Beware the content marketing monster

This may seem self-defeating coming from someone who uses words for a living, but here goes: marketers are producing too much content.  Whoa there. Before all you creative types rush for the pitchforks and burning torches, hear me out.  I know that content is hugely valuable. I appreciate that the right piece of content in the right place, at the right time, can have a big impact.

It drives leads, conversions, SEO, go-to-market strategies, and plays a pivotal role in B2B and B2C communications and relationships. It captures the imagination, inspires, engages and informs.

But only if you focus on producing the best content for the intended audience. And here’s where I have a problem.

A few stats for you: 350 million photos a day are being posted to Facebook. 130,000 articles a week are being written on LinkedInOver 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. That’s an awful lot of words and pictures fighting for our increasingly fractured attention.

And the problem is getting worse. The majority of B2B marketers are approaching the problem by doing more. A recent study shows that 76% of B2B companies say they are going to create more content over the next year, and more than half of B2B marketers are allocating more budget towards this type of marketing in 2016.

76% of B2B companies say they are going to create more content over the next year

The challenge is, not much of this “content” is fit for purpose. In fact, much of the content produced today – certainly much of the storytelling produced by brands, at least – is, to borrow a phrase, nothing more than “embarrassed advertising”.

Take Facebook, for example. A large proportion of the posts now appearing in my feed are for branded or promoted stories. And while some of that might be of interest – after all, much of it is based on things I’ve either liked previously, that my friends like, or that have I have been looking at on other sites – a lot of it is garbage: irrelevant, repetitive or just plain annoying. In other words, spam.

And I’m not alone in thinking this way. According to a recent report from SocialChorus, 83% of millennials believe sponsored stories make their social media experience worse.

83% of millennials believe sponsored stories make their social media experience worse

Clearly we don’t need more content. We need better content.

Marketing guru Joe Pulizzi puts it succinctly:

“There is no more room in the world for content that doesn’t add value to its intended audience in some way.
That means most content is, in a word, horrible.”

However, he goes on to say that there is always room for “amazing information that gets people thinking, feeling, acting differently.” Perhaps this is where we need to focus our collective content creation efforts: on telling stories that resonate, that strike a chord, that compel people to act.

The best marketing doesn’t feel like marketing. But in the rush to reach the top of search engine results pages and drive more traffic to their pages, marketers sometimes forget that the content itself has to be worth it. It is only by delivering useful information over time that content works as marketing. It’s not just a numbers game. Quality counts.


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