I started the first column in this series with the decidedly uncontroversial statement: Content is King.
The truth is, I don’t really believe these words.
In my opinion, content is no longer king. In fact, it is quickly becoming a commodity. The burgeoning growth of information and media choices is dividing our attention, and challenging marketers’ efforts to rise above the noise.
Please understand that I am not saying that content is unimportant; just that having great content alone is not enough to achieve your goals, whether they be lead generation, thought leadership, brand building, etc.
Amidst an explosion of content choices, I believe that it is now attention (or the ability to capture and keep it) that reigns supreme.
So, how does one win the attention game in content marketing? How do you build better memes, launch communiqué that connect, make an impression, and inspire action? It is your ability to tell a great story, one that is aligned with the interests and needs of your audiences – but also to optimize factors related to the information wrapper and carrier that will determine your success.
The online world presents many challenges to marketers. Where once we had more control over the message, and there was an orderly way for getting it out, today it is the Wild West by comparison. There is much more noise, many more distractions, and anyone can be a publisher or influencer.
Michael Brenner wrote in his post How to Generate ROI (Return on Interesting) with Content Marketing on the Business 2 Community blog:
The last few years has seen a huge change in the underlying economics of marketing. It now effectively costs nothing to get messages out to the market, via web pages, blog posts, Twitter, or Facebook – it’s easier than ever to “make noise”. But because everybody else in the market is making noise, it’s harder than ever to get “listened to”.
Short forms of communications such as Twitter and social networking status updates have added to the din, and conditioned us to think that information is unimportant if it can’t be expressed in 140 characters or less.
These realities have trained people to efficiently filter out potential time wasters. We can easily discern the Tweets and blog posts that can help vs. the ones that just add noise. The latter will do nothing for you; in fact they could tarnish the brand you work so hard to build.
Boosting the Signal to Noise Ratio
To be successful, I believe you have to reverse roles and put yourself in the shoes of the buyer. You need to be where your buyers are and boost what audio engineers call signal to noise ratio.
One way to get attention and boost content “signal” is to be vocal about issues that your customers care about. Your customers need to believe that they can learn, solve problems or improve their experiences by consuming your content.
In the same article mentioned above, Michael Brenner wrote:
… Audience Marketing is the best way to create more interesting content. It’s centered around defining a group of people with common interests…It is generally easier to start with identifying interesting topics which will typically cross common “targeting” labels. And by starting with topics, you will be able to define the types of content people find most interesting.
It is Not Just What You Say, but How You Say It
There simply is no substitute for a good message or story. On the other hand, how you say something – using the right wrapper for your information, and distribution mechanism – can be critical. E.g., calling your content “news” and sending a press release over the wires can have a dramatic impact on how the information is received and where it is featured.
There is no question that optimizing your content for general Web and social media can help get it in front of more people. Technology can greatly amplify reach and distribution – but is anyone listening? True, your information may be in more places, but what is the impact?
With these thoughts in mind, I offer the following in advice on optimizing content, wrapper and delivery mechanism to get attention for your content.
Tell a Good Story
Indeed, nothing else matters if you can’t do this.
Master Short Forms and Integrated Communications Tactics; Share Info in Layers
While a white paper might scare up some sales leads when distributed via email marketing, it will likely make a very boring and easy-to-ignore blog post.
The beauty of the online world is that we don’t need to raise the white flag and abandon complex ideas or nuance, i.e. information that can’t be easily expressed in 140 characters.
- For success, perfect the art of sharing information in layers; e.g. you can use Twitter to attract attention via a catchy tweet that points, via a link, to additional content on your blog, website, etc.
- Learn and master the art of headline writing (see my post Crafting Headlines that Pop)
Know the Hot Topics and Where Your Audiences Live Online
Where are the eyeballs of your customers today – and how can you get in front of them? How is this changing?
E.g., while Twitter started out as the fun toy of the techies, it is now much more mainstream. Facebook was once just for fun and games. This is obviously no longer true.
New apps and networks are constantly emerging. Quora was very hot a year ago, as was FourSquare. Pinterest and Instagram are now all the rage. Which networks are gaining a head of steam today, but also have legs for the future?
- You need to check assumptions and determine which networks are relevant for your customers.
- Take the time to understand your audiences and the topics that they are interested in (the Business 2 Community post explains more about this).
Stay ahead of the Market
Marketers are constantly tuning their messages and tactics. If you want to break through, it helps to heed what others in your space are doing and adjust your approach accordingly. What content and headlines grab your attention?
Sometimes it pays to “zig” when others “zag”. For example, infographics have been all the rage in online marketing – they help us deal with information overload by communicating complex information in an easily digestible, visual format. Yet these days it is easy to get lost in a sea of infographics, as I wrote in my post: I Hate Retweet Bait. So why not explore new methods instead of competing with the hordes?
Leverage Social and Influencer Equity
Also, having the right intermediary – one who agrees your story has value and is willing to spend time writing about it, talking about it or otherwise advancing it – can make a big difference in your success.
- Whether you call them analysts, bloggers, tweeters, columnists, or all of the above, learn who holds sway in your / your client’s area of specialty, and make sure that you factor them into your campaigns.
Those are some of my top tips for winning the attention game in content marketing; I look forward sharing more details, examples and case studies in future columns.