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The ultimate list of content types: Why your business needs to mix it up to make it work
In this modern world, as individuals, we’re creating a lot of content, whether we’re aware of it or not. Whether it’s posting our thoughts on social media, leaving a review about a product or creating a TikTok video for fun, each time we engage, or interact is yet another piece of content being published.
With so much content being placed online every single day, in different media formats and on a variety of different channels, the challenge for any business looking to target their customers successfully and stand out amongst the crowd is harder than ever.
What we do know is that content is an integral part of your marketing plan. Through content, you can tell people more about your offering, engage new leads, inspire your audience and guide customers along their buyer journey – all the while crafting the reputation you want for your brand.
Therefore, building a content strategy is key, and will help direct your content team to create inspiring and valuable content that consistently engages your audience across multiple channels, diversifying your reach and preventing your brand from stagnating.
We’ve compiled the ultimate list of content types that should feature in the toolbox of every business, from here you can identify which ones fit into your strategy.
In our article we discuss the merits of many of the most common types of content including blogs; video; infographics and visuals; social posts; whitepapers, guides and ebooks; adverts and influencer content; quizzes and tools; podcasts and webinars; as well as case studies and testimonials.
It is worth noting that there is usually some overlap between content types and channels. For example, you can create video content featuring an interview, that is initially published on your YouTube channel or website that is then linked into other channels and types of content such as a social post on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. This makes the piece of content very valuable in marketing terms due to the wider reach it will achieve. When you are building your strategy – consider carefully how you can make each piece of content as marketable as possible.
Blogs are one of the most traditional types of content, having risen to popularity in the early 2000s and becoming a mainstay. These are often long-form types of content, such as chatty or explanatory articles, exploring a specific topic or subject in detail. Businesses often rely on blogs to inform, educate and inspire their audiences about themes related to their product or service offering – they are also a good platform to answer the many questions a customer might have when making a purchasing decision, helping to explain why your products or services might be considered as a solution to their needs. You can also utilise links to other related content where you think the audience might benefit further, as this will add even more value to the user journey and help build credibility.
Blogs can come in many styles and are commonly seen in the following formats:
- How-to guide (e.g. “How to save money on your car insurance)
- Listicles (e.g. “Top 10 UK destinations for your staycation”)
- What is… (e.g. “What is cryptocurrency?”)
- Why… (e.g. “Why is weightlifting good for your health?”)
- Commentary/newsjacking (e.g. “Five sports to get into following the Tokyo Olympics”)
- Fun (e.g. “The 90s trends you thought you’d forgotten”)
The type of blogs you use will depend on the nature of your business and the topic you are exploring. For your content strategy, it’s a good idea to offer your audience variety.
Secondly, blogs will boost your organic SEO efforts. By effectively answering the questions that people may be searching on Google and other search engines, your blog can rank highly on the results pages. This will bring more traffic to your website, where they can venture further to find out more about you and make a purchase. You can also guest blog for other websites, which will help you to generate backlinks.
Finally, as blogs tend to be long-form, they can easily be repurposed into other content types. For example, you might have a 2,000-word blog exploring the topic of how to look after your pet in warm weather. This blog could be turned into a series of short videos describing a top tip or an infographic that lists the tips succinctly for social media.
In this sense, you can get mileage from a blog post, which will help you to introduce a wide range of content types into your strategy.
Unsurprisingly, video is a hugely popular form of content, and statistics prove that it’s very effective when it comes to engagement. Studies show that viewers retain 95% of a message when watching it in a video, compared to just 10% when reading it as text.
Due to this, videos are an excellent way to taking complex information in a more digestible form, allowing customers to take in a message more quickly and engage with your brand. They have good SEO benefits too.
Another example is where a business can use video to demonstrate the more physical aspects of a technical product such as a weighing machine or even a car! The video will allow the user to see the product in action whilst covering off the features and benefits, without yet having to make a trip to visit the company and product in person. Hugely important during the decision-making stage where a customer might be comparing your brand with a shortlist of others. Well-made and interesting videos often get shared, further increasing audience reach.
Video doesn’t need to be big-budget, so it’s accessible to every business. Most of us have a high-quality video camera on our phones. All you need is an idea that provides value to your customers, and you’re good to go. Plus, 89% of marketers say video offers them a great return on investment, making it a cost-effective tactic for your business.
Another benefit of video is that it can be used pretty much everywhere. You can include videos on your website, in blog posts, on social media or specific video-sharing platforms like YouTube, enabling you to flesh out your content across multiple channels and secure engagement on each.
