Why it makes the most sense to quit your content marketing
30 second summary:
- Most marketers diversify their content programs too quickly and jeopardize the program from the start
- Successful content marketers and media companies focus on fewer platform channels
- Instead of adding more channels, it works better to turn off underperforming channels
- Do a content review to find out which channels you should stop creating content
The problem just got out of hand. Just because a company or individual can create and distribute content on a platform doesn’t mean they should. But it happens … and it kills content marketing strategies all over the world.
I had the opportunity to analyze big brands’ content marketing strategies and desperately try to use content marketing to build an online audience. In almost all cases, everyone made the same mistake.
You’re diversifying too quickly.
Let me explain.
When an organization decides to fund a content marketing strategy, the first stages are always exciting. It is an exhausting process to decide which target group and which content niche to address. Once that’s done, the company is ready to start creating – anywhere.
Shall we do a blog? Check. How about a YouTube video series? Yes to that. Podcast? For sure. TikTok series? Why not. Email newsletter? I guess so.
Then add about five more social media channels and you have a content marketing strategy of your own.
Just not good.
According to research by the Content Marketing Institute, the average company creates content on 14 to 16 different platforms.
Success with this type of strategy is like winning the lottery. It just won’t happen.
Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.
One channel. A content type.
The greatest audience-forming units of all time selected a main channel for building their platform:
- Financial Times – printed newspaper
- Fortune – printed journal
- TED talks – face-to-face events
- ESPN – cable television program
- Huffington Post – online magazine format
- The Joe Rogan Experience – Podcast Show
- PewDiePie – YouTube series
Even in today’s social media age, content empires start with one platform as the core base of operation and over time mainly deliver content in that one place to build audiences.
For my new book ‘Content Inc.’ we interviewed and analyzed more than 100 individuals and small businesses that went from zero subscribers to large audiences. After two or three years, these content empires became multi-million dollar platforms.
The interesting part is that they weren’t immediately diversified, but instead focused on delivering valuable content consistently, mostly on a channel and content type, choosing audio, video, or text plus images.
- How to Cook That’s Ann Reardon decided to create consistent videos and share them on YouTube
- Philip Werner from ‘com’ creates and delivers a blog post with text and images every day on his website developed by WordPress
- Wally Koval from ‘Accidentally Wes Anderson’ shared one picture per day on Instagram, including amazing text details describing the place
However, these are the exceptions. Most content marketing strategies run short-term flashes (sometimes called campaigns) that diversify ahead of the time.
The content marketing strategy is about saying “no”.
When deciding on a content marketing strategy with the goal of building a loyal and trusting audience over time, you must actually choose not to create and distribute content in certain places.
But what if you’re already on multiple platforms? If you already have a content marketing strategy in place, now is probably the time to shut down some of your channels.
We always want more. We believe more is better. When you start a new content promotion, “Master of None, Jack of all trades” never works. How did Amazon become the most valuable company in the world? For three years the company only sold books. Once they perfected this model, they only started selling other things. A proper content marketing strategy is exactly the same.
Successful content initiatives work because they start their journey with an amazing newsletter, video series, amazing personal event, or blog, rather than 100 random pieces of content that don’t cause behavior change.
The focus has something. It has to do with being really remarkable about something. The problem is, you have to choose. You have to stop creating content all over the place and focus on what’s really important and what’s really moving the needle.
The four components
Whether you’re a media company, large corporation, or content entrepreneur, building a loyal audience has four key components.
First, identify a target audience
Choose too broad an audience and you have already failed.
Second, you need a scope of differentiation
We call this a content propensity. Why would someone want to study your content on a regular basis? Mark Schaefer, the author of Cumulative Advantage, calls this “finding the seam”. This is a content loophole that you can take advantage of to break through the clutter.
Third, identify the primary content platform
The one that makes the most sense for your storytelling. This is determined by both your area of expertise and the audience.
And finally, choose your primary content type
These can look like videos on YouTube, text / pictures in an email, audio in a podcast, and pictures on Instagram.
When do I diversify to other platforms?
Did you know that Red Bull Media House started out with a mini magazine that they gave away at Formula 1 races? To record the results after the race, they actually dragged a Heidelberg press onto the track and printed it next to the track.
This mini magazine became the “Red Bulletin” magazine. After building what Copyblogger’s Brian Clark calls a minimum viable audience, they have (and only then) diversified into the billion dollar media conglomerate they are today.
The focus and energy that went into making Red Bulletin great has paid off. However, this is not uncommon for successful content empires. All major media companies have been doing this and have been doing that for years. Check out ‘The Morning Brew’. They focused almost entirely on creating an amazing email newsletter for years. Once they built an audience of over 100,000 subscribers, they switched to the podcasts and the numerous other targeted digital newsletters they had successfully developed.
So set an audience / subscriber target and focus all your energy on reaching that number. Once you have a loyal audience who love you and are likely to buy something from you, you can move on to another platform.
But what about social media?
Of course, you can keep your precious social media channels. That means you have to think differently about them. What is the goal? Is it for research and development? Content Enhancement? Build subscribers? Regardless of the goal, make sure it matches your core platform.
Let’s check out ‘The Hustle’ newly acquired by Hubspot. The goal of Hustle on Twitter is to be interesting to the target audience every day and ultimately to attract new subscribers to their email newsletter. Everything they do on Twitter supports their platform strategy.
Bob Ross has produced ~ 30,000 paintings in his lifetime.
Almost 3x the edition of Picasso.
But find one for sale online?
That’s a whole different story. @zzcrockett with the shovel: https: //t.co/O5tEz2JXRd
– The Hustle (@TheHustle) May 2, 2021
So yeah, you don’t have to shut down all of your social media, but it is imperative that you align your goals with your platform.
Try to kill one
Building a working platform is a challenge for companies of all sizes. We all have limited resources in some ways.
The best advice is to do an honest analysis of your activities. Maybe this podcast just doesn’t make sense. Maybe this YouTube series is a waste of time? Or maybe not.
Do a simple content check and then kill something. Kill something so you can do something better. Who knows, maybe your podcast or email newsletter could be amazing, but you just haven’t focused enough from tinkering with Facebook groups or TikTok.
Make the tough decisions now so you can build the audience of your dreams later.
Joe Pulizzi is the author of the best-selling content marketing book Content Inc. and the founder of the content creation news site, The Tilt.