What Does The Word “Content” Mean Anyway?

I’m always asked by online solopreneurs, “what the heck is content?”

Nobody seems to know what it means. But one thing’s for sure:

They feel very frightened by it.

They feel even worse when they see words like content marketing and content strategy.

I agree the word “content” can be a puzzling one. It has no real meaning. It doesn’t feel very warm either.

Ironic then, that content is the beating heart of an online business.

So how can we start to fall in love with content?

Before I get to that, I want to address two common problems.

What “content” shouldn’t be

The first common problem I’ve seen is when “content” and “copy” are used to mean the same thing.

Well, they’re not the same thing.

The easiest way to explain them is this: copy is a form of content but content is not limited to copy.

Content is all the stuff you publish on your website. This can take the form of text, video, audio streams or photos. If you can think of content as an umbrella term for these formats, you’re on the right track.

The other problem I’ve seen is from the way online solopreneurs produce that content.

Most of them are not yet familiar with the web being its own medium.

People don’t always read on the web. They prefer to scan articles looking for information.

We also have shorter attention spans when using the web. And so to capture attention fast, we need to create content that hooks people in quickly. This can mean videos less than five minutes long and audio snippets rather than long plays.

Unfortunately, online solopreneurs still haven’t grasped this reality. They’re still producing copy as if they’re writing an essay or creating videos as long sales presentations.

What content needs to be doing

The majority of visitors to your website will be strangers.

If they like you, they now have to figure out if they can trust you. The only way they can make that judgment call is through your content.

Content that gets them small wins.

Content that is inspiring to read.

In essence, content exists in business to initiate conversation.

It exists to break the ice with total strangers.

It exists to help them trust you.

It exists to help you build new relationships.

When we start to think of content in this way, as a dialogue with strangers, then the whole concept of content starts to open up. Content turns into an avenue for creativity and fun, all in the name of connection.

Don’t let content fool you

It’s ironic: the goal of content is to connect and yet the word “content” can be alienating and confusing.

I wonder if instead we should use “conversation building” as the word going forward. We all know what conversation means, and building gives us the motivation we need to take action on it.

It’s certainly less frightening.

Folder image: gualtiero

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