Infographics and visuals
Infographics and visuals work similarly to video in that they can take complex information and turn it into easily digestible, simple chunks of content that your audience will prefer to see. Infographics can even increase website traffic by up to 12%. This format is quite often used for representing statistical information and quick facts.
On specific platforms, such as Instagram, visual content is essential. However, on other more text-focused platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and even blogs, including visuals is an excellent way to boost engagement and visibility.
If you are creating infographics or visuals, you need to ensure they are impactful. This means utilising bright colours and exciting imagery that stand out. You should remain true to your brand guidelines, and any visuals you create will reflect how you want to be seen publicly.
You’ll also want to focus on creating high-quality graphics – though there are many tools available to businesses that make this accessible. If you are considering using an infographic, make sure that the data and facts behind it are accurate, and interesting enough for your audience.
A social media post is a piece of short-form content. The exact format and length will vary depending on the platform you are posting to, as every social media channel has its own ‘best practice’ for creating compelling content.
What is consistent across all social media, is that you need to stand out from the crowd. Individuals and businesses worldwide post on social media every day, and, as a result, users are often idly scrolling through a sea of content – some of which is of no interest to them, but certainly all of which are trying to grab their attention. If you want to attract your audience, you need to make sure your content makes them stop.
Some creative tactics for commanding attention on social media include using high impact visuals or video, using hashtags or shareable content, such as memes. It’s also a good idea to introduce interactivity when you can, including polls and quizzes. Video is also influential here, with social video generating 1200% more shares than text and image posts combined. Whatever you choose to use, it must be targeted, and be aligned to the audiences wants and needs.
In more recent years, especially with the advent of Instagram Stories and Live, live streaming content has performed well on social media. This could mean holding question and answer sessions with your followers, providing commentary to a live event or giving them behind-the-scenes footage of your business.
Social media is constantly evolving, with new trends emerging every day. Your content needs to adapt too, so it’s worth playing around with new and interesting ways for your brand to remain relevant and on trend.
Whitepapers, guides and e-books
Whitepapers, guides and e-books are the most comprehensive type of content, commonly used to provide an audience with in-depth expertise around a particular topic. They are extensive, and provide incredible detail and value to the reader.
Due to their length, whitepapers and e-books won’t work on social media where attention spans are short. Instead, they are suitable for securing leads interested in a topic related to your business and who want to find out more. Many companies use them as a downloadable resource, allowing them to capture lead information.
They also tend to be seen as more ‘serious’, and work well in B2B marketing, where professionals might want to learn more from an expert on subjects of a more technical or complex nature.
With the focus on expertise, whitepapers are also a great way to promote your thought leadership as a brand. By offering your support over a topic, you can highlight your skills and experience in that area, helping you to build your reputation and authority.
Ads and influencer content
Ads and influencer content are paid forms of content, and require a suitable budget along with clear objectives, and targeting if you are to use them successfully. They can feature on different channels, including social media, search engines and websites, and tend to include short-form text and impactful visuals – though this can vary depending on the platform the ad is situated on (for example, PPC tends to be text only).
Due to it being paid content, it’s not perceived to be the most authentic, which can have some repercussions when it comes to consumer trust. However, if you can create an effective advert, provided your content is relevant to what the user is searching on, then the experience will be positive and you can bring traffic through the door. Always make sure that you display the right message about your brand in your advert and remain faithful to any offers or claims that you make.
Influencer content has become a well-known form of advertising, with celebrities or industry experts posting about your brand in exchange for payment or incentive. Again, it’s a controversial marketing tactic, but it can boast significant benefits. It’s essential to focus on finding a suitable representative for your brand, one with an existing connection with your customer audience profile and has a synergy with your brand values. Ensure that all content created and delivered by the influencer on your behalf is tasteful and in keeping with your values and messaging whilst also disclosing the fact it is paid or sponsored.
Quizzes and tools
We’ve mentioned the importance of interactivity for social media engagement, but it can improve your engagement elsewhere – quizzes! 96% of users who start a BuzzFeed quiz, finish them, demonstrating the impact that quizzes can have on holding your customers’ attention. It’s no surprise that many marketers argue gamification and interactivity are the future.
If you are creating a quiz, the headline or title needs to make the user want to participate. Usually, this means choosing something fun (such as “Find out what type of biscuit you would be!”) or personal to the user (such as “See how your driving habits compare to others in our quiz”). It also needs to be relevant to your brand in some way.
