How to Win a Content Arms Race – Whiteboard Friday
Posted by randfish
Ever feel like you're neck and neck with your competitors in the mad dash to produce exciting, unique content? The push for content generation has taken off across all industries lately, and it's not surprising that content strategy feels like it's turning into an arms race.
In this week's Whiteboard Friday, Rand shares his tips on entering the content arms race and what you can do to come out victorious in your space. Content marketers, to your battle stations!
"Howdy, SEOmoz fans, and welcome to this edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week, I wanted to talk a little bit about content strategy, specifically as it relates to content arms races. I've been noticing that many folks in our community and the marketing community overall have said, "Boy, it's not just me anymore who's investing in content, trying to share that content through search and through social networks. It's all my competitors too."
So we're almost getting into this like content arms race type of environment, which is tough. I recognize that. I also recognize that I do a terrible job drawing a guy with a knife and another guy with what looks like a shower head. They both have guns and shower heads. I don't know why, but they're in an arms race for content, because content marketing is becoming so popular. Because of that, you need to take extra steps to go above and beyond what your competitors do in order to win in this space.
So first thing I'm recommending is choose some creative content formats. A lot of folks, when they get into content marketing, they think, "Oh, we're going to have a blog. Maybe we're going to have a forum. Maybe we're going to have some articles and some white papers we put out." Those are fine, but you should think beyond that.
So in the SaaS world and the enterprise world, a lot of people extend immediately into webinars. Some people get into slide shows. I would also urge you to think about video. Whiteboard Friday itself, a very effective content marketing tool. I think we started Whiteboard Friday long before we knew what content marketing really was or content strategy.
Conversations. You can see a lot of people using conversations, Q & A types of formats, forums, using their communities to build conversations, and even the blog comments becoming conversations.
Comics. Comics have been really huge on the Web. You can see people like XKCD having a ton of success, and lots of folks in the marketing world and in the B2B world even trying to leverage some comical stuff.
Graphics. Certainly if you can produce high quality graphics, photos, imagery, whatever you're capturing.
Graph and charts. If you can assemble data, even if you don't create the data yourself or you're not responsible for the data, if you build the charts yourself, wow, you can really win with that.
Interactive tools. These ones are extremely hard to replicate. If you are the source, the resource, in your industry for that particular type of tool, man, no one is going to take you. You've got a win.
Next step, share what others are unwilling or unable to share, and this can be highly valuable. So when I say "unwilling," what I'm really talking about is some people aren't willing to go to the length of transparency to share data from their own campaigns or data from their networks, or they don't have a large enough community to be able to survey, or they don't have a network where they can reach out to folks who have that type of information or can make those kinds of contributions. Maybe they don't have the financial resources to bring in expertise or to commission a public study or whatever it is that you have an advantage on. That could be your size, your nimbleness, your community, your creativity. Do those things that you're competitors cannot or will not do, and that includes data from your contacts, but also investing beyond what is reasonable.
So I like to think of this as the quality sort of beats quantity approach. Now, this is true for two things. The first one I'd say is that it's not always the case that quality wins out, but if you do these couple of things right, it can. Number one is being able to create resources that no one can do a better job of. What's great about that is it means you can actually steal ideas from your competitors, from the rest of the marketplace, from the media, reproduce them yourselves in a better way, do an even better job. "Oh, there was this study, and we decided to replicate the results, and we have an even larger audience for it, and so we've got even more data. We asked a few questions that were really missing in the first one. We used an even better method." Blah, blah, blah, blah.
You should go for consistency here. So consistency and quantity are often tied together in people's minds. This is not actually the case. Just because you're consistent doesn't necessarily mean that you have to produce a huge volume. Two times a month in terms of a great piece of content, even once a month can work out just fine. Think of one of our favorite content marketing examples in the inbound marketing world has been, for the last few years, OkTrends, the OkCupid blog, and they were literally producing sometimes a blog post only once every two or three months, but it was fairly consistent. Now it's dropped off after the acquisition, but still very exciting stuff.
I would urge you, if you haven't already, to think about how you can build a community. A community for marketing content is invaluable because it means that the amplification of your message and of the content that you share is so much broader than what you could get otherwise. If you don't have a community, your competitors almost certainly can win by building up one.
If you don't have one, there are a few things you can do to leverage some. Number one, bring in people who have communities of their own and ask them for contributions. Sometimes you may need to pay them. Sometimes you can offer them exposure, an audience, something else, a high quality speaker, a great resource that you bring into your site. Sometimes you can even go as far as to say, "Hey, you know what, we're the New York Times, and we really love these Freakonomics guys, and we'd like them to blog for us." There you go. Now the Freakonomics blog exists on the New York Times itself. Same thing with 538, the popular political science blog from Nate Silver.
My last recommendation here, in terms of investing in places where your competitors aren't, is to hit the long tail. By long tail what I mean is if there's a direct funnel, if you think about consumers coming to your site and content marketing sort of being at the top of that funnel, it's going to bring people in who are potentially interested in your product. You can think about that funnel as getting deeper and deeper, and a lot of folks focus on the deeper parts of the funnel. That's where a lot of content marketing happens because they want people in the buying cycle, down and engaged in the buying cycle. What I'd urge you to do, think about it even higher up. Those long tail searches that people are performing, the videos and content and interactive tools and stuff that they are using long before they're even potentially interested in your product, and then you can reach people and brand them and have content marketing success where your competitors aren't even trying to compete with you. They're not even investing.
All right, everyone. I hope you've enjoyed this edition of Whiteboard Friday, and we'll see you again next week. Take care."
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