Content Marketing: You’re Doing It Wrong

Posted: July 9, 2012 in Marketing Communications, Social Media

Ten years into the era of permission marketing, the vast majority of marketers understand that engaging with customers on line requires that a company offer a stream of content. In contrast to the late 1990s, the delivery mechanism has migrated from emails and podcasts to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube — but after a brief obsession with crowdsourcing their content, marketers realize afresh that in-house content is once again king.

Great. Until you try it.

Posting and sending tons of content that seems to find no audience? Perhaps you’ve fallen into one of these three commonly seen problems. Photo: Beatrice Murch

I’m writing to you if your company has faithfully updated Facebook only to receive fewer than ten Likes per week, and systematically tweeted merely to scrape together a paltry Twitter following. (If you’re not updating your content systematically and predictably, well, there’s your problem.) As a marketer who has advised on many companies’ lackluster social media offerings, I can tell you the three most typical reasons why your content marketing isn’t working.

1. Inside-out content. Within your organization, you have a message you burn to impose upon the world. You blog it and tweet it and Facebook it, and the only Likes are from employees and your mom. What’s the problem? Relevance. The one thing you want them to remember is nothing they care about. (BTW, this is also why online display ads always flop.) Rethink your content from the outside-in perspective.

2. Monotonous hard-sell content. If you generally write (or video) about your product and what’s on sale, you’re simply duplicating your web site or print catalog. Readers began supporting blogs because blogs promised to convey a behind-the-scenes, authentic look at brands of interest. Facebook and Twitter users expect even greater intimacy than blog readers. Show off your expertise and your vision more than your inventory. (Dun & Bradstreet explain more reasons Why You Should Write More and Sell Less.)

On line, you may have to dole out the big picture one kernel at a time. Photo: Little Zey

3. Wrong-sized content. On this point, quality is not the issue — time is. We’re all busy. If your DVR is full, then you understand: people will fail to watch the best content in the world if they simply don’t have time for it. At the top of the sales funnel, a blog entry should not exceed 800 words. A video needs a truly compelling reason to exceed two minutes. Your Facebook sales campaign must be dead simple, not require several minutes to grasp it. Length kills.

Embrace the fact that you can’t tell your audience everything in one go. Learn how to tease out content so that readers eat it like popcorn — each delightful kernel leading them to the next bite, until they’re surprised at how much they’ve consumed.

My three tips really boil down to one concept. Your content marketing plan must stand on a foundation of adding value for an audience you sincerely care about. Social media is about building relationships, and doing it well requires you to empathize with the other guy’s viewpoint. Gilad de Vries of Outbrain triggered this blog entry because my heart leaped in affirmation at his quote about content marketing:

It’s not going to be about you, it’s going to be about them and what’s interesting and important for them and can you solve their problems or not. If you keep that as a lighthouse of sticking to things that they’re interested in and not what you’re interested in them knowing, I think you’re going to be in a good spot.

If your customer doesn’t dominate the heart of your company culture, content marketing is merely a multi-platform, multi-delivery, time-intensive method for proving, at length, that you don’t care. I guess you can hope for sarcastic Likes, but that hardly constitutes a strategy. The fix doesn’t require a bunch of money. Think about who you follow on line. The odds are, it’s someone who comments with expertise on a topic you care about, published periodically so you know when to expect fresh content. Give your customers the same, and watch your popularity grow.

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