The Expert Series: Planning Content
Founder of MAGNIFY magazine, Ruth Yimika Awogbade, has always had a keen interest in content strategy and the way in which consumers engage with brands. Being so passionate about helping others to find purpose and conviction in everything they do, she recently launched a new blog, The Afolabis, with her fiancé, as well as continuing to produce digital content for other clients. Here she shares advice on sourcing, planning and scheduling content, plus the need to understand your audience above all else.
1. How would you describe what you do?
In a broad sense, I’d say I’m a content creator and a publisher across different platforms. I run my own magazine and produce digital content for myself, as well for other clients too. I also host events. Generally, I love creating or sharing stories, in order for people to engage with the central idea through a narrative.
2. When and why did you launch Magnify?
Magnify started in 2009, where I was hosting events for women who had questions about life, faith and relationships. It wasn’t a planned thing but because it grew so quickly, I had to brainstorm another method of addressing the volume of issues and questions we were getting, outside of only events. The best way of doing so was through content. I decided upon creating a print magazine to not only deal with these serious issues, but also create something special that our audience could keep. When thinking about the audience, how best to reach them and what my main objectives were, print was the answer.
3. What about the blog, The Afolabis?
Same really. My fiancé and I have both always been passionate about inspiring people, whilst being as authentic as we can. I realised we were constantly having conversations about relationships and life with others but again, it was not sustainable to have 100 conversations a week. We thought about who we were trying to reach and what we were trying to do, as well as how could we package our live lessons for them. We brainstormed how we could actually share this in a way that is easily accessible and that was when the idea of the blog and the Youtube channel came about.
The biggest thing I’ve learned on content is to think about your audience first. Take time to find out who they are and what platforms they engage on, as well as what you’re actually trying to get them to do via your content. That will ultimately dictate what type of posts you create.
4. How do you come up with a strategy? What’s your process?
Everyone has different things that they are trying to do with content but because I focus heavily on lifestyle, the ideas usually come from my own life experiences: what I’ve gone through, what I’m struggling with or what I’m learning. The first bit of my content strategy is thinking about who am I actually trying to reach and what am I trying to say to them? I’ll always sit down and think, “what are the objectives of this piece?”. The way I write or the pieces in the magazine connect to a real-life story. Part of the content strategy is looking at what are the lessons that different people can pick out. My audience doesn’t necessarily have to relate to that particular life experience but it’s about the overall message of the piece.
5. Where do you source your ideas from - solely personal experiences or other areas as well?
I am always listening to people and what they are going through. With the magazine, so many of the stories have come from just being an observant and curious person.
As a content creator, you need to be curious. Get out of your own head from time-to-time and keep up with what is going on in the world around you. You'll stay inspired that way.
If you don’t learn about other experiences, even those that are outside of your industry, it’s difficult to consistently create interesting and innovative content.
6. How do you keep creating interesting content but also maintain consistency?
Focus on key categories because that is what people will remember you for and why they’ll return to your platform. Decide what your aim is: are you trying to engage people, are you trying to entertain people, are you trying to inform them, or are you trying to inspire them?
With me, it’s about picking areas and knowing what I’m trying to do in those areas.Once you make a decision on your categories, stay within them. Otherwise, you run the risk of spreading yourself too thin. There are very few platforms that can effectively talk about 100 different subject areas well, using a very small team.
The temptation is to underestimate the power of consistency but it’s so important to find a niche that you know you can cover well. You can’t build momentum if you’re just here, there and everywhere - you don’t build a community that way.
7. Okay, you’ve got all your ideas ready, you know who your audience is and you’ve categorised themes and topics. What’s next?
With a blog, I’ll have a content schedule that will say what day we are releasing content on what platforms. I’ll bring together all of my ideas - say 30 different topics that we want to talk and write about - and then I’ll create a schedule for it all. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that you cannot plan enough. We give enough time to review our content, in order to make sure it’s as good as it can possibly be. When creating digital content, try to be aware of the other things that are going on online. I’m not an expert in SEO (more advice here) but I’m conscious of the seasons and therefore what people might be searching for that’s within our brand and our USP. Remember, in order to build an audience, you ideally want to get to a point where people are searching for your content or for you.
With the magazine, it’s slightly different because the pace is so important. We might have a list of 100 articles we want to write and only 40 can go into the magazine. The biggest thing for me as the editor is to work out how they’ll all fit together. I’m not going to have 6 articles that are really long and really serious because that’s quite depressing to read.
I need to make sure there is a good balance of different types of content to service people and keep them engaged. Otherwise, you just become repetitive. Being repetitive is different from being consistent.
Generally, planning, organising and scheduling content is so essential, especially if you’re a one or two man band; you don’t want to overwhelm yourself. I think the days of uploading nonsense up onto the internet are over, so even when you see bloggers who post items that appear off the cusp, more often than not, there is a strategy behind it.
8. How far in advance are you planning your content?
With the blog, it’s 4 months in advance because we’re too busy to do it more regularly. Obviously, things change as you go along and while I’m not saying four months is necessarily the optimum, just by giving yourself more than enough time, you can play around with all your ideas along the way. If it’s too close to the publish date, you won’t have much room to manoeuvre or allow for error - especially if you’re working with other people e.g. photographers, collaborators, etc… It does depend on what type of content you’re publishing but it’s important to leave enough legroom for a broad overview.
9. For those who are really stuck in trying to create content for their platforms, what’s your advice to them?
When you get stuck, the best thing to do is look at your own life. And all of us - whether we think we’re interesting or not - will have had an experience that other people that can relate to. There might also be content sites that you really like to browse through and pick up ideas from, in a way that is authentic to you and your platform.
10. What type of blog content do you enjoy reading?
The only blogs I read are based around something that I want to find out about. I’m really interested in being a serial entrepreneur, so I’ll read things around that. Generally, I only read content that is high quality or with an interesting angle. Then good photography keeps me coming back.
Dos & Don’ts of Creating Content
1. Do Check The Quality of Written Content
Making sure that the quality of your written content is of a high standard is very important. In the past, you could release posts with bad sentence structure or spelling mistakes and people didn’t really mind because they were more interested in your personality. That doesn’t work any longer, as the standard of content has gone up.
2. Don’t Fake It & Do Be Original
Because it’s such a saturated market, whether planning your blog or your Instagram feed, trying to be as original as possible will help you in the long run. Featuring content that doesn't suit your personality but seems like a quick and easy post is not good enough. People can see through forced content that’s posted just for the sake of what’s hot right now. Put your own unique spin on it, even if you do follow the trends.
3. Don’t Forget About The Aesthetics
Where possible always have good images to accompany your content because that’s going to be the first thing that engages people. In terms of the layout of your page, dividing digital content with subtitles breaks up long text into more aesthetically pleasing chunks.
4. Do Signpost
Subtitles also help to signpost your audience throughout, preventing them from tailing off. With digital content, it’s really important to let your reader know what your post will be about within the first or second sentence. Don’t wait till the sixth paragraph because they might not hang around to find out what’s going on if they’re not captivated.
5. Do Review Your Content Frequently
Check what’s doing well and what’s not. You’re not just creating content for yourself so make sure to review your analytics regularly. This will help inform the type of content and strategies you’ll use in the future, as well as how to share it on socials for greater click-through rates.