posting and contributing content to social media groups can help to strengthen the relationship you have with current students and provides another platform to reach and update them on training developments.

Like it or not, knowing what a ‘vlog’ or a ‘tweet’ is, has become increasingly relevant and important for all organisations (inlcuding traning organisations) and not just something to be dealt with solely by the marketing team.

The problem is, that while many acknowledge the benefits of creating and charing content, it’s another thing to actually do. The web is now rife with self-publishing tools to allow anyone the opportunity to write and publish whatever they choose. In a sea of blogs and articles, how can you make your content stand out and engage your target audience?

Our aXcelerate team have been using all of our resources over the last few years to answer this very question. While we haven’t found a magic formula to increase engagement levels over-night, the following steps will help to ensure you are writing and publishing content that will raise awareness amongst your target audience and ‘engage’ them (compel them to ‘like’ the content, ‘share’ the content, click to find out more etc). 

Step 1. Choose a relevant topic

When researching about content creation, the majority of articles we read, emphasised the importance of the content topic. For someone to be truly interested in something you’ve posted, the subject needs to be relevant to them.  Something that they can relate to. Michele Linn (Vice President of Content at the Content Marketing Institute) believes that you need your reader to be ‘emotionally involved’ in what you have to say to ensure they’re engaged. She argues that the best way to do this is to know your audience and what they value and then translate this into the content you produce. This point seems obvious when you think about it. A person isn’t going to click on an article discussing something that isn’t relevant to their needs or interests.

The question then becomes…..how do you find out what is of interest to your target audience? What do they need? What do they value?

A great starting point is to search through the media in order to identify any trends or news which may relate to your target audience. For example any ASQA updates that could affect students and how training will be delivered. Or jump on the e-learning trend by discussing the flexible and time-saving benefits learning online could provide students. Another way to better understand your audience is to engage with online groups and communities. If there are any relevant groups on Facebook or Linkedin or any online forums (Australian Students undergoing their RSA for example), it is worth finding them, joining them and having a read through the comments to find out what is on their minds, what they typically discuss etc.

Finally, looking through recent feedback you’ve collected  from old and current students as part of your audit requirements can be highly informative. Often the feedback collected from student surveys is a highly effective way to gain insight into what you’re students want or are looking for in terms of education and a training provider. 

Step 2. It’s all in the headline

Once you’ve done your research and decided on a relevant topic, the next thing to consider is the title. An opening title or headline is the gateway to your content and usually the key thing your audience will see when your content is posted on a blog or shared on social media. This headline (along with a relevant image) will be the determining factor in whether the audience will click on your post to find out more. Consequently, your must effectively convey your topic in your headline in order to make it as alluring as possible.

Hubspot- a global inbound marketing and sales platform found that the more specific headlines are, the more likely a person will click on them. They revealed that in a series of recent tests conducted for a dental company, the super-specific headlines used, received the highest click through rate. For example both the headlines “Dental Plans for $8.33 a Month. Acceptance Guaranteed.” and “Over 55,000 Dental Care Providers. Acceptance Guaranteed.” did far better than “ Dental Care Coverage. Best Price Guaranteed”. or “Best Price Dental Care- Without Insurance”.

The take-home message from this is that it’s easy for a headline to appear generic when surrounded by millions of other headlines. The more specific you can make your title, the more unique it will seem by comparison, as well as appearing more tailored for your target audience. For example, a headline like “The best study tips to help you pass your next real estate exam’ will appeal stronger to prospective real estate students than a generic “Top ten study tips” headline.

Apart from specificity, the structure of your headline will impact on the success of a post. Data from Noah Kagan (a popular SEO and marketing blogger) analysed the most successful Linkedin publishing posts based on a sample size of 3,000. From this analysis , he had two key findings. The first was that both how-to and list based blog posts performed best in terms of views, likes, comments and shares. For example, “How to establish your brand message” or “8 ways social media marketing can benefit your brand”. Interestingly, question based titles like ‘Why should you post on Linkedin?’ performed the worst, which suggests that audience members have wised up to the click-bait type posts floating around the web.

Step 3. Timing

Once settling on a topic and a catchy title, another important element to consider is the time you choose to post or share your content. This is an often overlooked but crucial step as you want to ensure the majority of your audience is online so you can maximise your potential engagement levels. Timing varies slightly depending on the audience you’re targeting, however generally posting something on Monday morning or Friday afternoon are not ideal times as people are either busy making their way back to school/the office or winding down on projects for the week and prepping for the weekend.

According to Kagan’s data, posts published on Linkedin on Thursday afternoon saw the highest average total views followed by Sunday evenings when people were gearing for the working week. Of course this data won’t apply to all platforms but can serve as a baseline. You can also look at your own website traffic, specifically focusing on the days and times traffic is highest, to determine the times students are most likely to look for training related information.

Step 4. Keep it varied

It is important to be creative with how you present your content. While a relevant subject matter and catchy title will get you so far, including a captivating image, video or link to help support your content will increase a student’s likelihood to like, comment and share the content rather than just view it. For example, Cisco recently conducted research that suggested video will account for 69 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2017, while You Tube already receives more than one billion unique visitors each month.

Infographics are also a great way to help illustrate your message instantaneously. For example, displaying infographics on the number of students enrolled in your organisation and the percentage of these students who went on to secure full time employment in a specific time frame. A student will see these graphics, and instantly process the theme of job security (a topic that is highly relevant to them) and click to find out more.

As mentioned before, because of the sheer volume of content out there, constantly varying the format of how to present it will help your content to stand out from the crowd.

Once you have created your content, included interesting visuals and thought up a snazzy title you’re ready to publish. Most organisations will try and share content on all of their social platforms unless they are focusing on a platform specific campaign (LinkedIn for example). We encourage you if you haven’t already, to maintain your own company blog as well as the key social platforms your students engage in such as Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, Twitter etc. Determining the most effective social platforms will require some initial market research but will help to ensure you are tapping into the best channels to reach your audience.

Posting content will require some initial trial and error in order to discover what works best for your organisation. However, incorporating the key points discussed above is a great starting point.

To find out more about the data Noah Kagan and his team gathered, click here

To find out more about content engagement and the best performing content formats, click here

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