Tools on the other hand are a little different and don’t necessarily need to be as fun, since it is serving a useful purpose rather than idle entertainment. Instead, you need to think about how you can provide value. A typical example of a useful tool, is a mortgage calculator, such as those featured on MoneySavingExpert. If you are a bank of a financial service provider then offering such a tool will be a great way to help your user to find the information that they need, whilst keeping your brand in mind when they are ready to make a decision. You might be able to create a similarly useful tool specific to your products or services that will support your potential customer, and assist them in their decision making journey.
Quizzes and tools can also be shared elsewhere through outreach, such as social media or SEO, which will help you to generate more traffic to your website – as long as you can provide an interactive element that gets people engaged.
Podcasts and webinars
Following technological advancements and events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, video and audio content numbers have risen. Webinars and podcasts have the power to make people feel like they’re in the same room and same conversation, even if they’re spread across the world. Their popularity also presents an excellent opportunity to expose your business and introduce new media types into your marketing strategy.
Webinars and podcasts work similarly to blogs or whitepapers in that they often discuss a topic in detail. However, the focus is on the interaction between experts and guests, making it more engaging than simply reading pages of text. Your blogs might even be repurposed into webinars or podcasts as a complimenting piece of content and further leveraged by outreach.
Why not consider hosting your own webinars or topics? You will need to have a strong subject theme, as well as a suitably articulate and camera-ready host to guide the webinar in the right direction and provide good quality narrative. You will also require suitable software for you to record and host your content.
Alternatively, you can reach out to other specialists already established in hosting webinars or podcasts and see if there are any guest opportunities for your business to take part. Doing so could get your business in front of a new audience and enable you to promote your thought leadership on a much broader scale.
Case studies and testimonials
Case studies and testimonials are other extremely useful types of content for pretty much any business. Once you have started to build a good collection, they can have a sizeable impact on your onward marketing. 91% of people regularly or occasionally read brand reviews when making a purchasing decision, so having genuine customers who endorse your business can convince others to convert too.
Case studies and testimonials are both forms of user-generated content, this is where your customers talk exclusively about their experience with your brand. This content can feature on your website, in video content, on social media or designated review sites such as Trust Pilot.
Since the focus is on your customer, case studies are relatively low effort. In some cases, customers may share their experiences without prompting. You can also encourage by actively asking customers about their opinions or using incentives like prize draws. If you have a particularly good review, you might go a step further and repurpose it for your website or social media channels (such as adding video or visuals) to give it a spotlight.
Of course, the main concern here is obtaining positive case studies to improve your brand reputation. You’ll also want to make sure that the reviews are genuine, and furthermore, handled in a timely and courteous fashion by your customer service team to avoid any backlash.
How do I select the right content types for my business?
There’s no denying that there is an endless choice of content types to use – but how do you know which are best for your brand?
The first step in creating your content strategy is to understand your target audience. Create buyer personas built on in-depth audience insight. This will help you and your team understand what kind of content your target customers like to consume and what will provide the most value. From there, you can focus on their preferences and the channels they use and refine your approach to match.
You also need to consider what type of content is most suitable for your brand and your goals. For example, a B2B business offering something very technical, like manufacturing parts, might benefit more from the more serious and authoritative whitepaper download as opposed to a fun quiz. Similarly, a fashion brand aimed at teenagers might utilise memes and social media more frequently. Always think about what your customer will expect to see and how they will expect to see it to guide you in this process. Your existing customer feedback is also an important indicator of what has worked historically.
Finally, think about the type of content that is most suited to the channels that you are intending to use to reach your audience. Certain content will work better on some than others – for example, video and images work well on social media (especially Instagram), but blogs are better hosted on your website to improve your search efforts and authority. You need to cover all your bases with the right content on every channel to get the metrics you need, rather than taking an umbrella approach that posts the same thing to every channel.
There will always be a degree of experimentation and flexibility involved in your content activity. New trends frequently emerge, which may shift the type of content you create – and never be afraid to try something new, as long as there’s some evidence to support that your audience will be receptive to it. Sometimes it can take a few attempts to find your content groove.
The important thing is to remember to monitor the performance of your activity constantly, using KPIs, so that you can judge how effective it is (or not) and be able to adapt your approach accordingly. By continually doing this, you will not only improve and become expert, but you’ll also end up with a more consistent content strategy that will better engage your audience and drives results.
Content marketing is powerful – but only if you select the perfect approach for your brand. This means utilising a range of content types that keeps your activity diverse and engages your customers frequently while representing your business well and guiding customers effectively along their buyer journey.
Understanding the broad range of content types available is the first step in building a plan that encompasses all the suitable forms. By choosing types that align with your goals and target audience, you can get the results you want.