Is “content marketing” dead?

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Nathan KontnyBlockedUnblockFollowFollowing
CEO of Highrise (http://highrisehq.com), spin-off of Basecamp. 2x Y Combinator alum. Created Draft (http://draftin.com)
4 hrs ago4 min read

Is “content marketing” dead?

Felipe Barbosa asked a question on Inbound.org recently that generated a lot of great conversation, “Do you think content marketing will become so competitive that people will just ignore it?Reposting my answer:

Every time someone visits the Facebook News Feed there are on average 1,500 potential stories from friends, people they follow and Pages for them to see.

That’s a 3 year old stat Buffer reported in their article: We’ve Lost Nearly Half Our Social Referral Traffic in the Last 12 Months

Buffer has suffered at their content and social game, and they’re one of the best ones doing it.

It’s inundated. It’s getting harder and harder to play. It’s clear there’s a problem if you wanted to make a dent in your business with “content marketing”. Now what do we do about it? Two big things come to mind.

1) Get better.

Most of us are still pretty poor at creating content. Afterall, most of us do it part time while we do other things like make products, customer support, HR, do sales, etc. etc. So we don’t commit to creating things like articles, lessons, whitepapers as if it were a craft we were committing our whole lives to. Then we’re inundated with garbage content anyone could have written. Listicles that are recycled over and over from one publication to the next.

So instead of treating it like a hobby, hire people who do it professionally. Of course if you’re still in the early phases of starting a business and it’s just you wearing a dozen hats, we really need to commit to become better creators ourselves.

Want to write better content? Become a better writer. Study how writers have excelled at their craft. Especially storytelling. How do storytellers keep people rapt with attention? How do movie makers keep people in their seats for 2 hours? How do novelists break through the clutter? They’ve been working at figuring it out far longer than we have on the internet.

Take a writing class. Attend a Moth event. Study film like a film student rather than a consumer trying to turn off their alpha waves.

I think most people struggling with making better content really need to take a step back and figure out how to become better students.

2) Find new channels.

One big hint: kids want to become YouTubers. They aren’t reading PDFs or sharing whitepapers.

What makes that so interesting, is that most of us as people running businesses and creating content just really don’t understand it. Yet.

We see YouTube and it’s like oh we can post a video of us talking about our business or sharing business advice. That doesn’t really cut it. The next generation has far different expectations of what they want out of the video they consume.

Pranks, visual effects, action sports, makeup tutorials, vlogging. Snapchat is a form of communication. YouTube is now a serious career goal. There are so many lessons in how those folks record and create content.

It’s a big reason I’ve moved so much time from my writing schedule over to video production and editing. I used to spend a considerable chunk of my time writing what I think is fair to say some decently interesting articles. But as time has progressed, I see they get less traffic and less and less engagement.

So at the risk of stopping what works, I’ve now started making terrible YouTube videos, like filming myself talking to my cell phone camera in my bedroom. Turned out terrible. Terrible lighting. Terrible sound. Terrible image quality.

But I noticed people still seemed to enjoy them. So I upped my frequency and attempt at getting better. I invested more time in learning how people take interesting shots, how they talk to the camera, how they set up lighting. What kind of equipment produces what results.

It’s been a fascinating journey. I made a fairly quick jump to about 700 subscribers and I can see engagement improving. Still, a far cry from the millions of subscribers and views the top YouTubers are getting, but I still remember only have 50 Twitter followers once too and I know I was able to change that.

I think we need to take some risks at experimenting with these new channels. And not just a “let me install Snapchat on my phone and try it for a few minutes” kind of experiment. But treat it like a craft. Treat it like a 14 year old girl who snaps hundreds of times a day, every day from first thing in the morning until she falls asleep. There’s gold in them thar hills we just have to go deep exploring some new hills.

And of course, YouTube and Snapchat is going to feel like next Twitter (or even MySpace) one day. Then something will be next. There’s always something next.

Here’s an interesting resource. Alison, an employee here at Highrise, runs an awesome program called Girls to the Moon, running some neat events for teenage girls to explore science, engineering and business. Alison also interviews these girls in a podcast on what’s important in their worlds. Fascinating lessons.

P.S. You should follow my YouTube channel, where I share more about how history, psychology, and science can help us create better businesses. And if you find yourself overwhelmed while starting your own small business or handling customer support, check out how Highrise can help!

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    Go to the profile of Nathan Kontny

    Nathan Kontny

    CEO of Highrise (http://highrisehq.com), spin-off of Basecamp. 2x Y Combinator alum. Created Draft (http://draftin.com)

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    Signal v. Noise

    Strong opinions and shared thoughts on design, business, and technology. Since 1999. Work together the easy way with our all-new version 3 at https://basecamp.com


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