Content marketing explained using TV Series

…and how my Medium follower base increased >6x in 5 weeks

I started writing actively on Medium 5 weeks back. I don’t recall the exact number, but from whatever little I do remember, I think I had around 60 followers at the time.

Today,

  • I have 375 followers
  • I am a top writer in 4 different topics — Ideas (#9), Venture Capital (#10), Business(#22), and Startup (#46)
I really think this data is off by a small factor, but I had never thought I will be tracking it. So, no way of knowing what the starting point was for me.

So. How did it happen?

There are a few things I did, and there are a lot of things I didn’t do — though I should have.

WHAT I DID DO

I think the only meaningful thing I did can be described in the simplest manner. I wrote. Every single day. Nothing else. The stories weren’t oozing with creativity, they weren’t ground-breakingly innovative, neither did they contain some secret hidden knowledge or insight.

I was just consistent. I was consistent in my writing and I was consistent in my approach. I kept the tone conversational. I kept it informal. I wasn’t trying to educate anyone, so I didn’t do that. I did have my own perspective of things, and I didn’t try to sugarcoat them. I did offer the arguments and reasons behind the way I was looking at things, and I just laid it all out there.

Consistent. Relevant. Contextual. Non-boring — Those were the 4 traits.

Consistency helps!

WHAT I DIDN’T DO

The first thing that anyone would tell you to do would be to promote yourself on social media. I didn’t do that. Why? Multiple reasons:

  1. I wasn’t trying to build a following here. I came to write just for the sake of writing. I was writing for myself, not for others. The presence of others helped me in feeling accountable on what I write, but I was writing for my own selfish reasons.
  2. I did not want to spam my friends. 1 quora answer and 1 medium post a day — that’s two updates every day on twitter and facebook. Add to that the fact that I am rarely active on these networks, my friends would just see these whenever they see an update from me. Would I like that if I were in their shoes? Probably not. So I decided not to do that.
    I did discover at some point that I had set my quora answers to get auto-shared on both fb and twitter. As soon as I discovered that, I disabled that as well.
    I did retweet and like any tweets that mentioned any of my medium stories. I did not want to appear ungrateful. I stopped that as well. Now, I just tweet back my gratitude to the person who tweeted the story.
  3. If, at all, the stories were to be discovered, I wanted that to happen because of the stories and not because I was cramming them down my friends’ throats.
  4. I did not write about things that I think people would have wanted to read, or how they would want to read them. My whole focus was on one good thought that came to me that day, and I would write about that. I will try to make it an interesting read, but I would not go out of my way to make that happen. After all, I had just 1.5 hrs to get done with the Quora answer and the medium story.

Although there are a few things that I should have done, but didn’t do.

  1. Shared my stories on LinkedIn. That’s a medium that’s aligned to the topics I write on. So it would have made sense.
  2. Read more. This month I was spread pretty thin with all the work. I made it a point not to skip a day when it came to writing, but that meant my reading took a hit. Impact? Less influx of insights from great minds, loads of items crowding up my bookmarks section, and fewer conversations struck with others — conversations that help you learn a thing or two.

Oh. But I did do one one more thing. I wrote a few stories on some publications. Technically I wrote a few stories and later they were added to the publications. I think that was the first and most important catalyst that has ultimately resulted in the constant influx that I am witnessing today — particularly Hackernoon and Chatbot’s Magazine.


Whether I like to call it so or not, it was and has been essentially content marketing. This whole thing. I was creating content, and the content kept on delivering results weeks after I had created it.

That is one of the best things that content does to your business.

Now. There can be three approaches to creating content.

#1. THE SHERLOCK APPROACH

Huge fan of the sherlock series on BBC. I don’t think I have ever come across a series that had me hooked on almost every single episode — and that too when it was lengthier than your average TV series.

That is one route to take. Create content so rich, so engaging, so exciting that people wait for your content.

More than half a million reviews, and it is still clocking a 9.2

Twitter was ablaze with fans waiting with abated breaths for the release of the next season. If any other TV series made its viewers wait that long, they would probably have died a slow death. Sherlock thrived. The popularity soared even more. The number of audience for the next season was exponentially larger. The more people talked about how eagerly they were waiting for the new season, the more new people watched the prev. season, and then there were more who were waiting for the upcoming season. It was a snowball effect.

Quite a risky approach. But one that worked in their favor.

Is it easy? Of course not. It is difficult as fuck! Creating something that’s by large perceived as amazing is always a daunting task. But if you can do that, people will hold on to every single word you have to say.

#2. THE SITCOM APPROACH

Think TBBT, Modern Family, Two and a Half men.

Are all the episodes equally good? No! Some are exceptionally good, a few are outrightly ridiculous and disappointing, but most of them are fluctuating between the range of decent/good and amazing. What else do they have? A regular flow. For 5–7 weeks, every week, the show will be on — with a new episode. Like clockwork. And they have their loyal audience because of that.

The audience knows what to expect, which level to expect it to, and when to expect it. It matters. Having a schedule you stick to matters a lot.

Does that mean you don’t need to have good content?? No. It is called content marketing — so it all does begin with the content. You need to have a good/great content. But you don’t need a great content every single time. Most of the times, slightly above average — with a few really good moments here and there — would pass the expectations of the audience. And when you do drop the ball, they will still give you a few chances because of the couple of times you wowed them over.

That is where your focus should be. That is where I concentrate.

Although to be fair, my content so far as been circling in the range of “less than decent to slightly above decent”. But I have been consistent, and that has been helpful. That, and the fact that I am atleast not wading too under the decent baseline.

You can’t create a masterpiece every single time, but at a much higher frequency, you can create a content that’s relevant and meaningful to your audience. And every once in a while you lay in a ‘better than the rest’ piece and let it dazzle and shine. Works every time.

As you can see, there are just 5 stories that have more than 20 recommends, only one with more than 30. And yet, my content is getting discovered every day. Primarily because of 1 or 2 of these stories, but once I have been discovered because of these stories, there is a lot more content that the reader can potentially consume.

A better example of the power of content would be this screenshot from my Quora notifications.

One answer, and then the snowball effect!

So. Frequency. Relevance. Better — than — average content. That’s all you need.

#3. THE CRASH AND BURN APPROACH

Think Heroes. Prison Break. The Blacklist.

What do these TV series have in common? They all started with a bang, and by the end of the third season or the beginning of the fourth, they had started losing their appeal. Had gotten too mundane, unable to live up to the levels that they themselves had set up. They were no longer able to do justice to how they had kicked off. The result? People started losing interest. Sure, those who had already been hooked for a while would have seen it to the end, but not without incessantly cribbing about it.

Don’t do that. Don’t start with a bang and go with a fizzle. Make sure you are able to maintain a base minimum when it comes to the quality of your content.

It is much easier in the beginning when you have had a few weeks to strategise the launch of your content strategy, but as time goes by, you are no longer able to allocate the same level of resources or bandwidth to the content creation process. Result? Quality slump! That’s suicide.

Always factor in how much bandwidth you are likely to have in 3 and 6 months from the kickoff date.


That’s it! What kind of show are you gonna put up now? I, as you know, am a sitcom guy. See you tomorrow!