Balancing Content Marketing Quantity And Quality

Are you sacrificing content marketing quality for quantity?

How can you start producing better quality content while still keeping up with the pace of the content you are already committed to across various channels?

That question is exactly what I asked Mark W. Schaefer, best-selling author of three marketing books, globally-recognized blogger, speaker, educator, business consultant and author who blogs at {grow} — one of the top marketing blogs of the world.

What was Mark W. Schaefer’s advice?

Rich Content

Schaefer was quick to emphasize the importance of using rich content to really get the most out of social media and content marketing. “Usually a Facebook post or a LinkedIn update isn’t going to do it. You need to identify something deeper, something richer that’s going to allow you to establish your voice of authority and also search engine benefits over time.”

According to Schaefer, for most companies that rich source of content is typically a blog, a video series or a podcast. He told us a lot of people are surprised when he mentions podcasts.

“It’s kind of a mature technology. It’s been around for a while. But, podcasting is actually hot right now because of the perpetuation of mobile devices. Basically, you’re carrying a radio station around in your pocket now, and so you might not be able to read a blog post when you’re working out or driving your car, but you can listen to a podcast. So, podcasts should not be overlooked.”

Quantity versus Quality 

Quantity does have an impact on content marketing success, Schaefer explained. But, he was eager to point out that all of the changes that he is seeing, with Google and other search engines, point to a changing emphasis on quality.

“A lot of the old SEO tricks, backlinks and so forth just aren’t working like they used to because Google is really trying to emphasize original content, original authors, articles, posts that get legitimate social shares as being legitimately of quality. So, I think over time, quality is going to win out. Quantity, I think, has an impact today, but I do think there needs to be an emphasis on quality.”

How Do You Stand Out? 

“How do you keep that emphasis on quality when there is so much work to do, and the competition is heating up in this area for most businesses?” asked Schaefer.

He went on to explain there are three strategies that marketers need to focus on to make sure our content maintains our mindshare with our customers.

Strategy 1: Be Helpful, Useful, Relevant and Human

The first question a marketer should ask when looking for ways to improve content marketing and social media quality is, “can we be more helpful, useful, relevant and human?”

Schaefer explained further that he believes there is also going to be an emphasis in the near future on being entertaining, and that this will be difficult for a lot of B2B companies to manage.

“It’s not a topic of conversation in our offices, ‘How can we be more entertaining today?’ But, to create power on the Web, we’ve got to have content that moves, that’s shared, that engages. That’s hard to do. If you think about the content you might like to share, chances are there’s some element of entertainment to it. So, I think companies are going to have to start thinking about the quality of their content, especially in terms of entertainment, as we go forward,” Schaefer shared.

Strategy 2: Smaller Chunks of Content

It is no secret that it is ever increasingly difficult to capture people’s attention for a sustained period of time. Schaefer advised using visual media to provide quality in small chunks.

“If people don’t have the time anymore to read a blog post or to watch a video series, maybe they’ll look at an infographic. Maybe they’ll look at a Pinterest page that’s simply photographs. This works especially well if you’ve got a visually-oriented business. We see things, little innovations like Vine, which are six-second videos on Twitter. Instagram, owned by Facebook, has introduced 15-second videos, which I think helps emphasize this trend,” noted Schaefer.

Strategy 3: Borrow Someone Else’s Pipeline

The third opportunity is to borrow someone else’s pipeline, and this is where social influence comes in to play. Schaefer told me that in today’s world it is relatively easy to find people in your industry, line of business or market who have bigger pipelines. What Schaefer means by “pipeline” are engaged audiences.

“If you’re having trouble maintaining that flow of content through your pipeline and you want to start introducing your ideas to a new audience or a larger audience, then we have to look for influencers in our field to collaborate with them, cooperate with them and suggest guests posts,” explained Schaefer.

In some cases, bloggers and influencers are being paid to highlight content. Schaefer stated that there is some controversy around the practice of buying and selling blog posts. We may all be familiar with the hot buzzword of the day, native advertising. The idea behind this is to embed commercial messages in normal content. He described the native ad trend as a blurring between the advertising and the other portions of a journal, industry magazine or blog.

According to Schaefer the best way to approach social influence is to develop authentic relationships with industry leaders who organically will advocate for your products and services.

