Written by Matt Carroll
Content. It’s the word we love to hate. And the thing we hate to love – because right now it’s impossible to go anywhere without falling over the stuff.
The moment you venture online, the trip-wire is triggered and you find yourself bombarded with ‘amazing images’, ‘inspiring stories’ and other things we could, frankly, live without.
We’re not even safe off-line. Like ‘organic’, ‘native’, ‘authentic’– and umpteen other words we’ve flogged to death in recent years – poor old content is sadly lacking when it comes to synonyms. And yet we can’t stop talking about it. Because everyone these days is peddling the stuff, whether you’re an advertising agency, a creative studio, social shop, PR firm or production company. The reason (so we’re constantly told) is that “content is king”. But I beg to differ.
Stop using the C-word
If we put our minds to it, there are plenty of other words we could use to describe what we do. This over-use of the C-word smacks of a certain attitude towards consumers and marketing; namely a belief that the priority is to fill every conceivable channel with something (anything!) – too little thought given about whether the audience is actually interested.
Sure, brands need to be out there, mingling with consumers and creating conversations – but if you talk too much (without actually saying anything) there comes a point where people simply stop listening. Swipe. Switch off. We’ve all seen evidence of it, in the big-budget brand films that attract a handful of views and likes (naming no names).
So how do you avoid being drawn into the content arms race?
Start by stopping. Stop thinking about ‘content’ (what does this even mean, aside from being another word for ‘stuff’?), and instead think about making assets: things that adds value. Because if you’re not doing that then perhaps you should be thinking twice about how you’re spending your budget.
That’s not to say you need to be changing someone’s life in order to add value. It could be as simple as making someone smile, helping them solve a problem or challenge; sharing something fascinating or inspiring. But whatever it is, make it genuinely meaningful and relevant to people’s lives.
Switch to an editorial mindset
This is key if you’re to avoid just being wallpaper. The most successful digital marketers are those who fully understand their consumers and (more importantly) know the distinction between a consumer and an audience.
So why not focus less on what your competitors are doing, and instead think more about what you believe as a brand – what you stand for, what your purpose is – and how you can add value to the people you’re trying to engage?
Because a truly engaged audience doesn’t need to be sold to. They’ll readily listen.