Monday, January 14

Burping Content: It's Not A Social Media Strategy

As content marketing remains a priority for many marketing managers this year, more people have been keen to make the case that more posts means more traffic. Why not? Frequency is an easy argument to make.

More content means more leads. More content means a longer tail. More content means more to share on social networks. More site traffic means more sales. Even as HubSpot points out, businesses that post 20 times a month generate five times more traffic and four times more leads than those that only post a few times a month.

See that? Frequency is the easiest case to make about content marketing. Everybody ought to make more of whatever.

Except, burping out more content isn't a strategy. 

More doesn't always mean more. Sometimes more can help, but frequency is dependent on variables that are harder to pin down. It depends on who or whom is providing the more. It depends on what kind of more you want to provide. It depends on whether or not the content is sustainable or finite. It depends on your business objective beyond traffic and popularity.

Who will be providing more content? A single content creator ratcheting up from one post a week to five posts a week might pick up more traffic or, depending on the value of the content, could oversaturate the audience. For the creators specifically, it could also lead to burnout, writing posts with a diminishing value proposition as objectives shift from valuable to just getting something up.

The reality is that too much of one voice, especially if it wears a brand mask, can become a bit boorish. People appreciate diversity, which is how Facebook maintains a top traffic spot. Millions of people provide the content (with some content providers more appreciated than others). Imagine what it might be like if all the content was generated by Zuckerberg. Right. Crickets.

The takeaway? Every content creator has a unique carrying capacity, dependent on topic, content, ability, and presence. More content might mean more authors, but only if they can match the spirit of the niche publication. Too much deviation can carry consequences much like not enough diversity.

What kind of content will it be? One of the most written about YouTube success stories is Will It Blend? by Blendtec. It is referenced so often that doing so nowadays has almost become cliche.

However, Will It Blend? by Blendtec is worth mentioning here because more content wouldn't have helped. If it had became a daily episode, two things might have happened. The best of its content would have been buried before it had a chance to spread. And second, it could have potentially destroyed any anticipation people felt for the next installment. So, for the most part, once a month seems about right for Blendtec, even if some months never cross the million mark.

The takeaway? Some companies undo their own their impact by swinging wildly between market saturation and market starvation. But content marketing isn't suited to sprints. It's more like a marathon, with content being delivered consistently with purpose.

How consistently sustainable is the topic? When you look at website like TripAdvisor, which has become a top destination research site, content sustainability might be defined as the number of destinations that exist in the world, continually refreshed by the diverse perspectives from authors who visit and report on these destinations based on their popularity. Ergo, a hotdog stand in Nebraska is likely to receive fewer updates than a hotel in San Francisco.

So why would it be any different for the respective companies? If a hotdog stand in Nebraska and a hotel in San Francisco both had blogs, chances are that the hotel will generate more content than the hotdog stand. Sure, there are some exceptions. If the hotdog stand was managed by the Dalai Lama, it could sustain considerably more content. But then again, I doubt the content would be about hotdogs.

The takeaway? Consider sustainability based on how often there will be new content to share, which will usually be driven by how often there is something new to report within the context of the site. The concept harkens back to days when public relations firms used to promise a certain number of releases every month without ever asking the company if it could sustain that many newsworthy prospects per month. Many cannot, unless they happen to have a public relations pro digging for it.

What is the business objective beyond sales? As content marketing becomes important to marketers, marketers have to remember that content marketing is the means to an end and not an end to the means. The goal of content marketing isn't to make a website the most visited space on the Internet unless the business is a website (and even that might depend on what kind of business it is and what industry it operates in). So what is the end?

It really depends on the organization's objectives and communication plan, especially long term. While Apple always makes for an interesting example around innovation, an even better fit here would be the rock band Rush. It sounds silly, but the band isn't very different from a business.

Specifically, had Rush employed the same tactics that many social media experts do today, it would have debuted with a disco album in 1974 and not the blues-infused heavy metal that eventually evolved into progressive rock (with lyrics that draw heavily upon science fiction, fantasy, and philosophy). Of course, if they had done disco, it seems wildly unlikely that these invulnerable outsiders would have eventually sold the third-most number of albums in history, third behind The Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

The takeaway? Rush stuck to its objective to make a certain kind of music while the rest of the world thrived and died by whatever trends seemed successful for the moment. The same thing happens within the rapidly evolving space of social media. Many people and companies thrive and die with whatever seems popular at the moment, only to be forgotten about the following year. Never change your strategy for something as fickle as popularity.
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