I just finished reading Chris Brogan’s weekly email.
(It arrives every Sunday, full of wisdom. If you don’t already get it you should subscribe.)
Today Chris protests the mindless act of “creating content.” Instead he encourages us to “communicate and connect.”
I’ll confess, I’m as guilty as the next marketer of creating content without necessarily communicating. Yet, I agree with Chris that this is probably not the most effective strategy.
There are so many websites and blogs that are rewrites and remixes of nothing. Do a simple Google search on any basic topic or question and you will find ten pieces of content that say exactly the same thing. Subscribe to a handful of email newsletters and you will find lots of aggregations of mindless blubber.
Why does this happen?
Chris also mentions how a similar behavior preceded in social media—this need to manufacture quantity over quality. Therefore, it’s obvious that there is a reason this kind of thing happens and you probably need to understand that reason before you can overcome the gravitational pull yourself.
I think the reason is obvious. Most marketers are under enormous pressure to drive positive outcomes to scale in a compressed time frame. Placed in a personal context: Clients that hire my marketing agency pay us a monthly retainer and most expect a positive return on that investment every month. And then they expect an even greater return every month thereafter.
This generates enormous pressure to throw a lot of crap against the wall and then when you get the smallest of successes, to crank up the assembly line and do it again at scale.
How can we overcome?
Here are a couple of quick notes on how I attempt to scale our clients’ content marketing and continue to communicate and connect:
1. Try to quickly create multiple audience feedback loops within our content. Early in any content marketing engagement I try to insert several ways for the audience we seek to grow to talk back to us. This often includes the following short list of modifications:
- Get Qualaroo installed on the website and ask some a very basic questions of web visitors: Why are you here? And what are you looking for?
- Start email marketing if there is no existing program. If there is an email marketing program, ensure that it feels somewhat personal. One of the easiest ways to do this is to change the sender from email@example.com or other general email address to a real person. Then begin talking to subscribers like individuals and ask them questions that encourage direct replies to every email you send.
- Encourage all of your audiences (i.e., web visitors, social media followers, and email marketing subscribers) to talk to you via social channels. Then, of course, make sure there is someone there to engage in those conversations.
Turning this steady flow of feedback into content will give you all kinds of advantages in content marketing and SEO. You’ll be answering real questions, from real customers—communicating and connecting.
2. Guide your content creators with lots and lots of details. Many of our editorial calendars are simply a mindless list of SEO keywords, which is why there are thousands of article that start with “What is…” or the “Definitive Guide to…”
I certainly advocate doing your keyword research. It’s like learning the language of your audience. But, don’t allow this to be the end of your audience research. Actually Google a few of these keyword searches. See what has already been written. Look for gaps in the discussion. Then take these same searches to social channels, like Twitter, Reddit, and Quora and observe the difference in the conversations. Are there notable gaps? Are people looking for answers that consistently go unaddressed in a traditional Google search? Here’s a simple trick I do, using IFTTT.com, to automate the polling of Reddit.com for real people’s questions/challenge on topics I create content for: https://ifttt.com/recipes/237107-content-ideas-from-r-askmarketing
Once you have gathered all of this research formulate it all into relatively detailed outlines of what you want to communicate to your audience and how it will be different from other existing content. Here are a few examples of my actual notes I created to guide myself or another content creator, the process is the same (this is part of the secret to scaling content – if I don’t have time someone else can grab it and write it):
- Notes for an article about Medium.com innovation. The final, published result on Kaleidico
- Notes for an article about pivoting your website when you business changes. The final, published result on Kaleidico
- Notes for an article about keyword research and lead generation. The final, published result on Kaleidico
Hopefully, these examples illustrate that if you want content that communicates you need to put the work into finding out what your audience is trying to figure out and how current content is leaving them short or confused.
3. At the end of the day, saying something is better than remaining silent. At the risk of giving you an excuse to produce meaningless content. I still believe it’s important to create something, even if it’s bad (at first). If you sit idle and silent, it helps no one.
There’s a fine line between creating content for the sake of content and over thinking your content creation. If you’re a born blogger, like Dave Winer or Chris Brogan—just write to your people. If you need to be a little more academic about it, like myself, to yield decent results—then scale/automate the research, not the creation of your content.
What do you think? Let’s talk about it on Twitter @billrice.