Virtual Writers

What Is Content, Anyway?

In marketing, communications and creative circles, the word “content” gets tossed around a lot. We reference it like a fish swims in water, or use it like a dog chews its favorite toy, or the way a . . . well, you get the point: We professional writers, marketers, bloggers and social media evangelists presumptuously…

In marketing, communications and creative circles, the word “content” gets tossed around a lot. We reference it like a fish swims in water, or use it like a dog chews its favorite toy, or the way a . . . well, you get the point:

We professional writers, marketers, bloggers and social media evangelists presumptuously refer to “content” like everyone understands exactly what it is. And that’s just not true.

It’s important to clarify the matter since content is a strategic tool that drives business these days. What with the internet, online searches, company websites, high-authority business publications and more, it’s perhaps most important that businesspeople themselves begin to grasp what, precisely, content is. This is really critical since it supports and drives so many strategic goals these days.

Content Defined

Our handy Merriam-Webster Dictionary fundamentally defines content as the intransitive verb that refers to the act of being appeased, as in, “He was content with his progress.” But that’s an entirely different premise altogether than what we’re dealing with here.

When we talk about content in the copywriting, journalism and marketing worlds, we must go down the rabbit hole a bit further to find the right definition. Eventually, in doing so, we land at the second- and third-level definitions, which are: “the events, physical detail and information in a work” and then “the matter dealt with in a field of study.”

These last two definitions come closest to representing what we mean by content as communication writers and marketers. And now, for some examples . . .

Content in Application

The common idea of content revolves around words. Yes, words that people read, internalize, learn and are motivated by are integral in the total picture of content. But content is also visual. In fact, the debate about which is more important or effective – words that will be read or graphics that will be seen – is both a modern and long-lasting debate (with no finality in sight).

These are the most common content examples, categorized according to where they usually fall within the marketing and promotions space.

Written content – This is word-driven content intended in the form of blog posts, white papers, commentaries, news articles, feature stories, FAQs, press releases, email newsletters and even text messaging (SMS).

Audio content – This is exactly what is sounds like – content that is heard, usually by way of podcasts and embedded or downloadable sound clips. This may feature speeches, interviews, music or other listenable features.

Graphical content – Visual content is meant to be seen and, as a result, spark a subconscious emotion or simply attract via good, eye-catching design. Information may be integrated into products such as infographics, graphs, slideshows, photos, memes or illustrations.

Social content – Content exists outside of social networks, like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram, but it is often leveraged through such platforms. Content may also be developed within or exclusively for a particular social network, such as comments to a trending post or a blog written specifically for a somewhat closed audience within LinkedIn, for example.

Video content – Video content is exactly what it sounds like and may be found on YouTube and Vimeo as today’s top service providers, and on social platforms like Facebook Live or even Twitter.

It All Goes Back to Writing

Writing is at the epicenter of good, effective content. No matter the format or function, at some point, something has to be written – and that also means researched, structured, vetted and strategized. The writing itself may be the end product, as with a blog post, ebook or feature story. Or the writing may serve as the planning guide or outline for what follows, be it an online photo gallery or video campaign.

After all, someone has to author the storyboard, write the script or even the captions and sub-headlines, right? Write!