Two trends that I’ve seen developing firsthand make up for one very troubling mentality.
The trends are: (1) the increasingly large number of companies who create content (media) to attract attention in an age where audiences are highly fragmented, and (2) the increasing demand to create “viral” content, or content that is highly and rapidly shared among people’s social circles.
The troubling mentality that these trends create is the mentality that content marketing exists in order to create that next big, viral hit a la the Old Spice Guy.
This is just plain backwards. It’s what I’d call the Adam Dunn approach. Dunn is an MLB player who hits tons of homers but strikes out far more often. Teams are willing to pay for the homers, so he’ll always have a job somewhere, and the fans love the longball. However, there are now smart, successful teams that understand that players like Derek Jeter and Dustin Pedroia, who do a little bit of everything and get on base consistently, are of much more value. They understand that consistent, day-in, day-out success creates greatness and creates wins.
Sure, Dunn hits some homers. But he really wastes a ton of opportunities trying to do so.
YOU WASTE OPPORTUNITIES TRYING TO HIT HOMERS EVERY TIME UP
The key is to instead publish consistent, quality content that focuses on the user.
Let’s unpack that statement quickly, because that’s the not-so-secret sauce in effective content creation that somehow slips through the cracks when companies produce crappy content (pun woefully intended):
1. Publish consistent, quality content that focuses on the user.
Being great doesn’t mean being viral.
You’re never guaranteed the next big viral hit, but a lot of resources go into trying to create that one piece of content. When you swing for the fences that often, you’ll probably strike out more often than make contact.
So instead, focus on creating and posting content regularly and consistently. Give your consumers content to return to every single day.
NOTE: This is absolutely a lot of work, no two ways about it. I don’t pretend to discuss this like it’s easy. If you don’t have the resources to get into the content marketing game, then don’t do it! But if you’re lucky enough to have the time, energy, money and know-how to publish content, do so often and regularly.
And sure, maybe something strikes a chord with your audience enough to make it “viral,” but the more likely outcome is that your consistent content slowly grows a loyal community that relishes in your message and spreads it willingly.
2. Publish consistent, quality content that focuses on the user.
Creating quality content doesn’t mean writing 1,000 words every time out. It also doesn’t mean having a breakthrough moment of brilliance that they’ll write sonnets about someday. (Michelangelo never had to scale his work — you need to do so as a business.)
Rather, creating quality content means adding value to the audience (I’m sure you’ve heard that before — maybe it’s true?). So, DON’T stuff your marketing message down an audience’s throat (that’s for your ads); DO create content that uses the right voice, be it funny or intelligent or unique; and DO actually dedicate resources to this, whether that means honing your skills or hiring the right person or team to create for you.
Quality content can even mean sharing something you didn’t originally create, like an article or other type of media from an industry adjacent to yours (e.g. if you sell hiking boots, you might share a list of great hiking spots in the Northeast).
So how do you know what’s quality? Two simple checks and balances help: first, make things error-free. Even the tiniest error can discredit you forever to a consumer. And second is the final part of the statement…
3. Publish consistent, quality content that focuses on the user.
It’s not about you when you create content - it’s about them.
(Pause to let it sink in.)
It’s not about you. It’s about THEM - your audience, your customer, your user. You want to create content that they willingly consume and share to others.
Good quality content created on behalf of your brand needs to start with understanding your audience. It needs to be relevant to that audience. Relevancy is the ultimate king of kings, even if content is supposedly king. When you focus on your audience (not yourself/your company), each side wins. The audience gets great content that they consume eagerly and also share, and the brand creates more loyal customers.
(Side-note: if you don’t understand your audience, then content marketing is the least of your worries.)
MICHAEL JORDAN DIDN’T HAPPEN OVERNIGHT
Returning to the sports analogy: expecting to create the next piece of viral content is like expecting to pick up a basketball for the first time and play like Michael Jordan. Not even Michael Jordan played like Michael Jordan the first time he picked up a ball!
The expectation that this “viral stuff” can be created on-demand is absurd. Period. End of discussion. It can be aided and helped along, sure. But good content strategy and marketing is about the unsexy, behind-the-scenes, oft-taken-for-granted building blocks that slowly but surely mold something successful.
That’s what made Jordan Jordan - he worked harder than everyone else out there. Did he have the natural talent? Sure. But it was the day after day grind, even when results weren’t readily obvious, that made him a winner. He didn’t suddenly dominate the NBA the day after he set his mind to it. He set his mind to it EVERY DAY.
And it’s that combination of consistency, quality effort and the right focus that creates Hall of Famers. (Yanno, if they had some kinda really weird marketing Hall of Fame somewhere…)