What’s the best content format? That depends on several factors:

Resources. If you’re blessed with deep pockets and a large team, advance on multiple fronts with all these formats. If you’re a one-person show, pick one format and dominate it.

Industry. If you’re selling a complex supply-chain management solution, your customers will be looking for detailed white papers. But if you’re manufacturing blenders, then a YouTube series of your CEO blending golf balls, chickens, and iPhones may be in order.

Trial and Error. Experiment a little to see which formats generate the best response with the least effort.

A survey of 1,092 B2B marketers found the average organization was using 8 different content marketing tactics. Unless you have severe resource constraints, don’t limit yourself to just one.

One piece of advice: no matter what format you choose, eradicate anything that remotely sounds like a sales pitch. Consumers will bounce as soon as they realize you’re playing the give-to-get game. Concentrate on what your community cares about, and the resulting affinity for your brand will drive business results.

Here are the main online media you should consider adding to your mix. For a more detailed look at these, we highly recommend you read through Content Rules by Radian6′s good friends Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman.

1. Blog

A blog post consists of commentary or news hosted on either a regularly-updated standalone website or section of a website.

Benefits

  • Can incorporate various forms of multimedia to supplement text: embedded videos, photos, sound clips, documents, presentations and more
  • Allows for frequent publishing of fresh content to increase brand visibility in search engines
  • Generates discussion and engagement
  • Posts each have a unique URL that can easily be shared across the web to drive inbound traffic

Tips

  • Commit to posting regularly – anywhere from 1 to 25 posts a week.
  • Find people in all levels of your company who can provide interesting and well-written content. The CEO and the customer service representative can both be interesting for different reasons.
  • Invite well-known people in your industry to guest post.
  • Provide variety on post lengths, types and topics. Use this excellent list of 21 types of viral posts from Search Engine Land for inspiration.
  • Don’t be afraid to take a stand and have a little personality.
  • Link to previously-written blog posts and either embed or link to meatier ebooks and webinars to keep visitors on your site longer.
  • Craft your headlines carefully to attract interest, promote social media sharing, and match the intent behind a user’s Google search (SEO).

What good looks like: Mayo Clinic runs eight different blogs, including blogs for patients to share their stories, for physicians to learn about patient care innovations, and for the research community to share new findings.

Note: While we’re on the topic of blogging, you might find our ebook on The Art of Corporate Blogging helpful.

2. E-Newsletter

An e-newsletter is a regular email from your brand that subscribers receive because they signed up for it or have an existing relationship with you.

Benefits

  • Subscribers are voluntarily giving your brand permission to message them
  • Email addresses can be used (with care) to further engage with subscribers
  • Subscriptions are all handled by the system, freeing you up to write content
  • Drive traffic back to your website with multiple links

Tips

  • Add a prominent signup form to your website. The fewer fields in the form, the more signups you’ll get.
  • Create an email template you can reuse. It’ll save you time.
  • Keep it short so people can glance through and click on what intrigues them.
  • Try some A/B tests to tweak headlines, copy and layout.
  • Don’t spam. Make sure you and abide by the CAN-SPAM Act.

What good looks like: Fashion company kate spade lets brief, playful copy and alluring product imagery do the talking in its email campaigns.

3. Webinars

A webinar is an online live presentation which participants attend remotely via phone or computer.

Benefits

  • Help establish your brand as an authority in your industry
  • Registration can provide detailed information about attendees when they register
  • Potentially more lively, engaging and interactive than other media
  • The ability to participate in the webinar discussion in real time can foster a stronger rapport with potential customers

Tips

  • Rehearse the webinar multiple times beforehand. Iron out any technical kinks. With live events, you have only one chance to do it right.
  • Find presenters from within your organization who are enthusiastic, professional and enjoyable to listen to.
  • Interview the big names from your industry in a guest webinar.
  • A moderator (not the speaker!) should handle questions and keep the conversation moving along.
  • Don’t be dismayed if only a fraction of people who register actually show up. That is typical.
  • Record the webinar to share later.
  • Follow up with attendees afterward.

What good looks like: One of the many industries accounting firm Baker Tilly serves is construction. They run regular, multi-part construction audit webinars to help current and potential clients manage and control a complex financial process.

Note: Speaking of content and webinars, check out our webinar with Lee Odden on how to Socialize and Optimize Your Content Strategy.

4. Ebooks

An ebook is an electronic booklet around 10 to 30 pages long.

