This intersection of finite content consumption and rising content availability will create a tremor I call The Content Shock. In a situation where content supply is exponentially exploding while content demand is flat, we would predict that individuals, companies, and brands would have to “pay” consumers more and more just to get them to see the same amount of content.
– Mark Schaefer, “Content Shock: Why content marketing is not a sustainable strategy“
I consume a massive amount of content each day. I subscribe to over a dozen industry journals, reading (well, skimming) dozens of articles from each site each week. Plus I spend my days on social media, often clicking on interesting links – and that doesn’t even include the one or two trashy novels I read a week (I’m not a big sleeper).
I’m not particularly unusual. I suspect that most of us read and view a huge amount of content every day, and far more now than we did even two years ago. So when Mark Schaefer wrote his Content Shock article in January, it created quite a stir among content marketers: is it possible that people will hit a content consuming wall and just shut off, and all of our efforts are doomed?
There are definitely issues with content in the digital space. We’ve all grown tired of “viral farms” that mass produce a ridiculous amount of “You Won’t Believe What This Guy Did” linkbait articles (I particularly love Sonia Simon’s article at Copyblogger where she calls this stuff, “Content Reguritated as Product” or, CRaP). But this doesn’t mean content marketing is at all doomed.
More than 100 articles were written claiming that Mark Schaefer got it wrong – so many that he wrote a follow-up article highlighting the six arguments denouncing his piece. In that article I think he gets much deeper into the heart of the matter. In the first argument raised against content shock – that amazing content will always rise to the top – he points out that great content is just the tip of the iceberg. You also need to consider everything from SEO to author authority to distribution and more. “Lots of wonderful content will never see the light of day because the site owners don’t have the budget, resources, or ability to work on these other success factors consistently,” states Mr. Schaefer in his second article. “The increased economic pressures caused by overwhelming information density will exacerbate this challenge for some businesses.”
This element is particularly challenging to some of my clients, who are often small businesses using content strategy as a way to grow their businesses and professional profiles. How can they create content that meets their marketing goals but doesn’t eat their entire marketing budget – and get eyeballs on that content?
When I speak with my clients about content marketing, I often need to start at the beginning, and address why they need content in the first place. With the idea of “content shock” blasting through the content marketing industry, some clients are getting a bit gunshy. But no one should abandon their content marketing strategy yet.
Small businesses can still benefit from content marketing.
Here’s what I advise my clients.
Think Inside The Box: Create Content Your Customers Need
Do you get asked the same question multiple times a week by customers? Well, there you go – there’s a starting point for your content right there. Answer your customers’ questions in your blog posts, and your content will reach exactly who it needs to – and free up some time in your day.
Don’t Worry So Much About SEO.
I know, I know – SEO is still important. But the truth is this: between the changes to search engine algorithms and the penalties dished out for SEO shortcuts, you don’t need to think of every piece of content from an SEO standpoint. Semantic search – where search engines look at intent and context in searches, instead of just at keywords – means your content will work for you organically if you are addressing customer concerns.
Focus On Social, But Keep Most Content At Home.
Giving away your best content on social media sites has been the standard marketing procedure for a while, but is becoming less and less effective, particularly on Facebook. You don’t own your space on social media sites; you’re just a renter and they are the evil landlords that can evict you at any moment. So keep your content on your site and use your social tools to promote it, rather than having your best stuff live where you’re just renting.
Yes, the world of content has been turned on its head in these last couple of years, and content with a visual element gets more clicks than content without it. This doesn’t mean you need to spend hours of time creating beautifully produced videos, but you also shouldn’t simply pop a stock photo into your content and call it a day either. Finding that balance can be a challenge – and you don’t want to abandon text either (it provides context) – but it will be worth it.
So much content today is viewed on smart phones and tablets. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, you will pay dearly – and not just in the loss of eyeballs on your content. It can also hurt your SEO because Google is penalizing sites that have slow load times and don’t work well on mobile.
So should you be worried about content shock?
As a small business? Probably not. Real world content – content that shows your company’s passion, helps your customers, and proves you are a thought leader – will always rise to the top and cut through the noise. However, if you only create the “CRaP” I mentioned above, yes, you should worry. That kind of content has a lot less value, and people are already experiencing a kind of viral fatigue.
But if your content stays on target, you will be fine. We are a looooong way from content shock.