A technical audience will seek useful, detailed, and authoritative information, but they are like any other consumer of digital content — drawn to snappy and easily digested material. The challenge for the creator of the content is to fulfill both of these requirements. That balancing act is not easy and requires a technical background and communication skills that can be hard to combine. Here are a few guidelines on how to get – and keep! – the attention of a technical audience.
Create Relevant Content on Hot Topics
Technology fans always have their eyes open for the latest news, even if it’s not in their area of expertise. In fact, they are often looking specifically to learn about technical areas beyond their day jobs, since they know that most current jobs won’t be around forever.
I know that I probably read more in areas like emerging medicine, climate change, and data science than I do in the field where I earn a living at the moment (semiconductors). If you have a new app or business model, say, you’ll get more clicks from the technical crowd if you can spin it in terms of a field where they envision opportunities for themselves in the future. Staying nimble in the marketplace is critical, and the tech crowd knows that better than anyone.
Make It Easy to Use!
Another key feature of appealing digital content is making it easy to use. I understand the marketing benefits of having a list where you see only one entry at a time – generating clicks is valuable – but many people get frustrated with that and would rather have a complete list to scan through and even cut-and-paste easily. I usually jump somewhere else around the fourth or fifth entry on those one-at-a-time lists – and I think of myself as patient! Many other technical readers will also get frustrated at the inefficiency.
Moving beyond that pet peeve … some things that DO work for us is having a clear citation to use. People are often looking for specific data or an image for a particular need, but many people don’t fully understand the ground rules about citing data sources.
Is it allowable to lift an image as-is with a basic reference to the source? Does a data table need to be reconstructed rather than recycling the original? If the source clarifies how to cite it, that gets a potential user over a big hurdle.
Similarly, a professional looking graphic is an asset for attracting users who want something to put directly in their work. If something needs to be cropped, photoshopped, and otherwise edited, it’s much less likely to get used. I have a number of go-to resources on my list, because I know that I can count on them for high-quality graphics. Here’s a good example from high-tech market research firm Yole Developpement.
Grab Their Attention
Obviously, with so much content bombarding everyone, it takes more effort than ever to stand out. How does this work for the technical types out there? It doesn’t need to be a lowest-common-denominator headline screaming at you – “These Hot Nobel Prize Winners Will Make Your Jaw Drop!!” – but you still need to make it interesting.
Apart from the time-honored list approach that dominates content, an engaging headline is still a critical piece of attracting readers. A tremendous example of that is still bouncing around the Internet after it appeared a few years ago: “Louisiana’s coastline is disappearing at the rate of a football field an hour.” We see plenty of environmental news, but it’s hard to really envision what a two-inch rise in water level means, or to have a grasp of a trend that lasts centuries. We can all picture a football field and understand what an hour means, so that headline is an incredibly effective way to make something meaningful. All it takes is one clever description to really generate some interest, and you don’t need to stoop to headlines about jaws dropping.
Do Their Work for Them
Finally, the ultimate in useful content is something that does the reader’s work for them. A great example of this is a summary of an important conference. It is difficult for anyone these days to attend all of the important events, so a valuable service is to relay key developments and important talks. A good example of this is blogger Phil Garrou in the electronics industry, who can be counted on for excellent summaries of many of the important conferences. A recent conference report included a McKinsey chart with an overview of the whole industry, a few major trends, and some of the most interesting technical details. I’m happy to let Phil spend the travel dollars and report on what he saw.
So, the key to effective content marketing with a technical audience is being simultaneously useful, easy, and interesting. No one said it was easy!
5-Star writer Jeffrey D has an extensive technical background, starting with degrees in Physics and Materials Science from Princeton and Stanford Universities. He has been a free-lance writer and editor of critical documents such as resumes, cover letters, and college application essays.