13 Steps to Creating Disruptive Content (Advanced)
More Than Valuable, Disruptive
Denizens of the social media world are prone to refer to the articles they write — and the process through which these articles are written — as creating valuable content. It is the Holy Grail of the blogosphere, and with its creation comes a dramatically increased online audience.
While valuable content is a lofty goal worthy of your sustained efforts, to make your business into a genuine success your content must be more than valuable — it must be disruptive.
What do I mean by disruptive?
Historically, “disruption” has been a pejorative term: a disruptive pupil would be sent to the principal’s office; stock-market disruptions would cause widespread panic. Most recently, “”Hurricane Sandy Disrupts Millions of Lives” was the headline in a compelling New York Times article. However, in 1995, a Harvard Business School professor, Clayton M. Christensen, published a seminal article in the Harvard Business Review called “Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave.” Disruption was suddenly a good thing.
In the context of social media as a business strategy, your articles must do far more than merely increase your audience.
Your articles must:
- Establish you as a recognized thought leader.
- Serve as a magnet to grow a massive and engaged Twitter following.
- Instill in your followers a significant level of trust.
- Often cause your followers to make dramatic shifts in the way they normally do business.
- And ultimately, cause your followers to take action — transforming them from followers to customers.
In short, valuable is not enough. Your written content must be powerful, compelling and transformative. In a word — it must be disruptive.
How to Write Disruptive Content
Writing disruptive content is an art form — but it is also a science — and as such lends itself well to a step-by-step process.
Here then are the 13 steps to writing disruptive content:
The Broad Issues
- Topic Choice - The subject matter of your article must directly address the demonstrated wants and needs of your audience. This presupposes that you know your audience intimately, that you have carefully selected your followers from a precise and strategically planned market segment and that you write the article pointedly to answer your follower’s question: “What’s in it for me?”
- Alignment - The subject matter of your article should be aligned with your follower’s overall understanding of social media and with his desire to adopt social media as a strategy. HubSpot, one of the premier inbound marketing companies, solves for this requirement by tagging their articles with three skill levels — introductory, intermediate and advanced. They define them as follows:
- Introductory - Content is intended for those who are new to the subject. It typically includes step-by-step instructions on how to get started with a particular aspect of inbound marketing and learn its fundamentals. It promises that after completing it, the reader will be able to execute basic marketing tactics.
- Intermediate – Content is for marketers who are familiar with the subject but have only basic experience in executing strategy and tactics. Content typically covers the fundamentals and moves on to reveal more complex functions and examples. It promises that after completing it, the reader will feel comfortable leading projects with this aspect of inbound marketing.
- Advanced - Content is for marketers who are, or want to be, experts on the subject. It promises that after completing it, the reader will feel ready to not only execute strategies and tactics, but also to teach others how to be successful. By tagging articles with skill-levels, it is possible to more precisely target subsets of your market and to more effectively deliver on the disruptive promise.
- Sales Cycle - The subject matter of your article should be appropriate to the follower’s positioning within the sales cycle. The first distinction to make is whether particular followers are actually potential customers or simply visitors in search of free information. To the extent that they actively engage with you, they are more likely to be potential buyers. Those potential buyers can then be sub-categorized by appropriate product offerings, again using HubSpot’s methodology, as being in one of three groups:
- Awareness – Product offerings to this group might include a white paper, eBook, tip sheet, checklist, how-to video or educational webinar.
- Evaluation – Product offerings to this group might include a product webinar, case study, sample, FAQ, data-sheet or demo video.
- Purchase - Product offerings to this group might include a free trial, live demo, consultation, estimate or coupon. As in the previous alignment discussion, it will be necessary to tailor your offerings to specific sub-groups through various landing pages to more effectively deliver on the disruptive promise.
- Communicate Clearly - Everyone’s writing style is different, as it should be. The objective should be to speak to your audience in the best way possible to ensure that they understand your message. It is often argued that you should speak simply, under-shooting rather than over-shooting your audience. It can also be argued, however, that you should give your audience the clarity and thoroughness that they deserve. My view is that your tone should be set so that your audiences’ reach should always exceed their grasp. Serious businessmen and women want to be stretched. In any case, always strive to make your content valuable for your audience. Exceptional value leads to disruptive content.
- Provide Comprehensiveness - It is a mistake to promise comprehensive, specific answers to your followers’ questions and then deliver generalities. Strive to provide them with information, examples or original thinking that they cannot acquire easily in other places. Don’t get lazy. Dig deeper into the subject and provide actionable value. Provide enough detail so that your followers feel compelled to return to your site frequently for refreshers. Remember that the quality of the writing in your routine articles will forecast the quality they might expect in paid services. As the old adage suggests: under-promise and over-deliver.
- Remember to Deliver Results - Behind all assertions, your followers should find empirical evidence. Don’t speculate about results, provide tangible proof. Your followers expect and should demand that you back up your answers to their questions with concrete examples. If you can’t demonstrate your suggestions, don’t make them.
- Define Success - No one needs assistance to fail. Your followers follow you because they hope to succeed. To provide disruptive value you must guarantee success and to guarantee success both you and your followers must share a success definition that you fully understand and agree upon.
- The Delivery Mechanism - The method by which you deliver on disruptive value will determine its usefulness. Ideally, you should communicate important subjects in multiple forms: blog posts, more extensive articles, downloadable eBooks, online courses and hardcover publications to name just a few. As is true of everything you do for your followers, you must immerse them in more useful information than they have any right to expect. Strive to be the best in what you do and exceed their expectations.
The Narrow Issues
- Maximize Exposure - Disruptive content represents a significant investment of your time and expertise. Make sure that once it is prepared that it gets maximum exposure to the broadest possible audience. Using WordPress as your development platform, along with plugins that promise to distribute your content widely and utilizing multiple outposts for your content such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus, as a minimum, will make your investment worthwhile.
- Style is Crucial - Remember that you are writing for the web. Most of your followers, (especially newer ones with little previous exposure to your work), will tend to scan rather than read. Effective titles, bulleted content and numbered lists will make your style more conducive to disruptive content. Importantly, proper grammar, spelling and English usage are vital. Nothing less than perfection in this regard should be tolerated. Scrupulously edit your content, over and over — and use a copy of the Associated Press Style Guide as your bible.
- Strive for Creativity - There exists remarkably little original thinking out there. New ideas are hard to find. That does not restrain you from repackaging old ideas in new ways. Be creative by placing the existing ideas in new contexts. If you reach for creative approaches in every article, you will be much more likely to stumble upon an original thought.
- To Be Disruptive, Your Article Must Be Actionable - Remember to define success. If that means eliciting comments, retweets, email subscriptions or actual sales, be sure that the structure of your article and the tools on your website make that possible. An effective call to action – preferably several — should be included in every piece of disruptive content.
- Finally, To Be Disruptive, Your Article Must Be Shareable - Your Twitter following, Facebook fans, LinkedIn connections and Google Plus circles are enormous assets that must be fully utilized. Make sure that every article you publish can be readily shared among your social media outposts. By its very nature, disruptive content is eminently shareable. Encourage that result. Appeal to your followers emotional response to powerful content. Ask them to share. And reward their loyalty to your mission with continuously disruptive content that they come to expect and admire.