How to Make Sure Your Digital Content Is Valuable and Useable


Screen Shot 2013-07-01 at 12.23.26 PMThe best compliment a creator of digital content can get is a satisfied buyer saying how much what you put together helped them. We all want to create digital content that is useful, helps to solve a problem, and is seen as valuable by the buyer.

If your digital product is on Kindle, you want those 5-star reviews.You want to see positive testimonials. You want that invaluable word-of-mouth referral working for you.

How can you make sure this happens? A key factor is paying attention to how you structure your content and the actual verbiage you use. It’s smart to consider both of these in light of your target market for each digital product you create.

As a content creator, you will sometimes serve as the expert for your own content, and sometimes you will use others as your content experts. In the instructional design world content experts are called subject matter experts or “SMEs.” When you create digital content based on what you are expert in you are serving as your own SME for the content.

Most likely, you don’t have to spend a lot of time doing background research to gather your content.  You’ve spent many years working in a certain field, or you’ve had specialized training in a particular industry, and you want to make use of what’s in your head instead of researching a topic you know very little about.  If this is you, listen up.

Before you sit down to write it’s critical to figure out what particular piece of your expert knowledge is a solution to a specific problem your target market is looking for.  Otherwise, you run the risk of overwhelming instead of helping your buyer – creating content that is too complex or using language that is not simple enough for them to grasp what you are teaching.

If you’re very expert in your topic it’s easy to offer too much. Valuable, useful content is specific, pared down to providing a solution to one particular problem, and is very easy to grasp and use.

If you are creating digital content on a topic and you are not the expert, you will likely be interviewing a SME and using that material to develop your content. In this case your role is to get your SME to share his or her expertise in small slices, and about specific, narrow topics that your target market needs.  Otherwise, it’s likely that you will overwhelm your buyers with too much information that is not specifically designed to help them solve their most burning problem.

Here’s an example:  I once was interviewing an internationally recognized expert in infection control for a training program to be used by a hospital.  The training program was for their housekeeping staff.  The three key points we wanted to include in the housekeeper staff training program were:

  • Hand washing when entering and exiting a hospital room
  • Recognizing bio-hazard containers and leaving them in place for a special team to pick up
  • Wearing face masks when in patient rooms.

As I interviewed the SME about these three key points it was obvious that he could not speak about infection control in a clear and simple enough language to be useful for this training program.  He knew so much, and spent so much time training other M.D.s about unusual and complex infection control topics.  He just could not keep his focus narrowed to the 3 topics, and the words he used were not known by the housekeepers who would use the training.

It becomes the job of the instructional designer (or the content developer, as we tend to say in the digital publishing world) to tease out useful pieces from the SME , force the interview to stay within specific boundaries, ask for clear and easily grasped language, and write the content using words the end user (the housekeepers) can understand.

That’s an example from the training development world, and it applies directly to you as a content developer in the Internet marketing and digital publishing industry.  As you develop your content it helps you in the end if you keep in mind a few things.

  1. Rather than telling everything you know about the topic, research what your target market is actually seeking help for right now and develop content only to that problem.  In other words, don’t tell all you know in one product!  It confuses the end user (your buyer).  And, by slicing up your expertise (or the expertise of others) you can get a hand up on developing related content in follow-on products.
  2. Check your language.  It’s a good idea to have two or three non-experts (your target market) review and evaluate your content before you finalize it and take it live.  In the digital publishing industry you can do this by offering your product in its final draft form to two or three people who are your target market and asking for review. (This is a good way to get pre-publication testimonials, too!)
  3. Test the readability of your content and know what grade level you are writing for. You can do this by temporarily putting the content on a web page and using a readability test tool like this one. Keep in mind that most content is written at the 6th to 8th grade level if it’s intended for adult users.

The bottom line is that you want your content to actually be used by the buyer. This leads to their success, great word of mouth marketing for you, and a willingness of your customers to come back for more.

This article was originally published on The Future of Ink and is reprinted here in its entirety for our Magnolia Media Network readers.