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Content Marketing: Too Much of a Good Thing?

By: dev | January 8, 2014 | 
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Mass Confusion in Content MarketingBy Clay Morgan

At the end of November and into early December, my wife and I took our great nieces on a much needed vacation.

We started at New York City and worked our way up New England, finally spending some time in Boston and Cape Cod.

I’d never been to the Big Apple and was overwhelmed when I walked up on Times Square for the first time. It was amazing. There were store signs, billboards, electronic billboards, street hawkers, and other advertising everywhere.

It was visually stunning and incredibly impressive, but I actually remember only two advertisements.

One was a trailer for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and the other was a sign for M&M World.

In this incredible display of eye-popping visuals, virtually all of it failed to make a memorable impression on me, beyond the public spectacle of it all. Not one sign resulted in a sale from us, though I did see The Hobbit.

We know there’s a lot of bad content out there, but there is a lot of good content, too. The maxim of creating good content cannot stand on its own. The ads on Times Square are all extremely well done, but like too much great content, they were lost in the overload.

Except for One…

It is around noon and we’re walking along thinking about where we wanted to eat lunch. Then I heard a voice.

“You looking for lunch? We have a great kid’s menu, reasonable prices, and no wait.”

When there are five of you, including three growing children, that is the perfect trifecta.

Clearly, the guy saw us checking out restaurants, saw the kids, and connected all the important dots: What will the kids eat, will we have to wait, and is it going to break the bank?

We ate at his restaurant, the Playwright Tavern.

That message may very well have been slapped up on a billboard, sign, or digital screen, but we missed it. Why did this guy stand out in the maelstrom of marketing messages?

The reason is simple. He was not talking to everyone. He was talking with us.

Why Spin Sucks Doesn’t

There are a lot of really good marketing blogs in the world. They all have great content, and an effective means of delivering said content. So, why does Spin Sucks consistently rank as one of the best?

Gini Dietrich gives it a personal touch. She shares a ton of what would usually be private information – both personal and professional. She responds to your comments. She engages in conversations and listens when you disagree. She has some fun with it, and shows a bit of spunk and personality.

In fact, she communicates through the blog in such a way that many people, who have never spoken to Gini in real life, feel they are close friends.

The blog is like that restaurant’s hawker. Just as he took an experienced look at the landscape (three young kids, two tired adults!), and spoke directly to us, delivering exactly what we needed, “Hey, we have a great kids’ menu. No waiting.”

Gini does the same for her community. She finds out what people are up to, what they’re working on, what they want to learn about, and speaks ‘directly’ to us all.

Her digital connections, both on the blog and her social channels, reaches people the same way the guy from The Playwright Tavern does.

A Personal Touch in Content Marketing

I have a strong belief: As the amount of good content increases, other factors are going to have greater influence on whether or not your content is read.

One of those is distribution. The other is what you do after the content is distributed.

We talk a lot in marketing about “engagement” and “conversations.”

I hate both words. I don’t want to engage you and I don’t want a conversation. I want to sit down, have a beer, and chat about how A&E handled the Phil Robertson controversy, or why teens are shying away from Facebook.

I don’t remember my first Spin Sucks comment. But I do remember vividly thinking, while the blog made some good points, something was missing. So I typed a few words, hit “post comment”, and went back to work.

A little while later, I received an email that there was a response to my comment and lo and behold it was Gini. However, it wasn’t a stuffy “Thank you for responding.” It was a real reply, just as I’d get if we were in a restaurant discussing some matter.

It made an impression.

I became an active reader and commenter. I liked the blog so much, I went to work for the company.

Sorting Out All that Content

How do we make sure our content gets seen through all the clutter?

The bad news first: Your content can’t be good because good is no longer good enough. It must be exceptional, and then some.

  • Take a unique or niche approach. In the past couple of weeks, there have been about 400 billion blog posts about how to achieve all you want in 2014. About three are worth reading because that’s how many have something different to say.
  • Narrow down your topics.
  • Find a real problem not being adequately addressed elsewhere, and solve it. This requires being observant and really listening to your audience and potential audience.
  • Ask. I say this all the time and yet so few people do it. What content would you like to see? Would you like more video? Do you prefer to receive it in your RSS feed or via Twitter? The simple act of asking does wonders for your marketing research.

That’s what the street hawker outside that restaurant did. Surrounded and awash in a sea of marketing, one guy got through the clutter simply because he talked to us about no waiting, reasonable prices, and a kid’s menu — exactly what we were looking for at that moment.

