What Do You Want Your Content To Do?

Mitch JoelPosted by

What do you want your content to do?

Have you asked this question? Do you ask it before you begin creating it? Do you even know how important it is to be asking this question? I don’t charge anybody for this content. I don’t charge anybody to listen to my weekly podcast. I don’t charge anybody for all of the links, thoughts and ramblings that pass through my earholes in places like Facebook and Twitter. If you buy one of my two books (Six Pixels of Separation or CTRL ALT Delete), those have to be bought (unless you’ve stolen them). If you want me to speak at your event, I will charge you.

Content isn’t one thing. Content is many things. Content does many things.

There’s a rationale behind my thinking. At a macro level, all of the content on the blog, podcast and micro-content curated in the social media platforms is a way for me to build awareness. Awareness of Mirum (what used to Twist Image). Awareness of how we think about brands and consumers. Awareness of what brands should be doing to better connect… and more. In short, as much work as I put into the content (and, yes, it is more work than many might imagine), it is not content that I ever wanted to monetize. It was promotional. It was an inbound marketing strategy. There are no ads or sponsorship on this content (or surrounding it), because there is already a sponsor and advertiser: Mirum (our marketing agency). The idea is that the content is solid, that it provides value to you and – if everything goes well – and someone’s in need of digital marketing services, that they think about Mirum and all of the value that our content has provided in the marketplace for well over a decade.

Most brands… and even individuals… don’t really know what they want their content to do.

We have become flooded with content. Content is the new advertising. Only, it can be placed – without media dollars – anywhere and everywhere. Smart brands are now supplementing their content creation with ad support. In short, they’re buying ads to drive attention to content. If that works, the content will stick, and consumers will buy from the brand. That doesn’t sound like a smarter plan than advertising to create attention, awareness or transaction, it sounds like another (much more complex) layer.

So, what do you want your content to?

Content can…

  • add more depth to a product or service.
  • be a great tutorial.
  • establish a brand as an expert.
  • tell a more humane story.
  • encourage consumers to take action.
  • get people talking and sharing.
  • get people to spend more time with a brand in a more frequent way.
  • be a great engine of customer service.
  • add a new layer of brand storytelling.
  • become an engine of loyalty and trust.

If you don’t know what your content is doing, it is hard to position it correctly.

What are we seeing? I’m seeing people using content to establish themselves as an expert, and then suddenly attempting to sell their content. I’m seeing brands trying to get consumer to buy things by creating content without a call to action. It’s exciting to think of all of the amazing things that content can do, in a world that has been dominated by advertising models. It’s sad to see brands turn their content into (poor) ads. It’s sad to see super-smart people forget that making their words and ideas accessible to everybody will build their platform in a more profound way (and lead to paying gigs), instead of trying to charge for their blog, because people buy magazines… so why not try that to?

Content is a curious thing.

Likes, followers, shares, people who leave comments, and building a real community. These are true. These are valid. But, because of the sheer volume of content being published, they are also fleeting. Someone who loved your podcast last week (and shared it with everyone) may not listen to another episode for months. Content is something that sticks when the guts of it are credible, when it’s created with a high level of consistency, and when it’s published in a frequent and predictive timeframe. This makes it a heavy commitment. This means that if you’re creating content, and the reason that you’re doing it doesn’t match the platform its on, the audience it’s trying to reach and doesn’t have an endgame unto itself, it’s probably nothing more than another form of advertising.

There’s nothing wrong with that, just know that it won’t have the same impact.