A number of challenges can stand in the way of great content marketing results, especially for newcomers, and small-to-mid size businesses that don’t have the budgets or resources of big brands.
There is no shortage of advice, or content about content marketing, yet some might find it confusing or contradictory. There doesn’t even seem to be a consensus about what it is, as I explained in my last column. The technology can be confusing, too. Probably the single biggest challenge is the burgeoning growth of content. How does one stay ahead and rise above the noise?
So, it can be easy to get anxious or even a little freaked out, if you are involved with any kind of content or social media marketing. This is true even if you have a lot of experience, as I do; because just when you think you have it nailed, the rules change, or there is a new tactic, tool or bit of strategic advice to consider.
I find it can be helpful to take a step back, look at the big picture, be philosophical and maybe even try to simplify your approach. This fits in with my resolutions for the year, and gave me the idea for today’s post, which Is about non-intuitive strategies for getting the most out of content marketing (call it a Zen-inspired guide, what the “The Dude” might do when it comes to content marketing; also, see my earlier post Zen and the Art of PR).
1. Live in the Moment, Practice Mindfulness
It might not be advice that you’d expect to see on Windmill Networking – but an article in the New York Times recently sung the praises of meditation and mindfulness. The story cited the problem solving routine of a fictional character – Sherlock Holmes – to illustrate something that is now backed by scientific research:
“The world’s greatest fictional detective is someone who knows the value of concentration… when a new case is presented, Holmes does nothing more than sit back in his leather chair, close his eyes and put together his long-fingered hands in an attitude that begs silence.. His approach to thought captures the very thing that cognitive psychologists mean when they say mindfulness…
An exercise in mindfulness can also help with that plague of modern existence: multitasking. Of course, we would like to believe that our attention is infinite, but it isn’t. Multitasking is a persistent myth. What we really do is shift our attention rapidly from task to task. Two bad things happen as a result. We don’t devote as much attention to any one thing, and we sacrifice the quality of our attention. When we are mindful, some of that attentional flightiness disappears as if of its own accord.”
I find that practicing meditation can be a great refresher that sharpens thinking and problem-solving abilities. It seems to me that anyone working in the hyperkinetic, sensory-overloaded world of social media should consider mindfulness to get in the right frame of mind, help with multitasking, and improve effectiveness.
2. Take a Holistic and Strategic Approach
There seems to be an inexorable march towards more content. This started with Web, really took off with social media, and now there have never been more ways to create and share content online. Add the fragmentation of media, and the demands of keeping owned media channels brimming with fresh content, and the result is that marketers are on a Sisyphean content generation treadmill. But just thrashing about and creating lots of content any which way you can is not content marketing, or not a very effective strategy in my opinion.
So, before embarking on a content marketing program, why not take a strategic approach by first deciding what you really want out of it – i.e., what kind of specific business results are you seeking, and how will you measure these? It may sound decidedly un-Zen, to worry about potential outcomes, but it is still important. It is also important to take a holistic view which focuses not just on content but on your resources and systems for creating it, optimizing, promoting and measuring / monitoring, and tracking back to results.
3. Focus on Quality Content that Springs from Strategy and Available Resources
The content generation craze can be understandable. After all, isn’t one of the mantras of social media success to post early and often? While that might be true if you want to compete with TechCrunch, it is not as realistic for most marketers, despite the move of more companies to hire brand journalists. There is only so much people want to read – or that can be written – about laundry detergent. And you don’t need a TechCrunch-sized audience, or to go viral to call your campaign a success as I pointed out in my post Lies My Content Marketing Expert Told Me.
At the end of the day you may decide to heed content marketing guru Joe Pulizzi’s: “Sometimes the answer is less content. Each piece of content we put out needs to be epic and valuable content. We need to stop putting out content because we feel we have to.”
In a similar vein, B2B content strategist Ardath Albee recently posted on the CMI blog about getting practical with content marketing. She wrote:
“Sometimes I think content marketing can be made so convoluted and complex that it’s nearly impossible to execute. I’ve seen spreadsheets and diagrams and lists of things you must do that make my head hurt. Content theories abound, and if you try to kludge it all together, you will become as immobilized as a deer in the headlights of a rapidly approaching semi. But reality is what we have to work with, and a phased approach can be a beautiful thing…”
Here are a few of the tips she shared that really hit home for me (the bullets below are excerpts from her article):
- Content marketing never ends, so quit trying to get it perfect before you launch
- Until you launch, you have no real-world feedback from which to judge your strategy or programs. It’s not about what you think, but what your buyers think and how they respond
- Once you launch, you can tune on the fly and add layers as you gain proficiency.
4. Let Go of Attachment
Effective content and social media marketing can involve many different types of tools and technologies: publishing and content management systems, Web tech, monitoring, content curation, and SEO, to say nothing about the mechanics of the major social media and networking platforms. It seems like there are endless solutions to consider, with new ones coming on the scene every day, and it is not easy to keep track of them or decide which horse to bet on. Many or most come from tech startups, which can be here today and gone or acquired tomorrow.
So, my advice is to let go of your attachment to specific technologies. The tools will change. New social networking platforms will emerge. But do get the processes and best practices in place, line up the ideas and content generation talent – and you will be able to adapt and adjust these based on the tech tools du jour.
You might also want to consider taking measures to reduce noise and distraction by (and here’s the scary part, but trust me, you should at least think about it) intentionally throttling back the information you work with every day.
For more on this, please see Relief Valves for Flooded Social Networks, from the New York Times. You might also want to take a look at Zero Dark Inbox, a New Yorker piece on what might be this confirmed information pack rat’s Holy Grail – getting the email inbox down to zero unread emails – and this Forbes story about taming email.
So that is my advice: get into the right frame of mind, take a strategic approach, focus on content quality, don’t get too hung up on tech, let go of attachments, and minimize unnecessary distractions – and you will be well on your way to great content marketing results.
What do you think? Do you have any non intuitive or Zen-inspired content marketing experience or advice?