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It is often said that to succeed in content marketing you must be useful or entertaining. Because by doing this, you’re adding value to people’s lives.

Sadly, most content marketing is neither of these and therefore has no value to the people it lands in front of. It’s just crappy promotional noise that no-one wants in their feeds, inbox or life.

The main reasons for this stem from the fact that most marketers today are playing by yesterday’s rules. Working on assumptions they made in 2012 and have not since revisited.

These assumptions are many, but include:

  • ask questions in social – people will engage with you!
  • jump on topical ‘moments’ – regardless of relevance, people will engage!
  • make a content calendar – to manage the huge amount of content we have to post to be present in our various social media channels

Of course, questions and topicality can work. But when applied with the assumption that they will magically achieve results, without the need for creative quality or insight, we get this:

This example from Bet365 is an inane and pointless social media post that the world doesn’t need. If this is your brand’s contribution to the internet as a whole it’s time to have a fundamental rethink of what the marketing team are doing, and what their objectives are.

Another example from Perrier is less heinous for sure. Some thought has gone into this animation which riffs self-referentially on Banksy’s ‘self-shredding’ artwork stunt in 2018. But to me this feels like a social agency filling the calendar they agreed to fill for $xx per month, to ‘drive engagement’ around their client’s brand.

Whilst nicely executed no-one is asking – is this of inherent value to the person it lands in front of? Because the answer is no, it’s not.

Do Less, Brilliantly

Easy for me to say. I don’t run an agency anymore, and don’t have the pressure of keeping the lights on, and so keeping those clients retained. But I’ve been there and I’ve churned out content because someone agreed to do it for a monthly fee, and the world will fall apart if we don’t keep feeding the beast.

Screenshot by Andrew Macarthy

In hindsight, what I wish I’d done in those early years of social media marketing was ask these questions:

  • Is this of real value to people out there who don’t care about this brand the way that we do? If we didn’t work here would we be happy to see this?
  • Is that value intrinsic, regardless of where it came from? The Michelin Guide is a great example of this – doesn’t matter who wrote it, the thing is inarguably useful.
  • Should we stop for a minute, and ask what the most ambitious version of the above could look like? Is one high-impact thing better than a drip-drip of content?

What could we achieve if we cancelled a month of crappy social posts and created one awesome film instead?

Unfortunately the presence of a content calendar doesn’t push you towards those bigger, more impactful pieces. It encourages anyone who looks at it to fill in the white bits ASAP. And that leads to a protracted drip-feed of the weakest tea imaginable, rather than a damn good coffee in the morning.

In an algorithmically-driven digital world, create less content, with higher impact. Don’t try to sneak in marketing messages, just create media of true value to the people who will love it the most. And then get it to them. Simple 😎


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Featured Image by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash