In just the last couple of weeks marketing consultant and best-selling author, Mark Schaefer, published "The Content Code: Six essential strategies to ignite your content, your marketing, and your business." It takes an in depth look at how brands can overcome content shock in an age of content abundance. This book answers a question: I am a professional marketer working as hard as I can. I am producing content, engaging on social media, and spinning right along with the revolving door of every digital marketing innovation and new platform. Why is my business not getting anywhere?
Mark writes that "Content is no longer the finish line. It's the starting line." He estimates, based on CMI and Marketing Profs research, that by 2020 the amount of content on the Internet will grow by 500 percent. That will make it even more difficult for marketers to get their content seen. As a result, marketers must learn to ignite their content by cracking The Content Code.
(Silly note: While reading Mark's book, every time I read the word "ignition" R. Kelly's voice popped into my head singing, "It's the remix to ignition. Hot and fresh out the kitchen." I'm sharing this so that it pops into your head, too.)
Simply publishing a lot of content is not enough anymore. If it doesn't move through relevant audiences, marketers are wasting their budgets. The focus should be on content ignition. This is Mark's way of describing the point where content begins to be shared, engaged with and consumed by relevant audiences which leads to business results. Jay Baer calls this "market your marketing" and I simply call it content promotion. No matter what you call it, he's right; content that doesn't get seen and engaged with is a major problem for marketers today and it's only going to get worse.
The Six Elements of the Content Code - BADASS
By design or by chance Mark's six elements of the content code spell out the word "badass." He calls this a coincidence and perhaps the highlight of his career. He recommends taking a selfie with a surprised look on your face and sending it to #BadassSelfie after reading this section of the book. I recommend doing it after reading this article. Let's clog up his Twitter feed.
Brand Development - Sometimes content ignition has very little to do with the content itself and everything to do with the person or brand creating it. He suggests this happens when a company or individual transcends into a heroic brand. He taps into the experiences and stories of Chris Brogan, Jay Baer and Gary Vaynerchuck and concludes by listing a seven-step plan for building a heroic brand.
Audience and Influencers - One of the biggest takeaways I received from the book was the idea of building, growing and nurturing a proprietary Alpha Audience. This audience only represents less than five percent of consumers, but if tapped into can seriously ignite content. He discusses audience building techniques and methodologies with several case studies. Not all brands have much of an audience, let alone an Alpha Audience, to speak of. In those cases, marketers can borrow trust by tapping into other Alpha Audiences through influencer marketing.
Distribution, Advertising, Promotion and SEO - This element is mostly about amplifying content through paid channels and the relationship between content transmission and SEO. He gives an overview of the options for paid distribution as well as 10 tips for content promotion.
I even contributed to this section of the book by sharing my "native social" advertising best practices.
Authority - The idea of building and growing website authority has been a hallmark of the SEO industry for over a decade. Google's page rank and Moz's Domain Authority provide a measurement - the higher the authority the higher the probability of showing up near the top of the search engines. Mark enlists Lee Oden of TopRank to break down authority and its impact on content visibility. He calls this a difficult, subtle, and elusive form of content transmission.
Shareability - Mark takes a deep dive into the psychological processes behind social sharing and calls it a highly intimate, emotional process that promotes self-identity, caring for others, and regard for content creators. He also writes about the resistance of consumers to actually share content, a major obstacle to content ignition.
He provides three strategies to promote social currency through content, 22 quick-hit steps to make content connect with audiences and opines that:
"People share content for intrinsic, emotional reasons. Companies want you to share content for economic reasons. This implies that companies need to re-think their strategies to optimize content ignition."
Social Proof and Social Signals - This element speaks to what many of us have thought for years. Mark conducts a simple experiment that shows how social sharing numbers and blog comments actually influence a person's propensity to engage and share content. In an information-dense world, consumers are hungry for clues that will let them know who to follow, what to believe, and which content will help the most.
As an industry insider myself, watching Mark deploy many of his BADASS principals in the writing of this book was a thing of beauty. It gave me new insight into what an Alpha Audience is and what their value can be. As a result, we're going to supplement our current persona development and lead scoring with Alpha Audience identifiers ASAP. The book itself is a perfect example of influencer marketing in action, too. If you don't want to fall behind in our ever-changing field of content marketing this is a must read.
Mark has graciously offered a free chapter of his book as a preview and it can be downloaded here.
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