Benefits

  • Provides your customers with useful information that solves problems rather than solely promoting your products or services
  • Serves as a substantial content centerpiece you can advertise and promote heavily
  • Can remain evergreen longer than blog posts or webinars
  • Can be used as a lead-generation tool

Tips

  • Keep the tone informal and conversational. The nitty-gritty can be tackled in a separate white paper.
  • Design the ebook to be easily skimmed. Liberally employ images, illustrations, diagrams, callouts, headings, and bullet points.
  • Longer is not necessarily better. If you are able to say it in 10 pages instead of 20, that’s probably better for your readers.
  • Repurpose excerpts or entire blog posts to save yourself time.

What good looks like: Email marketing automation company Silverpop conducted a survey of their clients and turned their findings into an ebook with a best practices guide to marketing automation.

5. White Papers

A definitive, data-driven report that explains how to solve a problem.

Benefits

  • Helps potential customers make (favorable) B2B purchase decisions, especially those with a longer sales cycle
  • Can establish your brand’s authority as an industry expert
  • Capitalizes on the wealth of knowledge that already exists within your organization

Tips

  • Give yourself lots of time. You’re not going to bang one of these out in an afternoon.
  • Try conducting a survey of people in your industry.
  • Highlight the unexpected. Proving what we all already know has limited utility.
  • Back up all the claims you make with hard data.
  • Conclude with recommendations for readers to put into action.

What good looks like: Not all of 3M’s products are as easy to describe as their Post-It Notes. This white paper is for the engineers who need to understand the technical benefits of a rubber process additive they sell.

6. Case Studies

Tells the story of how an organization (often a customer) faced and solved a problem.

Benefits

  • Highlights your customers, services and products
  • Establishes your credibility and provides evidence for your marketing claims
  • Tells a compelling story about proven results

Tips

  • Work in the colorful details that make stories interesting.
  • State the problem in a way the reader can identify with it.
  • Explain how your company fixed the problem.
  • Prove the lasting results of your solution, e.g. “Since Acme Corp installed our solution, sales have risen 21%.”

What good looks like: Dassault Systèmes offers a substantial library of over 350 “customer stories” showing how clients like MIT, Under Armour and Rolls-Royce have used their 3D design software to solve pressing innovation problems.

7. Video

Benefits

  • Google’s Universal Search and ownership of YouTube makes your videos much more likely to appear on first page of search results
  • A well-executed video piece can generate many, many views
  • Allows you to tell a story in an audiovisual way

Tips

  • If you have a casual brand, it’s okay to keep your videography casual. A decent camera, tripod and microphone will go a long way.
  • Craft your story before shooting to maximize your time.
  • Consider documentaries, interviews, product tours, and behind-the-scenes footage.
  • If you’re going to be filmed, relax and be yourself.

What good looks like: Noodles & Company serves noodles, salads and sandwiches from around the world — but they’re also generous enough to teach their community how to make their own tasty lunches. Their YouTube channel offers video on how to cook asparagus and lemon linguine, Bangkok Curry, and even a better sandwich.

8. Podcasts

A regular audio show or a series of audio recordings to which users can subscribe. Episodes are downloaded via iTunes or other software.

Benefits

  • Podcasts are mobile – subscribers can listen during their commute or at the gym
  • People can stumble across your podcast on iTunes
  • Provides a more lively experience than text

Tips

  • Keep it short to begin with. A regular 20-minute podcast is better than a 90-minute episode every 6 months.
  • Plan out each episode before you begin. No need to write down every word; you’ll sound more natural speaking off the cuff.
  • Export the audio from video recordings to make use of what you already have on hand.
  • Invite coworkers and others in the industry to join you for an interview or conversation. Dialogue is always more lively than monologue. Friendly debates are even better.

What good looks like: Clemson University keeps students informed with audio recordings of various lectures and happenings from their different departments.

9. Presentations

Benefits

  • Easy to recycle existing content (especially ebooks) into presentations
  • Potential to go viral on sites such as Slideshare
  • Communicate your message succinctly
  • Useful as a resource library for workshops and industry events

Tips

  • Keep it simple — one big idea per slide. Pare away everything that is not essential.
  • Avoid the temptation to squeeze in as many graphs and bullet points as possible.
  • Design each slide to be delightful to the eye. Ask a designer in your organization for some help.
  • Find a handful of more tips here.

What good looks like: SimpliFlying trains and advises airlines and airports on how to engage travellers profitably. This 177-slide deck offers 50 case studies of airlines who are excelling in social media.

Free Ebook: How to Craft a Successful Social Media Content Marketing Plan