With the vast amount of content that’s available online, it’s very difficult to stand out from the crowd and get noticed. Your content has to provide real value to people and give them something back for the time that they spend reading it.
Time is scarce, and you have to grab your reader quickly, by writing content that meets their needs and compels them to read on, engage with and share it. One of the ways of doing this is using the ‘Inform, Educate, Entertain, Inspire’ test.
Ideally your content should accomplish at least one, and preferably more of these things for the reader, as follows:
. Inform – Letting the people that read your content know about something they weren’t aware of before
. Educate – Teaching people how to do something specific
. Entertain – Providing a way to pass the time, with humor, drama and the like
. Inspire – Involving people personally and moving them emotionally
We’ll explore each of these in more depth below.
Inform – Content that lets people know about areas and topics
Content that ‘informs’ tells your audience something and provides information on areas that they didn’t know about before. It increases their knowledge and awareness. Examples of content that ‘Informs’ include:
. News – The latest happenings in an industry or sector; local, national or international news
. Research and analysis – New research in a field, exploring a particular subject or area
. Other interesting articles – Other writing and content from around the web that keeps people informed and up to date
. Interesting people – Biographies and articles about notable individuals
. Places – Information on interesting places, locales and geography
. Products & services – Information on products and services that aren’t reviews (reviews tend to be educational)
. Resources and tools – Links to useful resources and tools depending on a person’s interests
. News and blog feeds – Regularly updated streams of content
Wikipedia is a great example of a site that primarily publishes content that ‘Informs’.
Educate – Content that teaches people how to do things
Content that ‘educates’ provides tutorials, how to guides and other information to show and demonstrate how to accomplish specific tasks or learn particular knowledge. It teaches your audience a necessary skill, approach or way of doing things. Examples of content that ‘Educates’ include:
. How to guides – Step by step guides on how to accomplish something specific. Often comprised of numbered steps or bullet point lists
. Tutorials – Training and teaching materials designed to educate people; can often be combined with ‘how to’ guides, although they don’t have to be
. Reviews – A review of a product or service listing good and bad points and providing information and education so the reader can decide if it is right for them; can also include local reviews
. Support articles, FAQs, Knowledge bases – Support material designed to help the users of a product or service to fix issues or provide information
. Recipes – Step by step guides to preparing and cooking food; recipes contain ingredients lists, steps, photos, serving information and nutritional values
. Examples – Using examples of products, services, content or other areas to support or strengthen a point
Wikihow is a good example of a website that primarily publishes educational content.
Entertainment – Content that helps people pass the time in a fulfilling or distracting way
Content that ‘entertains’ provides a way for your audience to pass the time in a fulfilling way. It allows them to enjoy time online through interactive content, humor and the like. Examples of content that ‘Entertains’ include:
. Quizzes – General knowledge and specific quizzes, trivia, brain-teasers etc.
. Jokes – Humorous anecdotes and jokes
. Interactive – Interactive content such as quizzes that tell you about personality traits etc
. Games – Browser based, word and other games that people can interact with and play
. Surveys – Content designed to capture feedback and opinions and display results to the reader
. Video – Video content (e.g. via YouTube or Vimeo) designed to entertain the viewer
. Images – Photos, art, imagery and galleries to entertain people
. Audio – Music, spoken word and podcasts for people to enjoy
. Memes – A combination of images and text (image macros) that often get spread virally
. Celebrity news – Throwaway gossip and celebrity content
. Social networks – Articles and topics designed to connect you with the people, places, topics, interests and pastimes that you care about
Sites like Cracked and Buzzfeed are good examples of places that primarily publish entertainment content.
Inspire – Content that moves the audience in some way and creates an emotional change
Content that ‘inspires’ will create or change an emotional state in your audience, e.g. joy, happiness, sadness, empathy, anger etc. It creates a difference in deeper, emotional, gut reactions and can motivate people to action or other displays of feeling. Examples of content that ‘Inspires’ include:
. Personal stories – anecdotes about the writer’s or someone else’s life, often written so that the reader can empathize with them
. Emotional pieces – content written to cause an emotional change in the reader
. Opinion pieces – Pieces written from a strong perspective, providing an alternative approach or opinion on a particular topic; often designed to make people strongly agree or disagree with the sentiment expressed
. Stories & creative writing – Fiction and other creative writing designed to entertain, amuse or move the reader
. Poetry – Short form creative writing
The TED Project and various talks are often very inspirational, although this is often combined with entertainment and education as well.
If you want people to sit up, take notice and share your content, try to make sure that it informs, educates, entertains or inspires. Combining two or more of these approaches means that readers are even more likely to find it compelling, enjoyable and shareable.
If your content doesn’t fall into any of these categories, you may be advised to re-write it or take a different approach until it does, but when you do, you’ll certainly enjoy the results. Great content, that meets your reader’s needs in a unique and compelling way is more likely to be read, enjoyed, engaged with, liked and shared. This can result in more visitors to your website, increased trust and better promotion of your products, services and business.