How to ‘win’ in a saturated content environment
I had the pleasure of teaming up with one of Australia’s sharpest content marketing minds at Mumbrella 360 last year to talk about the ‘attention economy’.
Lauren Quaintance, Storyation co-founder and Head of Content, spoke with her usual insight and aplomb about the conundrum all publishers, and brands with skin in the content marketing game, are currently facing.
And while it was a few months ago, I keep going back to some of Lauren's key points, which are equally as relevant now as they were then. To paraphrase:
“In the battle for attention brands are pumping out more and more content in what can only be described as a race to the bottom.”
“There’s a limit to how much content audiences can actually consume. We’re maxed out and our attention is a limited commodity.”
“Engagement on [almost] every social channel was down during the last 12 months.”
“A Buzzsumo analysis of 100 million articles published last year revealed the average article now just gets four social shares.”
“There are some winners though – mainly sites that have built a reputation… While Buzzfeed lost 60% of its social shares, shares of the New York Times content have tripled.”
As usual, Lauren is spot on. However, this is pretty sobering stuff for content marketers.
How to win at content marketing?
The distribution of information has been democratised and a lot of people on the content marketing bandwagon are just adding to the noise.
I love this line from Lauren: "Amazing content is the price of admission to get into the game. It’s now the bare minimum that is required.”
I believe the real success – or not – of your content operation is determined by your ability to truly understand customer needs and to deliver upon that with relevance, emotion and utility.
Quite simply, you need to make this Joe Pulizzi ethos your mantra: “Your customers don't care about you, your products, your services… they care about themselves, their wants and their needs.”
My most over-used word for the last few years is ‘utility’. And for good reason.
I believe it’s the one thing that keeps an audience coming back. You must be relentlessly relevant to your audience if you want to establish trust and differentiate.
To do this, you must be ‘human' in terms of how you both view your audience and produce content.
I appreciate this may sound weird given we're all ‘human'. However, what I mean by that is you must tell stories and create content that connects with people on a visceral level and adds value – not write copy for segments.
While I may be somewhat biased, Bupa’s Blue Room is an excellent example of a brand that genuinely 'over-indexes on humanity and utility.'
Unequivocally, things like your operating models and analytics are critical. However, if the content quality doesn’t stack up, you’re doomed from day one.
The caveat I’d add is that you also need a clearly defined strategy, including a thought leadership platform, so your content changes buyer behaviour – not just drive awareness.
These elements need standalone articles to do them justice, and we’ll pick them up down the track. However, this recent post will hopefully provide some insight into the various elements that need to inform your strategy.
In essence, your content strategy should be simple. As (content) marketers, one of our key jobs is to create a compelling narrative that enables us to engage a defined audience and move them towards a predefined next step – whatever that may look like.
And I believe that storytelling' and utility is the best way to achieve that, as well as to help differentiate your brand.
Furthermore, your content must be tangibly linked to your business outcomes and purpose; as well as relentlessly focused on issues that truly matter to customers.
In a nutshell, this is the nexus – in my humble opinion – that must be the starting place for all content strategies to ensure you’re not one of the content brands flailing in the wind.