Last year’s Gartner Digital Marketing Spending Survey showed content marketing in an enviable position, second only to paid media in spending priority. This year, it fell five places to an unremarkable sixth. I’ve explored the potential reasons in previous posts. The crux of the correction? A frustration with the lack of transparency in measuring content performance and the general absence of control and predictability in reaching audiences.
Consequently, we’re now seeing marketers actively invest in content analytics to shine light on content performance and applying paid techniques to amplify content for control and scale.
But I think there’s another factor behind this general cooling on content marketing:
Many marketers are simply boring the stuffing out of their audiences.
I know it’s a harsh indictment, and I don’t mean to diminish anybody’s hard work, but I’d maintain that much of the content marketers produce today is clear testimony to this verdict.
Some of this content is exceptional, but so much is reductive, self referential, laborious. Boring.
Of course boring is in the eye of the beholder and it’s often a judgment that’s attributable to our collectively diminished attention spans and the tyranny of abundant choice that renders us wholly incapable to commit in the face of so many bright and shiny alternatives. But it’s still the effect of much of the content we produce. It’s simply not good enough to command attention.
I think it’s the blog post—the content marketer’s most reliable workhorse—that’s the worst offender here, the most yawn-inducing, the most forgettable (and, yes, I certainly recognize the potentially self-incriminating irony here).
How do you move beyond prosaic prose? How do you make your content come alive?
Here are some tips to consider:
- Summarize insight with a list—lists may be most commonly associated with click-bait style content that tempts audiences with breathless promises for all you need to know on [pick a topic]. But there’s no mistaking the seductiveness of the technique. Audiences crave conversational fluency that’s delivered through summarized insights.
- Use cards to spoon feed a story—in a similar vein, complex stories unpacked and reconstructed in a spoon-fed manner are generally irresistible. Vox.com uses this card-style technique to spoon-feed audiences what they need to know about important news events through a linear progression that yields a coherent understanding without the relative pain of parsing dense commentary and reporting.
- Tell a story with data—the infographic is certainly nothing new, but it continues to be an excellent way to deliver summarized insight in an audience-friendly way. Use data to tell a story and do it with visual appeal and your audiences will generally applaud.
- Set a story in motion—video, too, is nothing new, but it disproportionately preferred by audiences to its textual alternatives. Even this self professed word nerd reaches for the video. What can I say? My eyes are bleary. My cup is full. I’m certainly not alone here.
- Make it interactive—interactive content widgets and marketing apps are on the rise as a way to engage audiences with the content itself. Think polls, quizzes, assessments, calculators, games and choose-your-own-adventure style whitepapers and infographics. The point is to make your audience an active participant in an interactive experience, which is pretty much the opposite of words arranged statically on a page.
How do you think beyond the blog post? Share your ideas here or on Twitter.