77 comments
GreenSisterhood
GreenSisterhood

Oh, how true! I just read a post by someone, whose-name-shall-remain-nameless. who said content shock is here and content marketing is dead. Au contraire, I said, and now, you and @ginidietrich. I believe content marketing works when you write personalized 'quality'  stories to a target audience. Thanks for adding your four wise points @ClayMorgan

kanya632
kanya632

So many great points, @ClayMorgan! We are in the age of content overload, and it flat out stinks. Heck, sometimes I just want to shut down with all the information out there. If I feel overwhelmed myself, how can our audiences cope with it?


I agree that adding a personal touch can make all the difference. When I first started reading PR/marketing blogs, Spin Sucks stuck with me the most. The key?  It had personality. It was conversational. I felt like Gini wrote the way she talked to her friends and family. I felt…. included.  Something no other blog had accomplished.


Finally, I LOVE your last point – simply asking our audiences what they want. We should stop preaching and start listening. This actually gave me an idea to write about on my blog, “What are YOU looking for?” Thanks for that. =-)


Oh, and I’ll be visiting Times Square for the first time in a couple of months, and your family photo got me all kinds of excited!

lauraclick
lauraclick

Superb post, Clay. @markwschaefer  wrote and excellent post earlier this week that touches on this also. There is SO much content out there now, that it's getting much harder to be heard above the noise. 


I think your point about honing in on a narrow niche is dead on. Instead of focusing on a huge audience, the right (but perhaps, smaller) audience will be better. 


And, I love your point about research. Why don't people do research?! It absolutely baffles me. Want to know what people like? ASK THEM!


ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

First of all, I was having a very trying day when I read this blog post (because I get to read them before they're published) and you made me feel really happy. Thank you for that! Very nice compliment.


Secondly, I know there has been debate on Facebook about this blog post and how content marketers exist because they don't know how to do real marketing. Clearly that person missed the message here. Maybe the guy on the street does talk to lots of families walking through Times Square, but he doesn't talk to EVERYONE.


Content has to be targeted. It has to be exceptional. It has to be heard above the noise.

Matt_Cerms
Matt_Cerms

Great topic, @ClayMorgan! This community exemplifies people who care deeply about each other. Whether it be a customer, friend, or an online forum acquaintance -- everyone is in it together.


I get the feeling in this community that these are the type of folks would do something nice for someone and not expect anything in return. And, that is easy to say but hard to really feel. Pretty freaking cool.

BillSmith3
BillSmith3

@ClayMorgan  Thank you for a great post, I think over time content will be more personalized and targeted. I also think quality over quantity has to be stressed because crap content could be just as much a disservice as no content at all. 


Now you have me wanting to visit NYC too, I  stay away from Times Square when I do visit, too much of a tourist trap for my taste. 

EdenSpodek
EdenSpodek

Oh, and next visit there, I'm sure we'll all be on the lookout for The Playwright Tavern. Thanks for the tip.

EdenSpodek
EdenSpodek

@ClayMorgan You make me want to go back and visit NYC, right now! 


I'm looking forward to more posts like this from you in 2014. Maybe this is taking to simplistic a view but at the end of the day, a personalized, targeted touch is important. You don't need to be someone's best friend but you do need to figure out how to help them and let them know you have a solution. Relationships matter.


I also have a soft spot for you. I'm a niece who was raised by my aunt and uncle for a few years during my teens.

JRHalloran
JRHalloran

I'm glad you brought up these two examples, Clay! 

I was also immediately won over by the good interaction on this blog, not just from Gini but from everyone on it. I was also taken aback when I learned I was the centerpiece for a #FollowFriday session a few weeks ago. 

(I have to say, Gini knows how to make a newcomer feel quite welcome) 

The personal touch to that made me felt like I belonged somewhere (which is one of the essential human needs, if any of you study advertising). 

The guy who spoke to your family directly in New York also exercised the same fundamentals. You were (1) hungry, (2) tired and (3) clueless, so he solved all of those problems for you in one sentence. 

He resolved (1) your desire for food, (2) comfort from fatigue and (3) he properly informed you on what to do and where to go. Three fundamentals of basic human psychology.

lizreusswig
lizreusswig

Really enjoyed this post, @ClayMorgan and it does seem to be on many minds currently. Content overload certainly isn't new, but I think it's becoming more pronounced as more people recognize the benefits and jump in.  Personally, I've pared down my regular reading to just a couple of blogs that I know & love (like Spin Sucks).  I originally came here because I met @ginidietrich IRL and, like you, I found this community to be personal, fun and full of supportive folks who I enjoy. As you point out, the problem for both the established and the new content developers, is reaching and retaining the right audiences and making the experience personal. I really believe IRL opportunities to connect are an important component...and yes, I'm advocating for a Spin Sucks Meetup!


