Stellar Content Creation Isn’t Enough – Here’s Why
If you’ve been keeping your finger on the racing pulse of content marketing, you’ve probably heard of content shock.
This phenomenon refers to the masses of content being published on the internet day by day, month by month, year by year. There’s so much of it, nobody can possibly read it all. To put it simply, content shock makes it beyond difficult to get your content read. And, as times goes by, it’s only going to get harder.
There are billions of content pieces out there, with more added to the pile every day in the millions, on average. The problem with this?
If you do nothing but create content and hit “publish,” you’re banking on nothing but luck. You’re throwing a penny into a wishing well that already has billions of pennies at the bottom from content creators and marketers with good intentions.
And, since we’re in a state of content shock, good intentions aren’t enough for you to succeed with your content.
The Birth of Content Shock
The whiz who coined the phrase “content shock” is Mark Schaefer – one of the top marketers online right now. I recently sat down to speak with him about this very topic for my podcast, The Magnificent Marketing Podcast.
In a nutshell, he predicted the content avalanche, but he also determined how to rise above it. Since 2014, Mark has been telling people that content marketing can’t stay the same, nor can we expect it to. To rise above the tidal wave of content that all looks the same, our content marketing must evolve.
Don’t get me wrong – content marketing is still today’s marketing. It’s not dead, and Mark isn’t saying it is. Instead, he’s saying you can’t just create the most amazing, stellar, well-written, addictively readable content of your life and stop there. Even if you do all that, if it doesn’t draw any eyes, all that effort is wasted.
Think about this common saying: If a tree falls alone in the woods with no one to hear it, does it make a sound? By the same logic, if a fantastic piece of content is published and nobody reads it, does it even exist?
The Cost of Content Shock
Content marketing is far more affordable than traditional advertising. However, the costs versus benefits only play out if you get your content the audience it needs. If nobody sees your content, the money you invested in its creation goes down the drain. Mark has seen it time and time again: Business owners settle in to write their own blogs or hire writers to do it for them, but then they don’t get any results, so they get frustrated.
One big issue is that they aren’t waiting long enough for ROI.
With content marketing, results do not flow in right away. Mark says it can take anywhere from a year to 18 months before your content starts getting traction. Of course, plenty of business owners give up long before their content has had a chance to get somewhere.
And then, there’s a bigger problem.
These people are not creating content that stands out. They’re posting the same things as their competitors, posts their audience have seen too many times to count. Nobody wants to read what has already been done before. And, if nobody reads your same-old, same-old content, it will inevitably get lost in the currents of the content shock sea. It will slowly drift to the bottom of that gigantic sea of content, never to be seen again.
So, How Do You Get Your Content to Make Some Noise?
To avoid becoming just another casualty of content shock, your content creation has to be different. You can’t just sit down to write a blog post. You can’t just hire a writer and hand them a random topic. Most business owners commit the above sins. Meanwhile, they’re missing one hugely important step.
The Biggest Step Most Business Owners Skip
Specifically, Mark says you have to analyze your market before even touching content creation.
Researching your competitors and what they post
Finding out where you can differentiate yourself from what they’re doing
Making sure you’re hitting the right target audience
Jumping over research and analysis and heading straight to writing and publishing will mean certain death for your content because:
You won’t know if you’re doing what it takes to stand out
You won’t know if you’re publishing the exact same stuff as everyone else in your industry
You won’t understand how to key into a niche you can claim as your own
You’ll have no idea what could potentially give you the edge you need to get noticed
Do Your Homework, First
So, before you create the best piece of content you can, before search engine optimization, writing tricks, and editing, you have to dig in and do some homework. This is how you position yourself to create content that not only makes noise but also makes a new sound that nobody has heard before.
How to Approach Your Content Research
There are lots of ways to do research for content creation. At the most basic level, Mark recommends checking out your competition.
Analyze the Competition
It’s easy to analyze your competition – all you have to do is look at their online presence to get a sense of what they’re doing. More importantly, you can discover what’s working for them – and what’s not working. Check out their website and ask the following questions:
Do they have a blog/publish blog posts?
If so, how often do they post?
What are they writing about?
What audience do they target? Is it the same as your target audience?
Are they on social media?
Which platforms are they using? (Are they on the major ones, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn?)
Are they posting content on social media, and if so, how often?
How engaged are they on social platforms? Do they respond to comments and questions from their followers?
How engaged is their audience? (i.e. lots of comments on blog posts and social media, or lots of likes, shares, followers, etc.)
Note Your Findings
Keep track of what you find for each of your competitors. Review them separately and as a whole to find a niche in your industry you can corner.
Discover What You’re Missing
For example, you may find that you’re not addressing the right audience. Or, maybe you’re not using social media to its fullest extent, so you’re missing out on some advantages like engaging with followers, prospects, and customers. Or, maybe you’re just not blogging enough or about the right topics.
Whatever you’re missing, taking a good, hard look at your competition can help you find what it is. Then, you can make a strategic move to hone in on your stand-out factor.
Bottom line: You should head into content creation only after you’ve done your research exhaustively.
Check Out Mark Schaefer’s Blog and Books to Learn More
Undoubtedly, if you want to learn more about content shock and how to rise to the top of the pool, you need to read Mark’s blog and his roster of best-selling books.
If you need help with your Twitter presence, read The Tao of Twitter, which just so happens to be the #1 Twitter guide in the world. It will steer you toward success on the platform, including building an audience, building influence, and using Twitter strategically.
If you’re looking to dive deep into learning about content marketing success, get The Content Code, the book for which Mark arguably is most famous. This manual will help you learn how to shoot past content shock with your marketing.
Finally, Mark also wrote a follow-up to The Content Code – KNOWN: The Handbook for Building and Unleashing Your Personal Brand in the Digital Age. This book will help you build your personal brand and thus help you increase your authority and influence in your field.
Remember: Content Shock Isn’t a Death Sentence for Your Content
Content shock is real, and it can definitely hurt your chances for successful content marketing. However, you can take steps that will help you lift yourself out of the sea of billions of look-alike blog posts out there. Mark Schaefer has explored this phenomenon in depth and has given us plenty of food for thought as well as ways to fight back.
It does not start with content creation – instead, it all starts with targeted research and analysis.
If you do your homework, you can discover exactly where you fit in. More importantly, you can understand exactly how to stand out. This information can mean the difference between blending in and being forgotten, or getting read and earning massive ROI from your content marketing.