The Dirty Little Secret of Content Marketing

chadpollitt
Chad Pollitt VP of Audience, Relevance

Posted on November 22nd 2013

The Dirty Little Secret of Content Marketing

Guess what? The only person who truly cares about the quality of your content is you.

Pretty harsh, huh? It’s true, even if your content earns tens of thousands of visitors, thousands of social shares and hundreds of comments. If what you offer can solve a user’s problem and/or entertain the appropriate audience, that’s what makes it quality content, not a perfectly written Shakespearean masterpiece. People only go to the Internet for two reasons: to be entertained or to solve a problem. Accomplish this in front of the right audience, and they’ll care about your content. dirty-content-secret

. . . But I thought it was all about content quality

Ever notice which kinds of content tend to go viral on Facebook? “Quality” is probably the last word you’d use to describe it. But it’s usually entertaining in some way to some slice of Facebook’s users. YouTube is the same: most of its popular videos have very low production values.

Not mentioning any specific sites (I have many in mind and you likely know of them), but there’s a host of highly traveled Web properties that publish copious amounts of content that stinks; yet people still visit, share and comment. Even though it’s this writer’s opinion that the content stinks, others obviously find it entertaining or problem-solving.

Only 36 percent of marketers believe they use their content effectively. Is it because those marketers only publish quality content? That’s not likely. What’s more likely is that they create problem-solving content and promote it to the correct audience. The keyword here is audience. The other 64 percent of marketers likely don’t have much of an audience to which to deliver their content in the first place.

Let’s pretend. . .  

Many verticals have reached the peak of what Marcus Sheridan refers to as “an industry’s Content Saturation Index (CSI).” For example, if you launched a brand new digital marketing agency from scratch today, how long do you think it would take your blog to reach thousands of page views a day? A very long time, if ever. What if you produced and published only the highest quality content in the entire industry twice per day? Still, a very long time, if ever. Why? Because there are thousands of websites vying for your same audience, and they already have it. You’d have to poach them away because the digital marketing vertical has reached its peak CSI.

The point is that the quality or quantity of your content is almost meaningless in this case. You could take your highest quality A+ content, dumb it down to publish on SocialMediaToday.com, and watch the analytics run circles around its A+ counterpart. Without a significant audience, marketers should focus on content distribution and promotion strategies—not quality or quantity. Besides, with little or no audience, there’s no feedback loop; so how would you know if its quality content or not?

Breaking through the noise with distribution and promotion

Most content marketers truly understand the role of owned media. However, where many of them fall short strategically is their ability to converge owned media with paid and earned media. It’s paid and earned strategies that help marketers poach audience from other sites over time. This is the only way for marketers to build their audiences quickly in industries that have maxed out CSIs. Without it, blogs like the one described above would likely take many years to naturally build an audience.

. . . But I digress

Most of the folks who have read this far assume this post is saying that quality content doesn’t matter. If content is full of typos, misspellings and run-on sentences, it’s going to leave a poor impression of the author and brand. That’s not good. If a true subject matter expert writes what they know and helps solve the appropriate person’s problem, that is indeed quality content. The point is with little or no audience, adding additional layers of editing and ideation in an attempt to improve quality is a waste of effort.

It’s clear that this has been the year of content marketing. Next year should be the year of content promotion. As the CSI grows across more verticals, more and more content marketers will struggle to get their content read and focusing attention on quality will get them nowhere. 

Image credit: Andy Lapham

chadpollitt

Chad Pollitt

VP of Audience, Relevance

Chad is a decorated veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and former Army Commander; a member of a Forbes Top 100 list and the VP of Marketing at DigitalRelevance. He authored "51 Things Your Mother Taught You About Inbound Marketing" in 2014 and is a contributor to the GuardianHuffington Post and LinkedIn Pulse.

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Comments

I think the content always the top. Thank for sharing

Chad -- I get where you're going here and maybe you're overstating to make the point. But your examples are B2C -- they don't hold for B2B/B2G content marketing campaigns.

The campaigns I run are quality over quantity efforts, so I don't need huge audience numbers. The content needs to engage, educate and (sometimes) entertain a very defined market of prospects. It needs to support the product or service of the client, but in a very indirect, thought leadership fashion. Lousy content can't do this.

Of course promotion is important, and of course integrating all the PESO content components magnifies success. None of that means that quality doesn't matter. 

Thanks for the comment Chris. You are right - I was doing some overstating in that post :)

What I was trying to get accross is that "quality" is in the eye of the audience not the brand. If your content works for your audience than it is quality - b2b, b2c or whatever. However, if it doesn't than it's not quality and has nothing to do with how well written it was.

Ever see the 1995 movie Showgirl? The movie was produced wonderfully and it looked a million bucks - however, the movie stunk. The producers probably thought they had some damn good content. The audience certainly didn't think so. Hope that makes sense :)

@ChadPollitt

We agree on that Chad -- your audience decides on quality that's true. But thought leadership content has to contain interesting thoughts, and tell a compelling story. And again, I'm not talking consumer so Showgirl is a bit off the path.

I recently published something talking about the importance of promotion, we're certainly in agreement about it's importance. Link below. But I  don't think content quality is purely subjective -- there are best practices to follow, just like in other business practices. 

http://chrisparente.com/2013/10/16/content-without-distribution-equals-failure/

 

 

Hey Chad, 

Thanks for sharing such an informative article!  Really enjoyed reading it and completely agree with you that we need to not only create quality content, but also content that entertains our readers.  Here is somethng that I like to do when intereacting with my audience. 

I engage people without making them feel like they are being sold. Anytime we feel like we are being sold we go to what many call ‘the lizard brain.’ This makes people feel suspicious and in charge of watching for danger and confrontation. Instead we need to get people into the buying part of their brains. When we are in buying mode we are more likely to ask, for instance, “Does this come in my size?” and follow the salesperson eagerly. I call this part of my brain ‘my purring cat.’

Thanks again, 

'TC' Teresa Clark