The 4 principles of great content (or stop dumping garbage on the internet)

ss-broom-paper-trash-disappearThe rise of content marketing, the push for real-time engagement and constantly growing competition in digital have led to more and more brands trying to become publishers and content creators. So what do you get when thousands of brands try to mass-produce content on a global scale? A million chicken noodle soup recipes and 600,000 identical ways to remove grass stains.

Put differently, you get a content junkyard filled with meaningless and duplicate pieces of garbage.

Marketers often forget to ask themselves key questions like, “Do our consumers actually care?” or “Is this content related to our brand?” or “Is anyone really watching/reading/sharing it?”

We all know the stats. Every minute of every day, over 400 hours of new YouTube videos are uploaded, over 65,000 photos and videos are uploaded to Instagram — you get the idea.

People hunger for content and entertainment, yes. But this has driven brands to become content generators — not creators — and honestly, most of them should not be in the publishing business.

Too many marketers focus on quantity over quality. Instead of telling meaningful stories that are relevant to their consumers, they are investing in the mass production of low-quality “content,” most of which is never seen by anyone, serving no other purpose than filling page 134 on the Google search results.

Marketers, please — it’s not about creating junk just for the sake of checking a box; great content should be inspired by great ideas, relevance, resonance and beautifully crafted creative.

Ask the right questions

Start filtering the content you (and your agencies) produce, and ask some tough questions to ensure you are creating meaningful content (for the brand and the consumer).

  1. Do consumers care?
    Are they asking for what we’re putting out there? In other words, do they care about what we are saying? Are we supporting seasonality and relevant topics?
  2. Should my brand be talking about it?
    Is this content actually aligned with who we are, what we do and the conversations we want to have with our consumers?
  3. Is it working?
    What are the indicators used to measure engagement and success? Liking it isn’t enough. Our content and the connected activities need to measure results such as sales or leads.
  4. Is it multichannel?
    We need to stop developing platform-centric ideas. A great idea can be launched on one platform and shared and extended beyond that by consumers.

It’s not only about reach anymore

What I love most about digital is the ability to measure and refine in near-real time. Brands need to look beyond simple reach; it’s about reach against the right audience. Platforms are modifying their algorithms to look at engagement. For instance:

  • Facebook highlights content in its News Feed with strong engagement (as opposed to showing posts based on optimization).
  • YouTube’s algorithm prioritizes minutes watched in ranking videos organically.
  • Amazon considers products’ sales ranks when deciding which to list at the top of the digital shelf.

This is a big change from the old models where pure reach was the driver, measured only by eyeballs on the content (leading to terrible junk in all the wrong places). Gone are the days of impression-based KPIs; now it’s about engagement.

What counts today — and provides deeper and more actionable insights — are measurable activities: shares, reviews, comments and likes, viewing time and obviously, sales. These metrics tell brands not only if the content is being seen, but also who is seeing it and if they like it. We always knew that engagement was the key to discovery, but now, we get confirmation of that almost daily.

Clean up your marketing act!

Today’s tools and technology are fueled by amazing data, allowing us to truly measure and optimize our work. Brands must ask themselves if they are actually creating meaningful content that adds value to their consumers’ everyday lives (what their consumers are asking for).

Creatives can no longer create content solely because it is cool or funny; they need to start with consumer insights, and then merge them with the brand promise and attributes to tell an authentic story that resonates with consumers and earns brands the right to win in real time.


Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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