“If you get to know them, if you try to help them, if you try to give them useful information, and they come to know you, and they like you, and they form a relationships with you, then you’ll get organic advocacy in these areas. That’s probably the most effective way to go forward if you’re going to use these influence tactics,” advised Schaefer.

Blending Informative & Entertaining

Schaefer’s comments on creating entertaining marketing content struck a chord with questions I have been exploring myself. Many companies are able to separately create entertaining marketing content and helpful marketing content, but many of those same companies are challenged when trying to create a single piece that is both informative and entertaining. It is a special talent to be able to be informative and entertaining. So I asked Schaefer what advice he would give to companies trying to blend these two elements together.

“Good writing and good content development do matter. But, I think something that can even trump that is content that’s really useful and helpful.

Wharton School of Business conducted research on what aspects of content help it go viral to help it attract attention. Schaefer explained that one of those aspects is providing practical, helpful information.

One of the examples Schaefer shared with me was a YouTube video of an older gentlemen who had a trick for shucking corn using a microwave to remove the silk. The video has a couple million views. Schaefer explained that it was kind of entertaining to see the older gentleman put corn in the microwave, but even more so, it was just practical.

Schaefer said that B2B companies should not overlook the importance of emotion in their content either. He explained that this can be a challenge for many B2B marketers.

“I’ve been in B2B for almost 30 years, and the whole human aspect of business was thoroughly beat out of me because companies don’t want you to be human. They want you to be analytical, and that’s very appropriate. You absolutely need to have an analytical side. But, one of the opportunities we have now, with content, is to create human connections that we use to connect on the golf course, at dinner or having coffee,” stated Schaefer.

People just don’t have the time or budgets for in-person activities according to Schaefer. People may not have time to meet their customers every week or month, but they can create connections through helpful content. They can help reinforce emotional connections that lead to sales and loyalty through content via social media.

How Not to Get Caught up in the Grind

Another one of Schaefer’s early comments also hit close to home, focusing on quality. It is difficult to argue with anything he said and I believe most people would agree they should be doing the things he discussed, but then companies get caught up in the grind. They have six tweets that need to go out each day and two blog posts each week and suddenly quality is overlooked. So, I asked Schaefer what advice he would give to companies that were overlooking quality because they are caught up in the grind.

“A good place to start is to find people in your company who are enthusiastic about the opportunities on the social Web. Maybe they’re not even someone in your PR department. Maybe they’re not necessarily someone even in your marketing department. I have a friend in this field named Jay Baer, and Jay had a quote one time. He said, ‘If you don’t love social media, you’re going to suck at social media.’ I think what he’s trying to say there is that if you’re enthusiastic, that’s going to come through. If it’s formulaic, if you’ve got to check a box and say, ‘All right. We’ve got to do six tweets today. We’ve got to do two blog posts this week,’ I think you’re absolutely right that you’re going to get worn down. It’s going to become a task instead of something that’s fun and joyful that’s going to create real attention for your content,” replied Schaefer.

Schaefer continued to describe situations in which he has worked with B2B companies who were very successful at social media. He explained the organization had not isolated their efforts to marketing but instead reached out across sales, customer service and HR to find volunteers who were excited about helping.

He provided an example of a large B2B telecom company with which he works. The telecom started about two years ago with five volunteers who loved to write. The volunteers were looking for an opportunity to blog. They were excited about helping the company with its marketing efforts in their own way. The small group of volunteers, over time, led to 165 volunteer bloggers in just two years. Schaefer explained a couple of keys to the volunteer program’s growth.

Number One

The blog posts were not an assignment, he said. They were looking for people who authentically and enthusiastically wanted to participate in blogging.

Number Two

They had someone actually outside the company acting as the volunteers’ editor and coach, explained Schaefer. In the beginning the program did not have the budget to hire a full-time person to manage the program, so they hired someone part-time outside the company to edit the blog posts, manage the content schedule, make sure the legal requirements were met and coach the new bloggers. As the program grew and they got more bloggers, they were able to justify hiring an internal employee.

Number Three

They rewarded the volunteer bloggers, Schaefer said. They had leader boards to recognize the people who were creating great content and who were getting people engaged and sharing their content. They gave away merchandise and prizes. The top 50 bloggers were invited to a conference every year where they could meet each other and learn how to improve their skills from experts.

He has seen this type of successful volunteer program prove itself at several different companies. He pointed out that it is a good strategy for improving both quality and quantity.

