The Elephant in the Marketing Room: Does the World Have Too Much Content?

Content inflation could seriously ruin your small business marketing.

Over the past few years, business owners and marketers felt the pressure to produce more content. In response, a dizzying array of content was unleashed onto the world ranging from blog posts, wikis, podcasts, lists, advertisements, infographics, Facebook Live events, Pinterest pins, Tweets, Snapchat Stories, whitepapers, product guides, editorials, and more. With all of this content, a new problem emerged. Marketers started getting less bang for their marketing buck.

For many marketers, this isn’t a philosophical or academic debate. It’s a serious problem. Businesses, of all sizes, noticed a steady decline in the usual response from their marketing activity.

Welcome to the world of content inflation.

Content inflation occurs when the supply of content dramatically exceeds a customer’s ability to consume that content. It’s too much of a potentially good thing. Unless your product is consistently amazing or you have the budget to pay for increased visibility, your business could be on the losing side in the battle for your customer’s attention.

So, What’s Going On?

The short answer is a lot. One major change involves algorithm changes to social media networks. Social media algorithms are the rules governing a social media network. A social media network uses algorithms to determine the type of content displayed on a user’s account. Facebook, for example, determines whether the content produced by a business is relevant to a particular user. if Facebook thinks it is relevant, the content will show. If not, the user will not see it. The kicker is that businesses aren’t told what content will be relevant to a user. (One quick note: One workaround is paid ads. If you pay a social media network like Facebook to display your content, they will make sure your audience sees it.)

Another major change involves algorithm changes on Google. Like social media algorithms. Google’s algorithms also determine the type of content a particular user will see. To maintain their search quality and revenue, Google will periodically change the rules behind its algorithms. This keeps businesses from “gaming the system” but it can also hurt small businesses who don’t keep up with good SEO practices. Google’s algorithm changes determine where  (and even if) your website appears in Google search results. As long as you play by Google’s rules, you can get visibility. If you get on Google’s bad side you could be in serious marketing trouble.

Lastly, one other major hurdle is the increasing amount of content fighting for the same limited amount of customer attention. Put simply, businesses (and everyone else) are creating more content for customers who already have enough content to look at. As Brian Peters from Buffer pointed out, customers are still engaging with content like they always have. There’s just more stuff out there for a busy customer to choose from. Since customer’s don’t have unlimited time to interact with everything, they pick and choose.

OK, I’m a small business who needs to reach my audience. How do I market smart and avoid content inflation?

Brian Peters (mentioned above), recently stopped by a #Bizapalooza Twitter chat to answer that very question. (For the replay of that chat, click here.) Here are six tips shared during that chat that might help your business market content smarter.

1. Measure the right stuff, but don’t forget the basic numbers

Many small businesses focus on the easiest social media metrics like the number of Twitter followers or Facebook Likes they have. There is nothing wrong with measuring these numbers, but they don’t tell the whole story. Instead of relying only on a statistic like Twiter follower count, dig a little deeper. Sample questions to consider include:

  • Are my followers interacting with my content? Are they commenting, sharing, RTing, Liking, etc?
  • Which social media provides the best response so far?
  • Who is my audience?

Asking these questions, in addition to watching your follower count, will help you align your content to your audience’s need.

2. Build a community first, worry about the big numbers later

A business that tries to reach everyone will reach no one. Instead of trying to reach everyone in hopes of a getting big social media numbers, build community first. Put your content out there and see who responds to it.  Engage with the people who respond and start a genuine, two-way conversation with them. This will ensure that your content stays relevant.

3. Create content specific to a community and channel

Don’t make the mistake of posting the same marketing message the same way on every active social media channel you own. That’s spam. Instead, adapt your message to the channel and community that you are in. Example: For Twitter, make your content “bite-sized”, focus on images, and use appropriate hashtags to keep your content relevant, engaging, and useful.

4. Experiment with different types of content

Humans like predictability, but they also like variety. As a marketer, you have to strike a balance between these two opposing needs. One way to create variety is to experiment with your marketing content in different ways and measuring the response. Does your business only create blog posts? Try creating an infographic or video one week and measure the response. You might open up a new avenue for marketing from the experiment.

5. If you choose to automate, remember this rule: Automate the message, not the conversation

Despite the bad reputation, marketing automation offers plenty of helpful benefits. Automation can save time and extend reach for marketers and small businesses in an always-on world. On the other hand, businesses and marketers can take it too far. If you choose to automate, focus on automating the “non-engaging” aspects of your marketing, like distribution. Automate the message, not the conversation . You might set up a set of Facebook and Twitter posts for an upcoming conversation, for instance. Don’t automate the conversation that develops from that campaign, however. That’s what humans are for. That’s what drives connection.

6. Understand what “engagement” means in the eyes of your customers

“Engagement” is such a loaded marketing buzzword that businesses can easily lose track of what engagement really means. Engagement is a conversation that adds value. Your audience can’t see “engagement”. They are only concerned with the value that comes from that engagement. While you’re busy actively trying to improve engagement in a content-stuffed world, remember that engagement is really simple. It’s humans talking to each other.

Here are two Tweets from the chat to help you remember that.

At the end of the day, it’s all about engagement, not the numbers. It doesn’t matter if your Twitter feed has only 200 followers or your Facebook page only has 100 Likes. If you are producing content that works for you and your audience, you will stand a good chance of thriving, no matter how much content is out there.