There is a dangerous trend towards oversimplifying content marketing, leading to confusion and even boredom with those people we want to reach… Allow me to say: please let’s stop oversimplifying content marketing.
I used to be an avid reader of what my RSS-Reader (Feedly) would feed me. I still have hundreds of sources in there an go through them once or twice per week. Over the past few years I noticed that I was scanning more and more and even if they get me to click, the result is “meh” in most cases. I often find myself shaking my head to certain things which can be subsumed in the tendency to oversimplify a complex topic.
So yesterday I spontaneously tweeted this:
… And I almost immediately got a private message from a person who said I was being pretty arrogant. How could be certain that I already know everything?
So I thought: hey I need to explain this. Not because my tweet was arrogant (or was it?), but because I believe it’s important.
Why it’s wrong to oversimplify (strategic) Content Marketing
Publishers talking about content marketing and businesses who position themselves around the topic (… and publish “content” themselves as a MarCom strategy) understandably have one goal: drawing people in and attracting those who want to learn. But the execution of most of these approaches is basically to run around with a “content shotgun” and pump out the maximum amount of content, reused, repackaged in listicles, tactics and advice like “be relevant” or “give people what they love” which just makes people roll their eyes.
Don’t get me wrong: in itself, it’s not wrong to simplify a topic to make it more accessible. But if everyone starts doing it, you create an incredible amount of noise composed of indifferentiated opinions based on a context that’s not elaborated on and generalizations which can lead people and businesses to do the wrong thing really well. There is no greater wate than doing the wrong thing really well. (Hat Tip Mirko Lange)
When it comes to content marketing (and by that I mean a strategic approach), there is no simple solution because the problem is complex. Content Marketing is another form of approaching Marketing Communications (mostly), because the old ways are working less and less. There’s a strategic problem to be solved here. And strategy is not easy and there is no single best answer to strategic questions. It’s mostly a question of “what’s the best possible option?” and partly it’s a leap of faith.
The common denominator is confusion
I am still quite young but I have the incredible opportunity to work with who I consider to be the best content marketing strategist out there. He developed a platform that aims at making content operations more understandable, efficient and strategic. Therefore I both accompany this mentor of mine on strategy workshops and help businesses implement / “operationalize” this thing called “content marketing”.
There is one common denominator in all of these workshops: from the start we need to clarify what we are talking about and what this thing is. Most people think of the best practices that publishers share, specific formats or channels that come up in simplified explanations or even very specific tool sets.
That’s the result of all this noise out there and publishers simplifying the topic to make it more accessible and driving traffic. The reaction from businesses (or rather people working for those businesses) I’ve had the chance to work with so far: many people roll their eyes or sigh without the many experts noticing.
And yet, since those beautiful charts from google trends tell use that there is more and more interest with regards to the search term “content marketing”, we (in general) keep producing stuff about “content marketing”, making it even more snackable, tactical, tweetable, graspable. What if the search for “content marketing” is a result of confusion? (Just a thought here)
The bottom line is: there’s a certain confusion around the practice, because it’s not only been oversimplified but also made more boring. The worst kind of content.