Advice on Working with Influencers

Schaefer’s early comments about collaborating with influencers made me curious about what advice he had for working with influencers. Schaefer has a special viewpoint since he is an influencer who writes about the dynamics of working with influencers.

“I get deluged with requests from people that want my help. I sometimes receive 20 to 25 requests a day, and I would say 95% of those emails I don’t even open. I can tell by the heading or the first couple sentences that this is someone who’s just taking a shot in the dark. They don’t know me. They don’t really know my blog or what I write about. I just showed up on somebody’s list as someone who can create content that moves on certain topics. So, they’re just basically taking a chance. I would say that this is the way most people operate. When they get just shots in the dark like that, it’s just not going to work,” replied Schaefer.

On the other hand when he receives an email from someone he knows, somebody who comments on his blog, tweets his blog, or engages with him on Twitter, he will do anything he can to help him or her without expecting pay, Schaefer explained.

He provided an example of a software company that was trying to connect with him. They saw that he was going to be attending a conference in California and wrote him an email asking if he would like to join them for a dinner with several social media experts and bloggers. Schaefer thought that was a nice way to reach out and engage with him. There were a number of people on the attendee list he wanted to meet. They were offering a meal at a nice restaurant, he had the availability and they promised no sales pitch, so he accepted. Now when he receives an email from them he is sure to open it, not because they bought him dinner, but because they were trying to create something of real value for him rather than just asking him to do them favors without giving anything in return.

They continued to follow up with him over time, providing updates on their new software. They one day, out of the blue, sent him a t-shirt. Schaefer said they’ve made an effort to stay connected and try to help keep him informed. When he had an opportunity to mention their software in a blog post, he did so. They didn’t have to ask him. They didn’t have to pay him.

“It’s just that I’m starting to know them. I’m starting to believe in what they do. I’m starting to understand the value that they create, and they’re getting my attention because they’re creating an authentic relationship with me,” stated Schaefer.

Schaefer pointed out that there are two big challenges for traditional marketing and advertising departments. Number one, there’s no guarantee it’s going to work. If you keep working to develop relationships and authentic, organic friendships, there’s no guarantee of a payoff. The second challenge is that most organizations aren’t organized for relationship building. Instead they’re organized for campaigns. Their marketing budgets are for introducing new products and advertising.

In the new channel of influence marketing, and Schaefer was adamant that it’s a new marketing channel because companies have an unprecedented opportunity to identify influencers and quantify influencers, he said it’s not a campaign – it’s building relationships. Advertising campaigns end; relationship building is an ongoing process that doesn’t end.

The Payoff

Payoffs for building online, social relationships are complex, Schaefer emphasized.

You may get a positive mention in an influencer’s blog posts. He pointed out that is only going to happen if the influencer has the opportunity to get to know you over a period of time. We don’t build friendships or business relationships in a day.

“In B2B, even more so than B2C, our business decisions may take months, may take years. These relationships are built on trust and personal relationships. Although price, service and features are part of the B2B buying decisions, buyers also want to know they are buying from a company that is reliable. So, just getting an organic mention is something that works,” said Schaefer.

Guest posts are also an opportunity for engaging with influencers after a relationship has been established, although Schaefer pointed out that the quality of the post is important as well. He said the post needs to be of good quality and relevant. There is also an opportunity for the influencer to create content for you.

Schaefer described an example. “I’ve got a relationship with IBM. I’ve just had a wonderful relationship with them for a long period of time. They’ve been a customer. They’ve worked with me as friends to invite me to certain events so I get to know their people, get to know their products. I’ve spent time with them in Europe. I’ve spent time with them in America. I really feel a close bond to this company. I love what they do. I love their ideas.”

“I’ve become a big believer in their people, and so when they’ve asked me to start contributing material for their own blog, I’m happy to do that because this is something I believe in. I don’t think it’s going to hurt my reputation at all because I would gladly stand up and say, ‘This is a company I believe in. I’ve worked with them for many years, and if I write something and it appears on their blog, I am very proud of that.’ But, it doesn’t happen overnight. Again, all of these different examples, it takes time and patience to develop that kind of trust,” Schaefer said.

About The Author

TD ProfilTorrey Dye is a B2B Marketer and founder of FunnelCake Labs.
FunnelCake Labs helps B2B companies create amazing content
more quickly.Google+

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