Why content is no longer king

| Wednesday November 10

Here's why. Saying "content is king" fails to convey three critical factors massively impacting digital marketing strategy success:-

  • Reach
  • Relevance
  • Conversion

Dark content, never read

The world is drowning in unread great digital content. With over two million blog posts made globally every day and an ever expanding fire hose of articles blasting through Facebook and Twitter, it's not hard to see how great content can quickly get lost. Last year, on average per minute:-

  • Facebook users shared nearly 2.5 million posts
  • Twitter users tweeted nearly 300,000 times
  • Instagram users posted nearly 220,000 new photos.
  • YouTube users uploaded 72 hours of new video content.

(SOURCE: Data Never Sleeps)

The content strategy success equation

Great content moves people to change, to take action, to think differently or experience a worth while feeling. But no matter how great, without reach nobody is going to do or experience anything. Today reach for someone starting out with a content marketing strategy is usually zero.

Once you build an audience, reach numbers can be very misleading. If you post to a social channel or consider the number of times an article appeared in  search results, reach is usually calculated based on the number of people that saw the link to your content.

But there is a world of difference between seeing a post in a stream of content and reading it or even noticing it. The difference can be a great eye catching image, the right headline or just good timing.

When you finally engage attention with a click, the next problem is presentation. Is the content in the right format for the device the user is on? Has it been designed in a way that facilitates the intention - to entertain, to inform or to allow a decision to be made - all have differing requirements.

Finally, if the intent is for the reader to take action, has the call to action been designed to maximize conversion - perhaps to subscribe, start a product trial or request more information? The right location, the right button label, the right headline, the right copy? Even content without an immediate intention to lead a customer to action usually at least has the mission of building trust by increasing credibility and familiarity, which will ultimately be cashed in at some future action point - so conversion tracking is still possible.

Great content  X  no reach  X  no relevance X
no conversion = zero value.

Slightly average content with good reach, relevance and conversion is still a better result than great content executed with just one of those factors missing.

If you still have doubts, check the front page of Reddit and see what the hottest stories for the day are. Many will be poorly written and badly photographed, but they have all the other factors well tuned and the consensus of thousands of up-votes to prove it.

A small no content experiment

Clearly, content is just a part of a good digital marketing strategy. You can even achieve success executing a content strategy with no content of your own at all apart from a good tweet, simply by curating other peoples content. I tried this exact approach with a startup I launched recently, and built over 350 quality followers, thousands of company profile views and a significant number of product sign-ups. All without any content of my own. That was just a small experiment which proved a strategy that could easily be made to scale.

Content Challenges

Consumers are quick to punish brands that parade thinly veiled advertising as legitimate content. Most brands face a serious up hill battle trying to establish trust when it comes to delivering content with only 18% of people trusting emails and a mere 15% trusting social network content from brands. Content, it seems, falls way short if executed badly.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are websites turning popcorn quality content into big dollars by focusing primarily on all the aforementioned other factors. You've probably seen posts in your Facebook feed and maybe even clicked - only to find a smidgen of content surrounded by ads sometimes disguised as navigation buttons. I'm thinking buzzfeed.com and viralcircus.com for starters.

So, what is content?

Content is a tactic. It serves a purpose and is not an end in itself. Ultimately it is only useful as part of a broader strategy and just one of several critical factors in digital marketing success.

About the author

Andy Farrell is a serial entrepreneur with over 17 years digital experience, a startup hacker, product manager and founder of Eventsity.com, (a cool event marketing application providing event organizers a mobile friendly event website, ticketing & registration, email marketing, web analytics and reporting).

Photo courtesy of Tambako