My first job in marketing was as a copywriter.
Days were spent writing anywhere between four and seven articles, on topics varying from the best interior trends of 2012 to how to cook the perfect steak to how cosmetic surgery could be a great money saving technique (not my finest hour, but I did what I was told).
No matter the subject or the placement of my 350-word articles, there was one common denominator: not one human who wasn’t involved with the production or publication of said articles read a single word.
This content was briefed to either create a backlink to a client’s site, or to ‘keep its blog up to date’ and provide Google greater contextual information about the nature of our client’s particular site.
While the former tactic was rendered redundant by Google’s Penguin update, the latter still persists. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the latter points per se, they do highlight a more deep-rooted misunderstanding of the role content should play in a business’ marketing mix.
Content is king?
After links were dethroned, suddenly content became king. The problem was, no one really knew what it was and why they were doing it — a point made brilliantly here by Clayton Davis.
This peculiar thinking around content still pervades. While many companies moved away from meaningless, keyword-stuffed corporate blogs made for algorithms, not humans, many still persist with this practice. Even more alarming is that this same mentality is also applied almost universally to corporate social media strategies.
This isn’t ‘build it and they will come’ as extolled by Gary Vaynerchuck, Steven Bartlett et al, this is wasting valuable time and resources on a box-ticking exercise for your marketing strategy that could be put to better use.
Content is usually made for a journalist. Or for Facebook’s algorithm. Or to ‘keep Twitter up to date’. Not for an actual human to engage with, and come away feeling better for having read it.
Put your audience first
If you are involved in the content creation process in any capacity, client or agency side, I urge you to take a moment and ask: is anyone listening?
When was the last time you created a piece of owned content and felt that it delivered real, tangible value to your business?
If the response to either is deflating, your content output needs a rethink. You need to take a back-to-basics approach. Starting with the following:
- Define who it is you want to engage
- Understand the things that truly motivate them
- Appreciate your role in the conversation, and what is and isn’t appropriate for you to share with them
This next part is key. If you stop here, even with full consideration of your audience and your place in its world, just dumping your perfectly crafted content on your site or in your organic social feed will achieve fairly similar results to what the went before.
Be where your audience spends its time
We are at the point now where I believe that without a thorough content distribution strategy at a post level, your efforts will 100% be wasted.
There is too much content, too many demands on the eyeballs and scrolling finger for ‘build it and they will come’ to work for everybody.
Persistence is not the answer. Reach is.
And not just any reach. You need to map where your audience spends its time, and do everything you can to get the work you’ve lovingly created in front of them. This means developing valuable relationships with the influencers in your field, putting budget aside to invest in social ads, investing in building an owned audience a quality mailing list that isn’t at the mercy of the whims of Zuckerberg.
Just turning up isn’t enough.
It isn’t easy, and definitely isn’t cheap, but I ask you to consider the resource you’re currently assigning to content production, and think clearly about how you could better spend that time and money to get more value from the same resource.
For most brands, this will mean making less content, of a higher quality, in a wider variety of formats, that an actual human actually engages with.
Don’t write for no-one.