How do you escape mediocrity in content marketing?
The digital revolution has changed many things for the better. It hasn’t done much for the average quality of content, though.
Look, I get it. I’ve been blogging for a long time and I’ve put out my fair share of mediocre content, too. When I read some of my old blog posts, I cringe. Some of my newer ones are cringe, too. Putting out good content is a challenge — especially if you’re not some sort of artist to begin with.
In many ways, we’re all media companies now. For better or worse.
It’s a grim irony of the information age that our most successful media companies, like Google and Facebook, doesn’t really produce any content themselves.
Still, content marketing done right is a massive opportunity with enormous potential for ROI. The “only thing” holding anyone of us back is the honeytrap of publishing, checking it off as “done”, and then being indifferent to the fact that your content will never get noticed.
How do we escape mediocrity in content marketing?
The fallacy of the long tail
The long tail theory typically looks at availability versus popularity.
For instance, a B2B brand could publish highly useful content that is unique and relevant to a very specific group of people. Anyone searching actively for such content would eventually find it, simply due to the content’s uniqueness.
An online bookstore, however, with millions of titles in various demand will outcompete a physical store with “only” thousands of popular books. The long tail has, via publishing platforms and social networks, democratised media in many ways. From a social media- and search engine perspective, the long tail theory turned out to be good news for niche content creators.
But, is it still that simple?
A decade ago, such a strategy worked flawlessly. At that time, online publics were still very in an exploration phase. This exploration phase was a cornerstone of the hippie webb (ca. 2007-2011). Today, human online behaviour and exploitation is centered around the money web (ca. 2012 and onwards).
The phase of online exploration has gradually worn off. As more and more interests are looking to capitalise on their online activities, people are becoming increasingly aware of how they divide their attention. With it, the bar for content quality has risen.
In a fascinating turn of events, the long tail theory is steadily becoming a theory for e-commerce success explicitly, where you begin by offering the greatest long-tail coverage for a hyper-specific niche — and then you grow slowly into additional hyper-specific niches in unison with your customer base.
But the long-tail theory has long ceased to be significant for the type of mediocre corporate content that many of us puts out on a regular basis.
Empty wastelands of mediocre content
After years and years of online marketing struggles without good-enough results, many businesses are slowly coming to the conclusion that mediocrity just won’t cut it anymore.
The sufficient level of content quality, it seems, is akin to an invisible stone wall between two online territories. On one side of the wall, we find green pastures and fertile soil — and lots of people. On the other side, there’s nothing but empty wastelands. And apparently, this is where your m business has zero true fans.
It’s the desolate plains of corporate cringe.
When you find yourself on the wrong side of this stone wall, you can publish your corporate content however often you can, but nothing ever seems to grow in these desolated long tail-plains. You need to get yourself over that stone wall and into the territory on the other side of that wall where there are real people.
“The only sin is mediocrity.”Martha Graham
But what will it take?
What is content quality, really?
To be allowed into the lush territory inhabited by real people, producing and publishing great content seems to be a passport of sorts.
If you produce and publish Game of Thrones, people will gather to watch in hoards. But we’re not HBO. We’re organisations that produce and sell anything from toothpaste to medical equipment. We provide products and services. Whether for profit or not, we’re organisations that make society work.
A new line of server appliances or having the best avocados on the market will never be as interesting as the bloody struggles of the Seven Kingdoms.
The harsh reality is that the algorithms have raised the bar for content quality considerably. We can easily appreciate that the algorithms will sort out lousy and bad content, but we must also get used to the idea of them doing away with average and good content, too.
Raising out of the ashes of content mediocrity
“Do better,” isn’t helpful advice. It’s the equivalent of telling a lost soul dying of thirst in the scorching desert to “drink some water”.
However, “do less of what obviously isn’t working” is useful.
If you’re investing valuable resources into producing mediocre content today, there’s always the option of allocating those efforts differently tomorrow. Bear in mind that there’s no general content shortage online; you could simply focus your efforts to raise the quality.
Yes, this means putting out less content. Yes, less content will mean taking a hit in reach short-term. Taking a hit in reach will mean less conversions — temporarily.
But putting out high-quality evergreen content consistently at a lower frequency will gain momentum and propel patient and consistent brands over that stone wall. And raising the bar for content quality will instill new and valuable processes in your organisations.
No more corporate platitudes. No more corporate cringe.
When you finally push pass critical mass, your content marketing will soar. You will start to touch people’s hearts and minds.
How to avoid mediocrity in content marketing
If you find yourself stuck in the non-fertile and rugged online wasteland where nothing your organisation says or does ever get traction, what should you do?