12 Lessons About Content from 11 Tech Companies

Buffer, Basecamp and more are a testament to laser-focused content that builds a community.

content marketing lessons

There are a lot of companies on the web producing content, but to me, these are the ones doing it the right way.  If you have examples of other companies doing content right, please share in the comments or tweet them to me @scotaft.

Admit mistakes

Buffer is one of those rare, truly authentic companies. Not only did they recently reveal every single employee’s salary but they willingly reported the mistakes they made when originally launching.  People love hearing stories about their favorite products and even more about how they fail.  Buffer has proven that they listen to the needs of their users and learn from their mistakes.

Interview target customers (not about your product)

37 Signals, the ingenious creators of Basecamp, have a blog called Signal vs. Noise.  They often interview a company or a lean start-up that is bootstrapping their way to success.  These companies aren’t necessarily Basecamp users but they are ideal customers.  By showcasing those target customers, they will attract more like-minded customers to their content.

Show users what you learned about them

Pocket is a reader/bookmarklet tool like no other.  Their trends section (not updated for 2013) depicts stats from the year about their users.  What articles were the most popular?  How many articles were saved total?  They packaged it up in a nice infographic and shipped it.  The key here is that people love to read about themselves and this content is speaking directly to Pocket users.

Turn everyone into a power user

IFTTT is the most user-friendly web scraper that exists.  Their blog is dedicated to teaching users how to get the most out of this amazing tool.  I’ve personally spent too much time on their blog trying to pick up new recipes.  This content creates minor exclusivity and drives demand for the product because to reap the benefits of the blog posts, you have to start using IFTTT.

Be a user of your own product

Instagram has a clever way of featuring images of their users that they call ‘Location Features’.  Take this one about the Haiku Stairs in Hawaii – they curated posts that were published in that location and created a collage.  It gives many different perspectives of the same location from people who don’t even know each other.  By immersing themselves in their own product, Instagram is discovering its own amazing user-generated content and, and, at the same time, giving back to users.

Reveal works in progress

The Moz Developer blog is usually filled with some pretty technical jargon that most people using their product might not be so interested in.  But recently they shot a video called Thunder Talks in which they had a some of their in-house developers share the projects they are working on currently.  It’s a very natural way of being transparent with users and gives them something to be excited for in the future.  Check it out here.

Share actionable case studies

Optimizely is excelling with case studies of their own customers.  Case studies are nothing new of course, but Optimizely has an advantage because, being an A/B testing tool, they can show readers exactly what 2 pages they tested, what the results were and the strategy behind them like this one here about SmartWool.  Optimizely is enticing you with a great experiment to try and then, oh look, you can test it right now on their website.

Share non-customer case studies

CrazyEgg – Who ever said case studies have to be about your own customers?  People just want to read about things that worked or didn’t work and why.  The website click-mapping tool CrazyEgg does a great job showcasing some of the best conversion strategies on their blog, The Daily Egg.  If you find a case study on the web that your readers would enjoy, why not share it with them.  I’m positive they’ll thank you for it.

Make your CEO do the talking

Qualaroo is one of the best qualitative analytics tools out there and it works with a simple survey popup you can add to your site.  But some people don’t know where to start.  The CEO Sean Ellis and Chairman Karl Blanks put together an hour-long presentation that is a little salesy but mostly gives some good advice about how to interview your customers.  The best part is that it’s not just an intern or a faceless presenter, it’s the bigwigs of the company which builds trust and authenticity.  All you CEOs, start getting in front of that camera.

Educate users

Wistia is one of my favorite web companies right now.  Their video analytics tool is amazing and their blog is even better.  Not all industries lend themselves to what Wistia does but if you can find an educational opportunity in your content or landing page strategy, take advantage of it.

Video is something that almost all businesses know they need to produce more of but don’t.  Through DIY and quick tips, Wistia is showing everyone how easy it can be to get up and running with video.  By converting people into passionate video-makers, they are actively increasing the size of their target market.

Tell a story

SquareSpace has a beautiful site, but instead of promoting how easy it is to get started with their website maker, they showcase users and their projects.  Those stories barely feature SquareSpace intentionally.  The point of telling a story about a business or an individual is to show great things that can be accomplished when you’re not worrying about building your website.  SquareSpace gets out of the way and lets you do what you need to for your business. Watch Seth Godin’s story here.

Stay laser-focused

What all of these companies’ content have in common is that they have a goal.  Whether it’s to educate, showcase or convert, each one has a content strategy in place that serves an exact purpose.  When coming up with your own content strategy, first identify your goal then create your framework within which you’ll achieve that goal.  Don’t go outside that framework.  Let users get to know the type of content you create.  They will invest more time and learn more about your product through your valuable content.


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About the author: Scott Taft
Scott Taft loves good writing, good coffee and good music. He currently works at SEER Interactive in Philadelphia but in his spare time he loves blogging about content right here on OG Content. Learn more about Scott Taft here.

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