You Built It, But No One’s Coming: Content Marketing in 2017
Does content marketing drive you crazy? You write blog posts and eBooks, create infographics and film helpful videos … but no one seems to notice.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Most businesses struggle to create an effective content marketing strategy because they don’t understand how content marketing has changed over the years—and how to adapt.
What Happened to Content Marketing?
Remember back in the early 2000s, when blogs were just starting to pick up momentum? Just before Y2K, there were only about 23 blogs, but by 2006 there were over 50 million blogs out there.
That’s a lot of growth for 7 years.
But all that growth came with consequences. In the early 2000s, if you wanted to make a name for yourself, all you had to do was pick a topic and start your blog. If your writing was engaging enough, you basically owned your target vertical. And millions of individuals and businesses used that fact to make quite a bit of money.
These days, succeeding in the blogosphere is much more difficult. The internet is overflowing with blog content. You can type almost any question into Google and find some sort of article on the subject. That’s great for web surfing, but if you’re a business hoping to make it big by blogging, you’ve got an uphill climb ahead of you.
Now, you might be thinking, Sure, Jake, blogging is hard, but blogging isn’t the only way to get content out there.
And, you’re absolutely right. There are a lot of other ways to do content marketing. Let’s take a look at online video, for example.
In 2005, YouTube created a brand new way to create content and distribute it to the masses and took the internet by storm. In 2017, it is predicted that 74% of online traffic will be to videos.
This is good news for marketers. Video has incredibly high engagement and is a great way to promote a business, product or service.
Unfortunately, video’s meteoric rise means that it is now almost as hard to build a YouTube channel as it is to build a blog. Just like blogging, online video is now saturated with content.
Same goes for Twitter. And Facebook. And LinkedIn. And infographics. And eBooks. And…do you see where I’m going with this?
Sadly, the good old days of “if you build it, they will come” are over. However, while the overabundance of content out there does pose a challenge, it also presents a unique opportunity—if you know how to take advantage of it.
The Problem With Content
The fact of the matter is, while there may be a lot of blog and video content out there, that doesn’t mean that there is a lot of quality blog and video content out there.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, just 25% of the US high school graduates are proficient at writing and yet 80% of Americans would like to be an author. Assuming that those statistics hold out amongst the blogging community, that means only about a third of bloggers actually have the writing skills to produce halfway-decent content.
Same idea applies to video.
Now here’s the problem. When everyone and their dog (literally) has a blog and a YouTube channel and most of that content is made by people who don’t know what they’re doing, that means most people are constantly surrounded by low-quality content. As a result, most content is little more than the online equivalent of white noise.
Think about it, how often do you voluntarily watch an entire YouTube ad? When was the last time you were mesmerized by a blog post? (not including this one, of course).
Most content—especially marketing content—is simply bad. It’s boring, unhelpful, poorly executed and/or irritating.
But, if you can create content that defies those trends—content that people actually want to read or watch—the contrast between your content and the content people are used to seeing will grab your audience’s attention. In other words, if you want your content to stand out, you need to create outstanding content.
Creating Outstanding Content
Back when blogging and YouTube and social media were new, content marketing was easy. All you had to do was choose a message and start pumping out content. It didn’t have to be high quality, it just had to be interesting enough to get people’s attention.
I mean, just look at Huffington Post. Most of its original content was drivel, but it sold for $315 million.
These days, you can’t create drivel and expect to grow your business. There’s simply too much competition out there. Instead, you need to create outstanding content—the kind of content that people look forward to. Here’s how:
Set the Hook
Marketing is a lot like fishing. Any good fisherman knows that to catch a fish, you need a hook.
In marketing, your hook is your introduction. In most cases, this is your audience’s first encounter with your content, so if you don’t hook them right off, you’ll never reel them in as a customer.
But, if you bait the hook right, you can drive a ton of interest in your content. For example, BlendTec used this tactic to incredible effect in their “Will it Blend” series:
Rather than marketing their blender, Blendtec focused their videos on something everyone finds fascinating: destroying expensive objects.
To make things even better, Blendtec completely embraced the cheesiness of their wanton destruction to create a video that is truly mesmerizing. By the end of the video, two things are clear: 1) putting phones in the blender is awesome and 2) the Blendtec is incredibly powerful.
Now, it’s important to note that Blendtec does not start the video by saying, “The Blendtec is so powerful that it can blend cell phones.” Instead, it focuses on the hook: “What happens when you put a phone in a blender?”
The difference is subtle, but powerful.
Blendtec’s incredible hook made “Will it blend?” campaign one of the most successful video ad campaigns ever. Imagine what a good hook could do for your content marketing.
People don’t read, watch or share content because they think your business is cool. They engage with your content because it makes them feel something.
Maybe it makes them laugh. Maybe it makes them feel understood. Maybe it inspires them to make a change. Regardless of the emotion, if your content doesn’t make someone feel something, they won’t respond to your message.
Most content makes little to no impact on its target audience. Even if the hook is fairly good, the content doesn’t deliver and people bail.
Allstate’s “Mayhem” commercials, on the other hand, do a great job on making people feel something:
This commercial both makes you laugh and makes you worry about the potential risks of being underinsured. Because you feel something, you’re a lot more likely to remember the messaging and take action.
Create a Killer Ending
Once you’ve sucked people in with your hook and engaging content, you need to finish in a way that delivers your core marketing message without losing your audience.
Unfortunately, once the marketing speak starts, most people’s brains shut off.
There are two basic ways to get around this problem. Most marketers keep things as short and to the point as possible (for example, Allstate’s “Are you in good hands?” slogan).
However, this isn’t the only way to approach an ending. Alternatively, you can try to make your ending as engaging and entertaining as possible.
For example, this commercial has a great hook and keeps things interesting through the video, but check out the ending:
It’s almost hard to stop watching. You’re not quite sure what stunt they are going to pull next, so you keep watching and hearing the call-to-action repeated over and over…and over.
Now, if your content isn’t very engaging to begin with, dragging out your ending is a good way to drive your audience crazy. But, if people feel connected to your content, you can use that connectedness to amplify the impact of your ending and increase the likelihood of clicks, conversions or whatever end goal you are after.
It’s not 1997 anymore. You can’t just set up a blog and let the world come to you. If you want to succeed at content marketing, you have to create content that people want to engage with.
Great content takes a lot of extra time and effort, but these days, if you aren’t going to do it right, you’re better off not doing it at all.
Fortunately, if you do take the time to do it right, content marketing can still deliver awesome results. You just need to create content that truly stands out from the crowd.
What are your biggest frustrations with content marketing? Do you agree with this analysis? What do you do to ensure that you are creating outstanding content?
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