Create Longer Content To Be Subject Matter Experts
How white papers, eBooks and case studies can boost your company’s credibility.
By Mark Swartz
Do you claim to be a leading-edge firm? Bragging about it in tweets and posts may garner attention. But to solidly prove thought leadership, long-form content can set you apart.
We’re talking here about white papers, case studies, eBooks and long-form blog entries. They allow for detailed explanations and complex insights, the kind that can’t be covered passably in less than fifteen hundred words (plus maybe a diagram or two).
Long-form content helps establish you as subject matter experts. That can be a powerful differentiator as part of a content marketing strategy.
When To Use Long-Form Content
It seems obvious that content of more than several thousand words should be presented long-form. However that fails to take into account proper editing.
A lightly reviewed document of four thousand words might end up under a thousand after ruthless rewriting. Churning out needlessly wordy text disrespects readers and hurts on page SEO. So when is long-form content justified?
When essential details cannot be boiled down to a dozen paragraphs or a fancy infographic. For instance complex technical matters. They may be so intricate that each aspect of the whole requires an extended explanation itself.
Likewise with complicated new ideas, concepts or products. If the thinking or technology behind them can’t be reduced further, consider going long-form.
The Subject Matter Expert Advantage
Thought leaders attract followers. From rabid fans to well-heeled investors, companies that share innovative knowledge – or explain their processes better than others do – gain acolytes.
Long-form content establishes credibility. It displays the knowledge and abilities of your in-house talent. And it sets your company apart from those not willing to offer this denser material.
Another benefit: traditional media is hungry for legitimate and verifiable breakthrough information. That’s what your in-depth material may be able to provide.
Long-Form Content Guidelines
No matter how technical or explanatory your white paper (or eBook) is, it’s a piece of marketing literature. Like a brochure or website it must communicate effectively to its target audience.
Some suggestions on how to ensure this happens:
- Speak to the readers at their level. If the content is geared to specialists in your field, use jargon and technical language. If not don’t try to impress with fancy words or you’ll come off as superficial.
- Back up all claims. Use citations, survey and experiment results, specs provided by competitors…make it trustworthy and confirmable.
- Never use technical specs or statistics in ways that manipulate the reader. When they find out you’ve hoodwinked them, social media will explode with complaints.
- Offer new insights or twists on older ones. Give original and fresh explanations.
Have you done a study of your industry and want to report on trends? Possibly you’re developing a new process and would like to let an experienced audience know.
A white paper is explanatory. It may include charts, graphs and diagrams. A table of contents and glossary too. Also exhibits and an index. Generally the word count ranges from several thousand to twenty five thousand all told.
In a case study specific usage situations are examined. Like how a bank is using your service to engage with customers and save money.
The positives are highlighted as usual. However a good case study will address potential concerns and indicate usage limitations. All this can usually be covered in 1,500 to 5,000 words.
This content format needn’t be hundreds of pages long, or consist of entirely new material. An eBook might well compile a year’s worth of your company’s relevant, longer blog posts. That’s an example of repurposing content for maximum exposure.
There should be a table of contents and foreword to guide the reader. The document could be anywhere from 10 pages to several hundred, depending on the subject and audience.
Readers of long-form content spend prized time on your material. Your content should make the reader better informed and more capable. If unique, usable insights are offered, that scores points too.
As subject matter experts you’re expected not to sit on your laurels. Update frequently and watch your long-form insights continue to pay dividends.