I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage “Content is king.” Ever since Bill Gates published an essay with that title on the Microsoft website in 1996, companies have scrambled to produce increasing amounts (and formats) of content on the Internet. Content creation is now a full-time responsibility of certain employees (and even entire departments!) in many companies. If you go to LinkedIn and do a quick search for “content specialist” or “content marketer” or “content creator” you’ll quickly see what I mean.
That’s not to say that Internet-based content is bad. On the contrary—it can be a great way to engage current and prospective customers, reach out to job candidates, and strengthen company branding. Unfortunately, though, many organizations emphasize the quantity, rather than the quality, of their content.
In fact, the demand for content creation is so great that some marketers will publish nearly anything—regardless of quality—just to keep the content machine moving. In their rush to produce the next post, video, infographic, etc., they may indeed be making more content, but it’s actually becoming less and less useful.
Worse yet, a “mediocre content is better than no content” approach may actually do more harm than good. Readers recognize content mills when they see them—and when they do, they’re likely to take their attention elsewhere.
Marketers who want to avoid being part of this growing epidemic need to remember why they’re producing content in the first place: to build relationships that keep them top of mind with their target audiences (in the hope that those relationships eventually translate into revenue). Any marketers who want their content to be effective will need to stop focusing on content for the sake of content and start focusing on what value that content has for their audiences.
To evaluate the quality of your content, ask yourself these questions:
Will readers benefit from this content? Will it help them solve a problem, learn something, or engage with their emotions?
If I encountered this content as an outsider, would I be willing to spend some time over the weekend engaging with it (e.g., reading a magazine article, watching a video)?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then your first step is to revise the content of your content. Make sure it has value—not just value that you think your audience should want, but value that you yourself would want as a content consumer.
Once you’re confident that the content you’re putting out there is of good quality, you need to think about how you’re distributing it. No matter how great a blog post you write, if you rely only on SEO, Twitter, and Facebook to get the word out about it, don’t hold your breath waiting for a response. Even though those are some of the best known “heavy hitters” in marketing today, they’re also old hat by now—and they just aren’t enough to ensure that your message is heard.
Remember why you created content in the first place? To build relationships! If you’re creating content that is relevant and valuable to your audience but not delivering it effectively, you’re missing a chance to connect with people who prefer different methods of content consumption.
So to increase your connections with your audiences, consider using the same content in a variety of formats. Write a blog post and post links to it on Twitter and Facebook, sure. But also turn that blog post into a YouTube video, for example—and then publish that same post as a print magazine article. Or think even bigger: publish multiple blog posts as a hard-copy book whose chapters are your blog topic categories. The possibilities are nearly endless.
In all of your efforts, keep in mind the importance of building a relationship. You want to do more than push information to your audience. You want your audience to push back to you—by sending in a job application or talking about your brand or purchasing your product or engaging in some action that is a clear response to your communication. When your communication becomes a two-way street, that’s when you know you’ve succeeded at building a relationship.