PS - So glad you & the family had a fun time in NYC!  It's my Nirvana and I lived there in the late 90's.  Oddly, I think I may be the only person on the planet whose blood pressure actually drops every time I return! :)

ClayMorgan
ClayMorgan

Not really relevant, but my wife took a lot of photos in Time Square and I still think this is by far my favorite. Just sayin'.

Latest blog post: Livefyre Conversation

RobBiesenbach
RobBiesenbach

Ah, I remember my first visit to Times Square. The three-card monte and shell games and the places offering live sex shows. That was the late 70s, I believe and it was quite eye-opening for a kid!

With that in mind, I thought your story was going to take an ugly turn. Very often those hawkers steer you to someplace terrible, so I'm glad it worked out!

Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes
Joshua Wilner/A Writer Writes

There is a giant echo chamber out there where people write about the same 5 topics over and over again with little distinction.


The moment where you reach out and let your reader know that they are more than just pixels on a page is where you begin to really convince them that you see them as more than just a potential pile of money.


It is powerful.


I hate the echo chamber, boring, dry and life force sucking.

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

@Matt_Cerms @ClayMorgan Such a great point Matt, and isn't that an amazing and rare gift! I feel lucky everyday to know we have such an amazing group of peers here to learn from, support and get support in return. 


There are certain human needs that can't be denied and a community is one of them. That feeling of belonging and being part of something vs. just an outside viewer is part of the reason this blog stands out. As Clay mentions, the content we provide here is great, but it serves only as a starting point. In my opinion the real magic is after...here in the blog community, on social, in group and individual conversation that reach far beyond our little place on the web. 



ClayMorgan
ClayMorgan

@BillSmith3 Thanks Bill. I believe more targeting and personalized content will help the good stuff differentiate from other good stuff.


I loved my short trip to NYC. And I'm not knocking Time Square - it was ultimately cool.

Latest blog post: Livefyre Conversation

ClayMorgan
ClayMorgan

@EdenSpodek Awww... I'm glad to hear it.


Our nieces have been with us since April, and it doesn't look to change anytime soon. As I told a few people, they can stay the next 16 or 18 years if they need to, but much longer and they might wear out their welcome.

Latest blog post: Livefyre Conversation

Word Ninja
Word Ninja

@lizreusswig @ClayMorgan @ginidietrich I was just starting to write a similar comment to Liz's so will say DITTO on overload, pared down reading, meeting Gini, this community and a MEETUP!! Loved how you worked in the NYC encounter, perfect, Clay.

ClayMorgan
ClayMorgan

@RobBiesenbach It turned into a very satisfying lunch for us!  And I LOVED the Square, even with all the marketing and the more aggressive hawkers. The kids got a kick out of it too!

Latest blog post: Livefyre Conversation

biggreenpen
biggreenpen

@RobBiesenbach (side note) I lived in NYC 89-92 and my second job was next to the Port Authority (LOL but it was legit -- I typed up summaries of the news!). I had to get from Grand Central to my  job across 42nd Street. I can verify that it was still "eye opening." When I go back now I'm incredulous at how much different it is. I'll bet Clay got drug to the super Hello Kitty Store on 42nd with all those girls along if it's still there. :-) :-)

Matt_Cerms
Matt_Cerms

@LauraPetrolino I couldn't agree with you more, Laura! It's the snowball effect! I think this community also spurs the best kind of networking. And we all know that starts with generosity and humility. 

BillSmith3
BillSmith3

@ClayMorgan @BillSmith3 My brother worked in NYC for two years on a transfer with Deloitte and I had the opportunity to experience the city more like a local, just walked everywhere and took the subway. My favourite neighbourhoods were TriBeCa, SoHo and the East Village. 


Ok getting back sorta on track. Having custom content tailored to each individual audience member is a long way. This is where all the analytics comes in, help us figure out who the audience/customer is and what makes them tick. 

LauraPetrolino
LauraPetrolino

@ginidietrich @ClayMorgan oh great, look who wins the suck up of the year award! Thanks a lot Clive, now I'm going to have to commission the Blue Angels to do a sky writing in her likeness or something to compete!  Way to go.....

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