Content – Why less is more
“Why do we need two dozen hot dogs?” This was my question as my husband and I shopped for the upcoming holiday weekend. We are planning a small cookout with our neighbors, and even if we each wolfed down four hot dogs, 24 would be way too many. Looking slightly wounded by my query, my husband responded, “Because they’re on sale.” Sigh.
After some debate, we ended up buying a much smaller quantity of bratwurst, which are a bit more expensive, but in my opinion, much tastier. When it comes to food, I prefer quality over quantity. That axiom holds true for many things, including content.
Marketing is all the rage these days, and for good reason: Studies show that 70% of internet users would rather learn about products through good content than advertising.
As a result, brands are generating more content than ever before. But, here’s the thing: Total consumer engagement with that branded content has not increased. According to a study by Beckon (which aggregates data for many of the biggest brands), the average number of content pieces that brands created and posted in the last 12 months more than tripled compared to the previous 12 months, while customer engagement (views, clicks, likes, forwards, etc.) was flat overall from year to year. The study further revealed that interactions were concentrated among a few pieces of content. Specifically, just 5% of the content received 90% of total consumer engagements.1
What this suggests is that more is not better. While the study did not analyze why only a small number of content pieces garnered the majority of attention, we can surmise that it has to do with quality and distribution (i.e., are you putting your content in the places that your target audience looks for information?). We’ll leave the topic of distribution for another day and focus on quality.
In some ways, quality is very subjective (like my preference for German sausages). What appeals to one person will not necessarily appeal to another. However, there are a few general elements that make content effective, including:2
- Originality – People can be exposed to thousands of pieces of content each day. What makes your blog, article, video or white paper stand out? Is your topic unique? Is the angle or voice you’ve chosen to use interesting? Are you providing new insights? If not, it’s likely your content will be passed over like carrot sticks on a buffet of yummy treats.
- Relevancy – Good content is useful, not promotional. It should provide information that your target audience wants. Does your content help solve a problem for your customers, answer a question they’ve been struggling with, or guide them along the buyers’ journey? Does it address their pain points and help them grow their business? In other words, are you serving hot dogs, when they really want bratwursts or vice versa?
- Accessibility – Your content should be inviting and engaging. Using subheads or bullet points, especially in longer formats, improves readability and allows your audience to skim information before diving into it. Of course, it goes without saying that content must be well written and easy to follow, with discernible points. It should go down as smooth as a cold beer on a hot summer day.
The bottom line: Taking the time to produce high quality content that is both relevant and useful to your audience is more effective than simply churning out pages of information and hoping that something hits the right mark. In fact, you might be doing more harm than good.
Oops, time to go. I must stop my husband from buying the 5-pound tub of no-brand potato salad!
1 “Marketing Truth or Marketing Hype,” Beckon (www.Beckon.com), 2016.
2 “The Three Factors That Make Content Successful,” by Jayson DeMers, Forbes, 11/20/15.