Theodore Sturgeon, among the great sci-fi writers and critics, made an observation about genre writing that got tweaked into what's known as "Sturgeon’s Law," and which others then applied universally: Ninety percent of everything is crap.
Here's my addendum: When there's too much crap, it's all crap.
Or craptent, in content marketing's case.
When it roars at you in a deluge, in a full-frontal flood of fetid mediocrity, it gets hard to cull anything good out of the assault. Ten percent, fifteen, twenty or more, it almost doesn't matter...it's buried by the sheer volume. As content consumers, we're eventually daunted by fatigue at sifting through the whole annihilating mess.
57 channels and nothing on, brother, as Mr. Springsteen once sang.
THE SEASON OF OUR (DIS)CONTENT?
Last year, social media pundit Mark Schaefer coined the term Content Shock for what he sees as the upcoming Contentageddon. Contentalypse?
His starting point? People can only consume so much content. There's a mental and emotional limit.
I myself am only able to scan a finite number of listicles per day with their 7, 15, 101 tips on how to make your content marketing jump up and solve your funnel-packing issues before I begin to weep, twitch and look away.
It's the same reflux I get after two minutes of Jim Rome or an accidental glimpse of Hot In Cleveland.
Schaefer believes there'll be a shakeout dictated by basic economics. As content explodes, as even the slightest content R.O.I. becomes more dear, marketers will need to spend more on content just to tread water. The small marketer, in other words, gets hosed.
But they probably knew that if they read my trenchant post, 48 Ways You'll Be Hopelessly Screwed By The Impending Contentaclysm.
KNOW YOUR QUALITY FROM YOUR CRAPOLA
Firstly, content marketers (myself included) have got to leverage quality content. To do that, we need to always pack a yardstick.
One that works is the simple content bullseye that shows what types of content draw prospects closer and closer to the conversion funnel.
Content that provides "actionable insights" – valuable, unique revelations about the issues and challenges close to your audience's heart, insights that logically thread back to your brand benefits without hard sell, is the Holy Grail here.
HOW TO THRIVE? RAISE YOUR SIGHTS
Content, schmontent, you might say. To which I would reply, when did you become my butcher?
Yet maybe you don't use content marketing, despite all its promise and advantages. Maybe you're not big on marketing automation. Could be you trip on the smell of convention center coffee and the cool embrace of Comfort Suites bedding. You're doing just fine.
That's great. In fact, it's incredibly awesome. Provided you're still in business a year or five from now.
Face it: the tools and the platforms are only going to get better. Automated marketing and content strategies are, for better or worse, continuing to scale up, diversify, evolve.
If you're using content marketing the right way, it may not matter if an actual mass Contentocide happens. Are you nimble? Are you smart? Are you (relatively) warm-blooded?
Like some Cenozoic vole, you'll survive and thrive while the scrapers and the sluggards perish, because you stuck to a few basic tenets:
- Quality sticks, quantity sucks. Never confuse the two. Every piece of content you develop should be calculated to deliver awesome and unique value. Know what? You'll find the extra effort doesn't just raise your rep with your audience, it can lift standards and promote better thinking inside the enterprise.
- Why am I doing this? You gotta start with a strategy. Why are you doing content marketing? How's it fit into the grand scheme of things at your organization? Does it up you site traffic and conversions? Who are you trying to impress, anyway? Will it really get your audience interested in you? In a good way, not like those Macarena dance-off pictures from CES 2012?
- Invite yourself in. If somebody asked you to keynote the biggest conference in your category, would you take them up on it? What if there was open bar after 5:30? That's what content marketing does: it can inject your into dialogue with hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of people inherently interested in your segment or profession. Guess what? If you've got something worth saying, they're already dying to hear it.
- It's a conversation. Not a sellversation, as I think one dope put it. Maybe it was Jim Rome. Knocking out a blog once a week isn't enough; it's about constantly posting, publishing, promoting, sharing, syndicating and everything else that'll keep you in front of an audience, and give them reasons to react, rant, reply, discuss...
- It's a lot of conversations, actually. With prospects in varying segments, with established customers, with vendors, with the press, with anyone else it makes sense to engage. So customize content to speak to each useful audience.
- Content is community. Create followers, then turn those kibitzers into commenters, into evangelists, into syndicators and buzz-builders. Listen hard to them, too, because you might be surprised how much they've got to teach you. You're really lousy at the Macarena. Okay. Thanks. Got it.
- Serve them, not yourself. You're a publisher now, and publishers don't publish stuff about how interesting they are as publishers. They're selling material that matters to their audience(s) and helps them solve their problems, entertain themselves, and Lose 50 Pounds in 7 Days. So are you. And like a publisher, go have a three-tini lunch once in a while. You deserve it.
- Bullseye or bullshit? Look at that lovely concentric graphic again. Print it out and stick it to your monitor. Always aim for the big score. Always.